Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s past is prologue,” and this couldn’t be truer in NBC’s hit drama This Is Us. The show seamlessly toggles between the past and the present to tell the complete story of the Pearson family. In this week’s episode, aptly titled “Déjà Vu,” the Pearson siblings —Randall, Kate and Kevin— reminisce about their formative years and how their parents have impacted their lives.
The show opens with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) attempting to fix their strained relationship. Jack is struggling to work his way through Alcoholics Anonymous’ (AA) 12 steps, but finds it difficult reconciling the pain of his troubled upbringing. Jack’s entire adult life, including his devotion to Rebecca and his passionate embrace of fatherhood, has been propelled by his relationship to his father. As we learned in season one, Jack loathes his abusive and alcoholic dad and vows to never be like him. But addiction is often genetic and Jack falls prey to the bottle. Though he beat it when the kids were little, now that they’re teens and he and Rebecca are having a hard time in their relationship, he’s once again struggling to keep his drinking in check.
Like many men, Jack isn’t used to being vulnerable, so Rebecca feels shut out. Still, she wants to get her relationship back on track so she plans a romantic evening. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Instead of rekindling the flame with her husband, the two admit things just aren’t working. But thankfully, this time, Jack doesn’t shut down, or run to the nearest bar. Jack fights through his apprehension, opens up to Rebecca, and shares a few of his deepest secrets.
For now, they’re back on track, and while fans LOVE seeing Jack and Rebecca being all lovey-dovey with each other, it’s hard to really get emotionally invested in the two fixing their marriage because the circumstances surrounding Jack’s death looms large over it all. We know he’s running out of time, and and we want to know how he died, but are we ready? Probably not. But Jack’s kids, especially Kevin, haven’t fully dealt with it either.
On Tuesday night’s episode Kate (Chrissy Metz) visits her brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) on the set of his new film. He’s shooting with Sylvester Stallone, who just happens to be their father’s favorite actor. Between takes, Kate explains that she’s seen all of his movies because of her father, and thanks Stallone for getting her dad through so many rough patches in life. After telling her to invite her dad to the set, Kate reveals that he passed away when she and Kevin were teens. When they begin filming, Stallone tells Kevin to make his dad proud, but Kevin brushes off the remark, instead telling the film legend his father died a long time ago and he’s over it. Of course, Kevin isn’t over it and Stallone senses it too. He tells Kevin, “There’s no such thing as a long time ago… There’s only memories that mean something and memories that don’t.”
After the emotional gut punch from Rocky himself, Kevin proceeds to flub his lines. He’s flustered and feeling emotional about his father, but just like Jack, he’s unwilling to talk about it. Even when Kate suggests he get help to deal with his feelings, he snaps on his sister and tell her he’s not “sad and damaged” like she is.
But Kevin’s grief is obvious. He hasn’t fully processed his father’s death, because just like Jack told Rebecca, it’s hard to sit in the pain, even if that’s the only way to get past it. Before the episode ends, Kevin hurts his knee and pops a bottle of pills to deal with the injury. Given his father’s and grandfather’s history of alcoholism, it appears that Kevin will go through his own struggle with addiction, because as Kate says, “he’s just like his dad.”
While Kevin attempts to deal with the ever-present grief about his father’s death, our faves, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are preparing to welcome a foster child into their home. After getting over his nerves, Randall is excited about pouring into another child’s life. He tells Beth it’s his way to “honor his parents’ legacy” and to “honor William’s life.” When they get the call, they find out they’ll be receiving a teen named Deja whose mom ran afoul of the law.
When Deja arrives, Randall and Beth roll out the red carpet, but she’s overwhelmed and in shock. Their big house and seemingly perfect life, are worlds apart from the rough life she’s used to, so Deja shuts down. Randall asks the social worker for help and she tells him to relax, something that’s difficult for him. Beth also tells him to chill and he decides to let Deja get settled and try again in the morning.
As Beth unpacks Deja’s things, she finds a pack of cigarettes. When she attempts to question the girl about them, they get into a little tussle and Deja calls Beth a “b-tch.” When Randall enters the room to find out what’s going on, Deja flinches and tries to get as far away from him as possible. In addition to being in and out of several foster homes, it’s clear that Deja has also been abused. Randall and Beth decide to give her some space, but overhear a conversation between Deja and their two daughters, Tess and Annie, that makes them feel hopeful things will work out.
The next day, Beth and Randall sit Deja down and Randall tells the girl he knows how she feels. He explains that he was adopted by a great family as a baby, but searched for his birth parents for years before finally finding his father, William. Randall admitted he often felt torn between worlds, but he ended up having a great life full of extended family who loved him. He tells Deja, “Seeing you is giving me that sweet, sweet deja vu feeling,” and says he thinks she’ll have a great life too, full of people who love her.
But… it won’t be easy. When Beth and Randall break the news to Deja that her mother’s legal woes may keep her away longer than she thought, the girl storms out of the room, breaking one of the pictures Randall shared with her in the process. Though Randall rarely fails at anything, it’s clear that his perfectly imperfectly life is about to get even more complicated.