‘This Is Us’ 3×01 Review: ‘Nine Bucks’

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The Season 3 premiere of This Is Us brings America’s favorite family back to fall television, and I couldn’t be more excited. This show’s hiatus always feels extra long, partly because it always ends so early in season. But these episodes are always worth the wait.

Last season left us in a pretty dark place. We finally learned the circumstances of Jack’s death and watched the Pearson clan dealing with the loss of their Superdad. The trauma still weighed heavily on them decades later when they were well into adulthood. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a glimmer of hope in those final moments of last season. We got teases of their future, along with a new mystery that feels omnipresent in the closing moments of this premiere episode.

We’ll get to that, though. There was so much going on in this episode and the best part is that we get to dissect every minute detail, because we know every single moment we watched means something important or it will mean something to the overall plot in the near future.

Beware of spoilers below!




The Past: Worst First Date Ever

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Actually, I think that’s a little harsh. I honestly didn’t think the date was that bad. I’m just repeating what they said within the episode.

Anyway, everyone knew this premiere episode was going to be taking us way, way back into the past – to Jack and Rebecca’s first date. We all remembered how they met. Jack went into a bar to rob the till.  Then he got distracted by Rebecca’s singing. That same night, the two of them sat at a table by a window to talk.

Eventually, Rebecca suggests that “they get out of there” (woah, woah, woah) but not for that (get your minds out of the gutters, this isn’t a Tinder hook up) and Jack immediately bolts out of the bar to ask Miguel for money because he met the girl. Miguel is actually likable in this scene (“You met a girl????”) and that’s such a rarity in this show. I almost remembered I actually really love Jon Huertas despite my deep-rooted hatred for Miguel.

Seriously, nothing this guy does can make me like him. Not even giving his friend money so he can take his future wife out on a date.

But I must give credit where it is due. Kudos, Miguel! You came through for your boy this time. I’ll commend you this time and I’ll go back to hating you next week when I remember you married your dead best friend’s wife who also happened to be your ex-wife’s best friend once upon a time. I’m sorry, I just can’t get over that.

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Enough venting about Miguel. Back to your regularly scheduled programming AKA this season’s premiere.

With just $9 in his pocket, Jack decides to take Rebecca to the carnival. This is the 1970’s so $9 can actually get you pretty far. Just not far enough, which Jack quickly realizes after he spends seven of his nine dollars ($5 for entry to the carnival for both of them, $2 for a candy apple and hot chocolate for Rebecca) within the first five minutes of this date.

Their conversation turns a bit dark when Rebecca starts to ask too many questions that Jack isn’t really comfortable answering.

“What do you do?”

“I’m in between jobs.”

This is usually a red flag for anyone on a first date. Then he tells her he was in Vietnam and it just clicks. Turns out last season’s flashbacks of young Jack take place pretty close to Vietnam because the way he makes it sound, he just got back from the war and he is struggling to find his ground and re-acclimate back into society.

Rebecca tries to get their date back on track by asking a series of random questions to get to know one another better (dogs vs cats, pepperoni or mushrooms), but they’re not really connecting. It seems like they have nothing in common.

Then, the rain comes.

Poor Jack.

When it rains, it pours because he couldn’t afford an umbrella and they spend the rest of the date waiting for the rain to stop.

Going back to Vietnam though, here’s what’s interesting about Jack after this revelation.

I suddenly saw the actor choices Milo Ventimiglia has been making in these flashbacks. Jack is socially awkward around Rebecca but it’s not just because he’s nervous. It’s because he doesn’t remember how to just be normal around her. Jack is extremely reserved around Rebecca. You can see it when he admits that he doesn’t like talking about the war or his brother who died in Vietnam because it makes him sad. But Jack Pearson was always one romantic bastard because when he tells her he likes talking to her because she makes him feel like he’s home, I FELT THAT.

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After a disastrous first date, Jack and Rebecca ended the night on a better note. He got a goodnight kiss and Rebecca left her coat in his car.

Apparently, this is girl code to let a guy know the date didn’t suck. I did not know this but now that I do, I can’t un-know it. This is a life changing moment for me.

Overall, their first date was an unexpected start to the epic love story this show has built around this couple. I like that it wasn’t perfect from the beginning. But I can already see why Jack and Rebecca work despite their significant differences. I like that they’re not afraid to show us the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ve seen the good throughout their marriage and we’ve seen the ugly towards the end of Jack’s life. Now it looks like it’s time to see the bad because there’s a new player on the board and he looks like a total John Ambrose wannabe suddenly showing up on Rebecca’s doorstep with flowers (yes, that’s a TATBILB reference, sue me).

The Present: Birthdays Can Be A Time For New Beginnings

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The Big Three are celebrating their 38th birthday and I’m now realizing that it’s actually been two whole years since we were first introduced to them on their 36th birthday. I’m emotional and time flies when you’re crying every week.

Their 38th is clearly a landmark year for the Pearson Clan but to be fair, it seems like every year is a landmark year with this family.

Here’s where we find this fan favorite trio in the present: Randall is working hard to bond with Deja, Kevin is knocking boots with Beth’s cousin and Kate is really trying to get pregnant.

Randall is the most happy go lucky of the three Pearson kids so I don’t like seeing him sad. When Randall is sad, I cry. A lot. I end up crying more than I can handle and I go to bed with a really bad migraine. I don’t like it. So to see Randall in a really good mood on his birthday, well that makes me happy.

I actually really enjoy his dynamic with Deja. I can appreciate that Randall wants to believe they’re a lot alike but I’m glad that Deja pointed out all the reasons why they’re not. Randall was abandoned because William loved him and he wanted Randall to have at least a chance at a good life that he couldn’t provide him.

Deja’s parents were selfish. Randall’s weren’t.

After Deja’s breakdown last season, I think most of us were worried that she was going down a bad path. We even theorized that the “her” Randall and Tess are discussing in the future is Deja in prison. This episode has changed that perspective for me. I think Deja’s going to be alright. I think Randall and Beth are going to make sure that she is because adoption is now officially on the table.

Moving on to Kevin, who was by far the most lighthearted one in this episode, I have to just say how much I love Justin Hartley. This guy went from soap operas to Smallville back to soap operas and now he’s on the #1 show on television. He’s thriving. And so is Kevin this season. It’s such a nice change of pace from last season’s doom and gloom.

Kevin is hooking up with Beth’s cousin, Zoe, whom we met at Toby and Kate’s wedding last season. For the record, I already love Zoe. She’s awesome. I love how smitten Kevin is. And I think they’re going to be fine despite Beth being super worried that her cousin is going to destroy Kevin. At least, I hope they’re fine. Kevin really could use a break. Plus they’re so freaking cute with each other that I can’t stop smiling in all their scenes.

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Can we talk about Kevin’s dynamic with his two nieces though because oh my God, I get it, Zoe. I can see why you’d fall for Kevin Pearson (aside from the fact he’s built like a truck). Beth even points this out: Kevin talks to his nieces like they’re adults, not kids. He doesn’t downplay things for them and he’s at his most honest with them.

The way he awkwardly described dating took me back to that iconic scene from season one when he tried to explain death to them. This moment was definitely more lighthearted than the one that came before it but it was so sweet. I love that he’s planning on asking Zoe to his movie premiere and that he compared it to asking her to prom. If he doesn’t do a sick promposal that would make his dad proud, I’m calling foul, Dan Fogelman.

Kate is the one that got the more heavy arc this episode, which is understandable considering she’s trying to get pregnant and she can’t. Chrissy Metz is bringing it this season. I was tearing up throughout all her scenes and it’s not just because I relate to her character most. She truly is deserving of every award nomination she’s gotten because Kate Pearson has single-handedly broken my heart more times than I can count these past two years.

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Kate gets some pretty devastating news early on in the episode and on her birthday of all days. The doctor doesn’t believe she can get pregnant so she doesn’t even want to take her on as a patient. That is such a blow because this doctor doesn’t even think it’s worth trying for. That’s so heartbreaking. Poor Toby doesn’t even know how to comfort his wife and I don’t even like Toby all the time so for me to say “poor Toby” takes a lot.

After the sucky doctor appointment from hell, Kate heads off to her birthday brunch that Madison is throwing her. Okay but can we talk about that friendship for a second? Talk about character development considering the opposite ends those two started on. I love that Madison is her bestie now. I imagine that those two are going to be lifelong friends and if this show proves me wrong, I’m going to riot.

The day doesn’t end that terribly though. Kate’s doctor calls her back and asks that she and Toby come in. It turns out she’s changed her mind (well you were a shitty doctor before so glad you decided to redeem yourself, doc).

She takes Kate on as a patient despite a 90% chance this could fail. That leads to Toby throwing away his anti-depressants to give them better odds because they’re causing his low sperm count. And gasp, he doesn’t tell Kate what he’s doing. That was sarcasm. Of course he doesn’t tell her. He’s Toby.

This is not going to end well, Toby. What are you doing? Why are you like this? This is why I don’t like you 90% of the time.

And that is what leads us to another tease of the future we saw last season….

The Future: What Does It All Mean, Who Is She and How Much Is This Reveal Gonna Hurt?

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This premiere gave us another clue to the puzzle that is this ominous future where Randall and Tess have to go see a mystery woman. A lot of fans assumed it was Beth’s grave. That one makes a ton of sense. Others thought it might Deja in prison. That one also made a ton of sense at the time of last season’s finale because Deja had just vandalized Randall’s car.

This premiere gave us a new scene that might completely shatter all those theories though. Tess and Randall make it to this mystery location and Randall dials…. Toby?!

What the hell???

Why is Toby involved??

Randall asks an older Toby if he’s coming and Toby says he’s not because he’s sure she (who is she?!) doesn’t want to see him. Randall tells him that she does and that’s enough for Toby (who’s in bed and seemingly depressed) to make an effort and also go down to see this mystery woman.

Suddenly, I’m thinking “her” might be Kate. But why doesn’t Tess want to see her aunt? Did they have a falling out? Are Toby and Kate no longer married? Is he still suffering from depression? Is that what broke up their marriage? The mystery just keeps getting bigger and I can only assume that we’re going to continue getting pieces of the puzzle every episode until it’s all finally revealed toward the back half of the season. I’m okay with that. I know what I signed up for when I first watched the pilot of this show two years ago.

Do you agree with me? Could Kate be the”her” Tess and Toby didn’t want to go see? Is Kate dying? Are you scared to find out? Because I am terrified.

Highlights and Honorable Mentions:

  • The episode beginning with a mystery character we’ve never seen before and then revealing he was Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris was A+ and it expanded this world so much more.
  • Using the Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception” play from the 1972 playoffs to bookend the episode was poetic.
  • Beth was freaking hilarious this episode butting into her cousin and brother in law’s business even though Randall told her not to.
  • “Swear on Oprah.”
  • “Even Gayle let Oprah down.”
  • “I don’t know how you’re going to make this up to Oprah” “Donating to her foundation” “It’s a start.”
  • Beth and Randall are such relationship goals it physically hurtssssssssssssss.
  • Beth’s argument with Zoe that Kevin and the girls listened in on was the most relatable family fight ever.
  • “I can’t even look at you.”
  • Mostly just every scene Susan Kelechi Watson was in.
  • I already ship Kevin and Zoe hardcore and they better not let me down with this couple.
  • The way Jack cleaned the candy apple off Rebecca’s lip (swoon!!)
  • How Jack opened up to Rebecca at the end of their date (double swoon!!)
  • Jack basically telling Rebecca she was his home after one night of knowing her (#DEAD)
  • Kate and Madison’s friendship continues to bloom and I’m here for it
  • If Kate is dying in the future then Madison better be there at her freaking side or I’m gonna be pissed
  • Toby and Kate’s adorable dog that I forgot existed made a small cameo and I melted
  • Randall and Kevin blowing out their birthday candles together like they’re still kids
  • Me realizing that Kate still lives in California and can’t celebrate her birthday with her brothers and now I’m getting sad again
  • Deja confronting her biological dad the same way Randall confronted William in the series premiere two years ago
  • Her confrontation having a different outcome and how she basically claimed the Pearsons as her own
  • The fact that Deja got Randall the running shoes he mentioned wanting for his birthday and then said she wanted them to adopt her
  • The lightness of this episode despite the darkness looming ahead

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC.