Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Season 3 Episode 1 of This Is Us.
After six long months of waiting, we have finally been blessed with another episode of This Is Us. While season 2 gave us many answers (how Jack died for instance), the finale left us with many questions. Why was Toby in such a dark place? Where were Kevin and Zoe going? Who is the “her” future Randall and future Tess are going to meet with? Are we still going to see Jack? Episode 1 “Nine Bucks” did not disappoint and started getting us prepped for the answers to all those questions.
The episode starts by showing a scene from the 70’s timeline with, what I only found out after doing some digging, is a homage to Franco Harris, a real Pittsburgh Steelers player back in the 70’s and a play called “The Immaculate Reception”. While it doesn’t seem relevant right now, I’m sure this will end up being important further down the road because giving a big meaning to small details in scenes seems to be something This Is Us does quite often (yes, I’m looking at you, old Crock-pot!).
Meanwhile, back in the present time, we are presented to various short scenes that catch us up on what is happening with the Big Three. Kate and Toby seem to be pretty excited to try for another baby. Randall and Beth seem to be struggling to bring their relationship with Deja back to a good place after her mom leaves her. And finally, Kevin and Zoe seem to have an evolving relationship, which they haven’t told Beth about. It all happens very fast. The scenes are short, but it is a good way to give the viewer a brief idea of what storylines will be explored during this episode.
We fall back into the past to the night where Jack and Rebecca first met. The main past arc explored in this episode regards this night and how their first date went. Jack takes Rebecca to a carnival, but only has nine bucks, which is partly why the date goes terribly. At the end of their date, Jack ends up explaining he has had a hard time since coming back from Vietnam. Talking about the war or his brother makes him sad, but talking to Rebecca makes him feel like home (which, I’ll admit, is super clicheé writing, but it doesn’t take the sweetness away from the moment. Milo Ventimiglia is an expert at bringing that Jack Pierson lovableness, without making it too much for the viewer). In a very smart plot detail, Rebecca says her girlfriends told her to forget her jacket in case the date was good, that way they would have to meet again. Even though she says the date was terrible, she still kisses him and leaves her jacket behind. Once again we see Dan Fogelman’s attention to the small things come through in the best of ways.
Images courtesy of NBC
The chemistry between Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore is evident, and it truly adds for the way we perceive this couple. It is interesting to see how their chemistry translates into their younger selves since we’re so used to seeing them as parents and not a young couple. I’m excited to see how the show explores the beginning of Jack and Rebecca’s relationship and also how he copes with losing his brother and coming back from Vietnam. I think it will add a lot of depth to this character we already know and love. Also, it doesn’t hurt to know that we will continue to see Milo Ventimiglia every week, even if Jack has died.
Back in the present day, as per tradition, we follow the Big Three on their birthday. As always, the transition between the past and the current days is made smoothly, being perceptible not by the changing characters but by the change of scenery, the soundtrack, the outfits. If there is one thing This Is Us is great at doing it most definitely is making sure the transitions don’t feel forced or out of the blue.
Kate and Toby go to an in vitro fertilization expert, who, after hearing Kate beaming about how hopeful she was, says she can’t take them on as patients, because of Kate’s polycystic ovary syndrome, weight, age and Toby’s low sperm count due to his antidepressants. You can sense Kate’s disappointment and it truly hits viewers hard, especially after their miscarriage last season. It is a short scene, but the way the scene is written and delivered makes it so that the viewer goes with Kate to her place of happiness, only to be crushed with her. However, the truly crushing moment comes when she gets asked to make a birthday wish. She delivers a beautiful, but heartbreaking speech about her weight and how the universe seems incapable of giving her a break. Chrissy Metz’s performance is fantastic and, added to a well-written monologue, it makes the scene very emotional, making anyone who ever struggled with their body image tear up a little. Later, at the pair’s apartment, Toby says he didn’t even like the idea of IVF. He mentions getting off his antidepressants, to try and make his sperm count higher and raise the odds of a natural pregnancy, but Kate quickly shuts down the idea. For a second, it seems that the whole IVF storyline is going to be over, but soon the doctor changes her mind and takes them on as patients. Kate is clearly over the moon with happiness. Toby, on the other hand, doesn’t make the viewer quite as certain about his happiness. Something smells fishy and I’m pretty sure his insecurity with IVF will be a problem later in the season.
Image Credit: NBC
As for Randall and Kevin, the two are going to spend their day together, at a small gathering at Randall’s house.
Kevin and Zoe agree to try to hide their relationship, but all it takes is Kevin getting to the house for Zoe to act weird and Beth to voice her already existing suspicions. Beth clearly isn’t happy with the relationship, but not for the reasons we all thought. Throughout the episode, we get to understand that Beth isn’t afraid of Kevin’s womanizer ways, but of the idea of him getting crushed by Zoe. Beth says her cousin tends to eat men up and spit them out and she doesn’t want that for Kevin.
Randall uses his birthday to try to get things right with Deja. He takes the teenage girl to the building where William used to live and, after a long speech about how he didn’t have a choice to be adopted, asks her if she would like to be adopted. The girl goes on to tell him that he shouldn’t try to compare their situations because they are nowhere near the same. Back in the house, Randall tries to make up, but Deja just goes to her room. She, then, sneaks out and goes to her old neighbourhood, where we meet her biological father, to whom she gives a great speech about the great things she’ll do in life due to Randall and his family.
The whole plot line is impeccably written and feels natural, considering the relationship Deja and Randall have already developed through the season. Much like all of Deja’s storylines, the scenes are far from expected, different from anything modern television can give you. It reminds me a little bit of Me, Earl and the dying girl, which Fogelman also produced, in the sense that it gives depth to young characters, making their coming of age much more complex and relatable for a young viewer. It also helps that Lyric Ross gives a very powerful performance, once again adding to the idea of how This Is Us has a great cast.
As the episode comes to an end, it all seems like it is going to end well, but this being This Is Us, we still needed a few more clues and questions to keep the story going. The first clue we see is Toby throwing away all his antidepressants (is this what leads him to the dark place we saw at the end of last season?). This is followed by Jack going to Rebecca’s house to give her jacket back. However, when he gets there he sees Rebecca kissing some other guy and leaves (who is this other guy and what is he doing?). And to finish it off, we get to see future Tess and Randall having the same conversation we saw last season, but this time followed by a phone call to Toby, who is sitting alone in a bed, saying “she’ (who up until this point I thought was Deja, but now actually think it might be Kate or even Kate and Toby’s daughter) won’t want to see him (who is this “her”? What happened to Kate?).
Overall, this was a very interesting episode, giving us insight into what will be the main themes addressed in the new season but also hiding enough to leave us wanting more. If there is anything I missed in this episode and hope to see more of in the future is Kevin. His scenes were too short and he was the only one of the Big Three who didn’t get a more meaningful scene (maybe the one with Beth, but I honestly think this scene was more about Beth than it was about Kevin). Justin Hartley definitely proved his worth in last season “Number One” episode and I would like to see more of the depths of Kevin.
Featured image Via NBC