This Is Us Recap: The Game Plan

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC.
Every family has their traditions. For Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), that tradition is football.

This week's episode of This Is Us focuses on how football has affected Jack and Rebecca, and in turn, Kate (Chrissy Metz). Rebecca grew up watching her mother become powerless while her father watched football; Jack remembers watching football as a bonding experience with his own dad. In flashbacks to before Rebecca and Jack had kids, we see her ask him to teach her about football, because she's determined not to be passive, like her mother was. She soon becomes as big a Steelers fan as Jack is.

But during one Super Bowl, all isn't well for the couple. In the flashback, Rebecca and Jack are meeting up with Miguel (Jon Huertas) and his wife to watch the game, but after Rebecca makes an offhanded joke about not wanting kids, it leads to a full-blown fight. Rebecca worries she's not enough for Jack; he assures her that she is, but he still wants kids. (Obviously, we know how this story ends, as we've seen plenty of Rebecca trying her damndest to be a good mom.)

In the present day, meanwhile, Kate tells Toby (Chris Sullivan) that she wants to watch football alone. He doesn't take the hint, pressing her to come to a Steelers "party" (which consists of three people, including them) at his house. After Kate leaves, Toby realizes he's overstepped and goes to her house to apologize. She tells him that she used to watch football with her dad growing up, but she stopped for a while and now watches it with him again.

Toby says he'd like to meet her dad — and Kate pulls an urn off the shelf. The mystery of what happens to Jack — and why Rebecca is now married to Miguel — is officially solved. (Although, we do wonder why Kate has her dad's ashes, instead of Rebecca.)

Meanwhile, in the non-football realm, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is still living with Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) as he studies for the play he's been cast in. After hearing Kevin's "complaints" about the hotel he was staying in before they put him up, Randall quickly volunteers his wife and himself to take the hotel room for a night, since Kevin is clearly eager for company. Kevin and William (Ron Cephas Jones) will stay home with Randall and Beth's kids while they enjoy a quite night alone.

Randall and Beth's night ends up being less than relaxing, though — Beth tells her husband that she's late, and he says that having another kid would interfere with his dream of retiring in Charleston when the girls go to college. That's a dream Beth's never heard about, though — and she reminds Randall she has dreams of her own, like returning to work.

As the couple waits for the results of the pregnancy test, they share a heartfelt conversation about what will happen if she is pregnant. Randall says he'll work less if she wants to go back to work; he concedes that Charleston isn't a great place to live because of hurricanes. (There's still a clear joy on their faces, though, when the test turns out to be negative.)

Back at the Pearson house, a stressed-out Kevin asks Tess and Annie, along with William, to help him run his lines for the play. Dialogue about a ghost, though, causes the girls to ask Kevin some uncomfortable questions about death.

After thoroughly freaking the kids out by saying they shouldn't "get too attached" to their sick grandfather, Kevin realizes he has to do damage control. A pep talk from William — who was apparently a big fan of The Manny — inspires Kevin to have more faith in himself. He decides to show Tess and Annie something he's never revealed to anyone before: his love of painting.
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Kevin shows them a Jackson Pollock-type painting that he apparently drew after he read the play for the first time. He sees it not as about death, but about interconnected lives. Like his own late father, Kevin explains, people may not stay alive forever, but they're still a part of the painting, and a part of their loved ones' lives. It's a powerful scene, and we catch a glimpse of Randall crying over the loss of his father, too.

Tonight's episode stood out as more moving, and less cheesy, than its predecessors. This Is Us might just be finding its footing — after tonight, the rest of the season is looking a lot more promising.
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