So far, This Is Us has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but “Kyle” takes this whirlwind of feelings to a new level. Opening on a young William boarding his neighborhood bus, armed with a notebook and pen, I felt both saddened and relieved. Saddened because I knew his story would not have a happy end; relieved because we finally got to see the hope and love for life that predated his greatest hardships. In fewer than two minutes, we see how he went from a poet with a sparkle in his eye to a man consumed by love, only to end as a heartbroken man annihilated by drugs, cradling a newborn baby in his arms and christening him with salty tears.
His writings, once clear, precise and coherent, are now nothing but illegible scribbles smeared in ink; he can feel the words, but through the pain they’ve lost their meaning. Abandoning his child was not a drug-fueled decision, but one that stemmed from a place of love. He did not walk away from this child in order to forget; he walked away wanting to remember the one good thing he ever did for his son.
In “The Big Three,” Rebecca and her new husband, Miguel, showed up at Randall’s house for a surprise visit. We were left to wonder what happened to Jack, and how Rebecca would take the news of Randall having tracked down William. Randall, whose honesty and goodness is often his worst enemy, was incapable of hiding his anxiety towards his mother, fearing she would be devastated by the fact that Randall reached out to his biological father. They all put on their “fake-ass smiles” in order to get through the situation when they actually feel like crying. Rebecca handles the news rather well. She understands why this was something Randall needed to do and is curious to know what he has learned about him. Realizing that there isn’t actually much to tell, she insists on speaking to William privately, leaving Randall to ponder what is possibly being said behind closed doors. What Randall doesn’t know is that Rebecca and “Shakespeare” already know each other.
In the past, Rebecca and Jack are getting ready to leave the hospital with their triplets. While Jack is desperately trying to downplay his nervousness over taking his kids home, Dr. K notices that Rebecca is far from all right. She brushes off his concerns, but admits that she’s overwhelmed. As Jack wheels her out of the hospital and leaves her to wait while he gets the car, she notices a strange man looking at her by the bus stop. She immediately knows, she can feel it: This man is her baby Kyle’s biological father. She calls out to him, but he turns and vanishes on the bus. After their first few nights at home with the babies, it’s not only exhaustion that kicks in, but also, for Rebecca, the realization that Kyle is a “stranger” to her. His behavior is different from the twins; he won’t latch on to her breast and she’s soon under the impression that he “hates” her. She wants nothing more than to bond with him, but she can’t forget about the baby she lost, the baby she raised inside her.
One day, while Jack takes the babies out for their routine check-up with Dr. K, Rebecca uses the opportunity to find William. Boarding the same bus he did that day at the hospital, she describes William to the driver, who knows the man she describes as “Shakespeare” and leads her to him. This intimate, honest moment between the biological father and adoptive mother of an unknowing child showed both William and Rebecca in an incredibly vulnerable light. William promises her that Kyle was born out of love; Rebecca admits her shortcomings as a mother and gratefully takes on his advice when he suggests she give him “his own name.” She chooses to name Kyle after Dudley Randall—the poet whose words brought his biological parents together.
Rebecca and William’s story touches difficult subject matter, which the episode beautifully explores. Rebecca is still grieving the death of her son, and punishes herself for letting it get in the way of bonding with Randall. Even so, the thought of William knocking on her door to take him away from her one day is one she cannot live with. Until she has a heart-to-heart with William, she feels stuck in limbo—unable to give Randall her all for fear of having him taken away from her. In the present, William feels he has overstepped his boundaries by enjoying “the fruits of someone else’s labor” and is about to “hobble off like hobo Joe,” not wanting to create a rift between Randall and Rebecca. But Randall won’t have any of it. He’s invited him into his life, wanting to get to know his biological father, and that’s exactly what he’s planning on doing in the little time they have left together.
William and Rebecca may be the stars of “Kyle,” but Kate and Toby bring a light-heartedness to this otherwise emotional episode. They have the kind of relationship one might aspire to: In a short period of time, Toby has gotten to know and appreciate Kate in a way only few others—including herself—have, and he has made it his mission to bring her out of her shell in the sweetest way possible. We finally got to see Kate enjoying the spotlight and we loved seeing her in it. Damn, the girl can sing!
The end of “Kyle” leaves viewers with a lot of unanswered questions, though: How will William and Randall’s relationship evolve? How are Kate and Kevin going to handle being so far from each-other? And last but not least, what happened to Jack? Are we to assume he’s dead, or was he incapable of kicking his drinking habit, thus pushing Rebecca to move on? Not to worry. This Is Us has been officially picked up for a full season, so there’s plenty of time to answer all these questions and more.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.