This Is Us Recap: Career Days

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC.
There's no point in mincing words here: This week's episode of This Is Us was, by far, the best yet. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are still flawed parents — but we're finally seeing more of their thought process behind their decisions, and not just how the kids are affected. Through clever flashbacks, we learn more about each of the Big Three's relationships with their parents, and how their actions — both good and bad — shaped who the siblings are today. Randall (Sterling K. Brown), experiences a mini identity crisis after learning that his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones) is a talented musician and poet. He wonders if he was pigeonholed into his job, which his family doesn't understand. (The crisis leads to a botched attempt at performing a song for career day at his daughters' school.) In flashbacks, we see Jack debate whether he wants Randall to go to a private school for gifted children. Jack worries that the school has even less diversity than the kids' current school — he doesn't want Randall to feel more different than he already does. Randall, though, helps Jack see that it's not the other kids he's worried about — his concern is that he doesn't fit in with his siblings. Jack gives his son a pretty moving speech about how he wants the trio to be different from each other, and to shine in their own ways. The young Randall is thrilled walking into his new school; adult Randall loves his job. And that's a fact William helps him remember, too. When Randall expresses longing for a movie-style montage in which he develops piano skills, William tells Randall the way he lights up when talking about his job is the same way musicians feel about their art. For Kevin (Justin Hartley), the issue at hand is addressing grief in the play he's starring in. He's supposed to be mourning the loss of his wife, but Kevin is delivering the lines completely deadpan during rehearsals. To help him tap into his emotions, Kevin's costar Erin (Janet Montgomery) brings him to the memorial service of a stranger. Kevin ends up getting trapped in the kitchen with the deceased man's wife, and he brings up the loss of his father in an attempt to comfort her. The pair end up hugging and crying together — it's a scene that shouldn't work, but somehow it does. Kevin and Erin later end up hooking up, though she tells him it won't happen again. As for Kate (Chrissy Metz), we learn more about her relationship with Rebecca than we've seen in the past. Flashbacks show Kate admiring how beautiful Rebecca is — helping her get ready, picking out clothes that she notices have size-small tags. An especially heartbreaking moment focuses on Kate absorbing the information that Rebecca won't be eating ice cream with the rest of the family, because she doesn't want to gain weight. Kate's weight has always been a difficult topic for Jack and Rebecca, as we saw with the pool flashbacks. But we didn't know how that affects Kate in the present day before this episode. At her new job, Kate tries to connect with her boss's daughter, who suggests her mother only hired Kate for her size. (Kate's new boss makes it clear that she sees her own daughter's weight as an "issue.") Kate tells the daughter to cut her mother some slack, noting that she and her own mother barely ever speak. We knew Rebecca's words weren't having a positive affect on Kate, but it looks like the pair are more distant than we thought. Also, props to Kate for being a total badass this week. She stood up to her boss's requests to drive her daughter around, telling her she could afford a real assistant. And she wasn't about to let the daughter back-talk her, either. Kate is such a strong woman — and I can't help but wonder if her character strength this episode is because Toby (Chris Sullivan) wasn't around. Toby clearly cares for Kate, but he can be full of himself, too. It's not clear when Kate and Rebecca will have a heart-to-heart in the present day, but if the trailers for the next episode are any indication, we can expect one from Kevin and Randall in the near future. We know from the flashbacks that Kevin didn't always have his brother's back growing up, but now that he's spending more time with Randall's family, it looks like they're finally going to air out their grievances. There wasn't much interaction between the Big Three this week, so it will likely be another heartwrenching episode.

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