Thanksgivings are usually pretty epic in the Pearson household, whether we’re talking about Pilgrim Rick stepping in to save the day or Randall realizing his mother kept his father’s identity from him all those years. So when we heard This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV) was doling out a six-story Thanksgiving-themed episode, we basically braced ourselves and stocked up on about six packages of Kleenex.
It turns out we didn’t need all of them, but some storylines were close calls. Let’s put away the college application essays, stock up on cheap convenience store rosé and dig into the Popeyes chicken of it all.
The Pearsons’ last shindig
Jack and Rebecca knew it might be the last family Thanksgiving with everyone living at home, but we knew it was going to be Jack’s last Thanksgiving period. That set a sombre tone as Rebecca baked too many pies and the teenaged Big Three actually got along for a change. The surface story, in which the family extended an invite to Miguel during what was to be his first Thanksgiving solo, had Rebecca worrying about betraying her best friend Shelly, a.k.a. Miguel’s ex (oh, if she only knew), and Miguel showing everyone just how salty he was over the divorce.
Once we dug into the main course though, it became clear the purpose of the whole Miguel setup was to give another opportunity for an excellent Jack pep talk, in which he convinced Miguel he should keep fighting for his family. On an even deeper level we witnessed some magical essay writing from Randall, who reminded us all that while yes, a firefighter perhaps did have the most influence on his life, everyone’s story is unique and sometimes influences can come from the most unexpected of places. Cue…
…The truth behind Jack’s necklace
Let’s not even pretend that we thought Jack had some sordid love affair with a Vietnamese woman, because at this point we know the show better than that. Instead, we learned he came into possession of that woman’s necklace because he saved her son from a life-threatening wound—a wound the boy got trying to scale the wire fence.
The story (which played out over Thanksgiving) was moving on so many levels. It featured Nicky—a medic—basically giving up hope on humanity following what happened to his first staff sergeant “Bones,” a man who had tremendous influence on him. “They’re not just women and children,” he told Jack, revealing the betraying nature of Bones’ death.
But aren’t they? As we were watching the story unfold we couldn’t help but feel a wrenching in our stomachs. We hear about war doing terrible things to a person’s psyche, but to blatantly refuse to help a child in need? It’s a hard thing to witness. Will Jack go on to regret his decision to help the kid and his mom? Will Nicky be proven wrong? And how will mental health factor into it all? One thing is clear, and that’s the fact that Nicky needs serious help. Whether or not he ever got it remains to be seen.
Meanwhile in another flashback story we learned more about William and Jesse’s origins when the show delved into their relationship. The story felt a little out of place given everything else happening in the episode, but maybe that’s just because we would have liked to go even more in-depth into those two characters’ lives.
As it stood, there was genuine warmth and chemistry between Jesse and William from the moment they met over that piano, and you can totally see why they clicked. Of course we’ll take any excuse for more William in our lives; going forward we’re just going to hope for more flashbacks into that particular storyline.
Helping out at the soup kitchen
In another corner of the Pearson world, Randall and his wife/field director Beth headed over to a small soup kitchen to connect with the community and to work on Randall’s campaign, much to the frustration of Jae-Won. The campaign manager wanted a bigger venue and pushed for a photo opp, something Beth disagreed with harder than Deja disagreed with only giving out one cookie.
“She’s my wife,” Randall firmly told Jae-Won, which of course Beth overheard. The conversation made her realize her husband was just trying to give her a win and didn’t really agree with all of her campaign ideas, which is sad on so many levels. Yes, it’s sweet that Randall loves her so much that he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, but we really expected Beth to kick butt in the role. This is going to be a serious blow to her self-esteem and make her question things in her marriage down the line, which has us worried. Beth and Randall are pretty much #RelationshipGoals, so messing with them is not something we’re particularly excited about.
Parents of the year
Meanwhile over at Beth and Randall’s house, Toby and Kate put their recent stresses aside and offered to “whip up” Thanksgiving dinner for the clan as a therapeutic way to prove they can do this family life thing. But when Toby realized Randall has a colour-coded Thanksgiving binder (because of course he does) complete with a cranberry sauce recipe calling for fresh herbs from his garden, he panicked.
For once it was Kate who was the level-headed one and she talked Toby down in the sweetest way, proving yet again that these two don’t get nearly enough credit together. And while it seemed like cooking up a massive dinner was going to be their biggest hurdle of the night, it turns out that Tess, who stayed home from the soup kitchen because she wasn’t feeling well, was going to be the first real parenting test for those two.
When Toby accidentally caught Tess examining sanitary napkins and tampons he freaked, causing Tess to freak out in embarrassment too. That left it up to Kate to gently talk her niece down from the ledge, as she shared the story of her own first period. It turns out Kate, like her late father, is so great at this pep talk thing that Tess even felt comfortable enough to reveal her interest in girls, a reveal that will certainly play out in the near future.
Oh, and as for that Thanksgiving dinner? Toby wrecked it, but then pulled out “Jack Pearson level magic” when he ordered up a bunch of fast food alternatives for the family to mow down on instead.
Miguel takes a stand
We’ve been wondering where Miguel’s family fits into everything, and this episode finally filled us in when we met Amber and Andy. If you thought the Pearsons were lukewarm to Miguel in the past, then Miguel’s kids were positively icy towards Rebecca. That would explain why we don’t see much of them. Miguel smiled through the shots about not knowing his new grandson and Andy shooting down Kevin’s movie, but when Andy accused Rebecca of stealing their father he had enough and put his kids in their place.
Sure, Miguel may have been an absent father leading up to the divorce, but from the sounds of things he tried pretty damned hard to make amends in the years following. You can’t blame the guy for giving up after being ignored for so long though, something he finally told his kids in his own epic speech that culminated in his demanding respect for Rebecca.
In a way the speech worked, as it led to a nice hand-holding moment between Miguel and Amber (and silence from Andy). It reminded us that even the most fractured of relationships can heal with time, effort, and a little honesty, or at least they can in the world of This Is Us.
Man we love this show.
This Is Us streams Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.