I was prepared for some serious drama following Toby’s heart attack in “Last Christmas; but returning with “The Right Thing to Do,” This Is Us opted for an natural flow, as opposed to relying too heavily on its tear-jerking, shock-factor moments. There was a sense of fluidity to this episode, one that brought its key characters together effortlessly and allowed the one-on-one moments between Randall and William, Kate and Toby, and Jack and Rebecca to reach emotional heights without forcing stagy elements on us too heavily. The episode’s title is taken from a conversation between Kevin and Olivia, who has returned to win Kevin and her part in the play back, but it applies to them all: The Pearsons are all trying to do the right thing.
The episode opens on Jack’s past with an abusive father, and he vows to never end up like the man: Jack wants to be everything his father never was, and it’s a promise he honors for the love of his wife, his unborn kids and his mother. He’s determined to create the life for his family he never had, and he’s willing to make all the sacrifices necessary to make it happen—as is Rebecca. Overwhelmed by the thought of raising not one but three kids, she even finds herself considering her mother’s offer of moving in with them to save money. Though Jack is incredibly understanding, she finds it difficult to communicate all her worries, not wanting to make her husband feel incapable of taking care of their growing family. She’s proud of him and everything he has to offer, but under the spell of her condescending mother, she ends up doubting their ability to make it work.
Returning home from lunch with her mother, she waits for Jack to go out to attend to her ice cream cravings before breaking down in the kitchen. Having forgotten his wallet, Jack comes into the apartment and is met by the sounds of her sobbing. You can see his heart breaking for her, wanting to console her, but instead he walks back out and does what he feels is best for his family: He sells his beloved car, slips into the role his father had always anticipated for him (even removing his wedding ring) and asks him for a loan. It may have shattered his sense of pride, but it was the right thing to do.
As always, Randall offers a healthy dose of humor and emotional conflict, and his relationship with William is quickly establishing itself as one of the driving forces behind the entire series. Their personalities and individual journeys—as well as their blossoming bond—are explored with such depth and warm-heartedness, I can’t even begin to think about the moment William will no longer be part of the Pearson clan. Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones have such great chemistry and deliver such outstanding performances, it’s hard to imagine This Is Us without this beautifully complex father-son relationship.
Having been introduced to the idea that “grandpa’s gay, or at least bi,” Randall makes an effort to get to know and be cool with William’s boyfriend, Jessie—but to say he’s confused would be an understatement. He begins to question his feelings, fearing he might be homophobic, when in truth, what upsets him the most is that he never knew, nor had any inkling, about his father’s romantic relationships and sexual preferences. On top of that, there’s a bit of jealousy at play. Understandably, Randall wants to have William for himself and his family to make up for the lost time, and with Jessie now in the picture, he’s afraid their bonding days are over. During a quiet sit-down, William confesses that his cancer is advancing and he does not want to put Randall and his family through the pain of watching him deteriorate. He wants to embrace his last days, but the chemo is just making him sicker. He wants to stop taking his meds and enjoy the time he has left. Randall, although saddened, fully supports and accepts his decision.
Although Kevin and Sloane haven’t yet made their relationship official, they are having a great time together, and I really like the effect she seems to be having on him. Knowing she believes in him and his abilities as an actor, he’s found a new sense of confidence and it suits him really well. When Olivia appears back on the scene, however, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Olivia wants him back, and as much as he seems to have a thing for crazy, unpredictable women with a lot of baggage, he realizes that maybe it’s about time to break his old romantic habits. But when Sloane hears him telling Olivia that staying with her is “the right thing to do,” she does not take it well.
Toby’s collapse on Christmas Eve was initially put down to arrhythmia, and though he’s still drugged and in pain, he’s already found it within himself to crack a joke or two at his own expense. But he’s not out of the woods just yet. Kate is at his side as much as possible, entirely focused on the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. There’s no time for weight concerns or calorie counting—even, after Toby lets her know he’s ready to marry “the hell out of her,” as she begins to imagine herself in a puffy white dress. This was a very refreshing approach to her character and allowed viewers to see her as just Kate, not a bundle of overbearing insecurities. Here’s hoping we’ll get to see more of this side of Kate in future episodes!
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.