This Is Us Recap: The Pool

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC.
If tonight is any indication, This Is Us won't shy away from controversial topics.

The episode's best scenes focus on Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones). The father-son duo have only been reunited for a few weeks, but they're already having deep conversations about racial issues and parenting methods.

One of the discussions about racial tensions comes after Randall's white neighbors call the police after seeing William walking around the neighborhood. Randall apologizes to the cops, later suggesting that William wanted him to make a scene. He tells his father that even though he grew up in a predominantly white community, he still experiences microaggressions every day. Later in the episode, the pair address the topic again. Randall tells his father he's glad his daughter doesn't see it as odd that she can be Snow White in a school play.

William, for his part, apologizes to Randall for the first time. He says that he did everything wrong, while Randall is "doing everything right" with his children.

It's a treat to see Randall and Beth's (Susan Kelechi Watson) parenting in the present day. They're raising their children in ways Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) weren't able to — a good number of the flashbacks focus on Rebecca and Jack's flawed parenting, which still affects the trio today.

Obviously, no parent is perfect, and Rebecca and Jack are incredibly sympathetic characters. But there's a nice juxtaposition between the way Randall is raising his children and the way Rebecca raised him and his siblings.

Meanwhile, Kevin (Justin Hartley) gets the role in a play he's auditioning for, against all odds. He's going to be sticking around New York for a while, which means he and Randall are going to be seeing a lot more of each other. His arrival also makes for a brief but moving scene that shows race still affects Randall's children: His daughter wants to video chat one of her friends who doesn't believe Kevin could be her uncle.

Kevin's introduction to William also hearkens back to the pool flashbacks we saw throughout the episode. While Randall wants to spend time with the other Black children at the pool, and Kate is bullied for her weight (more on that in a minute), Kevin is jealous of the attention his parents give his siblings. But when William sees the adult Kevin, he recognizes him as the star of The Manny, and is starstruck.

As for Kate (Chrissy Metz), she's working on her relationship with Toby (Chris Sullivan) and dealing with the troubling ways her mother addressed her weight growing up. In the pool flashbacks, young Kate's peers give her a cruel note with a pig drawn on it, saying they don't want to play with her. Rebecca and Jack's solution is to make Kate wear a shirt at the pool, so as to not draw attention to her body.

It's a heartbreaking scene to see the young Kate pull on her dad's T-shirt (which he convinces her to wear by telling her it's magic), when earlier that day she was strutting around the pool, pretending to be a model. It appears that the current relationship Kate has with her weight is, at least in part, because of her parents. Let's hope that if there's a confrontation between older Rebecca and Kate, it's done in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

We saw a lot of the Kate-Kevin dynamic in the show's first few episodes, so it's exciting to know that there are more Kevin-Randall scenes to come, too. It's clear that there's a lot of healing needed in this family — but there's also a lot of love keeping them together.
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