Warning: This recap of the “The Right Thing to Do” episode of This Is Us contains spoilers.
This is sacrifice.
The latest episode of This Is Us could have easily been called that. Whether it is facing a fear of surgery or admitting you love someone, accepting someone’s choice to quit chemo even though it may shorten your time together, selling your beloved wheels, or letting your abusive dad belittle you in order to get a loan so you can put a roof over your unborn children’s heads, there comes a time in every relationship where you make a concession for the greater good.
Of course, as Kevin finds out, doing what you believe to be the right thing can still turn out wrong.
JACK AND REBECCA
The opening scene flashed back further than the show ever has before to Jack as a teenager. He walks in to stand up to his dad, who was bullying his mom, and we get the sense that Dad might have walked out on them that night. His mom makes him promise to “never be like him.”
Flash-forward to Jack and Rebecca looking for a new place that can accommodate their impending baby. Even the six-floor walkup is going to be a stretch for them, but Jack assures her he will find a way, and, in fact, has already put down the deposit, first and last. But a meeting with their ob-gyn throws a wrench in his imperfectly laid plan — they are expecting triplets. (Interesting to note: After the appointment, the doc retreats to the lounge, where he has an exchange with Dr. K, who foreshadows, “Always a headache with triplets. Just glad they are your patients, not mine,” which we’re pretty sure is the first scene without at least one member of the extended Pearson clan in it.)
Jack and Rebecca return to what was the perfect apartment, which now feels small, and freak out. Rebecca offers to cry to get their deposit back, which Jack already tried. “Full waterworks like a little boy,” he jokes. (We think.) She then immediately starts fretting over her lunch date with her mom, the mom we know later is cut off because she treats Randall differently than the twins. “The condescension and the judgment! Oh,” she pouts. When Jack tries to walk back her worry, she snaps, “I get it. My passive-aggressive mother is nothing compared to your abusive father. Jesus. I’m upset and hormonal.”
Jack, ever the fixer, promises to “figure something out.” His first stop is his boss at a “money pit” project. He bumps him up 10 percent, but it won’t be enough.
Lunch with Mom goes as well as expected. She orders for Rebecca, including changing her soda to diet, and then she really digs in: “Jack does it again. He can’t even get you pregnant responsibly — a handyman with triplets.”
Rebecca returns home to share her mom’s postpregnancy plan. All five of them would move in with Rebecca’s parents for a year or two to save money. Jack assumes she’s pulling his leg: “Oh, you’re serious. Babe, your mother drives you nuts. You sure you want her standing over your shoulder every minute with three babies?”
Rebecca puts on a brave face, saying she means well and how it could be good for them. “I want to try and keep an open mind,” she pleads, before asking her hubby to make an ice cream run. When he forgets his wallet and runs back upstairs, he hears her secretly sobbing in the kitchen. Knowing they won’t survive living with the in-laws, he does the unthinkable and knocks on his co-creator sperm donator’s door and asks for a loan. He huffs, “You must be in a real jam to come to me.” To avoid including the jerk in what is good in his life, he takes off his wedding ring and says he’s in gambling trouble, criticizes himself (“You were right about me, I’m no good”), and allows his father another few jabs at his mom. He also sells his beloved Chevelle and buys his boss’s money pit. He takes Rebecca to the house and fudges where the money came from. Despite its many problems (which he only has six months to fix), she starts to imagine life with kids. “This could work,” she enthuses. “We have a home.”
Kevin and Sloane come up from the basement and are met by William and Beth sitting at the breakfast table. Kevin says, “I know what you are thinking. That this is not a flophouse. Also, you’re probably thinking that sleeping with the writer of the play I’m producing is probably going to blow up in my face, but we artists don’t have normal professional relationships. We have what I like to call ‘artnerships.’”
In traditional Kevin style, he deflects, asking William, “How’s the sequel to Beginners going? I say that because you are gay now.”
William, unfazed, says, “I’ve always loved men and women, and a lot of artists believe sexuality isn’t fixed, it’s fluid.”
Randall, only catching part of the conversation, asks what’s fluid. Kevin cracks, “Oh, your bio-daddy is only half gay.” Now, it’s Randall’s turn to change the subject. He suggests dim sum for dinner. When William mentions he’s already got plans with Jessie, Randall awkwardly does a terrible Soup Nazi impression.
Back at work, Kevin and Sloane run through “The Back of an Egg,” which Kevin is now financing since Olivia bailed. The director deadpans, “I said to myself, ‘Ron, old boy, you’ve won three Tonys and here you are directing a failed sitcom actor’s vanity project.’ Now I have to admit you two are great together. You’re honest. You’re raw.”
High on the praise, Sloane also confronts Kevin about what they’re doing. “Are we just sleeping together?” Kevin is typically easygoing and noncommittal about it: “I like you. A lot. I like that we are sleeping together. I like the fact that you’re funny and you’re brilliant, even though you’re from Long Island. [Which he explains that he said because he has heard other New Yorkers slam it and he wants to fit in.] I don’t know what we are. That’s the truth, but I like the fact that there’s a ‘we’ to talk about.”
Olivia, now blonde, butts in. She has returned after a trip to find “authenticity” that included taking Ayahuasca in Utah, howling at the moon, and fishing for lobster in Maine. “I made a physical change to match the spiritual one. You said a lot of things to me. You told me I was cruel [and] worse, inauthentic. But you were right,” she tells Kevin. “I am back now and better than ever. I did it all for the play and for you. I want us to be together. I am ready for something real.”
Sloane boldly jumps in to say they are dating now: “Life goes on after you disappear.” But the director is thrilled to see his star has returned. And it is up to Kevin to decide how the show goes on. Unbeknownst to Kevin, Sloane overhears his conversation with Olivia. “I’m going to keep Sloane in the play. She’s good and I trust her. She didn’t abandon us,” he says before Olivia inquires about their relationship. “I’m going to continue to date Sloane because she’s kind, sweet, and funny. And she likes me. Sometimes you gotta do the right thing even if it’s not what you want.”
Olivia does not take the news well: “Surprise final act. Now I am going to have incredible sex with a complete stranger and forget I ever met you.” And neither does Sloane, who declines an invite to get a drink and makes it clear she heard what transpired: “I’m just gonna lay low tonight. Big rehearsal tomorrow. It’s the right thing to do.”
Randall doesn’t understand why he’s so weird about his dad and Jessie. He wonders aloud to Beth, “Why am I so thrown by William and Jesse? Am I homophobic? What’s wrong with me?”
Beth reasons, “You’re not homophobic. You’re good. You’re open-minded. Plus your favorite co-worker is gay.” (This is followed with the best line of the episode when Randall explains, “Keith’s not gay. He’s French-Canadian. It’s confusing.”)
To confront the “big gay curveball,” Beth advises him to get to know Jesse next time he comes over to pick up William: “It will be good practice for when Tess and Annie start to bring boyfriends home. Or girlfriends.”
But his first attempt to chat with Jesse goes awry. Jesse jokes that he and William met on Tinder, which goes over Randall’s head, and Randall offers the addict whiskey.
“I can see why my father likes you. Sexiest thing about a man is his sense of humor,” Randall says, trying to relate. When William announces that he’s staying with Jesse that night and may or may not be back the next day, Randall is noticeably upset.
When William returns, Randall confronts him: “Do you think we’ve bonded since you moved in? I kind of thought we had, [but] why is it so easy for you to push me, Beth, and the girls to the side? Ever since Jesse came back into your life, it’s like you don’t care about spending time with us.”
William’s answer is more than he bargained for. He explains that Jesse has been helping him find a nursing home to go to before it gets really bad because the medication is making him feel sicker: “I can feel it now. This cancer is coming for me sooner rather than later. Jesse can handle it. I will not put this on you and your family.”
Randall put on a stiff upper lip: “It’s our family. This is your home now. You live here. You can die here. I can take it. We’ll stop [the chemo.]”
The big Christmas episode cliffhanger is solved early on. Toby suffered from arrhythmia and apparently hates hospitals and surgeons: “I’m tired, cranky, and I have a straw stuck so far up my junk I could whistle ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ if I sneezed.”
He continues to downplay his condition, turns everything into a joke, and consistently tries to convince Kate to have sex with him. Or at least play strip poker. When his cardiologist returns, he explains that the problem is bigger than they first thought. Toby has a hole between two of his heart chambers, and he strongly suggests surgery to repair the defect the next morning. Toby passes, saying he’d rather choose the medicine option, and he and Kate bicker until she finally steps out: “I don’t feel like yelling at a man with a heart condition. You’re an idiot if you don’t [have the surgery.]”
He texts her “911” and a crying face emoji to come back, because he’s decided to do the surgery right away for fear of chickening out. He is very scared of surgery, but he wants to do it for her because he loves her. “You got a dying man to confess his love for you,” he says as he is being wheeled out.
While he’s under the knife, she’s called her brothers to the hospital to debate why she did not say the L word back. “What if something happens when he’s in surgery?” Then she asks them instead to distract her with stories. Kevin sees it as an invitation to discuss his love/work triangle. “Olivia is more famous, but she might also be mentally ill,” he says. “But they’re both sexy in different ways. Sloane is hot librarian sexy, whereas Olivia is more intense artist kind of sexy.”
Randall cannot sympathize: “Two beautiful women wanting to be with you is not a problem. A problem is your dying biological father suddenly turning gay.” Kate adds, “We are a hot mess,” before they toast the big three with their coffee cups.
Kate returns to Toby’s postop bedside, and while she believes him to still be under, she declares her love, too: “I’ve never said that to anyone I wasn’t related to. This is all scary, but I want to spend the rest of my life with you if you’ll have me.”
Of course, Toby is awake and quips, “That would have been a lot hotter if you were in a sexy nurse’s outfit. I would totally marry you if that’s something you’re down with. I’d marry the hell out of you. It was like that from the moment I met you. All of this is just life trying to get in the way.”
Starting to feel like we might get a wedding and a funeral by the finale at this rate.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.