Every episode of This Is Us provides moments of pure human emotion, both good and bad. This Is Us has always rushed headfirst into the emotional aspects of life that we don’t get to see too often. It’s something that’s refreshing as it is cathartic for fans that tune into to watch the realities of life reflected on the small screen.
Sure, it can be motivational and uplifting emotions. But that also includes some of the harder aspects of life, as we saw this week with a few storylines, most notably Jack and his father, and Kevin’s struggle with addiction.
Even the best of people have their struggles. Life isn’t easy. If it were, we’d all be living our very best lives feeling content with everything that we need and more. It’s a reminder that, while life is privileged, it’s also something that’s not going to come easy all the time.
Sometimes, you’re dealt a good hand.
Sometimes, you’re dealt a bad hand.
Sometimes, you can go from the opposite end of the spectrum, in a good or bad way.
This Is Us’s latest hour, titled “Brothers,” focused on several storylines that we’re continuing to explore throughout this season, most notably Kevin’s addiction struggles, Randall and Beth with Deja, and Kate’s new pregnancy. But we also got an unexpected emotional sequence featuring Jack and his alcoholic and deadbeat dad, who was on his deathbed.
Let’s break this hour down:
The Thing With Brothers & Fathers
The relationship between Jack and his father is something that we’ve heard more than seen. But in the small glimpses that we have, we know all we need to know. Jack’s father was an alcoholic. He was a terrible father. He did everything in his power to make his son feel inferior. He was a terrible excuse for a human being.
But he was Jack’s father, and that’s something that’s sometimes hard to push aside.
For Jack, his father has been dead for years. Jack did everything in his power to get that man out of his life. And he was better off as a result. So when Rebecca got the call from Jack’s father’s nursing home that he was close to passing, the emotions ticked up.
Throughout the episode, we got flashbacks to a young Jack going fishing with his father. They were on their way when his father decided to stop for “a drink.” We saw a young Jack sitting in the car — for hours, no doubt — as his drunk father drank his sorrows away. It was sad. It was infuriating. It was a reminder that it’s a miracle Jack became the man he was as an adult.
So when Jack finally got the news from Rebecca about his father, he decided to stay with his sons instead of going to say goodbye to his father. This was Jack making the decision to choose his sons first — which is something his father never did for him.
It was a reminder that you don’t have to settle for anything that makes you feel less than yourself. Jack’s father treated him terribly, made terrible decisions, and yet Jack managed to come out on the other side in one piece — even though he faced struggles of his own.
And that was the difference. Jack, while he had to deal with the struggles of being raised by his father, grew up to be a loving husband, an incredible father, and an all-around amazing human being. And the fact that Jack came from that asshole — and is as great as he is — is a testament to Jack’s inner strength and his love for his family.
Speaking of brothers…
As the episode is so fittingly titled, “Brothers” centered on a young Kevin and Randall’s struggles to get along. Well, it was mostly Kevin’s doing, as Randall was doing everything he could to get his brother to like him. Jack decided to take his boys on a camping trip to forge this bond between the two of them, but it wasn’t something that you can force.
We saw throughout the hour as Randall tried to please Kevin and how Kevin continually tried to sabotage him in some way. When asked why, Kevin didn’t even know why he was doing it. And that was never made clear during the hour.
But the defining moment came after Kevin was sulking in the tent — thinking about his relationship with Randall — he found Randall’s notebook that had notes inside. The notes were centered around things that Randall needed to remember in order to make Kevin happy. Kevin saw firsthand just how far Randall was going to make his brother like him, and he decided to give him a chance, which was beautiful for father and sons.
Randall and Kevin haven’t always had the best relationship, as we’ve seen in flashbacks and even the present. And that continues to be one of the mysteries and intriguing issues of the show. Surely, we’ve seen Randall and Kev grow closer in the present, but the past continues to be an intriguing aspect of the show.
Oh, and can we talk about that final scene with a young Jack? As we neared the end of the episode, I was wondering why this episode was titled “Brothers.” Usually the episode title is something that parallels different storylines. But the young Kevin and Randall stuff didn’t seem to be so significant to deserve the title.
Then, that final scene. Turns out Jack — as we saw a young, child Jack in the flashbacks with his alcoholic father — has/had a brother named Nicky. All of a sudden, everything fell into place. Jack telling Kevin that “he’s your brother…you should be able to rely on each other more than anything.” It was something like, How would Jack know? Well, Jack knows. Because Jack was the older brother, it appears, that protected his brother from the troubles of life living with their drunk father. We saw a photo of Jack and Nicky in the military together, as well. Which raises the question: What happened to Nicky Pearson? Also, could he make an appearance on the show as an adult?
Down the Addiction Hole
Well, if there was any question whether or not Kevin would be dealing with addiction issues this season, we got it in full force in “Brothers.”
When we last left Kevin — which appears to be a couple months ago — he became desperate to hold onto his dreams of being an actor that he decided to start taking painkillers despite his own wishes. And, things certainly spiraled.
When we found Kevin in this episode, he continued to deal with the pain in his knees and he was down to bottom of his Vicodin bottle. The thing that certainly raised eyebrows was when Kev was rummaging through Randall’s medicine cabinet for more. It was evident that there was a real problem.
But it wasn’t just pills. We also saw Kevin turning to drinking, whether it was to hide the pain or hide the emotion. Kev isn’t someone that likes to show his emotions. So perhaps he felt like drinking his sorrows away would somehow help. Because he wasn’t going to reach out for help.
Kevin began to hound doctors for another prescription after his refills were all used. He became hostile, panicky, and like an addict.
Like grandfather, like father, like son.
The main issue here is that Kevin is choosing not to open up to anyone. We saw how that worked out for Jack the first time, and it almost cost him his marriage and his family. Kevin is so much like his father, not just in the addiction department. They’re two people that are guarded in their emotions, and they don’t want to appear weak. But asking for help isn’t weakness. It’s actually strength.
Kevin’s transgressions got the attention of Randall, who’s too focused on Deja to really hone in on specifics, but it was Sophie that picked up on the drinking and how Kevin has changed recently. Though I’m not sure how aware Sophie is of his father’s addiction past. I wonder if she’s suspecting addiction issues.
The thing that we can all see here is that things are certainly going to get worse before they get better. Especially with Kevin continuing to keep everything inside despite having a supportive cast around him.
The thing that Randall is slowly learning when it comes to Deja is that it’s going to take time. Time for her to get acclimated. Time for her to open up. Time for her to start feeling like she’s in a place where she feels safe.
So it’s moments when she shows interest in doing something — like attending the gala that Kevin is featured at — where Randall is quick to jump on. Deja is crushing on Kevin, because who isn’t? He’s hot. Even Beth admitted it. (Randall’s reaction had me on the floor laughing.) But it was enough for Deja to decide to put herself out there and go to this gala with Randall accompanying her.
Things were certainly awkward for most of the hour, as Randall tried to make small talk and failed miserably. There was also the issue at the table where Randall reached over to take the shrimp tail from her, where she flinched and fled to the bathroom.
It was there that Randall waited her out. It was there where Randall thought it was more of the same. It was there where Deja finally opened up to Randall.
As our assumptions were correct, Deja’s flinching from Randall stems from her previous home, where there were abusive issues. Turns out her old foster mom’s boyfriend would beat her and others with magazines. “That’s why I don’t like being grabbed,” Deja tells Randall.
Finally, a breakthrough.
It’s something that seems small, but it’s so huge in the grand schemes of things. Deja, who did everything but speak to Randall, spoke to him and confided in him with something that she hadn’t even told Beth in detail. It was a telling moment of how Deja is slowly opening up to this family. It was a telling moment of how Deja might learn that not all men are monsters.
It’s going to take some time to gradually make Deja feel entirely comfortable, but this episode was a huge step in the right direction.
What’s one of the scariest things to possess? Hope. Hear me out.
Hope represents everything that we want for ourselves. We see what we want, we believe we can have it, and we chase it. But it also has the power to make us feel that hope only to have it snatched away from us. Call it our inner pessimist.
That’s exactly what Kate experienced this week as she opened up to Toby about her pregnancy. What should’ve been an exciting moment for both — which it was for Toby, who was literally leaping for joy — was something that was made quite sobering by Kate’s pessimistic outlook.
This baby represents everything that she wants. She wants to be a mother. She wants to have a family with Toby. But she’s terrified of what might happen. She’s afraid she’ll lose it all. Because why should she get what she wants? Isn’t the world destined to play “made you look?”
And in a way, we can all relate to that. There have been moments when we’ve hoped for something only to have our dreams dashed. It’s soul-crushing. And this is something that Kate couldn’t bear to not work out. So she’s trying to look at things realistically — and prepare for the worst. She’s 38 years old. She’s overweight. Statistics aren’t exactly on her side.
As Toby had to contain his excitement for most of the hour, Kate finally allowed herself to open up to the joys of this possibility after a fender bender made her reassess her situation.
Kate finally says it, “I’m pregnant.” And it feels good for her to say. She’s opening herself up to this future and not forcing herself to be pessimistic. There was a sweet moment where Kate and Toby went to a coffee shop, and Kate said he could tell one person that she was pregnant. You know, start small. Only, Toby bared his soul for all to the tune of his happy song (Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You”) as he danced around the shop telling everyone he could.
It was a glimpse at the happiness that could await this future family. It was Kate finally allowing herself to embrace the possibility of the good instead of always preparing for the worst. And that looked beautiful on her.
This Is… Five Things
1) Okay, even Beth can admit that Kevin is “smoking hot.” Because, let’s face it, he is. And Randall’s reaction had me on the floor laughing.
2) I really thought Kevin was going to confide in Randall about his addiction struggles. And maybe he will, eventually. But this storyline is far from over.
3) I need this baby to work out for Kate and Toby because if there are two people that deserve happiness, it’s them. I want to see them start a beautiful family!
4) Deja finally opening up to Randall made me teary-eyed. It was such an important moment that was a defining moment in Deja’s adjusting to the Pearson household.
5) Jack has/had a brother?! OMG please tell me he’s still alive, because I want to meet him!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.
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