What, you thought things were going to be RELAXED after all the babies were born last week?
Indeed, it was a stressed-out new episode of "This Is Us" Tuesday night (directed by Jon Huertas, aka Miguel!) as everyone was driving home from the hospital with Kate and Toby as well as Kevin and Madison in the present, Rebecca and Jack in the past and Randall and Beth in the not-as-distant past. And hopefully you were mellowed out before watching because there was a not-insignificant amount of howl-crying babies during the hour. But there were also some nice moments along the way, not to mention some new revelations and character elements to unpack.
So let's discuss the five biggest takeaways from the latest "This Is Us"... just as soon as I find the nearest Dairy Queen location.
1. Jack and Rebecca had quite the trip home
In case having three kids wasn't enough, then you gotta get your new trio of whiny roommates back home! (And of course the little freeloaders can't drive.) How stressful! That's the dilemma facing Jack and Rebecca back in the past as the two face leaving the hospital for the first time since the Big Three's very eventful arrival.
Things start off pleasantly enough – or at least as pleasant as a situation involving Baby Kevin peeing all over the place can be – as the new mom and dad raid the hospital's shelves of much-needed supplies and prepare the car for their departure. Jack assures Rebecca that he won't need manual. (Spoiler alert: He will wish he had a manual.) Indeed, he has a hard time with the triple carseat he's installing backwards. Meanwhile, the cop nearby isn't helping by making having triplets sound like a hardship equal to retracing Odysseus' exact steps in "The Odyssey." OK, he's not THAT intense, but his curt "bless you" certainly doesn't inspire confidence in the two new parents. At least they Supermarket Sweep-ed that cupboard.
With the seats swiveled in the right direction, Jack and Rebecca are on their way, though neither are not feeling right at all. Jack's a bad blend of stress and tiredness with a dash of paranoia setting in about all the cars around him. Meanwhile, when she's not sitting in solemn silence, Rebecca is helicoptering over the newborns from the front seat, desperate to make sure they're fine and that Randall's head tilt isn't a sign of something wrong. Of course, all of that helps kick the babies into crying mode – and once they turn on, they don't turn that setting off.
Moore and Ventilmiglia do a great job of capturing that odd cocktail of anxiety and sleep-deprived delirium, the kind that gets shaken all wrong when a fellow driver on the road honkingly tailgates Jack and finally cuts him off at a gas station. The family was going to pull over there anyways to check on the kids, but now Jack's on a mission to teach this guy a lesson about proper driving etiquette with his fists. Thankfully, Rebecca shuts down his aggro act before things actually get violent, reminding Jack that they have kids and a still-recovering wife to get home as opposed to teaching a knucklehead driver's ed with one's fists.
Tired, pulled to the mental brink and now upset that he's already made his first official whoops as a dad, Jack resorts to secretly buying and knocking back a small but not insignificant bottle of booze at the gas station to help calm his nerves. Because – in case the crying babies, tired parents and bad drivers weren't stressing the audience out enough –let's add a heightened BAC while we're at it.
Thankfully, Jack hands the wheel over to Rebecca and the ride ends safely at home – and, best of all – the kids are finally quiet. Jack and Rebecca take a moment to savor the solitude while also talking about what's been truly bothering them beyond the crying.
Rebecca opens up about facing her new life and reality as a mother with hope but also anxiety knowing nothing will be the same, while also thinking about how her mother quietly struggled with her miscarriage and affected Rebecca's upbringing – an important reminder for the audience that, while they have three kids in the end, Rebecca still did lose a child during birth, a loss that can't be easily forgotten. Jack encourages her but also admits that he had whiskey at the gas station to battle his overwhelmed mind and now he's choking down the guilt of behaving and coping like his father. Both of them are thinking about how their parents' struggles and their inability to cope with their emotions – toxic masculinity suffocating Jack's dad, and society's narrow and repressive grasp of women's experiences weighing Rebecca down with unvocalized sorrow – and how they hope to be different for their children.
And as we know, they were. And if you didn't, well, here's a lovely montage to cement it and also make you cry (though hopefully not as much or as loudly as the babies).
2. Kevin gets another tense ride and a surprising visit
So driving three kids home from the hospital was a less-than-serene experience. But surely driving just a single baby to the house should be easy, right? Not for Kevin, who last time we saw behind the wheel was swerving distractedly in and out of his lane as well as rescuing a man from a burning car wreck. Well I'm feeling comfortable!
The strain begins before we even hit the road as Kevin, just like his dad, has to learn how to lock the carseats into his car. Kevin can't get his muscular fingers to get the seats to latch nicely, and to make matters worse, one of his "Manny" fanboys decides him struggling with a babyseat is the perfect opportunity for a photo. Kevin snaps at him for a brief second before realizing that he's merely tense and over-tired – plus this random fan might actually know how to put the stupid seat into the car – so he gives him a proper photo and they finally affix the chair.
Now to drive home! So laid back!
Thankfully, Kevin's much more focused on the road rather than on his phone this time, but he quickly gets distracted by something other than text messages: a car seemingly trailing them, probably paparazzi. You know, that very relatable parenting moment when you're driving home from the hopsital and TMZ wants the exclusive. What parent hasn't had that?! I expected it to just be Kevin suffering from some post-baby drive-home paranoia, but nope, it actually was a sad, dead-eyed and bearded photog desperate to get photos of Kevin raging at him for trailing his newly expanded family. And Kevin unfortunately is willing to accidentally oblige as he pulls over to confront the paparazzi over his badgering, giving him pretty much exactly what he wanted. Sure, it's a slightly different scenario than Jack's rage-out, but yet again it's another Kevin and Jack parallel as both men go aggro to cement their fatherhood bonafides while the calm, thoughtful women actually know how to handle the situation because they're aware that there are more pressing things in the world (aka getting the kids home).
Yes, despite having far less time in the spotlight, Madison proves to be far savvier than Kevin when it comes to dealing with the tabloid press. While Kevin papa-bears at the photographer, Madison comes out and soothes the situation without a pause. Sure, it costs Kevin some shirtless jogging photos in the future, but unlike Kevin's tough-guy act, Madison's wheeling and dealing actually gets the guy to finally leave them alone and hopefully delete whatever photos he had of Kevin raging out, all without breaking a sweat. She's smarter than you; she can handle your life and career better than you. Marry this woman, Kevin! Apparently Kevin agrees, as he re-proposes to Madison at the house.
Oddly that's not the most pressing moment that takes place at home, though. While resting from the hospital stay and his rage-out, Kevin has a dream in which he talks to his dad, helping put the new twins to bed. The two have a lovely moment where they confront the issues that haunt them both: getting out of their fathers' shadows. In Jack's case, it was the terror of being like his dad; in Kevin's case, it's the terror of not living up to his dad. In many ways, they ended up at the same place, battling the same issues: struggling with alcoholism, having toxic ideas on how men should handle emotion, pressuring themselves and fearing mistakes so much that they went full circle and made them anyways. But Jack also evolved from his father into his own parental figure, the way that Kevin will hopefully now evolve. As with everything on "This Is Us" and life, everything is the same and everything evolves.
It's a nice moment – though you'd think Jack and Kevin having a father-to-father ghost conversation through time, space and existence would have a bigger impact. Part of it might be that we did already see Randall have a similar interaction just a few episodes. You might also blame that we had a packed episode, so the scene and the emotions building up to didn't have the most time to breathe. But it's still another moving chapter in the fascinating echoes of Jack and Kevin.
Anyway, so that's two of the Big Three with otherworldly parent visits thus far this season. When's Kate getting her ghost chat?
3. Kate and Toby's rough ride doesn't stop on the road
Kate's storyline this season has been such a cruel, torturous tease. Every episode, it's constantly hinting that something sad is going to happen with the surrogate. Maybe Ellie will bail on them or decide she wants to keep the child instead, or maybe she has some secret that's going to cause issues. Thus far, it's been all jukes and pumpfakes with no actual shot yet. Sure, fine, I don't need more worry in my life – but dang it, show, if you're gonna punch me in the heart, JUST DO IT ALREADY!
It sure seems like this storyline isn't going to wrap up nicely with a bow, and their chapter of "The Ride" didn't do anything to convince me otherwise as the hour started with the official relinquishment day paper-signing. According to Kate, this apparently marks the hardest day of surrogacy, so the two plan to be cool with Ellie, who emerges from the hospital saying that she left them a surprise on the birth certificate. OH GOD, THIS IS IT, ISN'T!? DID SHE TEAR IT UP?! IS SHE CLAIMING THE CHILD BACK!? Oh ... no, it's just a joke about making her middle name Scomet so her name is Hailey Scomet. Clever. BUT I AM NOT IN THE MENTAL HEAD SPACE TO LAUGH! (*explodes stress-relief squeeze ball*)
That joke, unfortunately, doesn't keep the spirits light on the ride home from the hospital. Ellie falls incredibly short and stiff, barely answering questions while looking solemn and sad. Kate tries her best to cheer up the atmosphere in the car, talking about meet-ups and gatherings in the future, but Ellie eventually shuts those all down, saying as she's dropped off that she can't see Hailey right now. It's just too hard to see her after the birth, and after all the time she's spent caring for the child who now belongs to somone else.
As someone who's been fearing a coup to take Hailey back, this seems like good news for Kate and Toby. Sounds like Ellie's coping with any postpartum depression symptoms and feelings in a manner that she finds healthiest for her as well as for the Pearsons. A win! Kate doesn't seem to feel that way, though; in fact, she's really upset about Ellie's reaction. Her explanation makes sense. It was their plan – but even more so – she saw how not knowing his birth family affected Randall throughout his life to this very day, and she wants to avoid similar confusion affecting Hailey. But it's also kind of annoying that Kate's bleeding heart is pushing her plans and feelings over the likes of Ellie, forcing drama when the drama seems to be trying its damn best to avoid existing.
Plus, Toby has some ACTUAL bad news to report to Kate. In the midst of a speech about how much he admires his wife for her unflappability and her concern for all involved, helping sooth over her worries about Ellie and Hailey, Toby drops that he was laid off from his job. The two seem ready to face it together – though, if I'm remembering right, Toby shows up to the gathering in the future alone and looking a little rough, so might trouble still be on the horizon? WILL I NEVER FEEL SAFE IN THIS STORYLINE!?
4. Randall and Beth sure love DQ (and their family)
Man, anyone suddenly got a hankering for a Dilly Bar? Dairy Queen clearly bought some ad space (and then some) on last night's episode as the ice creamery served at the sweet setting for Randall and Beth's sweet ride home from the hospital with Annie. Everyone else got paparazzi stalkers, postpartum discussion, alcoholism and bad drivers to deal with, while Randall and Beth got tasty frozen treats. Good deal!
It wasn't all fun times, however. (Though yes, it pretty much was all fun times; this was a golden week for Beth and Randall banter, including the two playfully debating who's the Jordan and who's the Pippen in their parenting power couple. Duh, Beth is Jordan.) Throughout the otherwise fun trip, Randall keeps not-so-subtly nudging at the idea of having a third kid. That's a bold move since Kid #2 hasn't even arrived home yet and Beth's body is still trying to remember what it's like to not be hosting a whole small human. She doesn't want another child right now; she doesn't even want the discussion. All she wants is a Snickers Blizzard from Dairy Queen (this is fan food, not fast food™) but Randall's so distracted by the idea of a trio of kids that he almost misses the DQ.
They eventually make it to the eatery, and Beth orders her beloved Blizzard. But while I would never try to diminish the significance of a delicious Snickers Blizzard, Randall is having a slightly more important moment with the newborn Annie at their table. He talks about why, as an adopted child who didn't look anything like his parents, it means so much to him that she has his eyes. As someone who's family tree was filled with so many question marks, he always wanted to start a big family, one to call his own.
It makes what happens in the future even sweeter than Beth's Blizzard. Speaking of which ...
5. We're going back ... to the future!
For the second week in a row, "This Is Us" greeted audiences back to the Pearsons' story with some strangers, this time a gathering of doctors and nurses preparing for a day of learning in the maternity ward. Don't worry, you didn't accidentally tune in to an episode of "Nurses" or one of the other 47 medical dramas currently on network television; it was indeed "This Is Us" – and, in fact, one of the characters in that opening scene wasn't a stranger at all.
There's one character who eye-rolls her way through her shift, clearly the key person in this subplot – and well before her name was announced, I'm proud to say I totally called it: It's adult Deja in the future timeline. Props to the casting department yet again; they've been constantly spot-on with casting the same character through the decades, and this is yet another success as series newcomer La Trice Harper looks just like Lyric Ross and has the subtle character's mannerisms and behaviors down cold already, to the point that the "reveal" the storyline was building to wasn't much of a reveal.
But that wasn't all there was to the episode's quick pitstop back in the future, though. Deja gets picked up after work by a grown-up Annie, who reveals to the audience via a therapeutic child's toy that Deja is quietly pregnant. Never mind that eyeroll about kids before, I suppose!
The two then drive up to the fancy future cabin where the Pearsons are all gathering for what appears to be a final send-off of sorts for a bed-ridden Rebecca, including a salt-and-pepper-bearded Randall who greets his daughters at the door, in particular Deja and his future grandchild. The scene's a nice father-daughter moment on its own, quietly ringing in a milestone. It's even more touching, however, framed by Randall's conversation earlier at DQ as two products of adoption – Randall and Deja – celebrate and embrace the latest branch of their unusual, unconventional family tree, one whose branches might not all be attached by DNA (as Randall focused on before) but are all just as much attached by profound love and care for one another. In ways expected and unexpected, he got a big beloved family to call his own, just like he wanted.
Meanwhile, for those who thought the Deja reveal was a little underwhelming, there is another mystery quietly tucked away in those final moments as another car pulls up to the Pearson cabin. Is it Malik? We don't know if they're still together or if he's the father. Is it Madison ... or Sophie? Or maybe is it a Snickers Blizzard that Beth Uber Eats-ed from a nearby Dairy Queen for a quick repast? At last check, I believe Beth, Tess, Toby, Kevin and his kids, Nicky, obviously Randall, Not-So-Young Jack and a bunch of shrimp are all already in attendance – so maybe it's Kate?
We don't know – and no one's face in the scene gives us any real sense of if it's good news or bad, so I guess we'll have to wait and see. Great, and here I was thinking I was an awesome detective for figuring out Future Deja.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.