‘This Is Us’ Season 3, Episode 8 Recap: Pearson Family Thanksgiving…Plus Miguel
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
It’s time for another Pearson Thanksgiving on This Is Us. Unlike previous holiday specials, which introduced us to Pilgrim Rick, last night’s episode focused on the Vietnamese woman’s necklace, Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) role as a mother and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel’s (Jon Huertas) mystifying relationship.
The episode opens on Rebecca crying in the kitchen. OK, she’s not actually crying, but she is cutting onions for their Thanksgiving dinner. However, this isn’t any ordinary turkey feast—it’s the last one before the Big Three leave for college (and Jack’s death, but hey, details).
Of course, there’s a catch: Miguel is coming over for dinner. *Cue the universal eye roll* It’s his first Thanksgiving since divorcing Shelly (Wynn Everett), so Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) invited him to join them. Thoughtful, right?
Well, not according to Rebecca, who feels like a traitor for mingling with her best friend’s ex-husband. If she only knew…
Jack and Rebecca are taken aback by a rare sound coming from the living room: laughter. They enter to find teenage Randall (Niles Fitch), Kevin (Logan Shroyer) and Kate (Hannah Zeile) giggling in unison.
You see, Randall is applying for colleges and recently received an essay prompt, requesting applicants to write about the person who inspires them most. While his siblings think the fireman who rescued him as a baby is a no-brainer, he feels the question is invalid, considering there are multiple influential people in his life. Classic Randall.
Miguel is on the phone with Shelly when he arrives, yelling nonsense about cranberry sauce. When they sit down for dinner, Miguel excuses himself upon seeing Jack interact with the Big Three. Jack joins him in the other room, demanding answers.
Miguel admits that he isn’t there for his kids like he should be, and Jack offers a classic pep talk about how he’s never seen anyone work so hard to provide for their family. He says Miguel needs to show his kids that he’s still their dad, and damn, he’s good.
In present day, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are getting ready for their first campaign event as colleagues. (ICYMI: Beth got fired from her job and then was rehired by Randall in episode six.) Since Tess (Eris Baker) isn’t feeling well, she decides to stay back with Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan), who are preparing this year’s meal. Yikes.
At the event, everyone keeps making comments about the poor cell reception, and we already know where this is headed. (Poor Tess.) When they meet up with Randall’s campaign manager, John, he wastes no time expressing his disapproval of Randall’s new hire. Not only do they not get along, but they also have two separate visions, and Randall refuses to challenge his wife’s opinions, so there you have it.
Outside, Beth confronts Randall, asking if he genuinely supports her ideas or if he just wants to make her feel good. He can’t give her the answer she wants. Right on cue, Beth gets reception, checks her phone and says they need to get home…now. (More on this later.)
In a flashback to Vietnam, Jack is trying (and failing) to get his brother, Nick or “Nicky” (Michael Angarano), under control. When Jack sees the mystery woman struggling to carry two pails of water, he offers to help. Right on cue, a bystander snaps the infamous photo that Kevin (Justin Hartley) is so obsessed with.
Upon realizing her young son is injured, Jack asks to see him and finds the boy with a high fever and a large, infected gash on his foot. Jack fetches Nicky and orders him to clean and bandage the wound. When he refuses to help one of “them,” Jack steps in and does it for him. Anyone else over Nick’s BS?
Later on, Jack tells him to “wake the hell up,” which prompts Nick to dive into a story about his first training officer, Bones, who stood up for him when everyone was picking on him. He made the other soldiers realize the importance of having a medic (aka Nick). Unfortunately, Vietnamese villagers attacked and killed Bones soon after, forever changing Nick’s perspective about the war.
“You can be nice all you want, Jack, but they’re not just women and children,” he says.
In another flashback, William (Ron Cephas Jones) is playing the piano at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when he receives a standing ovation from his eventual lover, Jesse (Denis O’Hare). The next day, William finds him outside a liquor store. He looks at the bottle of sparkling rosé in his hand and invites him to get a bite to eat.
While there, Jesse opens up about his cocaine addiction and how it complicated his marriage. He says Thanksgiving makes him depressed because he doesn’t want to go to his sister’s house only to be asked about his addiction. William reveals he’s meeting up with a group of sober musicians and invites him to come along, and the rest is history.
Back in present day, Toby and Kate are attempting to make cranberry sauce from scratch. After reading through Randall’s over-the-top recipe (think fresh mint from his garden), Toby gives up, saying, “Randall is the perfect embodiment of the perfect man—he’s basically your dad. And I’m…”
Kate assures him they’re going to be great hosts, despite the fact that they’re in Randall’s house. Speaking of—Tess.
When Toby goes upstairs to check on her, he finds her stumbling out of Beth’s room with a box of tampons and pads. They scream, it’s awkward, and Toby runs downstairs to swap positions with Kate.
Kate approaches the bathroom door and asks if Tess needs any help. After confirming it is, in fact, her first period, Tess reveals she can’t get ahold of her mom, and all we have to say is…stupid reception.
After, um, taking care of business, Kate reminds Tess that she can come to her for anything. When Kate jokes she’ll be getting her first boyfriend soon, Tess drops a major bombshell we didn’t see coming.
“Or girlfriend,” she says before making Kate promise to not tell her mom and dad. She agrees but tells her they’ll love her no matter what.
Kate returns to the kitchen only to find Toby surrounded by a sea of grocery bags. Long story short, he failed miserably and needed to make it work.
“You know what this is? This is, like, Jack Pearson-level magic,” Kate says. Indeed it is.
Meanwhile, Rebecca is driving with Miguel to his daughter’s (Ashley Loren) house for Thanksgiving. (They’re heading to Randall’s for dessert, don’t worry.) When they arrive, it’s clear Miguel doesn’t have a great relationship with his children. Not only do they hate on Kevin’s new movie, but they also bash Rebecca for unknowingly feeding almonds to someone with a nut allergy.
“First you steal my father from my mother, and now you’re trying to kill my brother-in-law,” says Andy (William Rubio). Cue Miguel’s rage.
He explains that he promised Jack that he would fight to keep his children in his life, and although he isn’t getting much in return, he refuses to give up. He doesn’t care if they’re happy for him and Rebecca, but he does expect them to respect his wife. *Mic drop*
More Randall...and Jack
The episode concludes with teenage Randall reading aloud his college essay. He explains that he thinks the prompt is flawed because there’s always more than one MVP in someone’s life—big and small.
Flashback to Jack in Vietnam. The mystery woman approaches him and gives him the necklace as a thank-you present for helping her son. (Wait, that’s it?)
“Strangers can be your most impactful people,” Randall says in a voiceover. “Acquaintances can be your most impactful people. Family can be the most impactful.”
Cut to Jack placing the necklace around his neck.
Randall continues, “But if you insist on me answering, if it’s the only way I can gain entrance to your storied university, I choose the fireman.”
Great choice…for now. This Is Us returns next Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.