‘This Is Us’ Season 3, Episode 13 Recap: Ballerina Beth
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
Last week on This Is Us, Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) brother, Nick (Griffin Dunne), parted ways with the Pearson family after telling Kevin (Justin Hartley) that he can’t be “fixed.” And now, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) travels to Washington, D.C., to take care of her mother, Carol (Phylicia Rashad), which results in a walk down memory lane.
Here’s what went down in season three, episode 13 of This Is Us, titled “Our Little Island Girl.”
The episode opens on Carol walking down a school hallway. When the bell rings, she approaches a young boy. After scolding him for being late to homeroom, the student happily tells her that he got a B on his exam. She encourages him to do better next time before heading upstairs and, in turn, tweaking her hip.
Cut to Beth and Zoe (Melanie Liburd) driving to Washington, D.C. Beth is really, really nervous, considering she hasn’t told her mom that she got laid off back in episode three, so yeah, grab the popcorn.
Flashback to young Beth (Akira Akbar), or “Bethany,” sitting at the kitchen table and drawing ballet slippers on a notepad. Her mom interrupts her, claiming it’s “homework time.”
When her dad, Abe (Carl Lumbly), walks through the door, Beth receives a phone call from the ballet academy because—drumroll, please—she’s been accepted. Despite hesitations from her mother, she convinces her parents to visit the school.
At the academy, Beth and her parents receive a tour courtesy of one of the instructors, Vincent (Goran Visnjic). When he shows them to his office, he reveals that he has high hopes for Beth’s career, since they’ve never had an African-American principal dancer.
When Carol asks how many students “make it,” the odds aren’t good. Nevertheless, Beth’s parents agree to pick up secondary jobs so she can take part in the rigorous curriculum.
“You will have to give it everything,” Carol tells Beth. “You will have to be the best.”
Fast-forward four years, and teenage Beth (Rachel Hilson) is sitting in Vincent’s office. She’s struggling. She’s not built like a dancer. But that doesn’t mean she can’t dream of getting scouted, moving to London and landing a principal role, right?
When Beth returns home, her parents drop a major bombshell. “You both know I’ve been coughing a lot lately,” her dad says. “Your momma convinced me to see a doctor, and it turns out I might be a bit sicker than I thought.”
Carol clarifies, “He has lung cancer.” Beth is emotional, which is totally understandable…or so we thought.
“Wipe those tears,” Carol says. “We have to be strong.”
Beth breaks down even more, blaming her dance career for her dad’s declining health. Although her mom reassures her that it’s not her fault, we’d do anything to give Beth a hug.
In present day, it’s clear that Carol doesn’t understand the concept of “take it easy.” Not only is she moving around like she’s injury-free, but she also wastes no time cooking dinner for Beth and Zoe.
When they sit down to eat, Beth and Zoe suggest that Carol retire from her job at the school. Carol fires right back, saying Zoe shouldn’t give career advice until she has a “real job.” This prompts Beth to reveal her current unemployment status, and her mom is livid.
Later that night, Zoe and Beth sneak out of their bedrooms and find an old stash of marijuana. So, they lock themselves in the laundry room, where they smoke and rave about the “strong” women they grew up to be.
When Zoe heads upstairs, Beth hangs back in the living room.
In a flashback, teenage Beth is about to leave the room when she turns around, saying, “Dad?”
In present day, Beth is standing in the exact same spot and says, “I’m gonna forget that part of me, but I want you to know that I’ll be happy.”
In another flashback, teenage Beth says “nothing” before exiting the room.
The next day, Beth is bombarded at the academy with condolences for her dad’s death. Just then, Vincent posts the cast list for the senior showcase of Swan Lake, and Beth isn’t on it.
“I didn’t expect to see you back so soon,” he says.
When Beth confides in her mom, Carol doesn’t hold anything back, claiming she doesn’t “see dance as a path” for Beth. To top it off, she will no longer pay for the ballet academy because “it’s setting you up to fail.”
Later on, Carol drops off Beth at a college mixer for a “fresh start.” When she walks in, she makes a name tag for “Bethany,” crumbles it up and writes one for “Beth.”
Right on cue, she bumps into teenage Randall (Niles Fitch).
Back in present day, Beth confronts her mom for not letting her grieve as a child, saying, “Dad dies, and we just wipe our tears and continue marching, right?”
Beth goes on to say that she felt free as a child, and over time, she’s realizing that her mom sucks the air out of every situation. Although she doesn’t fault her for how she handled losing her husband, Beth is terrified that her childhood woes will affect her marriage with Randall (Sterling K. Brown).
“I can’t even look him in the eye and tell him that I want to be that little girl who dances again,” Beth says.
The next day, Carol opens up at breakfast, revealing that Abe gave her “air,” and she lost it when he died. Although she doesn’t know if she made the right decision regarding Beth’s dance career, she didn’t have time to question herself.
“My little island girl, who could dance before she could walk,” Carol says.
When Beth returns home, she asks Randall to drive her to a dance studio, where she finds an empty room and breaks into choreography.
Right when the music ends, a woman walks in and encourages Beth to join one of their intermediate dance classes.
“I have something else in mind,” Beth says. “I want to teach.”
And so it begins. This Is Us returns to NBC on Tuesday, March 5, at 9 p.m.