‘This Is Us’ Makes Way for a New Big 3 as the Pearsons Begin Next Chapter (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 8 of This Is Us, “In the Room.”]
Instead, the Pearsons turn a satisfying new leaf with the arrival of three new babies and some repairs to wounded bonds. Below, we break down all of the family drama, but beware of major spoilers ahead.
Labor Pains for Madison and Ellie
As teased in last week’s episode, Madison (Caitlin Thompson) and Ellie (Annie Funke) both gear up to bring new life into the world. But the deliveries are drastically different and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) lend their support to Madison via video chat and Kate (Chrissy Metz) provides updates about her and Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) soon-to-be daughter via group text.
Switching from a phone call to Facetime, Madison appreciates Randall and Beth’s promise to stay connected until Kevin hopefully arrives, but she’s unsure if they should be. The dream team duo in turn tell Madison she’s doing them a favor as they continue their ride from New Orleans to Philadelphia, opting out of stopping overnight due to COVID risks.
Meanwhile, in San Pedro where Ellie’s in labor, Kate’s by her side and Toby’s stationed in the parking lot, tailgate style. After receiving a group text from Kate about Ellie’s progress, Toby asks her to send personalized messages since he’s the father, and she questions progress on his list which we later learn is supposed to be middle name choices for their daughter. In the delivery room, Ellie’s doing her best to make sure Kate is being acknowledged as the baby’s mother as nurses buzz about.
Back in Madison’s room, she’s about to get an epidural and begins to panic when she sees the needle, so Randall distracts her by telling an embarrassing story about Kevin from high school in which he got drunk, stripped naked and sang Hanson’s “MMMBop” at the top of his lungs. It does the trick and Madison makes it through just in time for Kevin to walk through the door before their babies are born.
He thanks Randall for staying with Madison virtually and then tells his fiancee that this family is his life and that he’s quit the movie because he doesn’t want to be taken away from them. Both Madison and Ellie’s labor begins to progress at this point and the women give birth to their babies, a boy and girl for Madison as well as Ellie’s little girl for Kate.
While Kevin and Madison enjoy holding their children, Ellie surprises Kate by asking for a moment alone with her baby. The concern is misplaced as Ellie talks to the newborn, saying that giving her to Kate and Toby is the best thing she’ll ever do. In the meantime, Toby’s dealing with a situation of his own in the parking lot when a man (played by guest star Michael O’Neill) asks him to move from his parking spot. Confused, Toby says there’s plenty of other spots, but the man pleads with him, saying that the specific spot which holds a significant number is considered a good luck charm for his wife who could be dying inside the hospital.
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He goes on to tell Toby about his wife Rose who collects pigs as good luck charms and has made him promise to stay away from the hospital to prevent himself from getting sick like her. Toby in turn tells the man about his responsibility of picking a middle name and in return, the man tosses him one of the pig charms from his dashboard as a means of good luck. So when Kate calls to tell him that the baby has arrived, Toby informs her that the girl’s name will be Hailey Rose. He chooses to not divulge his parking lot experience, or the name inspiration, but Kate’s definitely pleased with the choice.
This is the point in the episode where phone and FaceTime calls begin in earnest with Kevin calling Randall again to thank him. The conversation feels like an amends for all that took place between them in the last year, and while Randall looks forward to a more in-depth conversation, he tells Kevin to enjoy his new role as dad in the meantime. Kevin also reveals the baby’s names, Nicholas and Francis, named after Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) and Madison’s grandmother.
Technology takes a front seat in the following exchanges which include Kate introducing baby Hailey to her cousins, which she aptly calls the “new Big 3.” Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) are over the moon to meet their new grandkids, and even Uncle Nicky makes a FaceTime appearance, overwhelmed by the news of his namesake.
Rebecca’s “New” Family
Rebecca feels helpless throughout the episode, trying to get in touch with her kids as they go through some of the biggest moments of their lives. Miguel does his best to keep her distracted with board games and talk, but at the end of the day Rebecca just wants a drink to settle her nerves, reassuring her husband that one glass won’t do any damage despite her Alzheimer’s meds. He agrees to pour her a glass, but asks her about a fixation she seems to have on one of the cabin’s paintings.
This connects to the episode’s storyline from the past in which Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca try to get their children to join them at the cabin for the weekend, but they opt out for sleepovers with their friends. Rebecca isn’t sad about it and is happy to have a romantic weekend with Jack alone, but he’s upset. She doesn’t notice his sadness and rips their kids in a light-hearted way that definitely doesn’t sit right with Jack.
After discovering a water leak, they attempt to salvage items damaged like their kids’ art, but Rebecca brushes it off, saying none of them were going to be Picasso, but that’s the last straw for Jack. He heads out to the hardware store and leaves Rebecca to think over her comments. When Jack returns, he says he’s worried about losing time with the kids now that they’re getting older and she tells him that while they will grow apart in some ways, they’ll always be together, it just might look a little different.
The painting on the wall is one from that day in the past, and Rebecca tells Miguel that it’s the family hand prints that were blended by water damage. They stand as a metaphor to the family’s changing dynamic, but its continued endurance.
A True Story of Connection
The episode is framed by a true story that begins in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1963 when Nasir and Esther, two students at the University of New Mexico, he from India and she from Argentina, meet at a mixer. In little flashes, we’re shown their life together as they welcome a son. Even further in the future, Nasir is late returning home for dinner. The computer scientist defends his late return to disappointed wife Esther, telling her he’s on the verge of something amazing. She asks for an explanation and he asks for her to imagine the possibility of sending photos over a computer — mind you, this is the ’70s — and she seems dazzled by the concept but is even further thrilled when he suggests that what he’s working on could mean communicating through video in live time on computers.
While it might have been hard to imagine then, it turns out Nasir Ahmed is responsible for inventing the discreet cosine transform which is used in digital media to help process video and photos. It’s still used today, and the show’s writers share in the credits that Nasir and Esther just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. Without Nasir’s contribution, no one would have the ability to connect like the Pearsons did in this episode, and for that we’re grateful to know his story.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC