Warning: This post contains major spoilers about This Is Us‘ Season 2 premiere.
The Big Three’s 37th birthday brought a gift — of sorts — for the rest of us: a definite answer to how Pearson patriarch Jack died.
From what we can infer, This Is Us‘ Jack bought the farm when the Pearson family house went up in flames.
The rest of the hour was a bittersweet rumination on relationship give-and-take. Kate got some gumption. Kevin got a nice birthday surprise. Randall and Beth came to an important decision.
But man, that last visual of Rebecca crying in front of her home’s burnt-out shell? Gutting.
Read on for the highlights of “A Father’s Advice.”
MORNING ICKINESS | Rebecca picks up the kids the morning after the big fight that ended Season 1. They meet Jack at a diner. “Your mom and I want to talk to you.” Jack says. “We had a pretty difficult night, and now we’re just taking a moment to catch our breath,” Rebecca adds. They promise they’re not getting a divorce, but the news that Jack is going to spend some time at Miguel’s house throws the kids into an understandable tizzy. Worse, when Jack reaches for Rebecca’s hand and reassures her that everything will be OK, she shuts him down, saying it’s too soon. “I need to stop feeling so disappointed,” she says tiredly.
At Miguel’s, Jack worries about his situation with Rebecca. “You make each other better,” his buddy consoles him (after a little cajoling). “You’re gonna be fine.” While over at Casa Pearson, the kids are giving Rebecca the silent treatment until she suggests going to see a Tom Hanks movie “and he’s going to make us feel so much better about the mind-blowingly upsetting crap that’s going on in our heads.” (Ha.)
While they’re at the movie, Randall’s mind wanders into a flashback to the night before, when he wandered home from the party and — unbeknownst to Jack and Rebecca — witnessed some of their very ugly argument.
ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART… | Months after the fight, Jack returns to the bar where Rebecca’s band performed and tries to book her a solo gig. (He’s unsuccessful, but A for effort!) Later, Rebecca shows up at Miguel’s. “I’m still really upset and I don’t think I’m ready to talk about any of that yet, but I shouldn’t have let you leave… That’s not what we do. That’s not who we are. That’s not us.” But he interrupts her speech by admitting that he’s drunk, and he’s been drunk all day, and he’s been drunk for weeks: He’s an alcoholic and he’s been hiding it from all of them. “I need to get a handle on it before I can walk back into the house,” he says as she stands on the doorstep, shocked. “I am very embarrassed, and I am very sorry. I need to fix this on my own.” And then he closes the door in her face.
BUT she knocks, he reopens the door, and she commands that he get in the car so they can go home and fix their problem together. He starts crying, she tells him everything is going to be fine, and they get in the car. “A few months from now, everything will be back to normal.”
THE TERRIBLE TRUTH | Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At an undetermined point not long after their doorway semi-make-up, the next shot is of Rebecca driving home — from the hospital? morgue? — with Jack’s effects in a plastic bag. Kate and Randall are at Miguel’s, crying, and Kevin is making out with Sophie somewhere else. “I have to tell Kev. He has to hear it from me,” Kate says, desperate. And as Rebecca pulls up in front of the Pearson home, she starts sobbing… and we see that the house has been completely burned.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BIG THREE! | In the present, it’s Randall, Kate and Kevin’s birthday. When we catch up with Kevin, he’s down on one knee, proposing… but it’s on his movie set. And when Ron Howard yells “Cut!,” the crew sings “Happy Birthday” to him. But Kev is bummed when Sophie calls and tells him she can’t make it out to spend his special day with him because her mom is having a hard time with her multiple sclerosis. He’s bummed, but he understands, and he moves forward with plans to have a celebratory birthday with Kate and Toby at a fancy restaurant.
But first, Kate — who’s down two dress sizes — attends her first singing audition… and leaves rather quickly after she realizes that every other woman there is a) skinny and b) wearing a slinky little dress. She admits as much to Toby at dinner that night, but he can’t get over that she told Kevin about it first, and he walks out. (Side note: Dude, calm down.)
Outside, Toby is angry that Kevin is the one who always takes care of Kate. Kev argues that it’s always been his role. “She doesn’t need to be coddled. She needs to be pushed!” Toby yells, but Kate interrupts them to say that she doesn’t need to be coddled or pushed, and that she’s going “back to the audition, to wipe the floor with those bitches. That’s where I’m going.” (Ha.) She defies them to follow her. They do, anyway. (ANOTHER side note: Literally every time Toby takes a stance on something, he says the exact opposite of what I hope he will. Kate, honey, I’m not coddling or pushing you, but you can do better.)
The audition is almost over when Kate returns, but she talks her way into singing a few bars of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” — and then the guy in charge cuts her off and dismisses her. Kate gathers all of her nerve and tells him off, saying that she won’t lose the job to someone who wears a size 2, but he calls one of the thinner women over to sing the same song, and her performance blows Kate’s out of the hemisphere.”I don’t care what size dress you wear,” he says. “You’re not good enough, honey.” Oddly enough, Kate considers this a win, because she knows she can develop her talent to where it needs to be.
IN WHICH BETH SPEAKS HER MIND | Randall is gung-ho about the changes in his life, and he cannot wait to start the adoption process. But after Beth loses her ish at a meeting with an adoption agency, Randall follows her outside, where she’s fake-smoking to calm her nerves. He gently but firmly tells her that she’s got to get on board with his desire to add to their family as a way to honor his two dead dads. She wonders when she’s going to get to call the shots, and it’s more of a hostile impasse than we’ve previously witnessed between these two. When he presses her, she flatly states, “I am not throwing down with you in an adoption parking lot” and stalks off.
Randall commiserates with his mom, she admits that, at first, Jack was more gung-ho about adopting him than she was. “He was so determined that you were meant to be, and meant to be ours,” she says, adding that Jack was often the one to push them into making big moves. “He pushed a stranger on me, and that stranger became my child, and that child became my life. He became you,” she says. (Yes, I know we saw that in a clip that was released months ago, but damn, it’s still affecting, no?)
Beth flashback! We see William chatting with his daughter-in-law right near the end, just before the Memphis road trip. She comments on how Randall pushed him — and Kevin — on her without asking. “He wanted something and then he just went ahead and did it,” she says flatly. But William points out that the things William pushed on her didn’t turn out too bad. Noticing a theme here?
A COMPROMISE | In the present, Randall comes home from Rebecca’s and tells Beth that he loved his parents, “but I don’t want to be them.” He continues that he and Beth have “a perfect marriage… we are perfect together” and that “we don’t push our plans on one another, we adjust our plans together.” As he’s saying that he’ll find a way to work around his desire to adopt, she interrupts: “Can I take you somewhere?”
She brings Randall to William’s favorite spot — where she and William talked in the flashback — and gives him a bound copy of the poetry book William wrote for him. “If you really want to do this, if you really want to risk our perfectly imperfect life for something, let’s go all the way,” she says, suggesting that instead of an infant, they take in an older kid who no one else is going to help.
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