Don’t you love how TV synopses both nail a particular episode while simultaneously completely missing the whole point of said episode?
For instance, you might have seen a synopsis for this week’s “This Is Us” episode, titled “Brothers,” that read something like: “Jack takes his sons camping, while Randall takes Deja to a glamorous event.”
And while that’s completely accurate, it’s also completely wrong. It’s like Schroedinger’s synopsis.
Before we dive in, here’s the customary warning: Turn back now if you haven’t yet seen last night’s episode of “This Is Us” and don’t want to be spoiled.
Everyone else, put on your party duds, grab your Hootie & the Blowfish CD, and let’s talk about ”Brothers.”
Present Day ...
Kevin is back on the East Coast this week, to participate in Sophie’s big fundraiser event and gala by letting himself get auctioned off for charity. He thinks Randall is jealous, but Randall informs his brother that an African-American man will never be envious of someone being auctioned off. “#AmericanHistory.”
Deja (who’s apparently gotten a lovely professional trim to even out last week’s self-inflicted chop job) follows in the fine tradition of Pearson women everywhere who just adore Kevin — and “The Manny” in particular.
So when she expresses interest in going to Kevin’s big shindig in Manhattan, Randall agrees to take her. Beth is appropriately nervous about this prospect and loads Randall up with all the excellent advice you just know he’s never going to take.
It seems to be going well — that is, until Deja tentatively tastes her first shrimp cocktail. When she starts to eat the tail, Randall reaches out a hand to stop her.
She jumps out of her skin and gasps. Randall is nearly apoplectic, falling over himself trying to explain that he just didn’t want her to choke. She mumbles that she has to go to the bathroom, then jumps up and leaves the table.
Right about that time, Kevin’s being introduced and called to the stage. Where is he? Not on the stage. He’s out in the hall, breaking out into a cold sweat, calling his West Coast doctor and, in between downing yet more alcohol, haranguing the doc for a refill of his Vicodin. #UghReally?
Meanwhile Kate finally tells Toby that she’s pregnant, and Toby reacts with expected glee and unabashed joy. But Kate reins him in quickly. She’s got a “geriatric pregnancy” — yes, that is actually what they call being pregnant at 37, which is utterly horrible — and she’s terrified something awful will happen.
So she makes Toby promise not to say a word about it to her or to anyone else until the baby is actually born.
Kate’s nerves are shot, basically, which probably has something to do with the fact that she jumps all over Annoying Madison — the thin girl in their weight loss support group — and tells her after a ridiculous tale involving mini-pizzas and vaping that Madison has no real problems and nobody likes her. (OK, that last part was mostly subtext. Still.)
The confrontation moves to the parking lot, where Madison flips the tables (metaphorically) on Kate by yelling “Screw you!” and reminding her that you never really know someone else’s problems, do you, Kate?
When Kate backs her car right up into Madison’s, she’s really shaken up — so much so that when Madison bangs on the driver’s window after the mishap, she stammers that she’s pregnant. Madison is all of us when she immediately does a 180 and enthusiastically hugs Kate through the open window.
The incident seems to prompt Kate to loosen up a bit. She takes Toby to a new coffee shop — one they’ll never set foot in again — and gives him permission to tell anyone there that they’re expecting a baby. And Toby?
Does NOT disappoint.
After sucking in the barista as an accomplice, and to the somehow utterly Toby-appropriate soundtrack of Hootie & the Blowfish “I Only Wanna Be With You,” Toby tells not just anyone, but EVERYONE in the coffee shop, finishing up with a “Flashdance”-inspired shower of water from a carafe.
It’s hilarious, and appalling, and somehow perfect. #FlashToby.
Back at the gala, Sophie reads Kevin the riot act for missing his cue. He got sold for $14,000, though, so I guess that’s something? Sophie refuses to let Kevin make her the bad guy when he’s the one acting weird and drinking way too much and being all squirrelly. He sputters out a weak apology and leaves.
Randall does the most Randall thing ever and walks into the women’s bathroom to make sure Deja is OK. Through the closed stall door, she explains to him that he cannot grab her the way he did, for any reason.
That’s because the boyfriend of one of her foster mothers abused her physically. He used thick women’s beauty magazines as a weapon, because they didn’t leave bruises the way fists do.
It’s a start, and as any parent knows, that’s the hardest part.
Deja opens the stall door, Randall resists his natural urge to fill the silence with words, and they both leave. But Kevin is wandering the streets, calling another doctor, and saying “I’m in pain.”
… Back in the Day
Jack takes the 10-year-old boys camping for some brotherly bonding — specifically, to get Kevin to stop being such a grade-A jerk to his brother Randall — while Bec and Kate stay behind for movies and a manicure.
But the ladies’ plans get interrupted by Jack’s father, who’s in a nursing home, dying of (we think) cirrhosis. Bec calls the campground office to leave a message for Jack, but he and the boys are hiking out to their campsite and putting up tents.
Well, Randall is putting up the tent, while Kevin is busy collapsing the tent on his brother’s head. Jack’s had about enough and gives him a timeout in said tent.
Jack remembers a fishing trip he took with his father when he was about his sons’ age. And father of the year that the elder Pearson was, he stopped at a roadside tavern, leaving his kid outside in the car.
Well, not just Jack. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Rebecca takes Kate to the nursing home to check on Jack’s father. It’s the first time they’ve ever met, which shouldn’t be surprising and yet somehow is. He spies Kate in the doorway and asks if that’s his granddaughter, which is even more heartbreaking. He’s never met his grandkids. And we can all understand why.
Jack tries a different approach with Kevin, asking him to explain why he’s so awful to his brother. Kevin simply spirals, going from sullen to wig-out in 2.4 seconds as he yells “I DON’T KNOW!” He just wants to do his time and be left alone.
After Jack leaves the tent, Kevin finds Randall’s little notebook and flips through it. It’s full of tips little Randall has left himself on how not to annoy Kevin, and it’s so sweet and crushing.
Bec finally manages to reach Jack via the campground employee’s truck radio. She tells Jack his dad is dying and asks if he wants to come home. Jack takes a moment and then decides no, his dad’s been dead to him a long time now. Is there anything he wants her to tell his dad? No. He has nothing left to say.
And you guys, that paragraph is wholly insufficient to convey the rawness and emotional depth Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia invest in this scene. #AllTheEmmys.
Bec goes back into the dying man’s room and tells him that not only did he not screw up his son, but Jack somehow became an amazing man, father, and husband. And Jack comes back to the campsite to find his sons peacefully toasting marshmallows together.
As the Pearson boys return home, Jack can’t help remember the rest of that fishing trip where his dad abandoned his kid in favor of an afternoon drinking binge.
Make that his kids. Plural.
Because as we find out at the end of the episode, Jack had a brother. Nicky, who wore glasses and served with Jack in Vietnam.