Never let it be said that This Is Us doesn't know how to do the big episodes, though there is a caveat to that. But "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning" started off firing on all cylinders with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Nicky (Angarano) basically coming to blows during their last 48 hours together, and it ended with a twist that surely caught a lot of viewers by surprise.
As mentioned, Jack and Nicky have two days left together — and Jack heartbreakingly doesn't know it's his actual final two days with his brother, but he tries to impress on Nicky that the mission isn't "to kill," it's "to get home." Jack has gotten Nicky clean, but it doesn't last; Nicky sneaks some pills in the middle of the night and is basically right back where he started. He needs the drugs to numb the pain, and he has no intention of making it home.
The next time we pick back up with Jack, a bomb has gone off, and he runs toward the river. That's all we know of this particular moment in time, but...
Vietnam, present day
Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Zoe (Melanie Liburd) make their way to the village where Jack was stationed. As far as answers go, Kevin comes up short — and we kind of had to know that was coming, since it turns out Jack wasn't involved with that woman — but he makes a lovely connection with a man in the village about how nice it is that they can share a meal together in a place where their fathers once fought on opposite sides of a very bloody war.
Kevin is still kind of disappointed when (dun dun dun) he learns from his tour guide that Nicholas Pearson didn't die in Vietnam — and we flash to a hermit-like man in a cabin in Pennsylvania receiving letters addressed to Nicky. That is quite the cliffhanger. Introducing another family member could be really interesting for this show, though I have to say that it's pretty terrible if Nicky let his mom and brother think he was dead all those years, especially if he lived just hours away. Is it possible Jack knew Nicky was alive and kept it a secret? That would be really weird and very out of character for Jack.
Randall & Kate
Meanwhile, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) debates Solomon Brown (Rob Morgan), and it's very much like when Randall started a laundry list of fix-it issues in William's (Ron Cephas Jones) building. He makes a heartwarming speech, and there are lots of head nods and applause, but there is a lot more to getting help for a poor city district than making a good speech. Of course, it might all be moot because the latest poll shows Sol so far ahead that there's no way Randall can catch him. This being This Is Us, it seems inevitable that Randall will pull out a last-minute win, but that's kind of beside the point after what goes down at home later.
What is far more interesting is picking right back up with Tess (Eris Baker) coming out. Rebecca lets Tess know that she's here for her — because Kate spilled the beans about Tess. Look, it's definitely believable that Kate would want someone who lives nearby to know, but Rebecca was about as subtle as a shovel to the head asking Tess if she has any "issues" in middle school. Way to go, grandma.
Luckily, Rebecca gets another shot at talking to Tess and this time she nails it, advising her granddaughter not to bottle up her emotions because it will eventually start to affect her in really negative ways. So that night, Tess tearfully apologizes to her parents for being so weird lately and tells them that she might like girls — and all they do is tell her how much they love her, like we all knew they would. It's a really great scene.
The show follows that up with another great scene where Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) asks Randall to drop out of the campaign because he can't win. She reminds him he told her he would stop if she wasn't on board, so she asks him to drop out. He flat-out says he has to see this through to the end. It's such a great moment. The Randall-Beth marriage is written so well on this show because very often they are both coming from a righteous and true place, even if they are at odds. Though Randall is definitely sleeping on the couch tonight.
And finally, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) have to come to grips with the fact that they're terrified to get too attached to their unborn baby for fear of having their hearts broken all over again. But they eventually decide they can't let fear rule them, so Kate is going back to college to finish her degree before the baby comes. They also agree to find out what they're having — it's a boy!
If these four storylines weren’t enough, the show has also revealed a little more information about the flash forward to grown-up Tess (Iantha Richardson). First off, the “her” they’re going to see is Rebecca — is she dying? We don’t know. But also, Beth runs a dance studio, and the way Tess had to call her mother gave off a distinct “Randall and Beth are no longer together” vibe. Do they get divorced?! That might be the most upsetting thing this show has ever done.
Odds & Ends
Like the episode that focused solely on Jack in Vietnam, I wish they had actually split this episode into two parts — one with just Jack and Kevin's parallel Vietnam storylines, and one with the Randall and Kate stuff.
Kate and Toby's fear over losing another baby is something very real for a lot of couples, so it would have been nice to see the emotions of that explored a little more. Likewise, the Tess stuff and the Randall/Beth stuff was so great but really shoehorned in at the end of the episode. I also would have liked to see more of Jack and Nicky's final days together. Sometimes This Is Us tries to do too much and does a disservice to all the storylines.
Beth: "And I thought I wasn't gonna have wine tonight."