Kevin gets some upsetting news while Kate and Toby learn that it may be more challenging than they realize to raise a blind baby as "This Is Us" returns to fine form.
This week, "This Is Us" got back to doing what it does so well, offering up poignant moments for our favorite characters, as well as a few cringeworthy ones.
For the first time this season, our flashback Pearsons featured the older cast of kids as we stepped back into that time period shortly after Jack's death for what would turn out to be a major day for all four of the remaining Pearsons. There were two hugely positive developments, one powerful revelation and one jaw-dropping announcement.
In the present, it was all about Beth finally opening her dance studio and everything that could go wrong with it. Except there was Randall doing what this couple has always excelled at doing. They step up when the other is down and they make things happen. At the top of the hour, he was hyping her up and helping her tamp down her anxiety. By the end, he was literally solving a potentially disastrous problem.
We also continued down Kevin's journey of self-discovery, with a flashback to eight years prior when his show "The Manny" was filming its pilot that showed he'd been having this same struggle essentially his whole life. The star athlete who went into acting after Jack died because it was something to do. But what does he want to do. Closing in on 40 and he still doesn't know.
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've applauded silence in this space before, but not quite like this. This moment of silence came courtesy of Cassidy jabbing Kevin at just the right moment to encourage him to shut up so Nicky could finish sharing his own story of lost love (which he seems to kind of have given up on). Kevin is a talker and a never-shutting-up-er, so we found ourselves applauding this quiet moment. Cassidy is good for Kevin just as he may prove good for her.
"Oh, And I Got Married"
And this guy could use someone who maybe knows how to temper his worst impulses and tendencies, because he is such a creature of passion and bad decisions, as we saw in the closing moment of the episode. In a voice message left on his mother's answering machine, Kevin thanked her for the brownies, told her about a possible audition and then dropped the bombshell that he was married ... and then asked for money. How tone-deaf is this kid? We already know the answer and it's a lot!
0 tissues (just a shake of the head)
"The World Is Making Music For You"
Kate and Toby didn't really have a major storyline this week. Instead, it was just about them acclimating to how to teach baby Jack about the world. Apparently, dropping him into a chaotic music class where he can't see where all this noise is coming from was totally overwhelming, so Kate came up with the idea to take him to the ocean and listen t the natural music. We already know Jack embraces music as his passion and vocation, thanks to the premiere flash-forward, so it was cool seeing how his parents introduced him to the idea of it in the first place.
This comment has a huge asterisk next to it, because we know Randall is freaking out upon finding out Malik has a six-month-old daughter. It was hard enough him being two grades above Deja, but this was just too much ... and on an already stressful day. Obviously, we figure Randall will be able to get past this and see that Malik is being responsible in a way that many young men choose not to be and that's something to be respected, but it will probably be a rocky road first.
1 tissue (parenting his hard)
"I'm Not a Cause"
Speaking of rocky roads, Kevin is just now starting to learn how to connect with Nicky. Hopefully Cassidy's shut-up poke resonated and he can learn how to better be an active listener, as Nicky has stories within him that he wants to share. By the end of the hour, Kevin had went from trying to bulldoze Nicky into a trailer to parking his own trailer next to Nicky's and declaring them neighbors. That's, uh, also a little pushy there, buddy. Well, baby steps. And this is as much for Kevin as Nicky, as he's been grappling with what he really wants to do with his life, and maybe this is where he can find that.
2 tissues (because he's trying)
"Dance with Me"
What a revelation this chapter of Kate's life is turning out to be. We've seen her slow descent into body insecurity as a pre-teen, but here she is a teenager, a little slimmer and with the confidence to flirt with the guy at the record store to the point he offered her a job. So she actually went out of the house, thought of Rebecca when deciding which CDs to buy and then offered to dance with Rebecca to a song Rebecca used to dance with Jack. It was all so mature, so thoughtful and so beautiful we now are more curious than ever how their relationship comes to collapse from here and Kate spirals into the depression where we first met her.
Kevin is brash and a little obnoxious, and veteran Cassidy can't even really take his trouble seriously because he's a pretty-boy actor. And yet, watching him interact so sweetly with a fan resonated with her. His life may be totally alien to her, but it is nevertheless a life and in that moment, he showed a tender and softer side that is often buried under his obnoxiously aggressive charm offensive. We saw it with the baby in the pilot and in his bonding with Cassidy's own son. He has a lot of heart to give, he's just his own worst enemy most of the time.
2 tissues (it was the look on her face)
"Why'd You Give Me a Lemon?"
While Randall was saving the day in the present for Beth, our flashback to college picked up after their disastrous first date. Rebecca bombarded Beth and her own mother, Carol, at lunch and forced the kids to interact again. At that moment, Randall quietly gave her a lemon. To him this gesture was nothing, but to Beth it demanded explanation. And the explanation was that he pays attention to her, to what she likes, and he cares enough to try and make her happy. On their disastrous date she he Coke with lemon. At lunch, she had Coke. For Randall, there was no thought necessary. It's just what he had to do. And his thoughtfulness landed him their first kiss.
3 tissues (they really have been relationship goals since the beginning)
Our flashbacks of Carol after the loss of her husband showed a hardened woman who almost refused to let herself grief. And yet, she was able to bond with Rebecca over their shared loss, even if she couldn't bring herself to share her grief. But it was Rebecca, asking a stranger what to do about their wedding rings, that was utterly heartbreaking. She is still so lost and unsure of what to do in this world. How crazy that it was Carol who gave her the metaphor about picking up a book and starting a new chapter that appears to be the genesis of the next step for the Pearsons. By the end of the episode, Rebecca is telling Kate it's time to get into a real house again and start their new chapter.
3 tissues (the strength to move on despite the pain of loss)
"I Was Wrong"
All this time, we were with Randall in thinking that Carol simply didn't like him. Like Rebecca's parents thought of Jack, both Randall and Beth assumed that Carol didn't think he was good enough for her daughter. And yet, after he'd salvaged her dance studio opening by moving it into the parking lot while the stench of rotting animal carcass fades, Carol revealed to him that she was wrong about him. "When I met you I didn't see the strong partner, father and man that you would become," she said in her direct way. It was simple and yet so meaningful and beautiful. And we love that the moment wasn't overplayed. It was a simple exchange in private between two strong people, but you know Randall was just beaming inside.