This Is Us Episode 12 Recap: "The Big Day"

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
A family is built of two before it becomes three -- two people who hold hands and promise in front of a witness or hundreds that they are going to weave their lives together slowly at first until the only thing that can separate them from each other is death. At least that’s the plan, in those early days (or if you’re lucky, years) of blissful hormonal love it seems impossible that heartache, or trauma, or hateful words could befall you. You’re in love, how could it?

This week’s episode of This is Us begins in that rosy zone, that beautiful sacred space of hope. Laughing, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) sit in the nursery of the house we saw them purchase in the last episode. Rebecca is just beginning to show, her body curving out to accommodate their future.

With a hand on her bump, Rebecca watched as Jack lowers the needle on a turntable. “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder begins to play. She shrieks, gripping her swelling belly: The babies are kicking. All together they dance: Rebecca and Jack and the three future children. They are laughing and the song is jubilant. It’s the kind of joy that just watching it creates full body chills.

And just as suddenly, the scene changes and that bliss is ripped away. Rebecca’s refrain that she “loves being pregnant” swells with her body to become hate. She’s so large she can’t go to the bathroom without help getting out of bed. Her feet are swollen and she can’t put shoes on. She is hormonal and exhausted and surrounded by a house that is not finished. She is tired.

In her frustration, she finds the closest possible target: Jack. She’s mean to him in an innocuous kind of way. She does not pick at a fatal flaw or bring up some past argument. She’s simply short tempered, quick to cast blame on the man who is sitting across from her unswollen and unpregnant.
“The Big Day” is the first episode of This is Us in the series to stay in a single time period. Though it switches between three different plotlines, this is an episode not about the lives of the triplets Rebecca and Jack raised, but about the day that expanded their family. More than anything, “The Big Day” is a story about marriages in various states of security.

In Rebecca and Jack’s storyline, Rebecca is being “the worst most terrible wife ever,” as she says. She’s been rude to her husband, which would be bad but not terrible if it weren’t for the fact that this day is his birthday. She kicks him out of the house after a terse fight. And we see Jack pray in the car, “Hey God, I know we only talk during playoff season, but If you’re listening, I think my wife might be possessed by demons.”

The main men in this episode are saints. Unlike their wives who have feelings and lash out, the men are good. Viewers are taught this in a scene where Jack goes to the golf course with his buddy Miguel after being kicked out of the house. There he meets two of Miguel’s friends who tell him he’ll learn to like golf eventually. “You’re going to love golf. It takes four hours,” one man says. “Where your wife won’t tell you what you’re doing wrong.”

“I don’t want to escape her,” Jack says. “I want to freeze time so that I can get a little bit more.”

Meanwhile, Rebecca makes her way to a “Liquor and More” store to try and buy the ingredients for a cake, and ends up with Twinkies and a banana muffin. She comes home and retires to the nursery to talk to her belly about how she’s overwhelmed. “You guys are going to freak out when she how awesome your dad is.”

And then she confesses many woman on the verge of motherhood probably fear: that just like in every aspect of her life before children, she will be judged more harshly than the men around her, disliked even.

Jack comes home. Instead of the golf clubs, he has bought a camcorder. Their story speeds through the parts we already know: the water breaking, the labor, the loss of one of the twins. It is through the other plot lines that the other major players of this hallowed day get fleshed out.

In one plot line we see fire inspector ask a priest for a miracle. He and his wife have grown apart and he wants the priest to help them. When he tells her this, she responds with sarcasm and laughter. “That’s interesting to hear.” Over the course of the episode, we learn that their marriage began to crumble after they struggled to conceive. When Randall (the triplet we know to become Jack and Rebecca’s third child) is dropped at the fire station, this man is the one who picks him up. He takes Randall home to his wife, an effort to unite them. But he is holding a newborn, and she is not crazy. Her demand that he take the baby to the hospital creates the timing needed for Jack to see the baby next to his genetic children in the baby aquarium.

The third plot line features Dr. Nathan Katowsky (Gerald McRaney), who ultimately delivers Jack and Rebecca’s babies and convinces Jack to adopt Randall. We learn that Dr. Katowsky’s wife has died recently and he can’t bring himself to part with his wedding ring. “She’s my wife. She was my life,” he says. His grief is so deep that when his beeper goes off to go deliver Rebecca’s babies, he was in the process of confessing to his wife’s grave that he was contemplating suicide.

The show ends with Jack showing his family the video he shot of his wife. There is no sound, but we know from an earlier scene that she was confessing to loving her husband so much and being so so excited to see her babies outside of her body. Across the projector they hold hands, a marriage bond intact, not just despite hardship but because of it.


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