Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This Is Us 3.11: “Songbird Road: Part One”

“Your father saw things in black and white, never shades of gray.”
- Nicky

After waiting, we finally know what happened to Nicky and Jack in Vietnam after that explosion. We explore that incident as Jack and the Big Three make separate trips to see Nicky in Pennsylvania. We see that after the war, Jack would get post cards from Nicky and just stash them in a drawer at his office until one day he gets home from bringing the kids in from baseball practice and gets a post card at home. He lies to Rebecca, saying he needs to take a trip the next day for work but in reality, he’s going to see Nicky in his run-down trailer. It is rather sad, given that we see them as young boys and Nicky wants to have two houses on a lake and a boat.

It is pretty clear that Jack doesn’t want anything to do with his baby brother at this point but he sticks around just long enough to let Nicky reminisce about their childhood a little. When Nicky tries to bring up the war, Jack shuts him down completely. He doesn’t want to talk about it or think about it again. I understand that the war was hard on Jack like it was for a lot of the men who served and I suppose knowing what we do now about what went down with Nicky his stance is understandable. In flashback we see Nicky wake up the morning after he was fake shooting people on the dock. The little boy whose foot he refused to bandage shows up and at first Nick is taunting him by eating a chocolate bar but then, the little boy takes Nicky’s glasses and they end up laughing and Nicky takes the boy out on a boat o catch fish. As soon as he started using grenades to stun the fish, I knew it was going to end poorly. Ultimately, he grabs one where the pin is stuck and then he wrestles with the little boy who tries to pick it up. Needless to say, the grenade goes off and the boy dies. Nicky dives overboard just beforehand. Jack obviously thinks Nicky did this on purpose and he exclaims that he’s done with Nicky. Given how shell-shocked Nicky is through this whole situation, I can see why he was sent to a psych hospital upon his return.

In the present, the Big Three head out to find their uncle, leaving Rebecca and Miguel to watch Randall and Beth’s girls (Beth has a bunch of job interviews). Rebecca is having a real hard time with the fact Jack lied about his brother. As we see throughout the episode, even when Jack got back and told her he in fact went to see someone from the war instead of work, she didn’t push for more information. Now, she regrets not pushing harder. Miguel gets rather eloquent about the whole thing saying that Rebecca and the kids were Jack’s light but she’s not buying it. I still love Jack and I think he sacrificed a lot for his family but he definitely has his faults. He isn’t the superhero we all thought him to be in season 1.

The Big Three make it to Nicky’s trailer and he’s an old man and just as crotchety. He lets them come in but he’s not really interested in talking to them. But then Kate refuses to leave because Kevin has been on this journey and she wants her brother to get answers. I thought he would have no clue about the Big Three but before Jack left, he showed his brother a picture of Rebecca and the kids. So at least Nicky knew he had nephews and a niece. But he didn’t know about Jack’s death. Randall drops that truth on him after Nicky explains about what happened back in Vietnam. I found it interesting his little reaction to Randall saying that Jack died of a heart attack from smoke inhalation after getting everyone else out. Because that is the Jack, he remembers I’m sure. The one who sacrifices himself for others. Nicky says he never got to tell Jack that the whole thing was an accident. So yeah, it’s understandable why Jack would think he knew what his brother did given his actions leading up to that point but he died having believed his brother was a lost cause. I went back and forth on feeling for Nicky in this episode. By episode’s end, Kevin recalls a conversation he had with Jack right before he left to go see Nicky when Jack explained that he could either repeat his father’s mistakes or correct them. Kevin has a feeling and they go back to the trailer to find Nicky sitting there with a gun. It seems that this time Kevin will be the one to bring home a long lost relative to try and save.

I thought Nicky had some good points about Jack. He is very segmented in his thinking and he compartmentalizes a lot. I also found it interesting that it seemed Jack took all of Nicky’s problems during the war as a personal failing of his. He couldn’t save his brother and so he just pretended like he was dead because it was easier than having to deal with the reality. It does make Jack more human which isn’t a bad thing but it is interesting to see the cracks in his person. He still has many great qualities as I said before but when it comes to his family especially, he acts like his past doesn’t matter and doesn’t need to be shared. Jack held onto and hid a lot of pain from his life from the people he should have been sharing it with and it has rippled through their lives for decades. I am intrigued to see how Rebecca reacts to meeting Nicky in the next episode and if Kevin is able to pull off a Randall and bring this lost member of the Pearson clan back into the fold.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

This Is Us 3.10: “The Last Seven Weeks”

“What a great life you’re gonna have. What a great man you’re gonna be.”
- Jack

It feels like it was a long time ago that we were with the Pearson clan. This episode picks up in media res on election night for Randall before jumping back to take a look at what happened for everyone over the last seven weeks. At the start of the episode, Randall has clearly stayed in the election and while he was down in the poll numbers before, at the time it was too close to call. Jumping back seven weeks, we find that Beth and Randall are not in a good place. He puts all of his focus on the campaign to the detriment of the family and Beth is clearly angry about it. From flashbacks to the trip he and Jack took the DC shortly before the fire, we see that he and Jack have a very interesting conversation about Randall’s future and that Jack knows his son is going to be a great man. Over the course of the episode, Randall struggles to live up to that belief. But, things start to look up for Randall as things get closer to the election. Sure, he and Beth right before Christmas because she did all the shopping for the girls and he’s been off being a man of the people and he accuses her of being angry that he’s got something he’s passionate about in his life while she is still struggling to find a new job. But, on New Year’s Eve, after having a conversation with the local reverend (who has historically been in his opponent’s corner), Randall goes home and apologizes to the family for not making them his priority. I have to admit, I am glad that Beth and Randall are back on good terms. It was uncomfortable to see them struggling because for most of the show we’ve known them to be this stable, supportive couple. Of course, even they can have issues and it makes it all the more real. But, yeah, I’m glad they are back to a united front.

Kate and Toby are having some issues of their own. The pregnancy is going along just fine and they are starting to put the nursery together. Kate tells Toby he has to sell all of his “toys” (girl, action figures are not toys). She accidentally sells a box of his Star Wars figures to some frat bro nerd named Gabe. He explains to Kate that he had been bringing them with him everywhere he moved in preparation to give to his child one day. Kate and Toby try to get the figures back but the frat bro isn’t having any of it. Not even when Kate breaks out the “I’m pregnant and have nothing to give my child because my house burned down and my father died” sob story. But, things aren’t that tense between her and Toby for long because she tries to replace them. He also makes a similar gesture by getting a guy who makes dollhouses to make a replica of the stadium Jack built her when she was younger. This storyline got me thinking a bit about legacies and what we give to our children. I know I have a ton of Power Rangers toys sitting in my parent’s basement that our little boy will get to play with!

Speaking of Jack, Kevin and Zoe are still on the hunt for more information about Nicky. They get back to town and after Zoe makes mention of being happy to be “home” Kevin suggests she move in and she accepts. She even gets all of her stuff shipped from Chicago to New York. But things aren’t all that rosy. Kevin’s search for information through the VA is stymied by the fact he needs proof of his relationship to Nick or a letter on his behalf from someone with clout. Like a Congressperson whom Zoe knows because she dated them for a little while. He takes the meeting but things are super tense between them and while he agrees to send a request on Kevin’s behalf, the Congressman sort of storms off. Kevin obviously probes into what went down and Zoe explained that she and the Congressman were going to move in together but she didn’t feel like it was right so she broke up with him after two years in a brief email. Ouch. I don’t blame the guy for still being hurt. But Kevin starts to see signs that maybe Zoe is going to do something similar. She hasn’t unpacked her stuff yet. Oh, and when he does get the file on Nicky from the VA it’s very thin on detail. We do learn that Nicky was med-evaced out of Vietnam in 1971 and sent to a hospital in the US for a psych eval before being discharged and signing himself out of treatment as “Clark Kent”. So, we know that Nicky definitely didn’t die in that explosion we heard. It does still make me wonder if Nicky was attempting suicide and that’s what led to him being discharged. Kevin and Zoe have quite the blow up after getting this information and they don’t speak again until election night. Zoe gives Kevin his key back but later on, she explains that because of what happened with her father, she’s never really felt safe living with another person. But she wants to live with Kevin because she loves him. They reconcile and then start unpacking. Zoe finds a box of Jack’s war mementos which includes some post cards including one with a Pennsylvania return address from someone named CK.

So, we clearly know that Jack both knew Nicky wasn’t dead and was still corresponding with him up to a certain point. Very interesting. It presents a ton of new questions. What has Nicky been up to this whole time? Does he know that Jack died and more importantly, why would Jack lie to literally everyone about his brother being dead? It definitely seems very unlike Jack to hide. I get that war was tough on him and everything and he didn’t want to talk about that experience. But, something else must have happened to keep him from telling the truth to his family. Based on the promo for the next episode, it looks like Jack was still visiting Nicky well into the Big Three being around (based on the facial hair). Can it be next week yet?