The most powerful words spoken in any relationship are “I do.” And in the precise moment they’re spoken, we believe wholeheartedly that nothing could ever break this promise, that the rush of love and devotion we feel will last forever more. As Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant in life”—and while the Pearsons are perfectly aware of this, they’re doing their damned best to fight it.
Even a marriage as solid as Rebecca and Jack’s has its ups and downs. Passionate bathroom sex makes way for friendly goodnight pecks; early-morning goofiness and loud laughter have been replaced by grumpy morning routines and monosyllabic conversations. They can both feel it, but they refuse to take it as a sign of their wilting love, at least until their best friends, Miguel and Shelly—a couple they felt were on the same wavelength—announce their divorce. Suddenly, Jack and Rebecca realize just how easy it is to stop “noticing each other.”
The Big Three are teenagers now, and while Jack and Rebecca always put their kids first, they have resumed their own lives, too. Rebecca is out singing with her jazz band every night and often doesn’t come home until late. They may be doing their own thing now, but they always make sure to let one another know that they still notice each other: Jack leaves a glass of water on Rebecca’s bedside table, for example, to make sure she’s drinking enough after performing. But is this really going to be enough to stop everyday life and family annoyances from getting in the way of their love? Jack is no longer sure and plans a special night on which to revisit their wedding vows. New promises are made and the status of their relationship is reconfirmed when Rebecca suddenly drops a bomb on him: She wants to go on a month-long tour of the East Coast with her band. If he really loves her, this shouldn’t be an issue… Right?
Kate and Toby’s relationship hasn’t even properly begun yet and already it feels as though the end is nigh. Granted, much has come between them from the moment they started dating—Kate’s needy brother, Kevin; her determination to lose weight; Toby’s heart attack—but the present obstacle on the path to marital bliss may be the one to derail them completely: Duke. Duke really doesn’t make much sense as a character, nor does his obsession with Kate; at this stage, there’s nothing to explain his motives. Without having had a proper conversation with her, Duke is hell-bent on winning her over and makes no secret of it when Toby shows up for a surprise visit. I know a lot of people have criticized Toby this season and until this episode, I can’t say I understood why. But as sweet as his displays of romance are, his way of trying to turn everything into a comedy—even things that are dead serious to Kate—can get a tad annoying. Then again, so can Kate’s self-absorbedness.
Kevin wanting to rekindle his romance with his ex-wife, Sophie, could’ve easily been written off as another quick fix for his ego, but “I Call Marriage” makes it clear that it’s a lot more than that. It’s not unusual for the freshly dumped to seek out old relationships in an attempt to relive a past fantasy for fear of embracing the present self, but that’s not all Kevin is out to do. His failed attempts at establishing something meaningful with Sloane and Olivia have made him realize what he really wants: a profound connection, a best friend, a soul mate. And those are all the things he had in Sophie. He finds the fact that he can read her mind by studying her body language and facial expressions more fulfilling than any kinky fling he’s ever had, and he’ll do anything he can to re-establish and deepen that bond.
Beth and Randall are also preparing for the end of a chapter, but while Beth is trying to find the best coping mechanisms for her and their daughters, Randall is not quite ready to face William’s impending death. Plagued by nightmares and dealing with pressure at work, it’s the first time we notice a distance between Beth and Randall. So far, Beth has always managed to put her foot down whenever she felt him withdraw from their team spirit, but while she “calls marriage” when he insists on attending a work meeting instead of his daughter’s chess tournament, his heart isn’t in it—it’s slowly breaking over every moment that could be his last one with his father. Beth is aware of his pain, but she doesn’t realize just how heavily the situation is weighing on him: By the looks of it, it will only be a matter of time until he will no longer be able to hide the tremors in his hand and the pain in his soul.
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.