[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from “A Manny-Splendored Thing,” Episode 2 of This Is Us Season 2.]
Another week and it is another win for the This Is Us team as they bring viewers further into the lives of the Pearson family. Picking up where last week left off, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) must face his drinking problem and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) discuss their foster plans. These story lines intersect on the set of Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) old show The Manny, where he has been invited back to guest star on the revamped show. Like other episodes, this cast of characters are faced with inner turmoil, unresolved memories, and heartwarming realizations.
As the show zoomed in and out of different time periods, one major thing was clear–Kate (Chrissy Metz) has some major mama drama. Shown in an early scene, the young Pearson kids are gearing up for a school talent show where Kate plans to sing. It is obvious that while trying to be helpful to her daughter, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) comes across as judgmental of Kate’s talent by giving her tips rather than praise. Despite showing an effort to make her daughter feel special, young Kate opts out of her moment on stage at the talent show after hearing Rebecca singing her choice of song, “Lean on Me,” in the shower.
Buckle up for the rollercoaster ride that is 'This Is Us.'
In present time, Kate’s weariness towards the similar judgement of her mother is obvious when she opens up to Toby (Chris Sullivan) about their relationship. While on the set of The Manny, Kate gets her first gig by phone call and rushes over, but is immediately disheartened when she sees Toby and her mother enter the venue. In a moment that had been building since the episode aired, Kate unleashes nearly 30 years’ worth of pent up emotion out on Rebecca right on the spot. Although a little harsh, this moment needed to happen and doesn’t seem to have any long-term effects based on Kate and Rebecca’s sweet hand holding moment in the car. Rebecca also vocalizes her approval of Toby, boosting both his and Kate’s confidence.
After Beth’s proposal last week about the idea of being foster parents rather than adopting a newborn, Randall’s apprehension this week is clear. As they gear up to head out to Los Angeles to see Kevin’s show, they discuss the paper work and how they will tell their daughters. When they sit down to watch Kevin’s show, Beth questions Randall on why he hasn’t completed the work, after another blow-out fight off the heels of last week’s parking lot showdown, Beth finds herself taking advice from and unlikely source – Kevin. He tells Beth that his brother only commits to something that he knows he won’t fail at, and from what we know of his character this rings true.
“She’s not someone who follows her husband’s wishes blindly,” says co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker.
In a lighter moment, Kevin reveals that Beth is the only unsure thing in Randall’s life that he pursued, and admitted that he fed Randall his opening line to Beth when he first asked her out. This pep talk gave her the courage to build Randall up enough to make him see the benefit that becoming foster parents could be. This boost in confidence allows Randall to face his daughters on the matter, making the decision more and more real.
Kevin also fought his own battle by returning to The Manny a show that hadn’t ended well for him in last season’s premiere. Overthinking his role in returning as a guest star, Kevin admits to Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) that he is nervous and that he wants this return to be like George Clooney to ER. When a slight script change is made, Kevin’s confidence is even more unnerved, but Sophie encourages him to give the episode all he has. At the end of the day her approval is all that matters to him, as a flashback to his talent show impression of Mr. T renders a laugh less audience, young Sophie sitting in the front row was all the laughter he needed. And just as in the past, Kevin only needed Sophie to laugh, showing us that his need for reassurance is dependent upon the girl he has always loved.
Chrissy Metz teases Season 2 of 'This Is Us,' and shares her bravest moments from Season 1.
Finally, there is Jack, who luckily is still kicking, or rather kick boxing that is. Picking up where last episode left off, Jack tells Rebecca that he will need more than just himself to kick the drinking habit this time, leading the show to enter the past. In a nod to last season, we revisit Jack from the day he gave Rebecca her moon necklace and promised her that he’d kick the drinking. He is seen trying, but rather than attending Alcoholics Anonymous, he turns to Kate who is intuitive enough to see that something is bothering him. Seeing her face gives him the strength to pitch the bottle of booze from his work desk and find an alternative method of release, which turns out to be boxing. We catch a glimpse of the things that Jack is struggling with through flashbacks, one of his father drinking, and the other of his time in Vietnam – both seem like storylines that will be further explored this season.
In the end, Jack knows that this time is different, and instead of hiding his struggles, he goes to Kate and tells her the truth, this is pivotal for further understanding of their close father-daughter relationship. Unlike the first time, Jack attends A.A. and is leaning on his family, showing viewers the vulnerability of this family pillar. This Is Us is a rollercoaster that keeps providing twists and turns, luckily fans are more than happy to take the ride.
This Is Us, Tuesdays 9/8c, NBC