‘This Is Us’: Kevin’s Laugh, Kate’s Struggle, Randall’s Stand & More From ‘Unhinged’ (RECAP)

This Is Us - Season 4
Spoiler Alert
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 3, of This Is Us, “Unhinged”]

This Is Us continues to become clearer with each passing episode, and this week’s installment “Unhinged” is no different as Season 4’s newest characters settle in a bit more. Between new revelations and big realizations, this episode sees more than a few great moments for the Pearsons. Below, we’re breaking it all down, but beware of major spoilers ahead.

Kevin and Nicky

(Credit: NBC)

At the beginning of the episode, we’re reintroduced to Nicky (Griffin Dunne), who is still struggling with alcoholism but is making an effort by seeking help at the veterans’ center, where he meets Dr. Miranda Ruiz (Misha Gonz-Cirkl). When he receives a birth announcement about Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) baby Jack, we see the therapy sessions are helping him.

In a passage of time, we’re shown Nicky cleaning up his place, tidying his cabinets and filling them with food instead of booze. But of course, he hits a backslide when Dr. Ruiz reveals she’s being transferred to another center. The news causes a downward spiral as booze comes back into play, and suddenly we know the reason behind his big chair-throwing scene from the season premiere.

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Catching up to current times, Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) attempting to help his uncle evade legal punishment for his actions. The condition Nicky’s given is that he be evaluated and if deemed fit, he would go to the veterans’ center for regular therapy sessions. While Kevin’s waiting for Nicky to be evaluated, he tries to busy himself, reciting a mantra of sorts when he meets Matty (Noah Salsbury Lipson).

Together, Kevin and the boy eat vending machine snacks and play Mario Kart while waiting for their family members. “I come with my mom here,” Matty tells Kevin. When Matty’s mom comes out, we see Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) and Kevin’s story collide. Their exchange is brief, and it’s clear Cassidy is suspicious of Kevin’s closeness with her son.

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When Nicky exits his session, he heads straight for the bar, and Kevin talks himself through getting into the bar so he can get his uncle out. Kevin asks Nicky to show some understanding for the struggle he’s been going through trying to help him, and eventually they head to an AA meeting together.

There, they encounter Cassidy again. Kevin shares that his nephew’s birth has been a benchmark for his sobriety but remarks that there’s no reason to stay sober, and questions why he is. When the moment turns into existential questions about aging and his career, Kevin’s words lead Cassidy and Nicky to burst out in laughter. Perhaps Kevin’s honesty could be their road to healing?

Kate’s Reality

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan), on the other hand, prepare for a lunch date as Kate’s going to meet some of Toby’s colleagues. Before heading out to the restaurant, Kate is asked by one of their new neighbors (Timothy Omundson) to ask Toby to leave the sidewalk clear in front of their house, and Kate is put off by his rude demeanor.

When she arrives at lunch she notices Toby looks different in his slimming suit, and things turn uncomfortable when the hostess attempts to seat them in a booth she reveals she can’t fit in. When they arrive home, Kate demands that Toby take his shirt off, and with the reveal of his svelter figure, he knows he can’t hide his gym trips anymore.

(Credit: NBC)

The revelation brings Kate to tears because she feels as though he’s showing concern for his health and thinks she should too. Heading out, she takes a seat on the porch when that new neighbor from before comes over to chide her about the blocked sidewalk again. When she tells him she’s not in the mood for his “stupid curb drama,” he apologizes that she’s having a bad day, then reveals his reason for asking that the sidewalk be cleared.

He had a stroke, and when he finally began regaining the ability to walk, talk and swallow he was fired from his job. He tells her all he wants to do is walk, but if the sidewalk is blocked he can’t do it. Later on, Kate apologizes to Toby and they smooth things over. Later on, we see Kate head out for a walk — a means of taking control of her health — just as her neighbor does. “I’m not fast either,” she tells him. “We’re gonna look like the toughest gang in this neighborhood,” he responds, and we believe it could be the beginning of a very beautiful friendship between these two.

A Rough Day in the Past

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

For the Pearsons of the past, it’s a rough day in the history books as Randall (Lonnie Chavis) begins his first day of 7th grade and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) makes a mistake at work. Thankfully, they have some help from the best. While Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) bond over an aerobics exercise tape, potentially causing more damage for Kate’s body image than good, the boys go through a hard time.

In an attempt that’s clearly trying to impress his teacher, Randall gets reprimanded for wearing Air Jordans (which aren’t part of the dress code) to class. When the teacher gives him a warning slip to be signed by his parents, he calls home while having a panic attack. That’s when little Kevin (Parker Bates) comes to his brother’s aid, telling him that he’ll meet Randall at the school.

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When he arrives, he forges Rebecca’s signature on Randall’s slip and tells him that their mom and dad never need to know. Meanwhile, at Jack’s work, he finds himself in hot water after signing off on a specific property that’s going to cost the company major money. Miguel (Jon Huertas) comes to Jack’s defense and threatens to quit if their boss doesn’t reconsider. Ultimately it’s a unifying day for all, despite the tension filled moments. It all ends with a family viewing of the Arsenio Hall Show.

Randall’s System

(Credit: NBC)

As for Randall (Sterling K. Brown), he’s catering to his people by taking his office door off its hinges and inviting concerned citizens to stop by and discuss problems they’d like to see fixed. One of his staffers repeatedly mentions how naive his system is and even advises that he fire his friendly chief of staff Jae-won (Tim Jo).

Ultimately, Randall wouldn’t bend to the woman’s will because he wants to do the job he believes in, not the other way around. It’s heartwarming to say the least when you learn that he chooses the passionate young staffer over someone more experienced, even if it means potential failure.

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Girl Talk

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Then there’s Deja (Lyric Ross) and Tess (Eris Baker) who are both dealing with the new school crowd. When they’re home, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) broaches the topic of school, before Deja gets a text from Malik (new series regular Asante Blackk).

When she meets him outside, he unveils that he’s a father and shares that his daughter Janelle’s mother wanted to put her up for adoption, so instead Malik and his family took her in. The news gives Deja a lot to think over, while Tess talks to her adopted sister about her own trials and tribulations about starting school and lying about her sexuality — despite heading into the new year hoping to be herself. Perhaps answers or satisfactory conclusions for these problems are on the way, but fans will have to stay tuned in order to find out.

This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC