Need to catch up? Check out the previous This Is Us recap here.
After an entire season of This Is Us, we thought we had a pretty good handle on every single member of the Pearson family.
Turns out, we didn’t know Jack.
The NBC drama caps its first season with an hour that focused on Jack and Rebecca — the Big Three only appear as adults, and only for a few brief scenes — and spends its time hopping between Mr. and Mrs. Pearson’s kismet-kissed first meeting and a giant fight that may mark the beginning of their marriage’s end.
By the end of the hour, Jack moves out of the house to spend some time at Miguel’s… and Rebecca lets him go. How did we get here? Read on for the highlights of “Moonshadow.”
JACK LIVES! (FOR NOW) | As a drunk-but-not-as-drunk-as-he’s-gonna-be Jack arrives at the club where Rebecca is singing — safely, phew — he seems to realize that his grand gesture may not be a welcome one. “What the hell are you doing, Jack?” he asks himself… and then we flashback to a baby-faced Jack (actual age: 28), who’s fixing a car for a kind widow who can only pay him $5 for his help. He courteously thanks her, and she says she’ll make it up to him by setting him up with her friend’s granddaughter. “You’ll thank me. She’s a total knockout,” the well-intentioned old lady says. Jack’s not psyched about the idea — though he loves the widow’s 1967 Chevelle Super Sport — but he reluctantly agrees to the blind date.
We learn a little more about the Big Three’s dad as a young man: He’s a Vietnam vet, he’s paying rent to live with his folks, and he’s got a dream to open an auto-body shop with his friend, Darryl. He’s also got a Jimmy Stewart-esque outlook on how being a “good guy” will eventually pay off — and he uses that as a reason to take his little wad of saved cash down to a shady, backroom poker game that Darryl’s cousin knows about.
It’s a terrible idea from the start, but Jack is so enamored of the idea of doubling or tripling his money, he doesn’t care. And when he wins $1500 in one hand, then takes off, the guys can’t believe their good fortune. “GET OUT OF THERE!,” I yell at my TV, but Jack can’t hear me as he and Darryl hit the alley, so busy is he celebrating how “The good guys, they don’t always finish last!” And that’s when two thugs beat Jack down, take all his money and warn him never to return or he’ll be killed.
GOOD GUYS FINISH LAST | By the time Darryl drives a bruised, bloody Jack home, Pearson is on the verge of tears, noting that whenever his father had to choose between right and wrong, “he always broke the wrong way, like clockwork.” In response, Jack says, he’s tried to “be respectful to women, do my part in ‘Nam, be a good man — and look where it’s gotten me.” He decides that they’re going to get their money back, then he goes inside to hatch an even worse plan than the poker game one.
Basically, Jack plots to steal from the till at the bar owned by Threatening Mafia-ish Poker Guy, aided by an elderly barkeep and a well-timed phone call from Darryl. Does it work? More on that in a moment.
WRONG GUY | Rebecca is out to eat with some friends who nag her about whether or not she’s bringing a plus-one to an upcoming wedding. She turns down an offer to be set up with a guy, saying that she’s focusing on her singing career. “Things are going well for me, you know?” she says, citing the demo she just recorded and the many open mic nights she attends. I get that we’re supposed to be all “Yay, Rebecca!” in the moment, but she comes across a little Marnie Michaels here, and I don’t blame her friends for gently suggesting that she “diversify” just in case she’s not the next Carole King.
And after she gets a rejection letter about her demo, she decides to take her pals’ advice and have one of them set her up with a guy. And as Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” plays, we watch Jack and Rebecca getting ready to go out at their respective homes, and we’re very much supposed to think that they’re about to be each other’s blind dates. But when Rebecca’s guy appears at the restaurant, he’s a boring suit-wearer named Ethan. And his conversation is so boring — no, tell me more about mergers and acquisitions! — that she makes her apologies and skips out to croon at an open-mic night.
SMOOTH NON-CRIMINAL | Meanwhile, Jack is just about to execute his plan when he realizes that he’s late for his own date. Still, he seems on target for petty larceny until he sets eyes upon the vocalist singing “Moonshadow” at the bar he’s about to rob: It’s Rebecca, and he’s so taken with her, he immediately abandons his life of crime. She notices him from the stage, and they make their introductions after her song.
Aww, nice, right? Well, get ready for the pain.
OUCH | In the ’90s, Jack sits at the bar in the club where Rebecca’s band will perform and slugs back beers and bourbon until he’s a sweaty, sloppy mess. Unbeknownst to him, Rebecca has just realized that her paranoid husband was dead-on about one thing, because Ben just tried to kiss her in the dressing room downstairs. Rebecca leaves Jack a sweet answering machine message at home… but that’s before she walks in on him punching Ben, who has inadvertently let on that he “crossed a line” with his lead singer.
So Rebecca angrily leaves to drive her drunk husband home — she’s done with the band, by the way — and they have a blowout argument when they’re back and Jack is more sober. She erases the message before he can hear it. She says she had no idea that his drinking had gotten so bad. And she waves off his apologies and implications of alcoholism. “You’re not a drunk, Jack,” she says, noting that it’s “convenient” that his problem “rematerializes at the exact same moment that I finally have something happening for myself.”
The rest of the fight happens at top volume, with some of the emotional hits carrying the impact of a physical blow. He wonders how far she went with Ben. She laughs off his attempt to invoke the damage his father did. She says she has no life, and she only wants a career. And then, Jack lobs this grenade straight into his wife’s heart:
“You are a 40 year old woman singing covers in pubs! That is not a career, Rebecca. That is ridiculous.”
There’s more — in particular, Rebecca taunts Jack to “let your father out” and “let go of the whole Mr. Perfect charade” — but it ends when Rebecca asks Jack to say what he loves about her right at that moment, because she thinks he’s gotten into the habit of loving her instead of doing it for real.
ALL’S BAD THAT ENDS BAD | The next morning, Rebecca opens her door and, you can tell, is disappointed that Jack’s not doing the dutiful dog thing on the floor outside their bedroom. “We meant what we said,” she says to him, just before suggesting that he spend some time at Miguel’s. “We may have hated how we said, but we meant it, and we can’t pull it back in the light of day.”
Before he leaves, Rebecca sadly wonders if they’ve ruined their kids forever. He assures her they haven’t. “We’ve shown them a healthy marriage. This is just gonna be a blip on their radar years from now,” he says. “How they turn out, that’s bigger than us.” (Side note: Milo Ventimiglia is KILLING IT in this episode.) That’s when we get a quick update on the kids as adults.
Kate, back in Los Angeles, surprises Toby by saying that she wants to pursue a singing career. Kevin sadly tells Sophie that he’s only going to Los Angeles for a meeting about the Ron Howard movie, but they both act like he’s leaving forever. And Randall puts a photo of William into the family album and then announces to Beth that he wants to adopt a baby.
Before he leaves, Jack lists all the things he loves about his wife, finishing with, “You’re not just my great love story, Rebecca, you are my big break.” He’s choked up. She’s fondling the pendant he gave her. All of his stuff is in a sad duffel bag. It’s horrible, especially when he says that their love story “is just getting started”… then leaves to crash on his lame friend’s couch.
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