Toby throws an elaborate graduation ceremony for Kate in the present as the Big Three and Rebecca grapple with uncertain futures at their commencements without Jack.
A quieter episode by "This Is Us" standards, this look at graduation days across time was nonetheless a poignant and powerful one.
In the past, the Big Three were set to graduate four months after the loss of their father, and Rebecca just couldn't take it. We saw another small moment between her and Miguel that continued laying the foundation for the one relationship on the show we've still barely dug into.
In the present day, Toby did as Toby does -- and Jack would have totally approved -- by throwing a lavish graduation ceremony on the college campus for Kate complete her college degree. Sure, she only took eight credit hours to knock it out, but this is Toby. Go big or go home.
And in this case, he really outdid himself, setting up a commencement ceremony and even finding and inviting the three other students also graduating. The gesture was so over the top and so sweet, and we need these moments from this show to offset all the tears of sadness.
We got to grieve with Rebecca as she struggled to figure out how to go on without Jack, we got to feel all the emotions of the teens as they look ahead to an uncertain future, and we really got pulled through the ringer when Kate caught Kevin in the middle of a bender.
To make matters worse, he left her graduation ceremony to go back to his place and get smashed. Using her twin thing, Kate knew something was wrong and went so far as to abandon her own party so she could take him to a meeting. And that's when things went really wrong.
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.
"Come on, babe. Let me celebrate you," Toby insisted, waking Kate up for her big surprise graduation party. Oh Toby, you are the light that we need on this show. Things get so heavy, but we can (almost) always count on Toby to bring that joy and that undying love. Jack brings it in the past and Toby brings it in the present, which is probably why the teenage years are the bleakest right now, in the aftermath of Jack's shocking death.
Okay, we're getting sucked down into that darkness, this is about Toby and perhaps his sweetest gesture yet. Kate doesn't yet know how to accomplish her celebrations (something she's struggled with for years), so it's great for her that Toby will do it for her. She is the reason her character hasn't just become a pit of unbearable misery ... and believe us, she was heading that way for awhile.
While Kate was busy getting graduated, Randall and Beth were trying to figure out their new lives and new schedules now that Beth has started work as a dance instructor. But with Randall closing in on starting his new job as a Councilman, things are getting tight. And that's when he put his foot in his mouth.
Here's the thing, Beth has been Randall's rock for his entire adult life. Sure, she squirreled out a bit during the campaign, but those are incredibly stressful. But for him to come at her right after work and tell her she should consider tabling teaching for a while so she can be there evenings and weekends for their girls? Nuh-uh. That's some old school, sexist, misogynist bullsh--
You know what, we're going to have to put a pin in this because that's exactly what they did. But not before Beth asked him, "You get to have your dream, and I'm just supposed to quit mine?" We get that this is a difficult conversation, but you don't present it like that. The problem is how to be there for the kids. You work through that together and it takes flexibility from both sides-- You know what, we said we were going to table this.
Sorry about that. We'll get back to it when they do.
Randall did have a lot on his mind when he took that tone-deaf approach with Beth, and it was coming from a place of genuine concern and love for their children. He just forgot to take her into account before he went into it. But Deja proved to him that she's in a complicated place in her life right now and doesn't want things to change.
Finally, Deja has accepted her place in the family and she's so happy and satisfied with her life in this moment that she doesn't even want to skip a grade and go right into high school. Mix her desire to not change the routine she's come to love with the new schedules Beth and Randall are grappling with -- which is all change -- and it's easy to see why he went all Randall on it.
It's also a beautiful moment for Deja, who has faded into the background in recent weeks. It's wonderful to see her settling into her new life a little better. She'll probably never feel fully equal in the family, just as Randall knows he's on the outside of that twin thing between his siblings, but at least she's feeling at home.
Kevin slipped back into his old habits and it was that old fast-talking performance from Justin Hartley that had people thinking he was the weak link in this cast. That's only because we saw only that side of him so much in the beginning. And by him slipping back into it when he desperately was begging Kate not to tell Zoe he was off the wagon, we see what a versatile performer he truly is.
Even the one-sided conversation he had with Toby where he had to reveal he couldn't drive Kate to the hospital because he'd been drinking was so filled with shame. And yes, Kate had to go to the hospital. The stress on her body probably from her weight, age and worrying about Kevin all came together to create the perfect storm: labor at 28 weeks.
Toby said it all with one hand gesture (not that one) when the ambulance arrived at the hospital with Kate. He left the party to drink and because he did, Kate was with him and not with Toby and her family when her water broke. Hell, it might not have broken at all had she not gone out of her way to find and help her brother.
Wow, this episode has us feeling all kinds of ways.
"All you have to do is be there for your son," Miguel told Rebecca outside of Randall's funeral. At this point, they hadn't even come close to dating, so we're just seeing this genuine moment of compassion from Miguel even as Rebecca is crumbling before him.
Without knowing it or planning it, Miguel was positioning himself as the cornerstone in the support system Rebecca will need to get through her grief over losing Jack. And the fact that he, too, is grieving the loss of his dearest friend is a testament to how kind and decent he is as a human being.
He effectively adopted Jack's whole family and took them under his wing to try and help all of them through their grief. We've seen him reach out to the kids, with mixed results, and we've seen him be there for Rebecca as a friend to her in her time of need. And then he lets them dump on him for years and years without ever leaving. An unsung hero, Miguel is up there with guys like Jack and Toby.
And it is because of Miguel's standing as that pillar of support that Rebecca had the courage to take the next step for herself. Alone in the apartment while the kids were at a graduation party, she finally realized that she was getting nowhere in her grief trying to tackle it alone.
It's scary to admit we can't just power through something and it takes a whole different level of bravery to be vulnerable enough to admit we need help. And Rebecca had to do that twice. Once in reaching out to Miguel to take him up on his suggestion of seeking grief counseling, even asking if he would take her. And then in walking into that meeting.
And Miguel, of course, waited outside for her to be finished. You can be cynical all you want, but we absolutely believe this was coming from a place of genuine passion and concern for his best friend's wife and someone he'd come to see as a friend himself. Not to mention, he could probably use some grief counseling himself.
This line resonated through time and proved that even though Randall may be on the outside of Kate and Kevin's bond, they are still the Big Three. And he was wise enough as a graduating high school senior to articulate their concerns about what happens next while assuring his siblings that everything will be fine.
"As long as we stay in each other's lives, we'll be fine," he told them. "I promise."
It was at this moment that we shot to the present to see Randall show up at the hospital where Kate is struggling to keep her baby inside of her. "This baby can't die you guys," she says to them through tears. It's a desperate plea from an expectant mother. She knows there's nothing they can do about it, but they promise just the same that it won't.
And they mean it because at that moment, there is nothing but love in that room and a pure and total devotion shared between the three of them. Jack may have dubbed them the Big Three, but it was their choice to hold onto that through the years. It is palpable every time they are together.
If love truly is the answer then Kate's baby will not die. Not with that much love in the room.