‘This Is Us’: The Heartbreaking Reasons Why Jack and Rebecca, Kevin and Randall Drifted Apart
Warning: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us. Do not proceed if you haven’t watched!
This Is Us returned with a doozy of an episode that transported us back to the ‘90s, revealing why certain members of the Pearson family drifted apart and how some fractures can never be mended.
It was established early in the series that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) were the quintessential couple in love, welcoming “The Big Three” into their lives with open arms. But as Tuesday’s episode explored the couple’s dog days of marriage, their romantic spark seemingly dissipating by the day.
The heartbreaking origin of Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) sibling rivalry — borne from childhood — was also addressed in the latest installment, culminating in a present day Midtown scuffle and confrontation. Here, we dissect the biggest revelations.
Jack and Rebecca
Thematically, the episode centered on the Pearsons’ washing machine and it was a vital symbol of the various cycles of life the family of five have shared together. We’ve seen Jack and Rebecca pre-marriage and pre-kids, happily (and sometimes selfishly) enjoying life with no strings attached. We’ve seen them in the honeymoon phase of raising “The Big Three.” And now, we’ve seen them showing signs of a relationship heading toward disrepair.
The first sign of trouble came almost immediately, when Jack forgot to kiss Rebecca (she had to remind him) before heading off to work in the morning, a daily ritual he previously had done without pause. Jack admitted that fact to Miguel (Jon Huertas), almost resigned to the fact that his marriage was evolving into a place he wasn’t quite sure of.
To make matters worse, Miguel’s young female assistant entered the picture, flirting with her boss, causing Jack to raise an eyebrow at his married friend. Was there more going on? It didn’t help that the perky assistant fixed his unkempt tie and uttered these toxic words, “Your wife would’ve fixed that.” Yikes, way to rub salt in the wound.
Rebecca, meanwhile, went back to pursuing her dream of becoming a singer, reuniting with a good friend, played by True Blood’s Sam Trammell, from before she was married. (Her maiden name is Malone, for the record.) With Jack rising professionally and Rebecca carving out her own dreams, it seems clear that their paths are diverging. The heartbreaking scene in the bedroom, when Rebecca tried to tell her husband about her successful rehearsal, was a punch to the gut. Knowing that Jack eventually ends up in an urn also doesn’t bode well for the couple.
Kevin and Randall
Ever since they were kids, the brothers have had a contentious relationship — some of which was briefly touched on in “The Pool.” In Tuesday’s episode, though, Kevin and Randall finally confronted their resentment for the other after harboring it for years. In a flashback to when they were teens, it was revealed that it was Kevin who chose to stop sharing a bedroom with Randall over some innocuous things.
“You always got special treatment, because you’re black and you’re adopted,” Kevin confronted Randall in the middle of Midtown Manhattan in the present day. “Just admit that you were more important to her and she wanted to make sure that you felt special every single minute of every day so that you wouldn’t feel like the odd man out.”
Randall was equally passionate about why he felt slighted by his brother over the past several decades. “You treated me like a dog, and just like a dog I kept coming back,” he said. “I kept coming again and again, just hoping for a scrap from you, like a crumb of affection, of kindness or respect.”
“You wanted my respect? You wanted to show me up, Randall, which is what you did every single chance you got, you showed me up! Any other family, I would’ve been the star,” Kevin said, to which Randall responded with a hurtful, “You’re no star,” before the brothers got into a scuffle in the middle of the Big Apple.
Notably, after the fist fight (which featured a cameo by Seth Meyers), Kevin introduced Randall to the crowd that had amassed around them as his brother — the first time he’s ever done that. Randall then explained that he was simply seeking love and attention from his brother, and when he didn’t get it after a significant period of time, he built up resentment. At the end of the episode, things seemed to get on the right track, with Kevin inviting Randall to hang out in the basement. Is this the start of a thawing between brothers?
Beth and William
Speaking of Randall, his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), discovers — by accident, mind you — that William (Ron Cephas Jones) and Rebecca had a previous relationship after he slips and mentions the book of poems he gifted her all those years ago. That puts Beth in a compromising position, certainly, and she does what any good wife would do: Call Rebecca for a chat. Like, a real chat.
According to the teaser for next week’s Thanksgiving episode, Randall finds out in due time about the secret deal William and Rebecca hatched — and he’s understandably broken up over it. Can you imagine a parent keeping your biological parent from you for years and lying about it? Chew on that for a moment.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.