“The Big Three”
Original Airdate: September 27, 2016
So I don’t like to compare TV shows, but we all know that Parenthood (RIP, Braverman clan) has left a gaping hole in my heart and that I had previously shunned NBC for cancelling such an incredible show. This is Us has filled my heart with hope for NBC again, but — like the Braverman family — makes me weep every episode.
This week’s episode titled “The Big Three” didn’t disappoint — they jumped head-first into the family’s issues! We get a glimpse of our titular “big three” as children, as the show jumps ahead ahead eight years, with Jack and Rebecca in the thick of doing life. We see the childhood fights between Kevin and Randall, the beginnings of weight struggles with Kate, and the Jack and Rebecca’s less-than-perfect marriage. A lot of who they are in the present-day can be attributed to how they were raised. Nobody, after all, is perfect.
Speaking of the present-day, Randall’s biological father is still around the home, and Beth doesn’t trust him. She isn’t entirely sure that his motives are pure, and she should be skeptical. Randall — emotionally and impulsively — let this stranger move in. I know he feels a connection to his father because he’s his biological family, but Beth is right to want to protect her husband’s heart. Randall is a pure-hearted and good person, and Beth doesn’t want anything to taint that.
So while Randall doesn’t ask about where he goes with the bus money they lend him, Beth lays all of her cards on the table and asks him point-blank about the money, the late bus rides, the drug use, and the cancer. She gets right down to business! Just when Beth is about to tell William that he has outworn his welcome, Randall stops her. The pair hear him out as he tells how he’s using the money to ride back and forth from his apartment to feed the cat that he owns named Clooney. We really will see, as the show progresses, if William is telling the truth about his life. But for now, we know Randall’s own life is consumed by this new dynamic and major change.
Kevin’s meltdown last week was met with the reality this week that he contractually can’t quit his show. He thought by storming off set he really would finally be free, but that’s not the case. After a meeting with his agent and her team, he is made aware that for the next two years, he’s bound and also that he can’t work for any network or studio for those two years. The agent (played by the wonderful Katey Segal) tells him to suck it up, keep his semi-decent role on his show, and go beg at the studio executive’s feet for his job back. Kevin has a pep talk with Kate where he realizes that he is strong enough to quit. When he arrives at the party to chat with the executive, the man is harsh but honest: Kevin has no way out and if he quits, the studio will ruin his reputation and finances.
Then there is Kate, whose struggle with body image is so much deeper than her new boyfriend realizes. She has struggled since childhood, and while her mother always wanted her to be healthy, Kate still doesn’t see herself as beautiful. She is constantly in a cycle of comparison, and needs to find out how to be happy — she needs to discover what would make her happy. Toby is trying to be as supportive as possible, but they won’t sustain this relationship if Kate can’t find her own peace.
Last, but surely not least, we see flashbacks of Rebecca and Jack. Rebecca is operating much like a single parent. We see Jack out with his best friend Miguel, drinking and getting advice on his life outside of work. Rebecca — working hard to provide a loving and balanced life for the triplets — is awake when an inebriated Jack returns. He comes bearing gifts, but the only thing Rebecca wants is for him to be a present husband, to give up drinking, and be the man she needs him to be for the family.
After a night apart, he agrees to be what she needs, and they start to get back on track. Rebecca accepts the necklace that he buys her as a peace offering and a sign of rebuilding their family. And there I was, happy that Jack had made a commitment to being the best version of himself and turn his life around for the family.
But it can’t be that easy in television, right? We transition back to present day and in another end-of-episode twist that I (again) absolutely didn’t see coming, Randall’s mom, Rebecca, arrives at his home for an impromptu visit. The girls are thrilled that their grandparents are there, and when Randall opens the door, it is indeed his mom… but also Miguel!
Who saw that coming? We thought Miguel was on Jack’s team and supportive of their relationship. So is Jack dead in the present-day? Rebecca vowed to never take the necklace off and the kids (in the present) are always talking about what dad said (past-tense). How am I already heartbroken that a character I have only been emotionally invested in for two episodes could very well be dead? And could Randall’s current drive to know William be fueled by the death of his adoptive father? Or are Rebecca and Jack simply divorced? What happened?!
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