'This Is Us': The Pearsons Pick Their Battles (RECAP)
Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack
[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from “The Most Disappointed Man,” Episode 7 of This Is Us Season 2.]
Unlike most episodes of This Is Us, “The Most Disappointed Man,” did not rely on any crazy jaw-dropping reveals, but instead leaned into the plots which connect with its viewers on such a personal level. This week’s plots focused on Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) pregnancy, Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) addiction, and mirrored court scenarios for Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and a young William (Jermel Nakia).
While the Pearsons each had a battle to fight, the most prominent storyline this week was about how making certain choices can impact your future for better or worse. In Jack and Rebecca’s case they had made the choice to adopt Randall from the beginning, but they still had to show the justice system that they would uphold their duty by making the relationship legal. Of course, nothing is ever that easy on This Is Us but neither is real life. The judge on the case stalled the proceedings because Jack and Rebecca’s case worker wasn’t present, and when the parents confronted him about his decision, the judge revealed that he thought Randall being placed with a white family would be to his detriment.
If the judge had known Jack and Rebecca, he’d know that his opinion would not deter them from following through with their plan. When Rebecca sent a family photo that was taken to commemorate Randall’s adoption with a letter telling the judge to reconsider his estimation of them, a change of heart does in fact take place. Three weeks after being stalled, Jack and Rebecca are told that the judge had given their case to a colleague who allowed the proceedings to commence without issue. Their adoption of Randall was never really a choice, he had always been their son, and when they learned the fate he could have been left to, Jack and Rebecca would have done whatever it takes to make sure he ended up where he belonged.
Much like the fate Randall could have faced if he were not adopted by Rebecca and Jack, is what Déjà (Lyric Ross) had faced during her time in and out of foster homes. When Randall and Beth gear up for Déjà’s first visit with her mother, all of them are visibly nervous, even if it isn’t for the same reasons. When Randall arrives at the prison with Déjà to meet her case worker, Randall is told that Déjà’s mom has opted out of the visit. This sudden development pushes Randall to the edge and he questions who is looking out for kids in the system, when even court ordered visits aren’t adhered to. The case worker gives Randall a dose of reality though, revealing to him that it is just as difficult to care for the kids as it is to disappoint them, and case workers have to do that on a daily basis.
This dose of reality also serves as a wake-up call for Randall who knows that he could have been in Déjà’s shoes if he hadn’t been adopted by Jack and Rebecca. So instead of letting Déjà be disappointed, he revisits the prison alone to try and understand the reason Déjà’s mom didn’t meet them. Déjà’s mother’s battered face is an alarming symbol of what life is like behind bars, and this is something that she tells Randall he will never understand, as a person who has had choices in life, he cannot understand her life in which she hasn’t had choices. And unbeknownst to Randall, this is key to understanding William’s life, as Déjà’s mother’s life reflects the one that William was left to lead in the wake of his mother and girlfriend’s deaths.
At the beginning of the episode, William is seen in a court setting and being told by a judge that for someone with a clean record, it was disappointing to see him in trouble over drugs. William’s response to brutally honest judge was that he might be disappointed in William, but he couldn’t be more disappointed in him than he was with himself.
Keeping up with the theme of the episode, this judge learned that William’s choices weren’t his own, rather that they were governed by the losses he had endured within the last year. With this knowledge, the judge gave William a choice that he could make, if he gave William an easy sentencing, in return he wanted William to picture his face when a bad choice crossed his path, to which William agreed. In a flashforward, William (Ron Cephas Jones) is seen taking drugs out of a paper bag, and even in his old age he envisioned the judge sitting across from him at the same table, luckily this moment of weakness was intervened by Randall ringing the doorbell – this was the day Randall first met William.
All the battles that were fought and are being fought weave together like a perfectly imperfect Pearson fabric, that still includes Kevin and Kate who are dealing with their own struggles. Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan) finally told Kevin about their pregnancy, but Toby is reluctant to tell his conservative mother. Kate’s solution to their conundrum was to get married at city hall, but before viewers could get too excited, an exchange at the court house desk allows a glimpse into Kate’s desire to avoid a big ceremony. Unsurprisingly Kate is scared of facing a big wedding day without her father and Toby sees that, so while Kate is out, Toby talks to Jack – at least to his ashes. When Kate returns from being out, Toby properly proposes to her and tells her that she deserves to have the big day the way she wants it, even if it will be emotional because she is worth it. The moment was definitely one of the lighter and fuzzy scenes of the episode.
Kevin on the other hand is on a downward spiral, unlike the version viewers saw in the first season. His relationship struggles with Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) finally reach a boiling point when he comes to New York to try and fix a spat they had had over his postponing of seeing her. Before heading out east, Kevin is seen looking at engagement rings, and as he talks with the jeweler, he says this is something that his dad would do. By the time he reaches Sophie’s door, Kevin is hopped up on pills and destroying the last shred of his relationship when he tells her that when he dreams about their future together it looks like a nightmare – yikes. It is no surprise that Sophie slams the door in his face, only time will tell if Kevin will fix or even want to fix the damage that was done.
This Is Us, Tuesdays 9/8c, NBC