In one pivotal flashback night, the Pearson family comes together to finally move forward, while Miguel and the "outcasts" discover what it's like to live in their orbit.
A pair of interconnected flashbacks ushered in new chapters for the Pearsons on "This Is Us," while the present saw each of them struggling with the emotional pull and power of legacy.
As always, the cast and writers of this show do a brilliant job of carrying each week's theme throughout every segment and time period visited. Milo Ventimiglia can do so much with so little screen time, as the entire family is his legacy, while Mandy Moore once again turned in a star performance worthy of every accolade they can throw at her.
On top of that, Justin Hartley is absolutely slaying the developing nuance and depth of Kevin this week. And perhaps appropriately, he found his most powerful and affecting moments in his silences.
All of a sudden the most unlikable character on the show is on the most interesting and unpredictable character arc. And thanks to a single flash-forward in last season's finale, we know he gets his wish for family and love. It is in these moments we think he is making himself ready and worthy for them.
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.
Another character really stepping up and shining this season is Miguel, who continues to find his voice as a character and in the family. Even though this scene was probably the first moment that Miguel and Beth (along with Sophie and Marc) learned about that Pearson bubble they could never fully penetrate or be a part of, it was still a great moment as he began to establish himself as the leader of the "outcasts" in orbit around that powerful foursome.
The show's most underappreciated character is making his mark just as we need him to, because we're getting to what will eventually become his courtship of Rebecca, as we learn how she can finally move forward from Jack enough to allow herself to love again. We can't wait to see it unfold.
1 tissue (Miguel finding his voice)
Wait for the Bubbles to Settle
Any time Ron Cephas Jones can make a return appearance, we're all for it (even if the CGI to make him appear younger left him a little plastic-looking). That one scene where he revealed his anxiety to Beth was everything, as this is the tie from William through down to Tess, who suffered her first panic attack in this week's episode.
We love that the show is taking this issue seriously, even in the uncomfortable moments where Randall is supportive of Tess getting a therapist but resists it for himself. So many people think they've got a handle on their mental health when they either don't or simply can't. By showing that stubbornness (and Randall's imminent collapse), the show can emphasize how important it is to know when to trust those around you.
The truth of the matter is that Kevin's answer to Nicky's question here was pretty spot on. He did annoy his uncle this week by being the Kevin we know and tolerate: the non-stop chatterbox who'll do anything for attention. By the end of the episode, though, we were seeing a new side of Kevin which was refreshing and hopeful for the better man he can become.
What's important in his relationship with Nicky is that he gave his uncle space when Nicky asked for it, and he trusted him to not fall off the wagon, despite his struggles. Kevin's default mode is to smother and control, so this was a huge concession on his part, made in no small part because of Cassidy's presence. But it's a big step nevertheless, and he deserved the biggest slice of ice cream for his day.
2 tissues (for family bonds)
A Nice Hickory Smell
The legacy of Jack permeated throughout this episode, with the adorably titled chapters of his and Rebecca's first night in their new home with her pregnant with their babies and everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong. And yet, in the moment Jack praised the "hickory smell" created by the burnt lasagna, you knew that this was a man who will always put the best spin he can on everything, find the joy in calamity and always raise up and support his wife.
It's a hard thing to move on from for the entire family, losing that voice. But what they're starting to learn is that Jack's voice, his optimism, his kindness, his "grand gestures" and his big heart resides in each of them. They are his legacy, for good or bad. It is how they choose to express the gifts he's given them that he will live on.
Perhaps the most powerful moment for Kevin in this hour came when Cassidy was lamenting that her ex had simply left the hockey game where she was being honored for her military service. Throughout her letting all of that out, Kevin glanced at her a few times but he did not say a word. Even after she was done, he didn't speak because he didn't have any answers.
What a tremendous moment of restraint and growth for Kevin. And then again, after confronting her ex about being on his cell phone during the ceremony and then ditching, Kevin again gave the man respect and just listened as he explained. "That ceremony that you're talking about honored the thing that broke my favorite person in the world."
He then tells Kevin to stay away from Cassidy because ... well, guys (sigh). But all Kevin gets out of it is that there is still hope for Cassidy and her ex. There is still love there, even if Cassidy is struggling to bounce back. She is proving to be something so good for Kevin that the very best thing that could happen would be for her to get back with her ex and Kevin to leave it at that. He could use a healthy female friendship.
Once again, Miguel stepped up in a big way, and caught us by surprise by pulling out more than a few tears by telling Rebecca about the special wine he'd brought. It was a speech about the patience and resilience of the people in this tiny village who make the wine. Some years are too hot, some too cold, sometimes it just doesn't work. But they know that with patience it will.
Rebecca was so determined that this night, this special dinner with the whole family, be the start of their next chapter that she wanted everything to go perfect. Instead, it was a perfect disaster, but that's just how she and Jack began their next chapter in the home where they'd raise their children. Sometimes the beatiful disaster is the next chapter, and it's only in hindsight you can appreciate how perfectly imperfect it was.
And we're pretty sure this was one of those moments where Kate proved perceptive, sensing that there was something brewing emotionally between Rebecca and Miguel. She probably is still refusing to allow herself to consider such a thing -- hell, he probably is, too -- but that tension is bubbling.
4 tissues (Miguel with the surprise emotional moment)
We got just a hint of something awful having gone down between Kate and Marc sometime after the disastrous perfect dinner that kicked off the Pearson family's next chapter. We also know that some severe trauma had to have befallen her between that moment and when she put on a substantial amount of weight and became the deeply depressed person we first met four seasons ago.
The Kate we see in these flashbacks is someone who is finding herself and her confidence again. Unfortunately, it looks like Marc may be the catalyst of her near-destruction. And it looks like it may come in the form of some sort of assault, be it sexual or physical.
The weight gain makes us think it was sexual, simply because it's not unheard of for victims of sexual assault to want to change their body into something they feel no one will covet in that way as a form of protection. Plus, she clearly turns to food as something she does have some control over, and that feeling of not having control of your own body is another common result of that kind of trauma.
The hint itself was enough to leave us stressing and frantic; we're not sure we can handle the full story. We know Kate is bouncing back now with Toby and Jack in her life, but can we handle watching the tragedy of her next few years unfold? At least we feel somewhat confident it will be handled respectfully and honestly, which is very important with such a topic.