During their trip to Vietnam, Zoey opens up about her harrowing past as she and Kevin grow closer through adversity.
This was another very focused episode of "This Is Us," offering more glimpses of Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) life in 'Nam and his courtship of Rebecca (Mandy Moore), while Kevin (Justin Hartley) began his modern-day trek to learn more about his father in Vietnam, only to learn something shocking from Zoey's (Melanie Liburd) past.
While we didn't get nearly as much quality Vietnam time with Jack as we experienced a couple of episodes back, the aftermath of his time there was all over his impromptu road trip with Rebecca to Los Angeles. And as third dates go, this has to be one of the most epic of all time.
Not to mention, they were absolutely adorable from Pittsburgh all the way to L.A., but then again, what did we expect? This is the most perfect couple on television, not because they are perfect people individually, but because they had such compassion for one another's struggles and journey from the beginning.
It's more than Jack being enamored with this singer he saw at a bar, and it's more than Rebecca being intrigued by his quiet charm and direct honesty. They see one another as they are and embrace it wholly.
Jack sees a dreamer and believes in her fully. Rebecca sees a good man haunted by his past and loves the good man he is and is willing to take as much as he offers of that other side of himself and leave the rest to him. Is that the right call? Experts may argue, but based on the life they built together, it was the right call for them.
Plus, Jack's a dreamer, too, in his own way. He sees the greatness within people and works tirelessly to bring it out. It's as if he's determined to make up for his perceived failure to take care of his brother and some of the other min in his platoon by being there for absolutely everyone else.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
"I Can't Talk About It"
While this early moment between Jack and Rebecca wasn't him opening up to her, it was him being vulnerable and completely honest with her. "I can't talk about it," he said. "Vietnam. What I did and what I saw. I just-- I don't-- I don't want to bring that part of my life into this. With you."
This is what Jack does that is so endearing even as he remains so frustratingly secretive about so much of his life. Why couldn't he open up about his trip to Reseda, even after? His compartmentalization of his life may be a survival tactic, but it creates awkward moments when those compartments come so close together.
And yet, he's so truthful even about what he's not going to talk about, that it's to be respected for what it is. Jack isn't lying to her and he's not shutting her out because of her. He's creating a survival gap between his trauma and the life he's trying to build now. It's common and totally understandable.
"It's Just a Nickname"
To say Nicky was a mess when Jack found him in Vietnam is an understatement. We still don't know what's fully going on with him, but he is not happy to see his big brother there and that's for damned sure. After spouting some nonsensical stuff that had Jack thinking he was high on drugs (probably was), he hit Jack back over their childhood nicknames.
The problem is that "Superman" isn't just a nickname for Jack. It's his calling in life. We've seen it time and time again with all of the lives he's touched and people he's helped throughout his life's journey. And yet we know that, in many ways, this will prove to be perhaps his only true failure.
And whether or not it's a true failure remains to be seen. Even if he loses Nicky through no fault of his own, Jack will blame himself because he went to Vietnam to save him and he didn't do it. So he'll absolutely put that on himself, which explains why he compartmentalized the existence of his brother away from the life he builds with his family. That's an indication of how traumatic whatever goes down is going to be.
"People Don't Slow Dance"
The music never leaves Rebecca's soul, and her story to Jack about people not slow dancing anymore was so sweet. Like him, she can envision the world she would love to see happen. But she's more like the rest of us as we just sigh and lament that things aren't as good as they could be.
Jack, on the other hand, stands up and offers her his hand. Yes, it's a romantic gesture and another sweet moment in their burgeoning courtship, but it's also a testament that he will always strive to make her dreams come true. She believes more people should slow dance, well here's two more.
Jack is the quintessential knight in shining armor. For all of his trauma and turmoil that same impulse that saw him stand up to his father in order to protect his mother and brother remains with him throughout his adult life. He is there for his people, and at this point, Rebecca is definitely well on her way to becoming his person.
"It Wasn't Your Fault, Son"
What Jack couldn't tell Rebecca about Reseda was that he was going to visit the parents of Squirrel, the kid from his platoon who died by stepping on a landmine while "going long" to catch a football. it was a totally random, freak occurrence, but this is Jack Pearson.
"Taking my eye off your son. That was the worst thing I did, and I take responsibility," Jack told the parents. "I take full responsibility."
It was a beautiful moment when the father came to sit next to Jack and tell him it wasn't his fault, even as they were both clearly grieving again the loss of their son. And we couldn't help but notice Jack said this was "the worst thing.' Was he exaggerating or was this worse than what happened with Nicky? Or perhaps he doesn't actually blame himself as directly?
"Can I Hear It?"
Jack knows that it's the music that lights Rebecca's life and he knows that the harsh rejection she got in L.A. could dim that light, and so he asks to hear it. He could have asked at any point on that trip, but he knew it would help her in this moment to reconnect to her passion.
What he couldn't have anticipated was how the song would affect him. After admitting earlier that he never cries, Jack started to visibly tear up and hitch as the lyrics and her ethereal performance impacted him. And while she paused, it's beautiful that Rebecca continued singing and that Jack didn't stop her so he could "man up" and dry away his tears.
Again, that tiny moment of silence as she witnessed his tears spoke so much to their relationship. She is there for him, but not pushy. And he is vulnerable and more present with her than with anyone else in his life. The seeds are planted her as much as the "Bec" nickname, which he drops on her for the first time.
"Not Gonna Let Him Ruin This, Too"
We absolutely did not expect the episode's most emotional moment to come with Zoey sick as a dog in the bathtub with Kevin by her side. Kevin rarely gets the big emotional scenes on this show -- probably hasn't had once since he hit rock bottom last season -- but he absolutely killed this one.
Perhaps even more shocking was that after he expressed that he was falling in love with him, Zoey opened up to him in a way she had never done before, telling him that her father used to sexually abuse her. What's a little unusual is why she did it.
It's not because he asked or just professed his growing love or because she said she's falling in love with him, too. "I’m telling you because my father has already ruined so much for me and I’m not gonna let him ruin this too," she said.
There was just something about the rawness of her confession of love coupled with such a painful admission that really brought home how much Kevin must mean to her. We can only imagine how much her father's specter has haunted her past relationships, and especially if she kept it buried, so to come out with it now speaks volumes for the trust she has in Kevin.
And then, on top of that, Kevin was so present for her. He stammered a bit that he didn't know, but was uncharacteristically quiet for her after those moments of shock. He simply reached out and touched her. Again, he was present, and sometimes that's more than any words.
And yes, we're not dismissing the fact that Zoey was feeling sick to her stomach. TV logic tells us that means she must be pregnant, and certainly that could be it, but wouldn't it also be refreshing if she weren't. Unless they think it would be cute to have the twins having their babies at the same time. But we'd rather Kate have this moment to herself.
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