It really is all in the Thanksgiving traditions isn’t it?
This Is Us wonderfully blended the past and the present in this week’s holiday themed episode. And despite how put together they were as a family back then, they’re pretty dysfunctional now, even as they honor their father with all the traditions he started at the Pinewood Lodge.
As the present day Thanksgiving unfolds, we get a glimpse of Rebecca, Jack and the kids on their way to Thanksgiving at grandma and grandpas house, which was a very dreaded event. Rebecca is stressing out about making the “perfect” cranberries and making the kids look put together and it all goes to hell when Randall and Kevin accidentally knock the cranberries all over their freshly pressed shirts. As they’re running late, they’re tire pops and the car veers off the road into a fence. Thankfully everyone is safe but there’s no way they’re making that dinner on time. They hike 3.4 miles to the nearest gas station only to find out there’s no way of getting a tow truck until the next morning. Rebecca calls her family and almost immediately gets into a screaming match with her mom. “We’re no longer coming,” she tells her, quite frankly making Jack proud.
They opt to stay at the nearest lodge, which is anything but glamorous. But being the good dad that he is, Jack puts on a show for the kids dressing up as Pilgrim Rick, playing the Police Academy on VCR and making cheese and saltine hot dogs on the furnace fire. “I want every Thanksgiving to be just like this,” Randall tells his mother.
And the present day Thanksgiving echoes many of the themes from that very night. In fact, Randall is the most excited to celebrate the holiday, running around waking everyone up. It’s no surprise – this is the first time his biological dad and his birth mother would be spending a holiday together. It’s practically a dream come true for him and the family gets together to go on a 3.4 mile hike and watch Police Academy 3.
Olivia, who wasn’t keen on coming to dinner in the first place, begins opening up to Kevin about why she dislikes the holiday. Her mother always “pretended” things were okay, her dad would take a call from the hospital and skip out on dinner, which really meant he was going to have an affair with a nurse and her mother would get drunk and angry and Olivia would never get to eat the pie. To cheer her up, Kevin offers her a piece of pie. The gesture would be warmly recieved by most, but not Olivia who acts too “cool” and “proud.” Her attitude quickly changed after she chats with William about what it feels like to know you’re dying. “Chase the moments before you’re too old and slow,” he advises her. But the best advice – say thank you when a kind boy offers you pie, which she did with a kiss. Kevin may need help opening up for his role, but she needs help opening up to life and love. They’re definitely going to be good for each other.
Seeing Olivia take the high road also helps Kevin put aside his hate towards Miguel. It seems as though Kevin was such a daddy’s boy that he can’t fathom seeing anyone else take his father’s place. But in the spirit of the holiday’s, he finally lets Miguel take the role of “Pilgrim Rick,” a sacred role which belonged to Jack. It makes sense that something so trivial would be so important to them both, especially Miguel, who was his dad’s best friend. I think Jack would have liked to see his family being taken care of while still upholding his values and traditions, keeping his name and memory alive.
Randall skips out on the movie and heads over to his dad’s house to pick up all the cassette tapes that he was reminiscing about – he would spend his sober Thanksgiving playing music with his friends and recording their jam sessions. “This might be the last Thanksgiving he has,” he tells his wife. Unfortunately, he doesn’t just find the tapes, he finds his mother’s letter to William, before she can even sit down and confess that she’s know who his father was his entire life.
Of course, Randall’s frustration’s come out at the dinner table… in front of everyone… making things pretty uncomfortable. Rebecca is crying, William is unsure of what to say, and Randall doesn’t want to hear it. His reaction is understandable – he’s been lied to all his life by the one person he thought he could trust. His mom knew how important finding his biological parents were. But in his rage, Randall isn’t seeing the other side – Rebecca took in an African American boy as one of her own because an addict gave him up. Even if William became clean, exposing Randall to the truth could potential do more harm than good and she was protecting him and her family. Randall was her son and it’s understandable that she wanted to keep it that way. Sadly, since they were so close and William is dying, this will probably heavily strain his relationship with his mother… possibly making it irreparable.
As this is all going down, Kate finally makes her grand entrance and announces that she’s getting gastric bypass surgery. I wish I had seen more of Kate interacting with her family in this episode – we haven’t seen her really bond with anyone except for Kevin. How will she act around her mother now that they aren’t really “speaking.” Is she the lovable Aunt Kate to Randall’s kids? Will she be intimidated by Kevin’s new GF?
It’ll be interesting to see how this major decision will affect her in the future. Kate’s always struggled with her weight so it seems like this will be a smart move on her part. Will she finally be able to accept her life? Will she let Toby back in? Will we start learning more about Kate other than her obsession with the weight?
This Is Us – Flip a Coin (4×04)
This Is Us – Unhinged (4×03)
There are always hidden lessons tucked away in every This Is Us episode.
Lessons are taught as past, present, and sometimes future experiences that mirror each other.
Kevin, Randall, and Kate are all moving into new phases of their adult lives.
Randall’s making a name for himself as the “unhinged” councilman in Philadelphia after announcing an open door policy for all his constituents.
Randall: He’s a man of the people and his policy reflects that. Unlike most politicians, Randall isn’t in this as a stepping stone to some greater title that gives him more power. His purpose is to evoke change, which is something Berenice, his toxic and moody assistant, didn’t fully grasp. Berenice surely meant well, and she had the experience to offer up plenty of useful insight into Randall’s tenure, but it wasn’t enough to keep her around.
Berenice criticized Randall for not being a typical politician as if that’s something someone should strive to become.
Randall may be taking an atypical approach, but he’s doing exactly what he’s been voted into office for — to help the people that elected him.
Yes, he’ll need the help of his other councilman to do his job, but he can’t help pass anything if he doesn’t know what the real-life, everyday problems are. Too many politicians nowadays don’t live the life regular people do, they don’t experience the problems, they don’t understand where they’re coming from. Randall is taking a hammer to all of that, and Berenice wasn’t going to bring him down.
She overstepped by suggesting that he fire Jae-Won and keep him strictly as a “friend.” Jae-Won shared the same passion for the work as Randall does. He believes in change, and he believes it’s time to change how they go about ushering in change.
He’s been there since day one, and helped Randall win the election — he deserves to be there.
Randall’s present-day confidence and ability to do what he felt was right juxtaposed his first day of school experiences where he had a panic attack for getting in trouble for being out of dress code.
He’s grown immensely from the boy that followed the rules to a man who makes his own and speaks out against injustice.
Kevin – Kevin’s on a journey to find himself, and it seems he’s been on this same journey since he was in middle school.
Kevin’s storylines are always filled with so much heart and that’s because he’s an emotionally vulnerable human. His ego always preceded him, but when you get to know him, you see that he’s always putting everyone he cares about ahead of himself.
When he was in middle school, he sacrificed his “me day” to help Randall deal with a panic attack despite not fully understanding what was happening to Randall. When he chucked it up to being a phase in “puberty,” I muttered: “I wish.”
In the present, Kevin was extending the same care towards Nicky, who was visibly struggling with addiction.
Kevin is the most underrated character and the one who pulls from Jack’s caring nature.
He never gives up on the people he cares about. Nicky resisted the help, but Kevin never wavered; he stuck around.
It’s amazing that This Is Us can bring me to tears with a summarized montage of Nicky’s up-and-down battle with addiction. It allowed us to explore Kevin’s more serious side as he put his foot down and told Nicky how all of this would go down. And, as most viewers have been anticipating, it led Kevin to meet Cassidy, his potential love interest.
Nicky threw the chair because he was driven to drink after losing the only therapist he felt comfortable opening up to.
As Kevin supported Nicky in the aftermath, he befriended Cassidy’s kid in the waiting room.
Although sparks weren’t flying between Kevin and Cassidy during their first meeting, they did bump into each other again at an AA meeting.
Cassidy and Nicky couldn’t keep it together as Kevin was pouring his soul out and it led to a laugh attack from all three.
Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.
Helping Nicky may have just led Kevin to his next chapter and a new purpose.
Kate – Kate struggled with her weight again in both the present-day and the flashbacks. Though she’s much more confident than the Katie girl who did one work out video with her mother in the 80s and felt deterred after she saw she wasn’t losing weight, the reality of her weight still well, weighed heavy on her.
It was only amplified when she realized how slim and hunky Toby’s been looking. That paired with his client meeting in which she had to admit she couldn’t fit into a booth and needed a table instead really triggered her.
Kate’s anger is expected as she’s always put so much pressure on herself to be thin and gets upset when it comes easily or naturally to others. But the anger wasn’t warranted, which is why it’s good she got over it quickly.
Toby didn’t mean to hurt her by taking care of himself and his health — his motives for doing it for his child were inspiring — he just didn’t want her to feel bad about not doing it also.
No one should ever be blamed for doing what’s best for them, even if it isn’t what others believe you should be doing.
Kate apologized and acknowledge how great his healthy lifestyle was, but there’s definitely going to be some animosity going forward. This isn’t the end yet. Could this be why Kate and Toby aren’t together anymore in the future?
Kate’s neighbor, Gregory, was unlikeable at first, but it teaches an important lesson about not judging people because you never know what they’re going through.
His callous way of requesting that Toby didn’t block the driveway seemed insensitive and uptight. It was obvious the storage unit was taking up too much space, and there was obviously a better way to go about getting his point across.
But later, we learned that Gregory was recovering from a stroke (guest star Psych’s Timothy O’Toole was also a stroke survivor) and walking a mile was a personal goal, which was being hindered by the car in the driveway.
Knowing that changed our whole outlook on Gregory – he went’ from being the “asshole neighbor” to the funny and slightly cynical one.
There’s potential within this new friendship, and maybe Gregory will be the one to push Kate in a way she’s never been able to push herself.
There’s an emphasis on health here from both Toby and Gregory that I don’t think Kate will ignore.
The first step is just taking that walk around the block.
First Day of School – The first day of school was the connection between young Kate, Randall and Kevin, and Randall’s girls, Deja, Annie, and Tess.
Both Tess and Randall wanted to make a good impression and found themselves misunderstood.
Tess may have come out to her parents and family members last season, but her storyline will echo what many LGBTQ folks know all too well — coming out never truly ends.
Every time you meet a new person, you’ll have to come out to them, which Tess realized is more difficult than she thought it would be.
Deja was having a situation of her own when Malik informed her that he was the father of a baby girl.
Finding out someone has a child is a lot to process for an adult let alone a teenage girl who isn’t prepared for such responsibilities.
But, Deja is more mature than many other girls her age. She’s gone through difficult times and experiences, which have made her stronger, and that outlook on life is why she’d probably be open to Malik’s situation.
And we’re all secretly hoping she gives Malik a chance because we want to see Randall’s reaction.
Will Beth and Randall handle the news maturely? Or will Randall spiral into another bus incident?
Jack and Miguel – Friendship is the key to life. I mentioned that Kevin is just as caring and nurturing as his father, and this rings true in the flashback to Jack and Miguel. Both men had each other’s backs during a difficult situation. If it wasn’t for Miguel, Jack would have lost his job over an accidental mistake.
Both men are/ were lucky to have each other in their lives. I do wonder if this backstory will have some impact on their friendship going forward. Jack seemed to make the mistake because he wasn’t happy in his line of work. Otherwise, the scene felt like they were just inserting it to give us some quality Jack time. I’m never opposed to that, but it isn’t how This Is Us operates.
The fourth season is delivering storylines that exemplify that character’s strengths, showcase their rawness, and propel the plot forward.
Even though fans were skeptical about how the series would move on, at some point, we have to move on from grieving from Jack’s death.
This new handful of characters allows us to do so while still connecting to inspiring moments with our Pearson clan.
This Is Us Season 4 Premiere – Strangers (4×01)
“Who knew that a complete stranger could become such a big part of your story,” is one of the opening quotes from a young Rebecca after arriving home from her trip to LA with Jack.
Truly, he couldn’t have summed it up better.
Not only does that encompass her relationship with Jack, which at this point, was only three weeks old, but it also rings true for all the new characters introduced in This Is Us Season 4 season premiere.
Everyone starts off as strangers at the beginning of the hour.
As the episode progresses, there are moments of doubt about who these new characters are and how they fit in.
There’s minimal flow to the episode as we switch back back-and-forth between getting to know this new array of folks and between young Jack’s first meeting with Rebecca’s parents.
There wasn’t a single scene with the Big Three up until the very end, so there were moments where I wondered if I was even watching the right show. Had it not been for Jack and Rebecca’s inclusion, I wouldn’t have been so sure.
And therein lies my lesson for the night — never doubt the great minds behind This Is Us.
Towards the end of the episode, everything began to flow together cohesively and all those ten new characters were almost essential to the progression of the series. Because let’s face it, that’s life.
We meet new people all the time that influence our lives and change them in ways we never thought possible.
There’s always room for someone new to make an impression.
And the one thing that makes This Is Us so special is that they aren’t confined to any one timeframe.
Every scene in this episode existed in a different time period — past, present, future — yet they seamlessly flowed into each other.
So, here’s our 4-1-1 breakdown on episode highlights and who these new faces are in terms of the bigger picture:
1. Jack Damon – We’re introduced to a blind man who drops a plate of breakfast accidentally and decides to grab some breakfast at the local diner. What would normally be an uneventful moment is pivotal because he meets Lucy, the love of his life. Their storyline is explored at an accelerated pace. We see their first hook up, we see Jack propose, we see his dog, Sammy, grow older, we see them open up a restaurant together, we see Lucy tell him that she’s pregnant, and we see Jack reach success in his music career.
Now, Jack Damon is actually baby Jack, Kate and Toby’s son. Towards the end of the episode, we see the couple receive the news that although baby Jack isn’t completely blind, he won’t ever regain his eyesight. The full-circle scene cued the waterworks because it’s comforting to know that despite his setback, Jack had a pretty successful life. We’ve only seen the outline as of now, and hopefully, as the season progresses, we’ll see the storyline get filled in. Toby and Kate weren’t present in any of adult Jack’s scenes, which does worry me a bit, but it was probably done with the intention of not ruining the big reveal.
And just think about it — the magic that is This Is Us will now allow us not only to get to know adult Jack but to also meet his future child. The possibilities here are endless.
2. Cassidy – Plenty of people assumed that Once Upon a Time’s Jennifer Morrison would become Kevin’s future wife and we may be onto something. We’re introduced to Cassidy when she’s serving in the Army Corps. She’s missing her family, her husband Ryan (Revenge’s Nick Weschler) and her son, Matty. Her time serving is traumatic and she’s responsible for the death of a village aside from her informant. When she arrives back home, the PTSD takes its toll on her life and her marriage.
She accidentally hits her son while recalling that the price of a water heater in America is how much they paid families for killing their loved ones. Eventually, she seeks out help and while she’s sharing her trauma, Nicky, Jack’s brother, throws a chair through the window. As he’s being arrested, they call Kevin to bail him out and last we see he’s purchasing tickets to fly over there. So, while Kevin and Cassidy’s relationship isn’t promised, it seems like the most logical storyline especially since we saw Kevin with a child in the flash-forward that could have been Matty or another child with Cassidy.
3. Kelly, Darnell, and Malik – This family was predicted to be Randall and Beth’s new neighbors, and while that isn’t totally the case, they are going to be involved with that side of the family.
Malik is introduced as a junior high kid with a little baby daughter, Janelle, at home. His parents are both supportive of him and help him take care of the baby as he’s presumably a single father. Malik attempts to get into some shady business to make money to support his daughter explaining that a good preschool runs upwards of 10K but his father warns him against it since he knows how messy that lifestyle can be from previous experience.
He also offers to watch Janelle so that Malik can go to a barbecue with his friends where he meets the new girl in town: Deja. The two are immediately smitten and Randall and Beth can’t help but cheese seeing Deja at home with a huge smile on her face.
4. Young Rebecca and Jack – Though we mostly know how Jack and Rebecca’s life turned out, there’s still so much to be explored with this couple in any given time period. My personal favorite version of them is when they first met. It’s so fun and light to watch them get to know each other, fall for each other and explore this innocent relationship that they have no idea is going to turn into this whirlwind life. Everything, all the families and characters, it all starts because of Rebecca and Jack.
In the premiere episode, we explored Jack meeting Rebecca’s pompous parents for the first time. Jack tried to make a good impression on them because, after the trip to LA, he realized he truly liked Rebecca. But making a good impression on them wasn’t an easy feat.
He bought a suit to hang out at the country club, which was sold to him by Miguel, yes, Jack’s best friend and Rebecca’s future husband. Not only do we get to see Jack and Rebecca’s humble beginning, but we get to see Jack and Miguel’s also and turns out, he was always a stand-up guy even when he didn’t know Jack that well.
At dinner, Rebecca’s parents disregard all of her requests and grill Jack about Vietnam and his parents. Jack excuses himself to wash off that lobster juice from his new suit and then launches into a typical Jack Pearson speech about how haunting Vietnam was, how he lost his brother and other loved ones to the war that was “very real” to the soldiers fighting on the front lines, and how his parents fight.
Then, he promised that he wasn’t going to “go anywhere” so they’d all have plenty of time to get to know who he really is.
And while that may have impressed Rebecca and all of us Jack Pearson fans, it wasn’t good enough for Rebecca’s father. He told Jack that while he was a good man, he wasn’t a good enough man. He saw that he was more haunted than he was letting on and believed his daughter deserved better. And with all due respect, I have to disagree with him.
With all that we know now, there is no better man than Jack Pearson. The good news is that after catching more than a few glimpses into the future, we know that nothing Rebecca’s father says actually stops the relationship.
Jack for the win.
Now that your done balling your eyes out — it’s a good sign, it means This Is Us did its duty for the week — let us know what you thought of the This Is Us Season 4 premiere.
Were you impressed with the new characters? Do you wish they spent more time focusing on the Big Three?
Are the new additions necessary?
I think now that we’ve established the who’s who of these new faces, we’ll have more time for our core cast of Pearsons.
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