Kate and Toby are still going in circles with the same fight over and over -- plus, flashback reveals the moment Rebecca and Miguel finally admit their feelings only to lead to heartbreak.
The heart of "This Is Us" has slowly been shifting away from Randall Pearson to land on a very unexpected central figure -- but one that makes sense in retrospect.
What began as a show so very much about this larger-than-life father in Jack Pearson and how his death rocked his family's world and shaped the lives of his children for decades to come has become a story about the true rock of that family, Rebecca Pearson.
Now that rock is beginning to erode, it turns out Randall may not be the person to step up and hold this family together. It turns out that maybe it's always been someone else. But just as Rebecca wasn't seen for the important role she played over the years, this person hasn't seen their self for the key role they've already begun playing.
This all came to the fore in yet another "traumatic-as-hell Thanksgiving," as Beth told it to Randall. It was capped by a very serious conversation with Rebecca, taking advantage of her mental health now to try and help her family avoid repeating the disastrous aftermath of Jack's death.
The latest modern-day Thanksgiving was punctuated in the episode by key Thanksgivings of the past, including the teased one that sees both Rebecca and Miguel bring dates to join in with her young adult children, as well as one from before Rebecca and Jack got married when Rebecca invited her own parents to join them.
These choices were pivotal because, as mentioned before. it's about the true center of this show. And that is the importance of mothers and the unique relationships that exist between mother and daughter. Rebecca's father perhaps described it best when telling Jack to avoid the uglier moments at all costs. "They live in a perpetual hellscape," he said of mothers and daughters.
But it oscillates between frustration and seeming hatred to love and friendship on a dime. It is like no other relationship out there; difficult to navigate from within and impossible to fully understand from the outside.
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.
Randall is very much the heart and soul of the family, but he is also a relentless fixer. He doesn't know when to stop. He's over the top and too much. He brought that to bear during Thanksgiving by trying to capture every single moment with Rebecca on camera because he misses her and he wants his daughters to remember her. But it's all too much, it's smothering with love. That's how Randall operates, and Beth has learned how to work with him and help him rein it in. It's all from a place of love, but it can be exhausting.
1 tissue (gentle but firm)
"Show Me What I Missed"
Kevin has been a jerk to Miguel for years -- we even get to see the genesis of that tonight -- but he's also willing to step back and apologize (after the fact). So it was nice to see him humble himself and quietly acknowledge he did it again after making fun of Miguel asking about a guest house by offering to walk the new cabin property with Miguel, who is a contractor, and have the more seasoned professional show him what he missed and how to make the whole project the best it can be for Rebecca and the family.
1 tissue (being able to step back)
“We Were Both Fat Kids And It Was Hell”
Kate and Toby's communication right now is absolutely terrible, but we can definitely understand where Toby is coming from in his worries about Jack and their daughter perhaps struggling with their weight growing up. It's something he knows all too well from personal experience, and he knows Kate went through that as well. The problem is that they're at such a level of frustration with one another at this point that even a simple communication like this is beyond them. It's also indicative that even in their 40s now, what they went through as children was so powerful that it's impacting Toby's approach to parenting in ways that people who didn't deal with it might not even consider.
The little jabs continued as Rebecca and Miguel in that Thanksgiving with the young adult kids took potshots at one another's date for the evening. We saw the first glimmer of that when Matt invited himself to the evening, but it came to the fore this week in a much more significant way. And, as it turns out, this evening was going to be a key one for their entire relationship, even if it wasn't a moment that was going to end with joy and happiness. Try tears!
2 tissues (awkward romantic tension but sweet)
"You Ever Get That Feeling?"
That same night, during a game of Taboo, it quickly became apparent how connected Rebecca and Miguel were. An entire round in a game of adults versus kids came down to Rebecca getting Miguel to guess all the answers by trading on their long years of friendship. But the chemistry was more palpable than that, and everyone saw it. Kevin, at his most self-loathing and drinking after Sophie dumped him for cheating on her, took it out on Miguel by telling him that Jack would be disappointed in Miguel if he ever pursued something with Rebecca. Mostly, he knew that his father would be disappointed in him, but this Kevin is not ready to own up to anything just yet when it's easier to lash out at others.
3 tissues (Miguel endures so much abuse for so many years)
"I Just Don't Know How You Don't Know That"
The communication breakdown between Kate and Toby comes to a head when they both realize it's the same fight. Kate wishes he were around more and he is sensitive to the fact that he's not around more. In regards to diet, Kate insists that she is very on top of and cautious about what the kids are eating, but can't believe Toby doesn't already know that. It's not so much that he's gone, but that they've become so disconnected both as co-parents and as a married couple. That gap is widening, and we already know where it's going.
At the end of the modern-day Thanksgiving, Rebecca sat her children and Miguel down for a tough talk. Because these are the Pearsons, she had to be tough with them in telling them that Miguel is her first power of attorney. They've struggled for years to accept Miguel because of their respective daddy issues, and we've already seen Randall strongarm Miguel and the whole family into treatments for Rebecca (his smothering tendencies he can't control). But if Miguel can't, she then asked them to respect her decision as to who would step up. It wasn't Randall or Kevin, but it was Kate. After years and years of butting heads, Kate had to ask why it was her and Rebecca's answer summed it up perfectly. They're mother and daughter. It's been a "hellscape," but not always. When it was bad it was awful, but when it was good, it was perfect. We loved the through line of this secret ingredient passed down the generations in Rebecca's family, as well, punctuating this special relationship. Rebecca finally learned it from her mother after their explosive Thanksgiving and it was tonight that she chose to finally share it with Kate. At the end of the episode, Kate decides to hold off a bit before sharing it with her own daughter (or writing it down).
4 tissues (of course it was)
“I Don’t Know What Else to Do”
Finally, six seasons in and we finally get the moment when Rebecca and Miguel reveal their feelings for one another. And in that revelation we immediately get a shocking twist. It had been revealed that Miguel stepped away from their lives for awhile, and now we know why he's done it. Not necessarily because of Kevin's harsh words, though they couldn't have helped, but probably because of his own mixed feelings about falling in love with his best friend's widow. To make matters worse, Rebecca admitted she was falling in love with him. Knowing that one of her kids is already vehemently opposed to the very idea probably made it easier for him to convince himself that he needed to get away from her to allow both of them the chance to move on with their lives. He couldn't fathom that maybe Jack would just want them both to be happy, and how could he be mad at the woman he loves falling for the best friend he loves, too?
4 tissues (sometimes love chooses for you and it's so messy)
In one silent scene, we see why it's always been Kate. Miguel took the job in Houston to get away from his feelings for Rebecca and told her right after they'd admitted they both had the same feelings. Kevin stormed out of the house, clearly outraged that Rebecca was upset that Miguel was leaving. Randall stayed out of it entirely, staying in the living room with Beth. Kate, despite how angry she'd been all day and how much she fights with her mom, went in to check on Rebecca. She found her in tears and when Rebecca told her what happened, Kate just laid down behind her and held her. "You're my daughter and my best friend," Rebecca told her in the present. Mothers and daughters. They can fight worse than anyone you've ever seen, but when they love one another, it's a bond unlike any other. This was a moment of love that was pure and beautiful.
5 tissues (mothers and daughters)
“You Will Not Make Your Lives Smaller Because of Me”
The final request that Rebecca made of her family after the modern Thanksgiving dinner was more of a demand. She saw what happened when Jack died. She saw how it derailed her children's lives. She saw how Kate struggled with her weight and with allowing herself happiness. She saw Kevin's struggles with addiction. She saw Randall pushing himself way too hard to try and emulate Jack. She saw how she was such a mess, she wasn't there to help them as she would have liked. And she won't let it happen again (especially as they've all made huge strides in self-improvement). No matter what happens to her, she demands that they live their lives as big as they can, achieve all their dreams and do not let her hold them back. It was a heartbreaking, but powerful moment that brings us full circle to the fact that it's always been Rebecca. She is this family, and she's finally owning it. But now it's time for them to learn to fly on their own, even while she's still here.
6 tissues (Mandy Moore tour de force)
"This Is Us" promises no further interruptions until the series finale, with new episodes every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.