Last week, the season premiere of This is Us honored a show tradition, in featuring the Big Three's birthdays. This week delivers one of the show's other, quieter traditions: turning the spotlight onto characters who aren't the Big Three. Déjà (Lyric Ross), Nicky (Griffin Dunne), and to an extent, Miguel (Jon Huertas), get the main character treatment, in the context of love stories. Déjà heads to Boston to visit her boyfriend Malik (Asante Blackk), and Nicky, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and Miguel head on a road trip to reunite Nicky with his only love, Sally.
Through these adventures, characters get closure and epiphanies and make big decisions. Meanwhile, audiences are finally gifted some fleshing out of one complicated, controversial relationship, and receive a conclusive answer about a mystery unleashed in the season five finale: who Nicky marries. Fitting, then, that the episode is called "One Giant Leap," a direct continuation of the episode last season titled "One Small Step…," which was dedicated to Nicky's struggle to move toward a better future. (I'm sure there's a metaphorical reason for the writers' affinity for connecting the Big Three to space exploration, but I'll leave it up to the audience — sound off below!)
However, before we get to Nicky's latest arc, let's talk about Déjà.
Déjà heads to Boston to visit Malik at Harvard. On the bus ride up, an elderly woman, upon learning of Déjà's plans, says: "there's nothing like young love; it changes you."
When Déjà arrives, she's unpleasantly surprised at having to meet Malik's baby mama, Jennifer, who's picking up baby Janelle for the day. Jennifer is frustrated because Malik is late and Janelle isn't ready, so she's snippy with Malik and rude to Déjà.
Once Jennifer leaves, Déjà prompts Malik to admit he's struggling with juggling Harvard's demanding workload with taking care of Janelle and dealing with Jennifer. He's currently specifically stressed about a paper. Déjà insists he finish his paper, even though it means less time together.
When Malik returns, she greets him in a new, long, red, floral dress. Stunned, he pulls a very Randall-like move, calling her "incandescent" (instead of just beautiful). He says he loves her and they soon head to a party. However, not long into the party, Déjà insinuates she's ready to be intimate with him for the first time, so they head home. Their tryst begins with awkward, nervous tension, but eventually, they embrace. Afterward, Déjà lays with him in calm bliss, saying she wants to feel like that forever with him. When Randall later texts her to ask how her visit was, she responds: "life-changing."
Will Déjà and her high school boyfriend/first love go the distance, as she seems to desire? Or will life pull them apart? To be determined.
Rebecca and Miguel
As they prepare for their trip to find Nicky's long-lost love Sally, Rebecca badgers Miguel about certain tasks. He patiently acknowledges her concerns and sets out on this crazy adventure. On the way, Rebecca ponders how Jack would feel seeing his wife, estranged brother, and best friend-turned-romantic-successor together. Nicky thinks his head would explode, but Rebecca thinks he'd be delighted. She then turns on the radio to the song "Hooked on a Feeling." The three of them adorably burst out singing (Miguel — actor Jon Huertas — has pipes!), but Rebecca gets lost in a memory of singing that song with Jack while taking a drive in a convertible.
Rebecca returns to that memory again later and then ruminates on the past more generally during a conversation with Sally. They joke about how hot they both were, and Rebecca sadly remarks that while Jack got that ideal version of her, Miguel didn't. Then Sally reflects on how she stopped taking self-portraits — her former passion — because she stopped wanting to see herself. She wonders when aging takes that toll. Rebecca says, for her, that toll was salsa dancing. She and Miguel used to go often, but when a young woman pointed at Rebecca like she was brave for still dancing, Rebecca gave it up, embarrassed. The women continue talking about aging (and trying to hide it). It's beautiful to see Rebecca have a conversation with a friend, about something only a peer could relate to; it's Rebecca outside her dynamic with her children.
Rebecca later apologizes to Miguel for the tough journey he faces with her condition. However, he insists he's perfectly willing and ready to support her and go through it together. Huertas and co-star Mandy Moore told EW fans were going to be made to root for Miguel, if they haven't been already, and while this isn't exactly the scene they were referring to, it's certainly a good step. The whole episode, in fact, shows his patience and utter loving devotion. Who wouldn't appreciate that?
Bolstering the case, we see Rebecca and Miguel return to salsa dancing, in romantic bliss.
On the way to find Sally, Nicky practices his opening line, then insists they stop at a store so Nicky can buy her a camera. However, the price sends him spiraling into second-guessing the entire plan. He confesses that contrary to what he let Miguel and Rebecca believe, he never reached out to Sally, and isn't even sure he's found the right woman. He wants to abort, but Rebeca refuses to let him. She and Miguel buy the camera and they continue on.
When they finally arrive at their destination, Nicky is ecstatic to find Sally. She doesn't initially recognize him, but when Rebecca provides an introduction and background, and Nicky subsequently hands Sally the camera, she remembers him and delightfully invites them in. Nicky is elated, but soon enters Sally's (good-looking) husband Eric. Crushed, Nicky wants to flee but Sally invites them to dinner.
Over dinner, Sally asks exactly how she and Nicky met. Nicky talks about the veterinary clinic, recounting exactly what she looked like the moment he saw her, back in 1969 (she wore a long red, floral dress, just like Déjà, with Malik). Then Nicky notes she took his virginity under "a moon that man had just walked on." Classic unfiltered Nicky. Sally is overjoyed as it all comes back to her — and she jokes about being glad she didn't forget everything as if she had Alzheimer's.
Triggered, Rebecca interjects by explaining her condition, noting she wonders what her last memory will be before she loses everything, and pondering aloud why getting older, and especially suffering something like Alzheimer's, hasn't kept her from sweating the small stuff.
In support, Eric and Miguel share the "small stuff" they've wasted time worrying about. Then Nicky says his is Sally, but he doesn't regret spending time thinking about her because it got him through difficult times, as a beacon of hope. He's not even mad about "the most awkward dinner of all time." This is major growth because Nicky has always been pessimistic and easily derailed by bad news, but here, he's optimistic and able to value disappointment.
However, things turn messier as Sally airs out her marital issues — she and Eric eat and watch television separately, and he's treated her for so long like just a line cook. She storms out of the room. Rebecca follows her to comfort her, and the two bond over old age and lost romance, until Nicky interrupts to initiate an exit. On his way out, Nicky notices, gleefully, that on a photo board, Sally has a photo she took of him in her van all those years ago.
Though the fighting between Sally and Eric suggested Sally might leave her husband for Nicky, the goodbye between the former lovers suggests otherwise, and later, something else happens which proves Nicky's Sally chapter was fully closed at that moment.
Nicky decides to return east. Next thing we know, he's on a flight. He banters playfully with the flight attendant, invoking her name "Edie." There's a flashforward, to the night everyone gathers for Rebecca's final moments. We see — as we originally did in episode five of last season — Randall and Déjà acknowledge the arrival of another guest. Ever since then fans have made many guesses about the mystery person — it's Kate, Madison, Kate and Toby's children, and ... Malik!
Well, we finally see the person is a woman … it's Edie … Nicky kisses her … And just like that, two mysteries are officially solved — the unidentified guest and who Nicky marries — and fans can rejoice that one Pearson got their happy ending. Now, on to see the others get theirs.
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