Beth and Madison take on the case of who was with Kevin last night, narrowing it down to three women -- one who will be "the one" he ends up with.
In typical "This Is Us" fashion, we're going to get things a little out of order chronologically, but that actually helped one of this week's most delightful sequences.
Fully jumping ahead five years into the future, we have stuck the landing at Kate's wedding, where we learn that Randall has secured his seat on the Senate floor and things are happening fast now with Rebecca's mental decline.
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In a flashback sequence, we also learned the impetus behind Jack suddenly switching it up to a mustache in the 1980s. It was a fairly innocuous flashback, but served to parallel how long ago Rebecca has feared losing herself.
We also got a heartbreaking parallel of Rebecca in the new present day -- five years deeper into her Alzheimer's -- to Rebecca as a young parent with so much life in her and yet before her.
The hardest thing about this latest time shift for the show is how much things have changed with Rebecca. She spends much of the episode thinking that Kevin is her late husband Jack. They even got Milo Ventimiglia to walk in for one scene in the present, to emphasize her perspective, before shifting to Justin Hartley.
Even knowing it was coming, it was heartbreaking to see play out. And the beautiful concern showed by Uncle Nicky for his nephew, knowing what an emotional challenge it must be for him.
Clearly the writers behind this episode are familiar with how Alzheimer's affects the patient and their loved ones. We got a whole array of valid emotional responses and reactions to Rebecca's decline.
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And it is moving fast, as Miguel told Randall in one of his most impassioned moments of the whole series. It's going to make these final episodes even harder to watch because this vibrant light that has been the center of this family is fading, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
The family lives for those flickers. And yet, that's exactly what the real experience is like, memories and flickers of light. We don't suppose these final chapters should be easy, because in truth, they aren't.
Still, it's not all bad, because we got the debut of our favorite new detective duo, Beth and Madison. After the intrepid duo stumble on the "crime scene" of Kevin's hotel room, they start trying to piece together how his previous night went, and who left their bra in his room!
This is where we don't mind the backwards storytelling, as next week's episode is all about that night. For now, we get to enjoy the investigation with these two as they try to figure it out, narrowing it down to three women -- one of whom will be his future.
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.
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"It's Like a True Crime Whodunnit -- But with Sex"
It was important for us to get flashback Rebecca in this episode to counter how difficult it was seeing the decline in our new present-day Rebeccca. But we also appreciated that we got the genuinely joyful duo of Beth and Madison deciding to go full detective mode during Kate's wedding, and with good reason. As we saw in last week's flashbacks, Kevin's dating life has been a mess for years now (again), so is this just more of the same, or something different. Probably, they could have used the distraction, too.
0 tissues (but we'd have investigated that bra, too)
"I'm Gonna Looky Real Good"
As a character, Phillip has a lot of catching up to do with the rest of the cast of characters. It just doesn't feel as if he's fully earned our trust yet. It's not a fault of Chris Geere, who's doing the best he can, but just a lack of screen time leading up to suddenly being Kate's husband. So these little endearing moments are very important for his character, and to show us the connection and care he has for her.
1 tissues (because we're starting to see you, Phillip)
"We Are Gonna Talk About How You Speak to Your Mother"
In a weird way, the time we live in has tainted this scene. Suddenly, Jack saying this was giving us flashbacks to the Oscars with Will Smith screaming at Chris Rock to keep his wife's name out of his mouth. Defending your spouse isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we didn't need those echoes in our mind as he chastised his children for laughing at Rebecca's Princess Di-inspired haircut -- after he himself was laughing with them. It's easy to see why she remained upset, as it looked performative from him. It wasn't a bad message for the children to learn to not make fun of their mother, but she wasn't buying his sincerity.
1 tissue (even the small things can offer little complexities)
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"I Just Can't Wait for Your Father to Get Here"
They didn't wait long to hit us with this one, immediately setting our expectations for where Rebecca is on her decline. The family has had five years to prepare for it, we got only one week. We were not prepared, and it was very hard to hear. And as the episode progressed, we started to get a sense that at best she has as many non-lucid moments as she has lucid ones, and they come and go quickly. Again, this nails the real experience, but we're not sure our hearts are ready to see this.
3 tissues (because no warning at all)
"Once She Finds Her Key, She'll Lock In"
Both Kate and Phillip repeat this like a mantra, as if they're manifesting it into existence. Rebecca is set to perform a song at their wedding, which can be very good for Alzheimer's patients. It's important they stay involved and connected to what they love. On top of that, the power of muscle memory is a huge thing. But we also knew that this phrase was a salve they put on their very real worry; not that Rebecca would ruin their day by forgetting but by what that would do to her. Even with it being her day, Kate's love and concern for Rebecca sits front and center.
3 tissues (love is love)
"On a Wednesday?"
After seeing that Rebecca was struggling post-haircut with the teasing from the kids, Jack laughing with them (at first) and her own buyer's remorse, Jack offered up an unusual response. And just like that, we learned how he wound up with the mustache. He's changed his style a lot over the years, and now it looks like that might have been a subtle way to express his love and support for Rebecca. After his volatile childhood, he enjoyed the subtle monotony of their routine. Rebecca appreciated it, too, but at times it could be stifling. The compromise is to carve out moments of spontaneity, times to step outside the norm and flex your identity.
3 tissues (never stop finding those moments to flex)
"Me on Lead Vocal Going Full 'Titanic'"
It was perhaps in this moment that we finally got it. Rebecca heading up to the piano to perform her song at Kate's wedding ... or not. Honestly, no one knew how it would play out, but Phillip knew exactly where his new wife's mind was. And so he offered up a bit of silliness, couched in compassion for both Kate and Rebecca, at just the right moment. We know that Toby's humor was part of what attracted her, and while Phillip's wit has a darker edge to it, clearly that's still a big factor. We're starting to see it. We didn't, however, get to see Phillip sing Céline, for which we cry foul!
3 tissues (for compassion beyond a moment for you)
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"I'm Right Here"
Randall has been a bit disconnected from the family while running for and securing his Senatorial seat, and so his reaction to Rebecca's decline was much like ours. The scene with the Big 3 sitting and talking about where she's at really dug into how they're all dealing with it. Randall, of course, wants to meddle and fix things. But he can't, which is hard for him. It's Kevin, though, who finds himself in the most challenging position emotionally, as Kate reveals that Rebecca has been mistaking him for Jack more and more. It happens several times in the episode, and you can see the complex emotions on Kevin's face -- especially as they've reached the point in Rebecca's decline where they shouldn't correct her (as Randall tried to do twice) and just roll with it. But that doesn't take into consideration how hard that must be for Kevin, walking with his mother who knows it's him one moment and then thinks he's her dead husband (his dead father) the next.
4 tissues (Alzheimer's can be a real bastard)
"I Needed Just One Minute to Feel Like a Human Being"
When Randall came storming in to try and talk with Rebecca about her big musical performance, Miguel instead yanked him out to a wine tasting. In typical Randall fashion, he couldn't go more than a few moments without talking about Rebecca's mental state. Then, after Miguel tells him he wanted to just not talk about that for an hour, Randall immediately shifted to Miguel having a tremor and taking blood pressure medication. He just can't help himself. We applauded Miguel standing up for himself a bit later, chastising Randall for being so relentless, because all he wanted was to sip wine with another person who appreciates it like he does. He wanted a reprieve from dealing with all of it every single minute of every single day, and who can blame him.
5 tissues (the unsung heroes of the world)
"All That We Have Is a Forever Now"
Beautifully juxtaposed with Jack challenging Pound of Ham Rebecca to strut up to a piano on their impromptu Wednesday night date and start pounding out a tune, Rebecca in the present took her position and she did manage to find her way. It was a beautiful performance -- did we expect any less from Mandy Moore? -- as she played and sang from the heart all about the importance of cherishing every moment right now. Because sometimes right now is all we have. Certainly in her case, and for the whole family, the right nows couldn't be more precious.
6 tissues (there she is)
The final episodes of "This Is Us" continue every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.