One of the great things about This Is Us is that it manages to give us all the feels in the simplest of ways. Sure, there are massive twists every now and then (the Big Three origins, Jack’s death reveal), but in general, this show recognizes that it’s the small moments that add up to a life well lived.
Take Tuesday night’s “Career Day” episode, for example. The entire episode revolved around the idea of careers, but not in the typical, existential life crisis kind of way. Sure, Randall became conflicted in the present day storyline because he learned his father was musically inclined, and he then wondered what a sliding doors type of life as a saxophonist would have looked like. However it was all a mask for those deeper, This Is Us feelings, which was Randall adjusting to the fact that his biological father is now in his life. He needed to know if he had a different role model to look up to, would his life have been different? Well that, and his own feelings were hurt when his daughters called his job boring.
(To be fair, we have no idea what a weather-predicting tradesperson does either. We always thought Randall was a lawyer when they talked about him making partner.)
The thing is, it seems like Randall’s job is something he was always destined to do — in the flashback scenes, when Jack and Rebecca were grappling with whether to put their adoptive son into a special school, it was obvious the kid was gifted and loved numbers. Like, really loved numbers. So in his own career twist, Jack decided to take the job with a newly promoted Miguel rather than start his own housing company as planned so that he could pay for special schooling. It was yet another huge personal sacrifice from the father that the kids probably didn’t even realize he was making; but hey — that’s what you do when you’re a parent. You want to give your kids everything, and any parent will tell you that they had to give up a part of themselves for their kids. But that it was also completely worth it, because having kids is the best. Aaand now we’re crying. The ability to touch on those kinds of feelings is exactly why this show makes us so damned weepy every week.
Meanwhile, we also saw Kate land a new job in part because she’s overweight and her new boss wanted her to relate to her teenage daughter. But while Kate killed it in present day (and we cheered when she left the awful teenager at the side of the road), in the past we saw Kate inevitably compare herself to her mother. How her mother didn’t want to eat ice cream because she’d gain too much weight. How her mother wore a size small while she wore a size XL. It was a harsh reminder that kids not only absorb a lot more than we realize when they’re kids, but that we all tend to idolize the adults in our lives. Notice the way Kate played piano just like her mom? And sings, just like her mom?
Then there’s Kevin, who was having some career problems of his own when he couldn’t open up during play rehearsal. Turns out his father’s death had a bigger impact on him than he realized, but it took him going to a complete stranger’s memorial service for him to face that. Of course we still don’t know when Jack died, only that it was “a long time ago.” Oh and we also know that Kevin threw out all the models that he and Jack built together, which was a whole new form of sad.
But anyhow where were we? Oh right, careers. Well by the episode’s end a couple of things became clear: while we may start out idolizing the adults in our lives and wanting to perhaps follow in their footsteps, we all come into our own eventually. And if we’re lucky, like Randall, we can just take some extra piano lessons on the side to find out if another career path was ever an option.