Wednesday, February 7, 2018

This Is Us 2.15: “The Car”

“I know in my bones today’s not the day the world gives us bad news. Today, this beautiful perfect day, is the day that my beautiful, perfect wife finds out that she’s okay.”
- Jack

Much like “Moon Shadow”, this episode took place exclusively in the past (although at different points in the past). The “present” storyline you could say was the family preparing for and attending Jack’s funeral. The through line of this episode (as one might guess by the title) is the family’s car. When the Big Three are eight or nine, we see the family go and buy the car. The kids are all obsessed with it but Jack and Rebecca know that it’s a bit out of their price range. But, Jack being Jack, behind closed doors manages to convince the salesman to help them out so they can get the car.

The day of the funeral, we see Rebecca waiting for the kids in the car. She’s insisting on getting to the cemetery early to be there when Jack’s urn arrives. She’s very protective of it and we later learn the reason for that. I found it interesting that at the funeral, Miguel gave the eulogy and Randall said a few words. Kevin and Kate are both out of sorts for different reasons. I think Kate is feeling guilty about the dog and Kevin is just pissed at the fact he wasn’t there. Kevin loses it even more when he sees that Randall is wearing Jack’s watch. The boys start arguing and Kate has to break then up. In another flashback, we see Jack teaching Randall how to drive. Kevin’s in the back seat and yet again the boys start arguing. So, Jack makes them walk home. When they get back, he marvels at how they can’t get along like he and his brother did. They both seem surprised by the reference because Jack doesn’t talk about him much. My hunch was confirmed that Nickie died in Vietnam (and it also sounds like we are going to get more of that story before the season’s out!). It was nice to see Jack open up to his boys a little bit about the pain from his past, even if it was just a cursory summation of his life pre-Rebecca.

As Rebecca goes to get some air, we see Kate asking her how Jack died and we also see the beginning of Kate constantly blaming herself for Jack’s death because he went back into the house. We also get a glimpse of teenage Kate and Jack. She’s snuck out of school to try and get to a record shop where Alanis Morsette is signing. Jack picks her up off the side of the road and they go together. They even bond over Bruce Springsteen music! Jack also urges Kate not to give up on writing music. From last week, we know that his death totally stopped her from pursuing this dream which is very sad. I like to hear Kate sing. And at an unspecified time (but likely when the Big Three are teenagers given Jack’s facial hair) we learn that Rebecca had a health scare where she thought she might have a brain tumor and Jack brought her to his favorite tree (which became his favorite when they got the good news that she was fine). He’s just so sweet and he seems to know that she’s going to be okay (and that the car was going to see the family through a lot of ups and downs and memories made).

The one interaction in the “present” that we all knew was coming and I was looking forward to, was Dr. K and his new wife paying their respects. We learned that back when the kids were young, Jack would just show up at Dr. K’s office unannounced looking for advice and help because he had no clue what he was doing and Dr. K was so wise. I liked that we (and Rebecca) got a glimpse of that part of Jack. But it totally fits with who Jack is (and was). It was also lovely to see Dr. K and Rebecca share some private moments together, where he reminds her that she made a really sweet pitcher of lemonade out of everything she’d been given but that she was going to be okay. I’m so happy with how much he’s managed to stay involved in their lives, even though it’s totally random. I also like that we get to see that he’s moved on with his life. I’d almost forgotten that he’d found a new love in his life in a previous episode.

And as the episode comes to a close, Rebecca takes the kids to Jack’s favorite tree and they reminisce a little and spread some of Jack’s ashes. Rebecca promises that they are going to be okay and that she wants the kids to just be kids. And hey, Jack had bought them all Bruce Springsteen tickets for that night and so they go as a family to the concert to celebrate and honor Jack. I kind of wish we’d gotten to see a little of the concert but that would have been super expensive to try and get Springsteen there (and to make him look age appropriate for the 90s).

I did cry a few times this episode but not nearly as much as the previous episode. I felt like we got closure on the loss of Jack and it leaves us open for all kinds of new adventures into his past and the lives of the rest of the Pearson clan. I’m sad we are going on a little hiatus before the final three episodes of the season (damn you, Olympics!) but it gives us some time to get over our loss and get ready for all that’s to come. Besides, we’ve got Deja back with Beth and Randall and Kevin and Kate have to have some new and exciting stuff coming down the line!

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