If last week’s episode of This Is Us explored the delicate bonds between mothers and daughters, then season two, episode three captures the similitude of fathers and sons in a heartbreaking way.
The episode begins with Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) sharing the story of his descent into alcoholism at an AA meeting. Jack is clearly detached from his story, and we realize he’s just as distant from his wife when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) confides in Miguel’s (Jon Huerta) ex-wife, Shelly (Wynn Everett), that it’s been a while since she and her husband have been intimate. Rebecca resolves to “Jack Pearson him” and plans a romantic redo of their first date…that falls flat.
Despite Rebecca’s effort, the couple sits in near silence on their date. When she tries to make a move on him, he tells her he’s not ready and there’s too much going on. (Sexually) frustrated, they drive home and Jack slowly starts opening up. He tells her he’s been trying to escape “ugly, horrible years” of his life and admits he had to borrow money from his dad to buy their house. They then get back into the car and try the whole date over again.
Cut to present day and Kevin (Justin Hartley) is starring in a movie with his dad’s hero, Sylvester “Hates Spa Water” Stallone. Kate (Chrissy Metz), who can totally recite Rocky word for word, visits her twin bro on the set and is shook when she meets Sly. She tells Kev that Jack would be proud of him, and he visibly bristles. He doesn’t like talking about Jack.
Later, Kate chats one-on-one with the real-life Rocky Balboa and thanks him for being such a source of joy in their family. Stallone later uses his now pretty extensive knowledge of the Pearson family dynamic to emotionally connect with Kevin before filming a poignant scene. It’s surprisingly heartfelt.
After a day of bad takes, Kevin blows up at Kate and blames her. She suggests he go to therapy to deal with his unresolved issues, and he throws the harshest sibling shade, saying he “doesn’t need to be sad and damaged just because [she is].”
Meanwhile, Randall has done a complete 180 since last week and is enthralled with the idea of a foster child. So when the family case worker, Linda (Debra Jo Rupp), tells him she’s sending a 12-year-old girl his way, he’s psyched. Enter Deja, a young girl whose mother has just been sent to jail.
Things don’t start smoothly, and when Deja finds Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) confiscating a pack of cigarettes from her bag, she attacks her. Alarmed, Randall rushes into the room, and the moment Deja flinches at the sight of a man, we become more aware that she hasn’t had an easy life. The evening ends with Deja interrogating Randall and Beth’s daughters about the rules of the house.
The next day, Randall tries to connect with Deja. The heart-to-heart is going well until he tells her she’ll be staying with them longer than she expected because her mom is going to prison.
The final scene of the episode ends with Kevin icing an injured knee and calling Kate to apologize for their “twin fight.” He tells her that while he may not be ready to talk about their dad’s death, he will be one day. He then pops a painkiller while Kate looks at her dad’s urn and says, “He’s just like you.”
Until next week, emotional masochists.