Tuesday night’s episode of This Is Us was a masterclass in mothering, while the dads on the show —Jack and Randall— have had several standout moments, this week the Rebecca and Beth got to show exactly why mothers can be your best allies.
When the show opened, we flash back to the 1980s as the Pearson clan searches for videos to rent for an upcoming snowstorm. While they try to decide between films like “Roadhouse” and “Look Who’s Talking,” they learn that Kevin isn’t feeling well. After a trip to the doctor, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Many Moore) find out he has the chickenpox, which means the other children will likely get them too. The clan hunkers down for the storm, but when Rebecca’s mother shows up bearing stereotypical gifts (a too-small dress for Kate, a basketball for Randall) and backhanded compliments for the kids, the Pearsons know it’s going to be a tough few days.
Along with her bag of goodies, Rebecca’s mother also brings her critical comments for her daughter and racial microaggressions for Randall. In addition to commenting on Rebecca’s cooking and cleaning abilities, her mother brushes aside young Randall’s excitement about his science project and quips that she’s surprised he’s the sibling who got into an exclusive private school. The implication is clear: she’s surprised because he’s Black. Rebecca gets fed up with her mother’s subtle jabs at her son, and finally calls her mother out for being a racist.
Unfortunately, young Randall is standing within earhot and overhears Rebecca’s conversation with her mother, which leads to an uncomfortable yet necessary talk about race with Randall. Though he says his grandmother has always been nice to him, Jack and Rebecca explain that sometimes racism isn’t overt like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sometimes it’s people saying nice things when they really are being mean. After wondering if his grandma shot MLK, Randall gets what his parents are trying to say. And so did Rebecca’s mother.
While Rebecca’s mother tries explain away her problematic comments as holdovers from her upbringing, Rebecca sets her straight and lets her know that if she can’t get it together and stop disrespecting Randall, she won’t be in her grandchildren’s lives. Rebecca’s mom eventually comes around when she’s saying her goodbyes, and realizes Randall is a special child.
In this episode fans saw very little of Kate (Chrissy Metz) because she’s preparing for her first big gig. She’s exercising (a lot) and eating right to fit into a new dress, but her fiancé, Toby (Chris Sullivan), thinks she’s being obsessive and should relax. While he doesn’t understand why she’s pushing so hard, everything becomes clear when we find out Kate’s six weeks pregnant. Turns out, she isn’t trying to just fit into a dress; she’s trying to improve her health so she can carry a healthy baby to term.
While Kate is on the verge of a huge life change, Kevin (Justin Hartley) inches ever closer to falling into the same trap of addiction his father and grandfather dealt with. After trying to downplay his leg injury because he’s afraid it will harm his acting career, Kevin decides to have knee surgery so he can get back to work. Instead of resting up after the procedure, Kevin tries to immediately rehab his leg, jumping on the treadmill and doing other exercises to speed up his recovery.
Of course, he’s only putting his leg in even more jeopardy, but Kevin is haunted over the prospect of watching yet another dream slip away from him. Initially Kevin refuses to take his pain medication because it made him “feel fuzzy,” but after being faced with the prospects of being away from shooting the film for an extended period of time, he decides to take the meds, which may lead right into his family’s history of addiction.
At Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) house, they are still trying to make their foster daughter Deja feel comfortable. So far, she’s been quiet and brooding, and refusing to wash her hair. Beth wants to confront her about it, but Randall thinks they should focus on making Deja feel like she’s part of the family before picking on her appearance.
To smooth things over Randall takes his daughters and Deja bowling, but his plans get derailed when another girl starts teasing Deja about her hair. The two girls get into a pushing match, which prompts the dads to step in, and Randall is ready to throw hands to protect his girls. The scene ends without any punches being exchanged, but shows just how committed Randall is to making his new foster daughter feel welcome.
After discussing about the incident with Beth, Randall let’s her take the lead on talking to Deja about her hair. Beth shares a tender story about her own sisters and mother, who are all very strong willed, then tells Deja they have to do something about her hair. Beth offers to take Deja to her salon, but the teen asks Beth to do her hair instead.
While combing through Deja’s thick mane, Beth notices several bald patches and explains that one of her sisters also deals with alopecia. Beth tells Deja she can braid her hair to conceal the balds pots, and the two share a super touching moment that many Black moms and daughters experience. For once, it seems like Deja drops her guard and allows Beth to care of her, but when Randall lets it slip that Beth told him about the intimate moment, Deja feels betrayed and cuts off all her hair.
Motherhood is hard, and often times you don’t have all the answers. But Beth and Rebecca’s patience and care for their children show that good mothering can also be healing. It’s clear that Deja has a ways to go before she really feels at home with the Pearsons, but with Beth on her side (and help from a therapist, too), hopefully she’ll be able to feel more comfortable soon.