This Is Us Season 6, Episode 13
“Day of the Wedding”
Posted by Shannon
On this, the 101st episode of This Is Us, with only four episodes left until the series finale, it finally hit me that the show is going to end. And to be honest, it really got to me. I started recapping this show in 2016 – a full lifetime ago in a million different ways – and so many things, both personal and public, have formed themselves into shapes I never could have predicted. This Is Us has been a constant in a world full of tumult, and even though I’ve been talking in terms of lasts all season – the last Big Three series, the last Beth-centric episode – something about Kate’s wedding and Randall’s speech underlined that we are in a different phase of the final season. We’re so close to the end. The chess pieces are steadily snapping into their final locations. Everything suddenly feels so… permanent. But if this show and this past six years has taught me anything, it’s that permanence is impermanent, and that optimism in the face of trauma is not naivete. It’s life. And all we can do along the way is dance.
Jack and Rebecca
I am a real sucker for a running joke you don’t see coming. Rebecca’s drunken declaration that she wanted a Princess Diana haircut was not something I expected us to revisit, certainly not in the form of an ACTUAL Princess Diana haircut, but in character, it makes so much sense. Rebecca has always had a rebellious streak running through her, and she’s always needed that occasional jolt of spontaneity. It’s the part of her that wanted to move to New York or LA and make a go at singing, the part of her that went salsa dancing with Miguel at 70. So after god knows how many days of packing the kids’ lunches and arriving at the crosswalk at the exact same time and ordering a pound of ham at the deli over and over, something just snapped.
Dramatic haircuts don’t always signify a big change or a personal identity crisis, but they certainly do represent showing up in the world differently and taking control of your own identity. This is something Rebecca needed to do, to remind herself that she could. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t turn out the way she had in mind. It’s not an atrocious haircut, but it’s certainly not good, and not a single Pearson is a fan – including Rebecca herself. Bless Jack for trying to control the kids and their various wisecracks, and especially bless him for trying to rally when Rebecca asks what he thinks himself. (“You look great, like a hotter Jamie Lee Curtis.”)
This whole story line is light and gentle and full of Peter Pan jokes, but again, it does come down to how Rebecca sees herself and how she sees their life together. It’s not that she’s unhappy. It’s that she’s scared of waking up one morning light years away from what she wanted, without even realizing how she got there. Rebecca’s sense of self has always been strong. And so has her sense of personal exploration. Rebecca knows herself well enough to know that she was getting unnerved by the predictability of the routine, and that she needed to “make a change to remind myself that surprising things can still happen.” Part of what makes her and Jack’s marriage so special is that he can roll with that, even while taking great comfort in the regularity of their day to day himself.
Which leads us to the origin of the mustache. I love that we got this. I love that it was done in support of Rebecca, to draw fire from the kids and underline that they’re a team. That they’re in it together. And that Jack rises to the occasion, not just with his own identity shift, but by getting them out of the house for a date on a Wednesday. Because their time together doesn’t have to be limited to big anniversaries and fancy dinners. Sometimes, it can just be a change of scenery on a random Wednesday.
Kate and Phillip’s Wedding
We’re sitting comfortably in the mid-flash-forward timeline for the rest of this episode (and, I maintain, I think this is where we’re gonna stay for most of the rest of the series!). Randall has recently morphed into Senator Pearson. (Government issued handsome indeed.) Kevin’s romantic life is piecemeal. Kate and Phillip are happily settled and about to be married. Nicky and Edie are married, too – as are Madison and Elijah. And five years on, Rebecca’s illness has hit a different stage.
This is such a rote thing to say about any long term illness, but alzheimers is fucking vicious. It’s the unpredictability of it all. It’s that it constantly changes, and that at a certain point, all you can do is ride it out and hope against hope for a glimmer of the person you know to come back into focus. Between the travel and the excitement of the wedding and the normal course of the disease, Rebecca’s less and less herself. Her recall and sense of place are getting worse. And for weeks, on and off, she’s been calling Kevin Jack.
It’s a painful thing for the whole family to have to manage, but for Kevin especially, this is some brutal shit. This is why he’s positioned next to his mother in Kate’s wedding photos, which were taken completely ahead of any normal schedule to allow Rebecca to settle back into herself before performing. (More on that later, obviously.) Not that he has much of a choice in the matter, because what else could he do, but Kevin bears this horrific symptom of his mother’s disease with such grace. He never falters; stepping up for the photos, assuring her that he’s right there, and accompanying her for a walk later on. In one of the most mesmerizing and nightmarish sequences in the hour, Kevin is even momentarily played not by Justin Hartley, but by Milo Ventimiglia. And I do mean played by. Milo absolutely channels Justin Hartley’s portrayal of Kevin in that short sequence; he carries himself differently, he smiles at Nicky the same way Kevin would, he sits with an uncomfortable sadness next to Rebecca. There’s no other word for it; it’s fucking devastating.
Speaking of men who carry this symptom with grace, a word for Miguel Rivas, folks. As painful as it is, I’m so glad the show doesn’t shy away from the burden this has put on him. All too often, we as a society ignore the work of caregiving – physically and emotionally. But in a few short sequences, we see the toll that caregiving has taken on Miguel. We see it in his constant attentiveness and the fact that he never even flinches when Rebecca thinks she’s seeing Jack. Most impactfully, though, we see it when he and Randall step away for a wine tasting.
Randall Pearson has many skills, but compartmentalization is not high on the list. He can’t see what Miguel needs, partially because he’s been too detached handling the campaign but also because he just isn’t wired that way. His focus is on his mother, entirely, and he’s not able to pick up on Miguel’s frequent and increasingly blatant requests to change the subject. When he does finally shift, it’s still not to the wine – it’s to ask Miguel about his hand tremors and blood pressure medication. The resulting snap is so necessary, and a high water mark of a performance from Jon Huertas: “You know what I handle on a daily basis?… I needed an hour to drink wine with someone. I needed just one minute to feel like a human being. I wanted to go with you because you drink wine and you appreciate it like I do. I just needed a day, Randall, because it is moving fast now. It is moving so fast that I have whiplash.”
As bittersweet as so much of this hour is, it’s still a Pearson wedding. (Although who am I kidding, Pearson weddings are all bittersweet. It’s in the contract.) In the midst of all this disease and trauma is the emerging question that will drive the next episode: who, exactly, Kevin Pearson will end up with. The show is setting us up to think that there are three possibilities, all conveniently guests at Kate’s wedding: Cassidy, who attends as Kevin’s friendly plus one. Sophie, whose rekindled friendship with Kate (!!!!!!) means she’s in attendance – with her husband. And Phillip’s friend, the wedding singer.
Not to cut right to the chase and undermine Madison and Beth’s delightful whole “true crime who-done-it, but with sex” my HOPE (not prediction! hope!) is for the wedding singer. One of the great things about Phillip is his status as a family outsider, someone without baggage, someone who can see clearly into Kate’s heart for who she is NOW – not who she used to be. And I want that same liberation for Kevin. But we’ll all have to hold our breath on that particular subject and reconvene back here next week.
Kate’s first wedding day was really centered around her relationship to Jack. Part of that was out of storytelling necessity; that wedding closed out the second season, which was the main exploration of Jack as a father. Part of it was down to character evolution, as Kate was actively working through the trauma of losing her father. But she’s come so far. (And frankly, so has the show.) This wedding day couldn’t be more different, for a million reasons — but the thing that really struck me was the fact that for Kate, this wedding day was centered on herself, her husband, and her mother. It’s all here and now. Jack has not been erased, but in the context of Kate and her day to day life, his ghost is nowhere to be found. All of this is particularly underscored by Miguel walking her down the aisle, rather than Kevin or Randall. The vision of Kate and Miguel – the two people in charge of Rebecca’s care – walking down that aisle in a moment of celebration and joy was so powerful, and something we never could have imagined four seasons ago.
I want to take it a step farther and reiterate how impactful it’s been that this season has centered, in so many ways, on these two women. On Kate and Rebecca, on how hard they’ve worked together and separately, on the ways they’ve changed and grown and become themselves. And on the way music has built that bond, and made space for real healing.
Which does lead me to Phillip. He is a wonderful man. He’s supportive and assertive in all the right ways. He’s steady, and clear headed, and knows how important music is – not just in the way it physically impacts Rebecca’s brain, but in the emotional channel it’s built between mother and daughter. So throughout the main crux of the hour – whether or not Rebecca will be able to manage performing a song at the reception – he’s clued in on absolutely every level. Not just to the emotional resonance that this risk runs for each of the Pearsons, but for exactly what it means to Kate – and for Rebecca herself.
The whole reception sequence was one of the most stunning the show has ever delivered. It’s the kind of thing that can only really come to pass six years in, with lived in characters and real emotional stakes. Randall’s speech – aside from being the thing that kicked off my own emotional examination at the top of this recap – is a perfect lead-in to Rebecca’s performance. It works because Sterling K. Brown is at the top of his game, and always has been. It works because it’s exceptionally well written. But it REALLY works because when Randall speaks about the speed with which the world changes for kids and for adults, we don’t need a flash to seven year old Jack to remember how much the original Big Three kids have grown. That those same kids are now playing adolescents, and adolescents playing teens. It all happens so fast, in so many ways. These small, precious stops on the ride, the ones that allow us to really look around and see who and what we’re grateful for, and to celebrate those we love?
Colors of the Painting
- I get that Deja, Tess and Annie are probably not seen at the wedding because they’d have to be some combination of the two different casts of girls, but at the same time, it was a glaring exclusion. And also, I missed them.
- “The New Yorker says I’m a rising star.”
- “You know, as designated babysitter for the day, I’m not gonna take any crap from the Manny!”
- I don’t know why Phillip, who is entirely and completely English seeming, only has Scottish relatives at the wedding, but I sure hope we find out.
- No truer words, Randall Pearson. No truer words.
- “I want you to know, if your mother is unable to perform, I’ve arranged for me and the band to immediately perform Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’… It’s gonna be a catastrophe.” “I love you very much.”
- “This unfettered hope that all will go well does not come naturally to an Englishman!”
- “Tell me, in the event that she gets up on that stage and starts to flounder, do you have any senatorial powers to call a city wide blackout?” “I do not.”
- Please give me a whole entire spin off of Nicky, Edie, Miguel and Rebecca playing cards and watching The Golden Girls. That whole sequence was so heartwarming without being saccharine, and charming and hilarious and wonderful. Nicky Pearson remains the light of my life and the only man allowed to use the word “broads.”
- If this doesn’t get Mandy Moore an Emmy nomination, I truly don’t know what we’re doing here. And especially one for Siddhartha Khosla, who magnificently turned his own end credits tune into a heartbreaker of a piece.
What did you think of “Day of the Wedding”? What are your theories in regards to Kevin’s love life? Let us know in the comments!