This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 2

This Is Us Recap: Power of Three

Need to catch up? Check out the This Is Us premiere recap/post mortem here.

This Is Us‘ second installment is a relief. It continues with the same heart and humor displayed in the premiere, delivering warmth and comfort as handily as though it were a bowl of matzo ball soup fresh out of the kitchen. On the whole, the hour gives us more detail on the drama’s central family, allows Kate to cut loose a little and sticks not one but two characters in some seriously dopey haberdashery.

But, as a child of the ’80s, I would be remiss to let one thing slide: In the name of all that is Ecto Cooler and holy, what the heck is “Top-C?”

We are introduced to the juice-box brand — which is clearly intended to evoke Hi-C, aka the nectar of my youth — as Rebecca makes lunches for her three kids, who are in elementary school in this week’s flashback. I’m sure the change is probably because the show couldn’t clear use of the brand name (though it did for Crockpot, G.I. Joe and other hallmarks of 1980s suburban living), but c’mon. Was Capri-Sun unavailable? Hawaiian Punch? Heck, even Five Alive?! (Just kidding. Nobody liked Five Alive.)

Read on for the non-trademark-infringing highlights of “The Big Three.”

‘BIG THREE!’ | We open on a flashback to the family’s kitchen, where Rebecca is bustling around, trying to get breakfast on the table and lunch boxes packed. When everyone comes down to eat, we see that Kevin, Randall and Kate are a lot older than when we first met them — I’d estimate they’re 8 or 9 — and that there’s a simmering tension between Rebecca and Jack.

Breakfast is sugary cereal for the boys and cantaloupe and cottage cheese (aka ’80s diet food) for Kate, a disparity that Jack tries to ease by sprinkling some of the cereal on top of his daughter’s dish… much to Rebecca’s dismay. Guys, I have to be up front here: We’re only on Episode 2, and Kate’s history with weight/food/body image already too closely mirrors my own. I may need someone to hold my hand through this season.

The flashbacks, interspersed through the hour, inform us that Jack and Rebecca’s marriage is creaking a bit under the strain of raising three kids. The main way this manifests is in him spending too much time at the bar after work, pounding bourbon with his best friend, Miguel (Castle‘s Jon Huertas). Miguel gently warns Jack that Rebecca is “the gold standard of wives” and that “You married way, way above your station. I’d be careful not to give her a reason to notice.” And if that sounds like the nicest, only-platonic-no-way-there’s-anything-else-going-on-here thing you’ve ever heard a bro say about his bro’s lady, may I suggest you stick around until the end of this recap? (Actually, how about you do that, regardless.)

Meanwhile, at school, kids have started calling Randall “Webster” — as in, the sitcom where a white family adopted a black kid — and Kevin cares too much about what the other kids think to stand up for his brother.

KEEPING SCORE | When Jack comes home buzzed and bearing jewelry one night, Rebecca quietly but firmly demands that he cut back on the booze and the late nights at the bar, because on a parenting scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, “I think we’re at a 6, and I think I’m being generous,” she says. She explains that she’s putting in 9-level work, and “I’m done letting you lower our score.”

Jack spends the night sleeping outside their bedroom door “like a Labrador,” she notes with affection the next morning. He begs her forgiveness as he promises to give up alcohol cold-turkey, adding he’ll be a “12, for you,” and putting the necklace — a quarter moon pendant — around her neck. The kids wake up to find their parents making out on the hallway floor, and that sounds gross, but it’s cute as the trio piles on and there’s laughing and smiles and I’M SURE THERE’S NO MARITAL HEARTACHE WHATSOEVER AHEAD.

This Is Us - Season 1‘THE NETWORK OWNS YOU’ | In the present… Kevin, no. Just, no. Being pretty and earnest doesn’t mean that you can wear stuff from the Urban Outfitters clearance bin on your head. Take off that stupid ski cap. No one at your agent’s office is going to get serious about a discussion of your career prospects if you look like the kid in the freshman dorm who knows the best weed hook-ups.

Kevin expects an exciting examination of how to angle his future, post-his Manny freakout. Kevin gets some come-to-Jesus real talk from his agent, Lanie (Sons of Anarchy‘s Katey Sagal), who informs him that his contract means the network owns him for the next two years. Crestfallen, he realizes that he’s got to talk to the network head at a party at Lanie’s that night in order to grovel and get back to his Manny duties.

COCKTAILS AND CONTRACTS | Toby’s weight-loss efforts are going more smoothly than Kate’s, a fact that causes her great consternation. And when Kevin invites his sister to the party — so she can buck him up when he tells the network he definitely wants out of his contract — the stress over finding something to wear manifests in Kate going off on her fellow Overeaters Anonymous members. Or, as Toby puts it: “You Hulked out on a bunch of fatties.” (Heh.) While making it clear that he wants to be her boyfriend for realsies, he says he’s going to the party with her and they’re going to have some “non-fat time” where they can just cut loose and relax.

This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 2So they do. The pair toss back shots and hit the dance floor at Lanie’s party, and Kate enjoys herself for all of 90 seconds before she looks around and thinks everyone’s laughing at her. They are likely laughing at your date’s saddle shoes and hat-peacock feather combination, honey, but that’s neither here nor there. But Toby refuses to let her wallow, so they start imbibing tequila like it’s their calling.

MANNY… IN | Meanwhile, Kevin meets with the network head — played by Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) — who calmly tells him that “I really don’t care what happens behind the scenes on my third-rated sitcom” but that replacing the lead of a moderately successful show is the kind of drama he’d rather avoid. So, the bigwig adds, Kevin will finish out his existing contract or “I’ll be forced to Nagasaki your life and career.” Ouch. The one upside of this chilling conversation is the inebriated shuffle that Kate and Toby do as Kevin tries to explain his current effed state. Bravo, Chrissy Metz. You drunk dancing is all of us drunk dancing. Also? Sloshed Kate = fun.

Later, Kevin is near tears as he calls Randall. It’s clear the two aren’t as close as Kate and Randall are, but there’s hope. (Sample dialogue — KEVIN: “I was not a very good brother to you, was I?” RANDALL: “No, you weren’t. But you’ve still got time.”) As Randall warms to his brother, he reminds him that “Mom and Dad didn’t raise no whores, except briefly, during Kate’s eyeliner phase.” (Ha!) Then they both — along with Kate, who wanders over during the conversation — recite a cheer about triplet-hood their dad used to chant with them when they were kids. Would this happen in real life? Probably not. But I Do Not Care.

Later, Kate sobers slightly and gets sad as she tells Toby that she can’t ever stop thinking about her weight. And he understands. Then Kevin announces that “I told them to go screw themselves” and muses a future in theater (aka the only acting medium he’s now legally able to pursue).

This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 2FOR REAL: WHO IS YOUR DADDY? | At Randall’s house, Beth is starting to wonder what the “endgame” is regarding William, but Randall wants them to take it slowly and figure it out later. It’s clear the girls are smitten with their grandfather (whom they don’t know is their grandfather), and Randall is going out of his way to set up doctor’s appointments and the like to deal with William’s Stage IV stomach cancer. But when William starts asking to borrow bus fare and then disappearing for the better part of every day, Beth begins to worry that his presence in their house won’t be good for the family — Randall, in particular. So she sits the old man down and point-blank asks him if he’s really sick, if he’s using drugs, and where he goes when he leaves during the day.

The answers: yes, no and his apartment in Philadelphia. Randall enters the conversation just as William says, “I have a cat… I go back and forth to feed him.” No, YOU thought William was some kind of slick con artist/grifter! He adds that even though he’s been given a literal death sentence, he feels so much better now that he’s able to hang out with the girls. “Well, now I feel like a bitch,” Beth says, and the two men laugh. I’m interested to see how the Beth-William relationship plays out as the series progresses, because that look she gives him the next morning when he helps one of the girls with her asthma inhaler isn’t 100 percent “Thank you, God, for bringing this reminder of life’s fragility into our midst.”

Anyway, the doorbell rings, and the girls go to get it. “Grandma and Grandpa!” they shout, and the camera moves to the entryway to show us Rebecca — wearing the moon necklace — and… Miguel. Wait, what?

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Mother-effin Miguel. Something better have happened to Jack, but even so, your best friend’s girl???? Not cool, Miguel, not cool!

  2. madhatter360 says:

    Based on some of the dialogue last week and the fact that she’s wearing the necklace I think Jack is dead in the future. The question is when did he die and how long after did Rebecca and Miguel get together.

    • He had to have died long enough ago that Randall’s girls think of Miguel as Grandpa, so 6 years at least maybe?

      • GraceM says:

        At least eight. The oldest daughter is eight.

      • Juke says:

        Did not expect the Miguel reveal. Is this show setting us up for a cliffhanger/surprise at the end of every episode? Once it starts, it’s hard to stop (and the audience expects it), but it’s hard to pull off, too. I was glad to see the Big 3 talk to each other. I thought it was weird that Randall wasn’t included when the other two were celebrating their birthdays, since we know all three (and Dad) had the same one. Maybe with Kevin heading east to be an actor, he and Randall can see more of each other. (Randall is in New York, right?) But what will Kate do? Do we know what Kate does, as in a job? I need them to make Kate’s story about more than her weight. I realize she had the speech about everything being about her weight in her head, but still… I need more from her in the back story and the present. And I like Kevin and completely understand his “take this job and shove it” feelings. It doesn’t matter what you make if you hate your job.

    • dan says:

      Agree. There was some mention last week of dad in the past tense so I assumed that the twins dad had died (this was before the reveal at the end that Jack was their dad).

      • B says:

        Yeah, and at the end, Kate made Kevin repeat “what Dad used to say”, so I think he’s either dead or out of their lives. I’m hoping dead.

        • brookel says:

          I definitely think he loves them too much to have just disappeared. The show cemented the couple as being very loving, good people in the first episode so I don’t think they’ll stray from that.

    • JCS says:

      I’m thinking he’s dead. If I saw it correctly, when he comes home in Episode 2, he takes off a gun and he’s wearing something on his belt. A badge?. I think he’s a police detective. And remember, this is New York, pre-9/11.

    • Charlotte says:

      that would be so disappointing

  3. Sarah says:

    Love this show! Love the Big 3. Looks like Jack has died, and Miguel – not cool!

  4. Evelyn says:

    Love this show! But, the ending? OMG, what a twist!

  5. Kim says:

    Loved the episode so much…..but did not like that ending/twist at all…pretty much hated it

    • Stacyt246 says:

      Me too. I didn’t want to know that Jack is gone this early. After being upset about it and thinking on it, maybe in a thoughtful way, all will be revealed. But I just don’t want Milo to go away(;

  6. Mike says:

    So are we getting one big reveal a week? If so we’re going to be exhausted by the end of the season. :)

  7. K says:

    This ending was more shocking to me than last week’s, since the twist was easy to figure out imo. Guessing Jack has passed because she still has on the necklace.

  8. Claire says:

    I thought they hinted around that Jack was dead last week, in Randall’s story. Really wish Rebecca wasn’t with Miguel, but I knew Jack wouldn’t be appearing in the present.

    • Sarah says:

      yea, and Kate’s “remember what Dad used to say?” from last week pretty much points to Jack being dead. If they were just divorced she wouldn’t be speaking in past tense.

    • Emily says:

      I know they mentioned Randall’s dad dying when he talked to his bio dad.

  9. Jamie says:

    Yeah, I kind of wish that last twist hadn’t happened. Still, a solid episode #2, and my definite fave new show.

  10. QueenB says:

    Didn’t enjoy the twist at all but I did like the triplets more this week in the present day not liking the fact that this series is moving to 9 pm tho

  11. ndixit says:

    I’ll be honest, the twist made me kind of mad. Because now the entire past portions are tinged with sadness, so even when they have happier times, I see that they didn’t get their happily ever after.

    • jj says:

      there is no such thing as happily ever after. everyone dies eventually. Happily ever after is about a destination, which isn’t relevant to life. It’s the journey that’s important. the question was were they happy during the time they had together.

  12. Beth says:

    I hated Kevin in this episode. I was waiting for someone in his family to say “Shut the hell up and get back to work. You’re not a whore, you signed a contract and you’re making a fortune!” Plus he was mean to little Randall. I feel like Kevin was definitely the golden child of the family and he acts like it.

    • tsg says:

      Actually it seems more like Randall was the golden child or at least the one who got the most attention from the parents which is why Kate and Kevin bonded so closely together. When Rebecca had to decide who to yell at she went to yell at Kevin not Randall. But obviously it took a toll on Randall too because he felt he had to live up to that expectation of being perfect.

      • Sheila says:

        Also, Randall could have been trying to prove that he fits in and belongs by doing everything right. It is tough feeling rejected or unwanted when you are a little kid.

      • dean says:

        Why shouldn’t she have yelled at him first? He was the one name calling, not Randall!

      • fiberlicious says:

        I think that Randall’s biggest problem is that Kevin was horrible to him as a child, hence the estrangement. We see that even as a child, Kevin was as shallow as a drop of water on a sponge.

  13. GraceM says:

    Well I guess Jack died and Rebecca married his best friend?

  14. Drew says:

    I’m ashamed it took me so long to recognize that the actor playing Randall previously played Romero on Mr. Robot. Great acting and makeup here …

  15. donholley77 says:

    2 episodes in, & I’m hooked for the season! My only? How many WTF moments can Fogelman keep delivering at the end of an episode? But TIU is a keeper!

  16. Jaclyn says:

    I saw the ending coming since I assumed that he had died from past tense dialogue that happened last week. And then the way he was talking about her was questionable..that’s how it starts..(now Jack better have passed away or I’m going to be highly upset!!) I love the past and the present stories which doesn’t normally happen. I always find myself bored in other shows that do this..I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this show

  17. Michelle says:

    I know Beth kind of touched on the back story of their house, but even so, wouldn’t you think she and Randall would have a house with multiple bedrooms given his fancy job and $140,000+ car, and William would be able to sleep in one of those rooms rather than kick a little girl out of hers?

    • Z says:

      based on my knowledge from watching HGTV particularly Flip or Flop, some big homes have not so much bedrooms

    • Allison says:

      Beth did say they bought the house basically on faith before Randall started making big money and fixed it up themselves. It would make sense that the house isn’t super large. Or even if they do have that fourth bedroom, it may be an office.

    • Elizabeth Campbell says:

      My husband and I wondered about that too! Hope Beth let’s him bring the cat over!

      • fiberlicious says:

        One of the kids has asthma, so not likely. Would make more sense to rent him an apartment close by where he can have his cat.

        • Paula says:

          Yes… an apartment for William nearby would be a perfectly reasonable option! And it would be more fair and less intrusive for Beth, too. I do want Clooney the cat to be cared for properly.

      • Phyllis campbell says:

        We would like to know what happened to williams cat. My sister is upset to think he was abanded.

        • Donna Goodstein says:

          I really enjoy this show. I think they deal so well with most of the details (but do like to leave you in suspense). I have been wondering about the cat too because it meant so much to William. In the last episode
          Randall returned to William’s apartment to look for his tapes. My sister-in-law does volunteer work with senior citizens who live alone and often only have a beloved cat
          to keep them company.

  18. Kevin K says:

    The one character that made me laugh on This Is Us: TOBY

  19. SHARRON says:

    Love the show, hate old people makeup. They should’ve just cast actual old people to play Rebecca and Miguel.

  20. skrable2a says:

    Just for the record … I loved Five Alive

  21. Paula says:

    I suspected Miguel and Rebecca might eventually have a fling (wasn’t there a glimpse of them kissing in a preseason promo?) but was a bit surprised they showed up alive, well and married in the present day. I’m not at all upset Rebecca found love again because Miguel seems like a nice guy! Kevin, Kate and Tobey should definitely hang out together more often before he moves to New York and gets reacquainted with Randall and his family. I love bio dad, William, and hope we get to meet his cat. And Gerald McRaney is back next week! Wonderful show and cast!

    • Sheila says:

      Me too! I am glad she found love again with a man who appreciates her. Widows don’t have to be alone forever.

    • sterling says:

      Yeah I mean if Jack died I don’t think it is terrible of his friend to end up with his wife. One of my closest friends lost his mom when he was a teen. His dad eventually married his mom’s best friend. She has sorta filled in as a”mom” to him after his mother’s death. Her son was the same age and was his best friend. When he needed a mom’s advice she was there for him. This meant she was around his dad a lot and eventually the two of them got together. He was actually happy about it. I can see how that could happen here as well.

  22. Stanislava says:

    Miguel?!?!That was a punch in the gut…

  23. Michele says:

    Excellent! Can’t wait for next week.

  24. Whitney says:

    My guess is Jack’s dead. I noticed in the first episode how Kate and Kevin referred to him in the third person.

  25. Jess says:

    So mad I missed the first episode! I will see if I can catch it on demand and get caught up for episode 2… Looks like a good show.

  26. Kevin K says:

    Plot twist: Miguel is actually Randall’s wife’s dad. That would be a crazy stretch hahahaha

    • Léa says:

      Ouuuuuh maybe! That would be a stretch, but possible!! Especially since we know that Randall and his wife have been together for 17 years, maybe they met when they were young because their parents were friends. Who knows hahaha

  27. J.B. says:

    Can we get some love for the best line of the episode?

    Randall’s 6yr old daughter: “My vice is asthma, his [points to William] is cocaine.”

    I almost choked laughing so hard .

  28. dan says:

    Really liking this show, but a few constructive comments in case the producers are reading. Kevin’s storyline is the weakest; hard to feel sympathy for an actor earning $3M a year on a tv sitcom who has higher aspirations (I agreed with Brad Garrett’s character: get back to work and fulfill your contract). I like Kate and her relationship with Toby, but I hope there is more to her character than just “the fat chick.” I really liked Beth’s conversation with William, however if they were so destitute eight years ago how do they suddenly afford a $140K car that Randall paid for in cash (as he bragged to William in the premiere)? I realize he was promoted and is doing well, but I thought that was a stretch and somewhat unrealistic. These are nit-picky because I really like the show and the twist at the end didn’t bother me at all (I understood from dialogue in the premiere that the dad had died).

    • Carm says:

      It is not that hard to be in a different financial place in 8 years. I currently make about 3 times what I made 8 years ago about 4 times as much as I made 10 years ago. I can’t afford $140k car cash but could buy a pretty nice one. So it is not that unrealistic.

    • sterling says:

      8 years ago I was living off of $20k a year and my husband (we were not married at that time) made about the same. Now we make well into the 6 figures. Things change. Jobs change. Depending on the company and line of work bonus checks show up. The year we got married my husband’s bonus check was big enough to pay for a big wedding and honeymoon.

    • Isobel says:

      8 years is almost a decade, he could’ve been promoted more than once and improved his pay check or set up his own law practice successfully

    • Jamie says:

      This is super late, but I agree with everyone else here. I currently make almost 4x what I made eight years ago – mostly because of promotions and an employer change. A lot can change financially in a decade, so their wealth increase makes perfect sense. Especially since Beth mentioned Randall making partner, so he would likely have stake in the firm as well as an increased salary.

  29. Cyn says:

    I inferred from eps 1 that Dad was deceased. Since Mom is still wearing the necklace, I assume at some point Dad passed away and Mom marries their friend.

  30. JBC says:

    This is such a well written well acted show. Enjoying it tremendously! Loved seeing Brad Garret as the network exec. Such a treat for Tuesday nights.

  31. Nero tTVFiddler says:

    Great review Kimberly – you rock!!! Keep up the good work on This Is Us reviews! :)
    I was knocked off my feet by this second episode and the way it ended. Stunned. Wow. To end this episode in the fashion that it did took guts. The shows that become great ‘push’ their audience (remember Lost)… keeps them off balance. The writing. The writing is the fuel that drives the actors, the story, and then the audience. I’m hoping Jack didn’t die – I’m hoping he is wandering around (Don Draper style!) and comes back into his family’s lives and story line at some point. It adds to the complexity of the story, and ads some depth… and darkness.
    This show is going to be golden for NBC. We are watching the very beginning of an Emmy worthy series that will drive NBC back into the mix at Emmy Awards time. I agree with the comments of others up-thread with two exceptions (the first noted above with Jack’s demise) – I actually was hoping that Mandy Moore would get to play the current Rebecca a middle age, old-age make-up and all. Ms. Moore has been near stardom many times in her career, but we are watching her career comeback rise as this series rises.
    There is a new ‘It Girl’ on television – the new ‘TV Crush’ for guys of a certain age – Mandy Moore. :) Welcome back Ms. Moore!

  32. Vanna says:

    This show is sooo good! Happy it was picked up for (basically) a full season :-)

  33. Daphne says:

    I’m calling it now: Toby will die before the end of the season. He’s so much fun, no way he’s gonna stick around for too long! Plus, it will be something for Kate to deal with and possibly make her move to the East coast where both her brothers + mom & stepdad will now be…

  34. TJ says:

    I was thinking last week that Jack had died, because if you shared a birthday with your father, at least one of the three of them would be calling home to wish him a happy birthday, or vice versa.

  35. kmw says:

    Pretty good episode and the twist was interesting but I guess given what was going on it wasn’t so surprising that Rebecca and Jack aren’t together anymore. I just love how the show is paced and everyone has real issues. Just a great episode

  36. LKE says:

    Jack is either dead or has been out of the picture for a long time. In the pilot, Kate said “remember what dad used to say”. Not “says”. I’m guessing dead because all the kids talk about him with fondness.

  37. Chris says:

    The first thing I thought was that she left him because of his drinking. He said he’d quit buy that doesn’t usually happen.

  38. drhenning says:

    Glad Jon Huertas gets the girl on this show!!! If we had gotten a future Castle, would he have been with Lanie??

  39. KayCeeCee says:

    Love, love, love Beth! I totally get her, she has to protect Randall and her family.

    I’m so glad that grandpa was not doing drugs.

  40. Ann says:

    The ending, with Miguel (he’ll alwaysbe Javi to me) had me like WTF?! So mad. Where is Jack?!!!!

  41. Please, please, please just let Jack die. Or at least divorced quietly. (Although obviously that’s not what happened because of the drama). I need Rebecca to have been loyal to Jack throughout their marriage. The cock-eyed optimist in me needs that.

    I also want to see how and why Jack developed a drinking problem in the 8-9 years since the kids were born.

    • skyebright8 says:

      yeah I think Jack is dead, Kate said remember what dad ‘said’, and all the children seem to remember him fondly, maybe there was an accident or he got liver cancer or something

  42. Ceylan says:

    The Power of Three will set us free

  43. I love this show!!!
    Does anyone know the song Kate and Toby were dancing to at the party? Something about “all about a good time” but I can’t figure it out. Help! :)

  44. MelindaB says:

    My husband asked whether the twist that Javi–I mean, Miguel–was married to Rebecca was the result of a good or bad event. Then he realized that there was no good event that would result in that. :-P

    I hope the show can keep the momentum and quality up, because I’m really enjoying it.

  45. Linda Howell says:

    I think the show is great, just give it a chance to build itself up and blast away…can not wait until the next show

  46. Ok! Where is Jack?? Don’t tell me Jack didn’t make it to old age?? You’re breaking my heart enough with tears every episode!

  47. MLPR says:

    I know I’m so late to the comments board, but I just caught up last night. Two questions: 1) Why on earth would you start your biological/white kids’ names with the same letter, and then take the one that’s going to be different his whole life and name him something starting with a different letter? I know it’s being picky, but that poor kid didn’t need another reason for people to see him differently. 2) Is Randall in NY or Pittsburgh? At first I thought NY, but then Rebecca and Miguel are now also living in NY?

  48. Jenny says:

    I’m seriously thinking that Jack knew he was dying and made Miguel promise to be there as a surrogate grandpa for his grandchildren since they are so young and the other two don’t even have any kids yet and he wanted them to have a grandfather. That’s my theory!

  49. fiberlicious says:

    It usually takes me a few episodes to really warm up to a show, but this one had me at hello. I already love it – Sharp writing, great characters (especially TOBY OMG!).

  50. fiberlicious says:

    P.S. – totally agree about the schmata on K’s head. I hated that look when it was trendy, and it’s still ugly.