Money is at the heart of everything for Jack, Rebecca, Kate, Toby and even Kevin and Madison -- but for Randall and Beth, it's all about Beth's demanding mother, Carol.
They say money is the root of all evil, but it doesn't have to be. But it easily is at the root of a lot of marital problems, emotional and mental stress and even familial arguments like the one that unfurled over dinner on "This is Us."
After learning in the last episode that Toby had lost his job, the stressors of that erupted during what was supposed to be a special night of normalcy for the show's four new parents. And after a montage of new baby chaos, it was clearly just what the doctor ordered.
Unfortunately, Toby's tenuous job situation was exacerbated by going over to Kate's celebrity brother's house. It's always been implied that Kevin has millions of dollars -- he certainly never has to worry about anything -- but Toby's reality is very different.
In fact, he and Kate are easily the least financially secure of all the Pearson family, except perhaps for Rebecca and Jack back in the day. A parallel story from young in the Big Three's lives shows just how tight things were, and how Rebecca stepped up.
We've said before that Jack got all the accolades early on, but Rebecca is the true hero of this story. She was the one who kept the family together, did all the hard work behind the scenes allowing Jack to shine as this hero in her kids' eyes.
It's only now that they're 40 and dealing with families of their own that they're starting to realize just how instrumental she was in creating this amazing life for her kids. We loved Kate calling her mom randomly just to thank her for that, realizing just how hard that had to have been.
That was the other thread in the episode. On the one hand, we had stubborn male pride alongside notions of providing for their families, and on the other we had the love of mothers, expressed in such disparate ways.
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're falling more and more in love with Kevin and Madison, and this version of Kevin. He was absolutely his best self, full of that same optimism and hope that has driven him to such success, while remaining loyal to his family.
He and Madison are growing into just as adorable a couple as Randall and Beth, and Kate and Toby. But mostly we adore seeing just how much love he has for this life, this dream he's been wanting for so long finally being realized.
We still have no idea what the future holds for Kevin's career, but it was made pretty clear in this episode that even if he doesn't work again, he's probably got enough money to last a lifetime.
At the same time, we can't imagine quitting that film (no matter who the director and co-stars were) to go be with Madison when his children were being born is going to destroy his career for good. Hollywood has forgiven far bigger sins in its stars.
We did kind of love that right after he made this declaration, there was a knock at the door and there was Uncle Nicky. Is this foreshadowing that Nicky is moving in? We get that he's just visiting -- itself a huge deal -- but it could mean more.
He wouldn't be the first extended family member to move in with one of the Pearsons, and it would help explain his presence at Rebecca's bedside in the future. Of course, just flying out there is indicative of his willingness to stay connected, which could also be enough.
It's been too long since we've really checked in on Deja and Randall's relationship. A volatile and ultimately wonderful character during her introduction to his family, Deja has kind of faded into the background more in the past couple of years, and it's a shame.
This week, we only got the briefest of moments with them, but it was absolutely perfect. The affection that they share is so authentic, and we love how much she's embraced him as this pivotal figure in her life.
While the situation with Malik is incredibly complicated for anyone to navigate -- his baby's mother wants back in the picture now -- it must be even more difficult for the 15-year-old girl who's dating him.
It makes sense he sought out guidance from Randall, due to his own complex relationship with his birth parents out of his life for almost all of it, but it also makes sense that this left Deja feeling like she was suddenly in second place behind Malik in Randall's heart.
As much as she's been through, he's kind of her rock, so we applaud her voicing this truth to him, that she still needs him to be there in her corner. And him for stepping right up and assuring him that he is now and always will be. Flash-forwards prove him to be a man of his word, as we've already seen hints their special bond continues for years to come.
Kevin has enjoyed his financial success, but acknowledges that he makes a stupid amount of money. But he also admitted that he has a silly fantasy of living in a compound with his entire extended family, all raising their kids together. It's not how life works, but it's a testament to how he thinks of them.
There was no hint of malice or judgment in Kevin's offer to help Toby and Kate if they find themselves strapped. He just hit up against Toby's pride as a man who felt he was getting ready to fail providing for his family now that he'd lost his job.
Every facet of that argument was so real as to be painful. It must be difficult to be either the wealthier sibling or the more middle-class sibling in a situation like that, because each situation is awkward. If you have extra money, is it condescending and shitty to offer to help?
If you don't have it, is it difficult to look past the fact that this other person has so much more than you, and perhaps more than they can reasonably know what to do with? Is it wrong of Kevin to offer to help? Would it be wrong to take him up on it?
We love that there were no easy answers given to this question, but we also adored Kevin pleading with his sister to let him help if it comes to that, in secret if need be. His statement that what's his is "ours" speaks volumes to how he feels about her, and all of them, and it's beautiful.
Our flashback sequences showed Jack angling for a promotion at work, but in so doing getting a little reckless with his new family's meager finances. A proud man, we've seen him say over and over again not to worry about it and that he'll figure it out.
After dropping more than $200 on a credit card following a dinner that he wound up paying for in a game of "credit card roulette," Jack dropped those words on Rebecca once more. She let it sit for awhile, but only for a while.
Rebecca has proven herself a strong woman, and we were all for the moment she confronted him about their finances. He tried to put her off, and she just wasn't going to take that. Instead, she told him that she was going to take over the family finances.
She knows how much they spend, so she knows how much they need. She also told him how she was going to take out ten percent of his paycheck to start building a savings plan. Now Jack, knowing that he'd screwed up at dinner in an attempt to fit in or whatever, could have lashed out, he could have shouted, he could have insisted he had it all under control.
He did not. Inside, we imagine him totally owning everything. His answer to Rebecca was just one word. A word of humility and honesty. A word that was beautifully delivered, with authenticity and vulnerability.
Phylicia Rashad is a national treasure and has been for decades. Every single one of her appearances on this show have been nothing short of incredible, and she plays off of Sterling K. Brown and especially Susan Kelechi Watson so very well.
For all her fussy, demanding, judgmental tones, she actually fits quite well within the chaos of Beth's house. And we kind of love that Randall built himself a sanctuary away from all that strong feminine energy in the house for him and his (male) basil out on the porch.
After Beth blew up at her mother for all the judgment -- which was definitely happening but probably not nearly as maliciously as Beth was hearing it due to her own insecurities of falling short of whatever expectations she feels her mother has for her -- a powerful truth emerged.
Beth apologized and got to the root of why Carol was so hesitant to go home. The chaos that engulfs Beth and Randall's household is something she's envious of. Her life is so quiet now she can tell the time by the flow of traffic, she shared.
Beth proved her own big heart and love of her mother in the next, hilarious, scene by delivering a cooler filled with Randall's favorite IPAs to his porch sanctuary. Carol is staying ... indefinitely. Just as Rebecca told her man this, here was Beth telling her man this was happening. At least he got beer out of it.
And if this really means we get Phylicia Rashad every episode, or at least way more than we've been getting her thus far, than we might be the biggest winners of all!
This might look like a typo or a mistake, but it's not. It's rather an echo of Jack's perfect response to Rebecca's declaration that she was taking over the finances.
All episode long, we've seen how much it's weighing on Toby that he's out of work and can't provide for his family. It is an onus men put on themselves, this burden of responsibility that they believe is more theirs than any woman's. Why? Years of indoctrination as to what those things are that make them men.
It's a hard thing to shake off, combined so much with that dangerous pride that we saw exploding out of Toby during dinner with Kevin and Madison. His masculinity was being questioned and found lacking (it wasn't, but that's what he was doing to himself).
When Kate suggested at dinner that she could work, his hackles rose once again and he shot that back down immediately. Man provide. Always! Woman can provide, too, but not at cost of man provide!!
And yet, when Kate came to him later and told him that she'd not only been talked to about a teaching opportunity at baby Jack's music school, but that she'd been offered a job there and she'd taken it, he found the exact same tone as Kate's father had.
And he gave the same one word answer. And then she told him everything was going to be alright, and he said it again. He set aside his pride and his ego and accepted that this woman was every bit as capable of stepping up as he was, and had just as much right to do so.
He also furthered our aforementioned case that Toby may be the closest modern-day equivalent to one Jack Pearson, coming in even closer than Kevin or Randall.