‘This Is Us’: The Pearsons Get Lost in ‘New York’ (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 16 of This Is Us, “New York, New York, New York.”]
Taking a detour from sunny Los Angeles and Randall’s new home base in the City of Brotherly Love, this latest installment, “New York, New York, New York,” takes place in the Big Apple as the cast and crew filmed on location. Below, we’re breaking down the various dramas spread out over time.
A Peek Into Rebecca’s Past
In a far-back timeline, we see a childhood Rebecca wandering around an art gallery within the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) — one of New York’s biggest. Throughout the episode, we see her wander until we’re shown which painting she’s looking at — John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Madame X. In her pocket are some candied nuts purchased by her father from a street vendor and she nibbles on the snack as she watches the painting with wonder in her eyes. We then see her focus shift to a woman who is also studying the portrait, but later we learn why that woman is integral to Rebecca’s present-day story as the episode progresses.
No Seeing Eye-to-Eye
The action begins in L.A. where Kevin’s hanging out with Kate (Chrissy Metz), Toby (Chris Sullivan) and baby Jack. The siblings are convening for a video chat with Randall, who is shown baby Jack’s dinosaur costume Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) sent before Toby and Jack exit, giving the Big 3 some privacy. It’s then that Randall reveals he’s found a clinical trial that could improve Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) condition and he wants Kevin and Kate to back him up when he presents Rebecca with the idea.
The problem though is that this trial is in St. Louis and takes place over the span of 9 months, and this angers Kevin. Randall pleads that he wants them all on the same page, and to hint to Rebecca that the trial is a good thing. Kate agrees to go along with Randall, but only if it’s her mom’s choice, and so all of the siblings agree, even if Kevin’s not thrilled.
Later we see Kevin and Rebecca arrive at the Plaza hotel and he notes how he wants this weekend to be special. Just as Randall’s arriving in the city, Rebecca’s trying on dresses in the hotel room and when he mentions a reservation as the restaurant Sarabeth’s, she goes to get changed, leaving the brothers alone. Kevin asks Randall if they can withhold the conversation about the trial until the next day because Rebecca’s in such a good mood, and Randall allows it, even if he’s annoyed.
After asking Kevin to walk the red carpet — something she’d never usually want — we see Rebecca and him in front of Radio City Music Hall at his premiere for the M. Night Shyamalan movie he’d filmed. Randall watches from the sidelines and although it’s tough to say for sure, it would appear he’s happy to see his mother enjoying herself.
Later on in the premiere party, Kevin makes introductions between his family and agent — who tells him about a film opportunity with Patty Jenkins in Morocco — before taking a minute to say hello to his costar. When the agent asks Rebecca where she and Kevin are staying, she can’t come up with the name for the Plaza, but eventually she gets the answer. After the agent walks away, she complains that she has good days most of the time, but sometimes she forgets at the most embarrassing moments.
It’s then that Randall brings up the trial he promised to wait until tomorrow to discuss, and as Kevin looks at him from across the room, you can tell he knows Randall’s breaking his promise. When he returns to their side, Kevin questions Randall and things begin to get heated. Rebecca asks that they don’t fight and she steps out to get air.
Meanwhile, the argument continues, and Kevin asks why Randall won’t allow him or anyone else to help with Rebecca and Randall counters by saying he’s the one who’s been caring for Rebecca for 20+ years because Kevin’s career can whisk him away at the drop of a hat and Kate’s busy with her own stuff. Kevin defends his career, claiming that’s what’s paying for Rebecca’s expensive medical treatments, and to this Randall says, “Screw you, Kev.”
When they exit the party, Rebecca’s nowhere to be found, but a text message reveals where she’s gone — the MET. After they arrive at the museum, they find their mother planted in front of the painting she admired in her youth, one she tried many times to see again but always had to put off until “next time.” She tells them about how she once saw a woman stare at this painting for what had to be hours, and how she wants that time now — to stare at a painting without limits.
“My life has been full of next times,” she tells her sons, “things I always assumed I would get to eventually. But now I realize I am running out of time to do them … I mean, let’s face it, guys, I’m losing my memory and I wanna spend however many good years I have left,” she says. “I wanna spend it with my family, I wanna try new things like walking on red carpets, I wanna make up for all of my next times.”
By doing this, Rebecca means to skip the clinical trial Randall suggested, and although he understands that she made the decision for herself, it doesn’t make him any less upset. When they’re leaving and Rebecca’s in the car waiting for Kevin, Randall tells Kevin the trial could have saved her life and then asks if he ever imagined what life would be like if Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) had lived. Kevin says he doesn’t wonder, and that’s where the brothers differ as they part in indifference.
With this “what if” suggestion, we see a flashback of the Pearson family fire, but instead of Jack going back into the house, Randall (Niles Fitch) persuades him to come down from the house’s roof, effectively keeping him from inhaling too much smoke, which was the ultimate cause of his demise. This vision of sorts sets up the next episode “After the Fire” which will see Randall reflect on what could have been.
In a near-past timeline, Rebecca leaves Kate (Hannah Zeile) at home following her dramatic breakup with Marc (Austin Abrams) to visit Kevin (Logan Shroyer) and Sophie (Amanda Leighton) in New York City with Randall and Beth (Rachel Hilson) for an acting showcase. After attending the performance, the family congratulates Kevin — it’s clear that Randall doesn’t understand the performance though. It’s then that Kevin introduces Rebecca to his acting coach Kirby (Dave Annable), who appears to hit it off with the Pearson matriarch and so Kevin invites him to join them for food later.
When they go to get food, Kevin orders for the table but Randall objects to the pizza and other bulky plates he’s ordered, claiming “Mom doesn’t like that.” But Rebecca says it’s fine, that they’re on vacation and to enjoy it. When Kevin spots Kirby, he invites the man to the table, and Kevin sets up the conversation, telling Kirby about Rebecca’s musical exploits and Kirby tells her about his REO Speedwagon cover band. Seeing the direction Kevin’s trying to lead her and Kirby down, Rebecca decides to leave the table in an attempt to see her favorite painting at the MET.
After saying goodbye and leaving her card to treat the kids to their food, she takes off in search of a cab. Outside she bumps into Kirby and he helps her get to the end of the block where she might have more luck. Along the way she asks if she’s crazy for thinking Kevin was trying to set them up and Kirby doesn’t deny it. She asks if dating gets easier and explains her recently-widowed status. Kirby, who is divorced, basically confirms it’s never easy at first and after seeming to connect, she invites him to join her at the museum.
Back at the bar where the family was eating, Randall tells Kevin Rebecca’s not ready to date, but Kevin tells him otherwise, saying she deserves to have some fun. Needless to say, the mood between the brothers doesn’t improve. As for Rebecca and Kirby, opting out of the cab, they decide to walk through the park on their way to the MET.
As they chat and have a couple of laughs, things turn less amicable when she points out a horse-drawn carriage and he calls it cheesy and bad for the horses, unaware that the activity holds sentimental value for her. It’s then that she decides to suspend her museum visit and leaves Kirby to return to the kids.
In the past, the Pearsons pack up the car for a road trip as they plan to take a day in the city while on their way to Upstate New York for one of Randall’s (Lonnie Chavis) debates. Jack asks his kids what’s one thing they’d like to do: Kevin (Parker Bates) says anything from Home Alone 2 and eventually decides on a toy store visit, Randall wants to visit the Natural History Museum and Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) wants tea at a fancy hotel “like Eloise.”
Rebecca joins them by the car and recalls pleasant memories of her father in the city, saying he made it magical because he knew where all of the good things were. She then tells them she wants to see her favorite painting at the MET as her pick, and Jack has yet to decide what he’ll do. When they’re crossing into the city with their car, Randall and Kevin squabble in the backseat and continue to do so when the family is on the subway.
When they arrive at a stop, Rebecca moves to get off, claiming it’s the closest to where they’re going, but Jack stops her. He says he knows where they’re going, but once the doors close, the operator announces the next stops and they’re completely different than where he planned to go, Rebecca tells him about route changes happening on the weekend, but they roll with the punches and continue on their way.
Lost in New York, the Pearsons wander around Queens and while Jack claims he knows where they’re going, Rebecca asks for a word on the side much to the kids’ shock. He admits he’s trying to live-up to her father’s cosmopolitan sensibilities, but she tells him she doesn’t want that and would like some trust from him that she knows where she’s going. In a moment of luck, they happen across a pretzel cart and the family loads up on snacks before continuing their journey.
After a trip to the Natural History Museum and tea time, the kids want to turn in and Jack tells Rebecca to go on to the MET on her own as he’d bring the kids back to the hotel. When she arrives at the door, the place is closing and so she doesn’t have any luck seeing the painting. When she returns to the hotel room, Jack feels bad about her lack of luck, but she says she’ll see it next time, unaware that it would take decades before “next time.”
In a last ditch effort to revive the night, Jack tells his family he’s figured out what he wants to do — take a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park. Jack admits he got the idea from Home Alone 2, but that doesn’t negate the sweetness of the moment and so the couple kiss, much to the kids dismay.
Don’t miss the next Pearson adventure when This Is Us returns next week on NBC.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC