Before diving in on this week’s breakdown, check out Def Pen’s breakdown of last week’s episode if you missed it or just need a refresher!
So, This Is Us has always played with time in a really fun way. But, this season and this episode, in particular, is really ambitious in the way it weaves together its multiple stories across time. Things pick up this week as Deja and Malick head to school. However, on the way there, they decide to take the day off to explore Philadelphia together. Meanwhile, in the past, Jack is very obviously stressed about their big dinner with Randall’s teacher, Mr. Lawrence, as he dresses up much nicer for dinner than Rebecca’s ever seen for a weekend. Back in the present, we pick up after Deja’s big day out as Randall and Beth discuss what to do with her. Being Pearsons, they decide that the best course of action is to invite Malick’s family over for dinner so that they can all get to know each other better.
In the past, Mr. Lawrence arrives with his wife and Jack’s unease goes through the roof as he sees the effect the teacher has on Randall. His feelings are reflected in the present as Randall and Beth are equally uneasy when Malick and his parents arrive. However, before we see any of that, we pick up on Deja and Malick during their day off. The young couple visits a local cheesesteak restaurant and Deja is shocked to see the connections Malick has. He immediately makes her feel welcome by introducing her to the entire restaurant. After that, the two of them head to a local mural and flirt awkwardly before taking a montage trip across the city to a park. While there, Deja freaks out a bit and questions Malick’s motives and asks that he take her back to school.
Meanwhile, Randall and Beth’s dinner is off to a rough start as Beth butts heads with Malick’s mother, Kelly. However, Randall and Malick’s father Darnell find some common ground in fatherhood and get along surprisingly well. Just about the exact opposite is true in the past as Jack awkwardly tries to one-up Mr. Lawrence multiple times throughout dinner. It gets to the point where Rebeccas pulls Jack aside to chastise him for trying to force Randall to choose between him and his teacher. Back at the dinner in Philly, things get heated as the parents take time to talk alone. Beth and Randall question Malick’s influence on Deja as Darnell and Kelly do the same for Deja’s influence on their son. Just as things start to boil over, Deja appears to apologize for disappointing them all but refuses to apologize for her feelings for Malick.
In the past, dinner wraps up the same way it started: awkwardly. However, Jack rushes out to Mr. Lawrence before he and his wife leave to apologize and try to find some common ground. He asks for help in teaching his son “how to be black,” an idea Mr. Lawrence shuts down before giving him a book of poetry Randall has grown to love. Jack takes it inside to Randall and offers to read it with him as a way of connecting with his son. Meanwhile, as their day off comes to an end Malick proves his feelings to Deja and takes her to a spot she barely remembered from her childhood, prompting her to kiss him. And, finally, Randall and Beth’s dinner ends unceremoniously after Deja’s declaration to the parents. However, Randall and Beth come to tell her that they’re going to continue letting her see Malick, under supervision of course.
So, this wasn’t the strongest episode of the season. But, I still enjoyed it. I wish we could’ve seen more of Darnell and Malick’s relationship (theirs is probably my favorite of the new characters this season) but overall I think it was a solid episode. Its tighter focus on a few stories was both a positive and a negative, negative because so much happened last week that we now have to wait another week to see. But, a positive because we got to see so much get settled within a few storylines in just one episode.
This week, I think the MVP has to go to Malick. He got the girl and had more than a few moments to shine this episode. His parents may not be on the best terms with Randall and Beth but, he still managed to win them over as they’re going to allow that relationship to continue.
Did I cry?
Nah, this week had a lot more tension than usual so the catharsis at the end of the episode was more of a relief than an outpouring of emotions. My no-crying streak is back up to two now.
Now, here’s a look at the best three moments from tonight’s episode:
3. “It’s crazy that you have a baby.”
Alright, I want to kick off this week’s list with a little moment but by far the funniest of the episode. There’s often humor in This Is Us but, very rarely does it elicit a genuine laugh from me as this one did. Annie’s blunt, innocuous declaration clears the air for the viewer, even if it doesn’t do so for the characters in the scene. Kids usually tell it how it is and here it’s no different because Annie’s right, it IS crazy that Malick has a kid.
2. “I’m out of my depth here.”
This moment served as the main cathartic release of the episode. Though an understanding was reached in the present (more on that in a minute), it wasn’t nearly as amicable as this one. Jack put his pride aside and asked for help from Mr. Lawrence, something that we’ve seen him do many times before but, like last week, to see him do so with Randall specifically is a nice change of pace and something I still think we don’t see enough of.
1. “What you’re not gonna do is write him off.”
So, as I mentioned above, this moment was much more confrontational than Jack’s conversation in the past. But, that doesn’t mean it was mean-spirited by any means. Sure, Kelly and Beth looked like they were about to throw down for a minute there but, Darnell’s speech here about his son comes from a place of love and longing to be understood. He owns his past and put’s Malick’s life into perspective, something that obviously leaves an impression on Randall and Beth as they ultimately decide to allow Deja to continue dating him.
Well, based on the promo we’re definitely going to begin seeing the fallout for Kevin and Cassidy’s new relationship. It seems like Nicky’s going to take a hard stance against Kevin for sleeping with her so I’m interested to see if he’ll start taking on a Jack-esque role for his nephew. It seems like we’re finally going to start learning more about what puts Rebecca in the hospital in those flash-forwards from last season. And, with only a few episodes left until the mid-season break, I think we’ll likely see the emotions get turned up to eleven over the next few weeks.
You can check out the promo for next week’s episode, “Sorry,” below:
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 7/8 C on NBC.