Tess continues to struggle with her burgeoning sexuality while Toby and Kate learn the sex of their baby.
There was certainly a lot going on in this week's midseason finale of "This Is Us," including a gender reveal, a coming out, a huge fight, bombs both literal and figurative in Vietnam and more teases in the flash-forward timeline.
As is appropriate for a finale episode, such as it is, all three of the triplets got balanced story time in the episode, as each of them experienced some major developments in their various ongoing narrative. Randall was actually hit with quite a few things, but that's because he's got more people in his immediate circle.
Major revelations from Deja and Tess after his big political debate were all just the prelude to a very uncomfortable exchange with Beth that left us conflicted and saddened. Nobody likes to see mom and dad fighting.
Elsewhere, Rebecca played a key role in Tess' story, Jack continued his efforts to get through to Nicky in Vietnam, Kate and Toby discovered the gender of their baby, Kate makes a major life decision and Kevin finds out something shocking about Nicky while in Vietnam.
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.
We finally got a return trip to the future, where we checked in on future Beth, overseeing a group of dancers. She gathers up "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" from her office, by request, and reveals the person they're all going to see is Randall's mother. But does that mean Rebecca? Maybe his biological mother is still alive, despite him being told she died in childbirth.
All we know is that we are so beyond ready for this flash-forward to finally go somewhere. It feels like it's been going on for way too long ... and we thought waiting to find out how Jack died was painful!
We don't like seeing Beth and Randall fight, but things took a challenging turn this week. After his stirring performance at the debate (which moved us more than this, so you'll find that entry further down if you want to peek ahead), Randall was committed to seeing this through. But Jae-Won had the latest poll results, and told him that Sol was too far ahead in the polling for Randall to catch up.
This created an interesting rift between Randall and Beth after Deja revealed she wanted to reconnect with and visit her birth mother, and Tess revealed even more (but more on that later, as well). With all of this going on, and probably at least somewhat to do with her own mental state, Beth wanted Randall to pull the plug on his campaign, but that's not how Randall works. He made promises to fight for those people, so how could he walk away until it's over?
Honestly, we're kind of with Randall on this one and we're a little surprised Beth isn't more on board. He did make a promise to the people of that community, and so it becomes a matter of integrity, which Beth totally believes in. We get that she feels he's more needed at home right now, and she may be right, but why not just ride out the campaign and accept the loss, if it truly is inevitable?
The biggest mystery of this season is all about Nicky, and boy did we get some wild developments. Our Vietnam flashbacks this time spotlighted Jack's last 48 hours with Nicky under his command, and it is not going well. Despite his efforts to reconnect with his little brother, Nicky is too far into his nihilistic depression and anxiety to accept any help Jack has to offer.
Instead, he finds some drugs and alcohol and manages to get himself so messed up again that he can't feel everything that he's going through internally. That's his coping mechanism, and one all too familiar to the addictive Pearson bloodline. The flashbacks then ended with a boat explosion and Jack diving that way, certainly making it look like Nicky was on that boat. But does he die?
As it turns out, not so much. And that was perhaps the biggest bombshell reveal of the night, which opens up a whole different can of questions. Kevin finds out that Nicholas Pearson is not listed as someone who died in Vietnam during the war, despite the family's assumption that this is what happened. And then, we cut to a shot of a man who certainly looks like him in the present day with Nicky's name on his mail.
We kind of suspected this was a possibility, but this is huge as it means the kids have an uncle they never knew about. Jack had a brother he would drop everything and go into the Vietnam War for and then stop talking to him basically for the rest of his life. What happened between the two of them? Did Rebecca know Nicky was still alive, and was that another secret she kept? Did Jack keep in touch with him secretly?
Plus, now that we know Nicky is out there, and we see how far Kevin is willing to go on this mission, we know that he's going to pursue him and bring him back into the Pearson fold. And maybe that was the whole point of the necklace, which turned out to be a random gift from some woman that Jack helped. It was to lead Kevin to Vietnam to lead him to Uncle Nicky. That should be an emotionally charged first meeting.
Randall had his debate with Councilman Sol Brown and for a while, Sol's easygoing charm and smarmy tactics had him berating Randall mercilessly, to the delight of the constituents. But when Randall got real with them, he did so with such passion and power, we found ourselves moved and ready to rally to the polls.
It was reminiscent of when Barack Obama stirred the nation with his "hope" rhetoric, and so much of that is down to the presence of Sterling K. Brown, just delivering a knockout performance in that moment. it was filled with compassion and conviction and truly a marvel to behold. It even shut Sol up for a minute.
Some people choose to wait for a gender reveal, and so it seemed simple enough that this is what Toby was wanting to do here. But the truth of the matter was that he's been terrified all along that this baby won't ever actually come into their lives, and Kate has been feeling the same fear. So instead of live in fear, they opted to think positively and not wallow in uncertainty with an adorable gender reveal cake so they can start to prepare for their lives.
Kate got herself registered back in college to try and finish up her degree -- and maybe get that (or a similar) job teaching choir in high school. Who knows what Kate wants to do with her life, but something with music would certainly help to keep her satisfied. It also pushes her narrative into fresh new territory, which is good because Kate storylines can start to seem circular and too bleak as she starts to spiral. Here's hoping she keeps this forward momentum going.
Kate got the dirt last week, and apparently spilled to Rebecca, but finally this week, Tess came out to her parents. Rebecca did a good job of warning her of the price you can pay when you keep things bottled up inside too long. It manifests itself in physical pain and illness as that negative energy has to go somewhere.
And while Tess wasn't willing to talk much about it, it was still a huge step. And props to both Randall and Beth for taking it like a champ, even if their initial silence got Tess starting to freak out a bit. Yes, they were shocked, but most importantly, they let her know that they were there and their love for her was unending and unchanging. That's a huge thing she needed to hear and hopefully will next internalize to know that it is absolutely okay for her to be her just as she is, even if she's not sure what that is just yet.
NB: Executive producer on the show, Ken Olin, praised Eris Baker, who plays Tess, for her stellar work on the finale. We couldn't agree more with him. Read the tweet below!
We have the best cast, crew, and writers on @NBCThisisUs. But sometimes a member of our ensemble steps up and kicks all of our butts with their phenomenal work. Tonight it was @erisbaker who plays Tess Pearson. Bravo, my lady. Take a bow.