‘This Is Us’ Shines a Light on a Real-Life Genius in Touching Tribute to Staying Connected
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 7 of This Is Us, “In the Room.”]
The “new big three,” as Kate called them, might be the biggest news on This Is Us, but the show’s February 16 episode was also a love letter to a real-life genius.
While it’s not unusual for the Dan Fogelman-created series to introduce new characters, the inclusion of Nasir Ahmed (Abhi Sinha) and his wife Esther Ahmed (Katie Sarife) is an unusual right-hand turn as the real-life couple’s love story is briefly featured without any overt connection to the Pearsons. The brief, touching sections include the couple’s first encounter at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque during the ’60s, and a missed family dinner.
But the point of the episode is to pay tribute to Nasir Ahmed’s invention of the discrete cosine transform, which aids in image compression when sending and sharing video and other data. In an episode where staying in touch by FaceTime and other virtual means helps major characters get through an emotional time, This Is Us gives back with a nod to Ahmed’s major contribution.
In one scene, set in the ’70s, Nasir arrives home late one night to a very disappointed Esther, who tells her husband that their son was waiting to eat with him. She asks him to explain what he’s working on, so she can better understand his long hours.
As two immigrants far from family — he’s from India, she’s from Argentina — he tells his wife how his work can help people keep connected via the sending of photos and video through computers.
In the show’s tear-inducing fashion, it’s revealed during the credits that Nasir and Esther recently celebrated their 56th anniversary, and that the writing team spoke with the couple via Zoom to hear their story, which was then translated to the screen.
The real-life couple have one son, Michael Pariente, who is a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas.
So kudos to the Dan Fogelman-created series, which can make us feel all the feels about a story that’s not even related to the Pearsons!
This Is Us, Season 5, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC