‘This Is Us’ 3×02 Review: ‘A Philadelphia Story’

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Brace yourself, because there is a lot to unpack in this one hour of television. After last week’s lighthearted flashback, the show wasted no time in reminding us of the tragedy that befell this beloved family last season. The death of Jack Pearson looms like a heavy cloud over them. In this episode, we saw a glimpse of perhaps their darkest period.

There were no flash forwards in this episode, so we’ll have to table that mystery for the time being.

For now, let’s focus on the family’s mourning in the past, their struggles in the present and the return of a beloved fan favorite character.

Remember that there are spoilers ahead.

The Past: The Big Three and Rebecca Are Falling Apart

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According to the timeline, it’s only been a few month since Jack’s tragic demise and the family is mourning. Rebecca is struggling to just get up in the morning. Kate is starting to put on that excess weight we know she has in the present. Kevin is starting to drink more, and Randall is crumbling under the weight of the whole family’s problems on his shoulders.

One of my favorite things about this show, is how they find ways to include Jack Pearson in every storyline, even after death. This time, it’s through a house.

It seems that after their house burned down, Rebecca and the kids moved to a tiny apartment in Bethel Park. Most of the scenes in the past revolved around them finding a new house. However, one interesting thing that happened was that Rebecca kept hearing Jack’s voice in her head. It was just random comments about the house but for whatever reason, Rebecca would always respond to his voice out loud.

Then we learned the entire conversation in her head happened months before he died. While Rebecca was falling apart, her kids weren’t doing any better.

The start of Kate’s severe weight gain was not as subtle as we thought it might have been. She sadly tells her mother that she’s gained twenty five pounds since Jack died, but Rebecca doesn’t really do anything. She seemingly brushes it off, telling her daughter that it’s been a rough few months despite Randall pointing this out earlier.

No wonder Rebecca feels so much guilt about Kate’s weight.

Kevin is another one spiraling in the wake of Jack’s death. Randall, once again, is the one who points out his sibling’s drinking problem. Rebecca, again, doesn’t seem to do anything about it.

Then Kevin announces he’s not going to college. But neither is Kate, because she never sent in her audition tape after dad died.

The only one who seemed to be on the right path at the moment is Randall. He got accepted to Howard University just like he wanted, but then decides not to go. Neither kid seems to be making good choices right now. Something tells me Jack would not approve.

The Present: Some Things Never Change No Matter How Hard You Try

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The day for Kevin’s big premiere has finally arrived, and even though he wanted to take Zoe, she told him she wanted to keep things “casual.” The entire Pearson clan was in attendance to show their support, but I still wish Zoe went with him.

On the way to New York for the premiere, Kate tells Toby she doesn’t want to tell her family that they’re doing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) just yet. Toby agrees to not tell anyone and just keep it between them… and their Lyft driver (LOL!). This was surprisingly a really good episode for Toby.

I know I am constantly hard on him, but Chris Sullivan is just really easy to love. He’s great at what he does, which is nail his comedic timing. Of course that plan goes out the window because before they’ve even left for the premiere, Rebecca finds out. All thanks to Miguel too.

To be fair, it’s not Miguel’s fault that Kate hid her shots inside of a case of pudding. I just find it hilarious that the writers keep telling us that we’re going to love Miguel every week and then they write him as their scapegoat for plot devices.

I don’t understand their strategy with this character. It’s really confusing because he never does anything remotely notable and every time he comes close they counter it with something ridiculous like this. I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Miguel.

Like clockwork, Rebecca and Kate are still fighting when they get to Kevin’s place. I actually felt bad for Kevin because right before they arrived, he’d received a gift basket (probably from the studio) with a bottle of wine. Seriously though, don’t they remember that he went to rehab last season? Why would they send him alcohol? Send a fruit basket next time you jerks!

I am glad that Rebecca and Kate finally unpacked all that stuff about her weight though because it’s been bubbling under their skin for twenty years. It’s like Rebecca was too afraid to point it out at the beginning and then she thought she lost the right to say anything as the years passed by. It does look like they’re finally getting on the right track though. At this, Jack would be proud!

 

The Community Center: The Do Deserve Better… So Does Randall

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Randall spent most of this episode on his own, which is fine. He’s always at his best when his storyline doesn’t intersect with anyone else.

After taking Deja to a community rec center so she could hang out with girls her own age, he notices the place is falling apart. This episode brought back a few familiar faces, including Sterling K. Brown’s real life wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe, as Yvette. I love her and I am always happy to see her still being a part of Randall’s life.

In this episode, Randall reconnects with William’s old friend, Chichi, played by Yetide Badaki (American Gods) at the rec center near William’s old building. He’s not even at the rec center for five minutes before he realizes the entire place is falling apart.

In true Randall fashion, he makes it his mission to track down a councilman for the district to get him to work on remodeling the entire building. His meeting with the politician is not at all what he expects and it is through this experience that Randall finally starts to see what Deja was trying to explain to him last week. He’s not a part of William’s world. But he doesn’t truly feel a part of the Pearsons’ world either, especially after what Kate said to Kevin before the premiere about being the only one who could carry on their dad’s legacy through her children.

This episode might have finally broken Randall for real. He’s spent his entire life trying to make his dad proud, and now he has two dead fathers that he’s trying to live up to. I can almost see another mental breakdown in Randall’s future and I’m worried that no one will notice this time.

The same way that this show is keeping Jack’s memory alive, they’re doing it with William as well. We saw flashbacks of Jack showing Rebecca the house that she will eventually purchase. And the community center that Randall is now focused on fixing up is what connects us to William’s legacy.

It’s always nice to see Ron Cephas Jones on this show, especially coming off his Emmy win. I can never get enough of William and if they want to keep showing me flashbacks of his life before Randall showed up on his doorstep, I will welcome them with open arms.

Highlights

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  • Kevin dreaming about Jack falling asleep during his movie at the premiere. He misses his dad so much!
  • Finding out that Jack picked the house Rebecca currently lives in even if she lives there with Miguel.
  • Randall taking on the “man of the house” role after Jack’s death.
  • “You make IVF look very rock and roll.” Okay, Toby is a great flirt!
  • How Rebecca smiled when she hugged Randall when he got accepted to Howard U because you know that’s the first time she’s smiled in months.
  • “I’m a heroine addict.” Toby made me laugh out loud trying to lie on Kate’s behalf about IVF.
  • Toby standing up for Kate against Rebecca, even if he was kind of mean about it. To be fair, she deserved it.
  • Rebecca finally being the kind of mom that Jack would want her to be and how she helped Kate by giving her the IVF shot.
  • Zoe is going to let Kevin pick her up from the airport after not letting him drop her off. That’s a big step for them!
  • I can’t wait for the paparazzi photos to come out. I hope that’s a plot point this season.
  • Kevin and Zoe owning my heart. I officially have a new OTP!
  • Beth and Randall just being marriage goals. They will always be my number one ship on this show.
  • They’re actually tied with Jack and Rebecca though. They’re also marriage goals!
  • “We are not our problems.” Chichi spilling that tea all over Randall broke my heart but he had to hear it because it’s true.
  • Will Randall run for office after seeing the Councilman suck at his job? I kind of hope so! He’d be great at it but would Beth be okay with that? Can he even run if he lives in New Jersey? Oh my God, what if he tells Beth he wants to move?!
  • Teen Randall still keeps in touch with Yvette since The Pool episode from season one and this is everything I ever wanted since her first appearance. I hope we see her in the present timeline.
  • Mario Lopez cameo at Kevin’s movie premiere! Yes!
  • William and Chichi meeting outside his apartment five years into his sobriety so he was able to help her when she needed him to. That’s why she has such fond memories of William. She never met the addict.
  • I loved seeing William holding Chichi’s daughter, Sky, because he only got to hold his own son once before he abandoned him.
  • Was that the 20th Century Fox drum roll at the end of the episode right before Kevin’s movie started? Isn’t this show a Paramount production?

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC.




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