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THIS IS US Recap: Passing the Torch in “A Philadelphia Story”

By on October 3, 2018

THIS IS US -- "A Philadelphia Story" Episode 302 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin Pearson, Chrissy Metz as Kate Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

While last night’s This is Us didn’t shed any new light on the identity of the mysterious “her,” or further explore Rebecca’s mustachioed early-days suitor, it did neatly bring together two storylines featuring Kevin’s premiere, and life with the Pearsons in the aftermath of Jack’s death. Both stories served as a stark reminder of how Jack Pearson’s torch was being carried by those he left behind, then and now.

Over the course of the hour we learn Kevin’s movie premiere means more to him than just the opportunity to bask in the congratulations of his family and peers, as evidenced by a dream in which he’s attending the screening with Kate (who is crying) and Jack (who is asleep). His anxiety is heightened when he asks Zoe to come to the premiere as his date, but is turned down. Zoe is off to Chicago, and won’t even allow Kevin to drive her to the airport.

He is crushed.

Let’s not forget that when Jack and Kevin last spoke, Kevin was bathing in misery, having lost out his football scholarship. He later tells Kate “He never saw me act. He was always the hardest one on me, and I think that was because he was the one person in the world that ever took me seriously. I always wondered if someone could take me seriously, give me a real shot to be the man who he thought I could be.”

The success of Kevin’s film is tied completely to his deep rooted desire to prove himself to his dad, which could be a bad thing if the movie bombs. We never get to find out, as the credits close just as the movie begins, and the cliffhanger ending is not truly Kevin’s but Randall’s.

In a flashback to the months following Jack’s death we see Kevin beginning to drink heavily, and Kate beginning to eat heavily, while Rebecca struggles to get out of bed in the morning. The only happy note is Randall’s acceptance to Howard where he hopes he will finally fit in. However, when Rebecca admits the true depth of her depression and grief, and both Kevin and Kate admit they are never going to college, Randall makes the dubious decision to forfeit his place, telling the admissions officer on the phone that he has to “stay close to family” for now.

Randall’s inability to find a place he feels he truly belongs is mirrored in the present day when he confronts a local councilman about the appalling conditions in the rec center across the street from William’s old building (now owned by Randall and Beth.) While the councilman is pleased to learn a person of color is acting as the current landlord, he is remiss in staying true to his promise to send a team to address a hole in the wall, a leaky pipe, missing street lights, and a plethora of other problems. Randall decides to take on the task himself — one faulty lightbulb at a time. However, a Nigerian woman, Gigi, who knew William well in the past, is at hand to remind a crestfallen Randall that “You are not one of us. You brought your daughter to come and play here. But instead of sitting and chatting and getting to know the place you spent the whole day seeing its problems. We are not our problems.” 

No good deed goes unpunished, then.

Matters are made worse for Randall at Kevin’s premiere that night.  In a callback to his earlier conversation with the councilman in which he admitted he had two dead fathers he’s constantly trying to make proud, Randall admits to Beth “stuff’s always complicated for me — Where I fit in, how I come off to certain people. It’s either I’m trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I can never get it right.”

Both brothers, who have been trying so hard to honor the memory of their dead father in different ways, take a moment before the curtain goes up at the premiere to check in with one another. Kevin informs Randall about Kate and Toby’s IVF treatment, including Kate’s dramatic assertion that she will most likely be the only person in the Pearson family to “pass on a piece” of their father. Now it’s Randall’s turn to be crushed, and we watch as he sits stunned and speechless as the movie begins.

For both Kevin and Randall the realization that it’s how they live, not what they make, as the best means of honoring their father, seems just out of reach.

This is Us continues Tuesdays on NBC.

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