This Is Us Season 3 Premiere Recap: "Nine Bucks"

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
This Is Us went out on such a high note at the end of season 2. After the emotional gauntlet that was the three-episode arc dealing with Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) death, Kate's (Chrissy Metz) wedding to Toby (Chris Sullivan) was an episode filled with poignant interactions, a surprising amount of laugh-out-loud moments, and a flash-forward that set up some very intriguing future storylines. It all left me super excited for season 3.
The season kicks off with "Nine Bucks," which deftly catches viewers up on the Big Three's present-day storylines (because obviously they have to fast-forward through the summer months). But in the loveliest storyline of the night, viewers get to know more about the night Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) met — and it's just as adorable as we all thought it would be.
For those of you who are not football fans, the show tells us the exact date of Jack and Rebecca's first date without actually telling us. They start the episode with a glimpse of Franco Harris suiting up for an NFL game. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972 to 1983, and in his first season, the Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders in the divisional playoffs on a last-minute touchdown by Harris that came to be known as the "Immaculate Reception." So, based on the news report and people talking about "the game," we know it's December 23, 1972. Jack is 28 years old, and Rebecca is 22.
After Jack and Rebecca strike up a conversation, he privately tells Miguel (Jon Huertas) that he didn't meet "a girl," he met "the girl" and asks Miguel for any money he has. That's how the episode gets its title — Jack now has "nine bucks to show [his] dream girl the night of her life."
Rebecca and Jack obviously hit it off, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Jack is still reeling a bit from his time in Vietnam, where he clearly experienced some horrific, life-changing events and lost his younger brother, Nicky. Rebecca also worries they don't have much in common after a cute game she suggests goes horribly awry.
But after the carnival, Jack gets real with Rebecca, telling her that he's been struggling since he got back from the war and talking about it usually makes him angry, but he likes talking to her. She makes him feel like he's home, and he's never really felt that way before. Cue the waterworks.
However, it wouldn't be This Is Us without a twist. When Jack goes to Rebecca's house the next day to bring her flowers, he spies her kissing some unnamed man (Hunter Parrish) on her doorstep. Now, Rebecca was clearly surprised by this mystery man showing up and doesn't look like she wants to be kissing him, but Jack doesn't know that from so far away. He dejectedly drives off.
It's the Big Three's 38th birthday, but none of them really feel like celebrating at the moment.
Kate (Metz) definitely has it the roughest. After trying to get pregnant for months, she and Toby are told by a fertility doctor that they won't try IVF on her because of her weight, which makes Kate a big risk when undergoing anesthesia to harvest her eggs, a major procedure.
In a beautiful monologue from Metz, Kate breaks down at her birthday brunch about how she's so tired of pretending to be okay when she's so sad about this. Of course, her doctor later changes her mind about taking Kate on as an IVF patient. It kind of undercuts Kate's struggle and also her and Toby's lovely conversation about other ways to have kids. It’s too bad they couldn’t let Toby and Kate's fertility challenges breathe a little before having the doctor change her mind. They have time; the season is 18 episodes long.
But it does kick off Toby's flash-forward from last season's finale, when we saw him struggling with depression. Upon learning that they still only have about a 10% chance of getting pregnant via IVF, Toby decides he should help all that he can by dumping his antidepressants down the toilet (because they can contribute to a low sperm count, which he has). It's an understandable decision but also really hard to watch. Toby can't be there for himself, let alone Kate and/or a baby, if he spirals into depression.
Across the country, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) are getting together for their birthdays. Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) has sussed out that Zoe (Melanie Liburd) and Kevin are "knockin' boots," and she is not happy about it, which easily provides the most humor of the episode. But in a neat twist, she's not worried about Kevin hurting Zoe. She's worried about Zoe chewing up Kevin and spitting him out because that's what Zoe does. That kind of makes me wish we didn't already know that Kevin and Zoe are still going strong at season's end because it takes some of the suspense out of their storyline, but that's okay. It should still be fairly fun to watch these two relationship ruiners find each other.
Also at the Pearson house, Randall and Beth are still having troubles with Deja (Lyric Ross), who still can't quite adjust after her mom chose to relinquish her parental rights. Randall makes an effort to show Deja that they're kind of the same because he's adopted, and all he and Beth want is to legally adopt Deja, but Deja rightly smacks him down for having the audacity to compare their situations.
It’s so refreshing that that's the way the writers went with this. Randall is always Superman, swooping in with his kindness and his dad wisdom and his big, brown eyes. He's amazing. But Deja is correct — Randall fell into a wonderful family and then ended up with two dads who loved him. Her situation is nothing like that.
In the end, however, Deja comes around and agrees to let them adopt her — though first she pays a visit to her biological father, so obviously that is going to be a sticking point moving forward. It's great that she told him how exceptional she is and that he's going to miss out on all that because she found a family who wants her, but this is surely not going to be the last we've seen of him.
Like with Kate and Toby, the show could have perhaps let Deja's struggles breathe a little more before rushing right into agreeing to the adoption. But Ross is a talented actress and not enough can be said for how much she brings to the table as Deja, so presumably there is plenty more drama and heartache in store here.
The episode's tag reunites us once again with old man Randall and the approximately 30-year-old Tess (Iantha Richardson) as they leave Tess' office to go see "her." Last season, a lot of people assumed they were talking about Beth (though smaller contingents thought it could also be Deja or Annie) and the prevalent theory is that Beth is either dead or dying. But on their way out, Randall calls old man Toby, who says he's not sure if he can go and Randall insists that "she" wants to see Toby.
A wide shot reveals that Toby is in a king-sized bed all by himself and the other side does not look slept in, so... the show seems to be indicating that the "her" in question is actually Kate. But I don't think so. I think it's Rebecca, who would be in her late 80s at this point. I think she's dying, and they're all gathering at her bedside. Now, Kate could also be dead here. I would not put it past This Is Us to have a shocking reveal that Rebecca is dying followed by an even more shocking reveal that Kate is already dead. But she could also already be at her mother's side, and that's why Toby is alone.
Odds & Ends
For those who may be wondering how Jack and Rebecca could be at an outdoor carnival on Dec. 23 in Pittsburgh, it was actually pretty warm that day. The internet is a magical thing.
It’s always nice when This Is Us connects the flashbacks to the present storylines in an organic way, but the famed "Immaculate Reception" being connected to two "immaculate conceptions" in Kate's IVF doctor agreeing to treat her and Deja agreeing to let the Pearsons adopt her is a little too on the nose.
Similarly, the NFL voiceover that says "sometimes a ball has to bounce off one person a few times to wind up in the hands of the right guy and make a story truly immortal" as Jack drives away from Rebecca's house was kind of gross. Women are not balls who bounce off of guys. Let's knock that off, okay?
Beth: "You need to talk to your brother."
Randall: "What do you want me to say?"
Beth: "Tell him to get the hell off of Beth's cousin before I kill you in the face!"
Beth: "What are you thinking?!"
Zoey: "I am thinking he looks like Batman and is built like a truck!"
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the actor who plays Rebecca's mystery man. He is Hunter Parrish, not Matt Czuchry.
Related Video:

More from TV

R29 Original Series