It’s Thanksgiving time for the Pearsons, and this week we see not one, not two, but six Thanksgiving dinners! Some questions are answered (such as the origin of Jack’s necklace), and of course there is plenty of family drama.
Spoilers ahead, so if you have not watched last week’s episode you might want to stop here.
This Thanksgiving episode opens with Rebecca crying, leading the audience to assume she’s remembering Jack, until he leans over her and asks if she needs any help. She responds that he should have asked before she began chopping the onions. This is the last Thanksgiving while the kids are still at home, and she wonders if they should have done more to make their last Thanksgiving a big event. Jack remarks their families are terrible but at least Miguel is coming over.
Rebecca is not happy about this, as Miguel’s ex-wife Shelly is her best friend and she feels like a traitor. Jack argues that Miguel is alone on his first Thanksgiving, to which Rebecca responds, “Maybe he wouldn’t be alone if he’d fought a little harder to save his marriage.” This is an interesting remark coming from Rebecca, considering she would later marry Miguel, who is also Jack’s best friend.
They hear the kids laughing and decide to see what’s going on. Kate and Kevin are laughing at Randall’s answer to his college application essay question. Kate and Kevin feel that he should answer the question Who had the greatest impact on your life? with the fireman who brought him to the hospital as a baby. Randall disagrees, saying the question is flawed, because no single person can have the greatest impact on someone’s life. Randall turns to his dad, who says “The fireman’s a lay-up,” much to Randall’s chagrin. As the family enjoys a playful moment together, Miguel arrives, arguing with Shelly on his phone and immediately bringing down the mood. Rebecca looks uncomfortable.
The Pearsons and Miguel gather around the table for dinner, and as the Pearsons continue to joke with each other, Miguel leaves the room. He tells Jack that he is worried his kids are being turned against him and it’s his own doing, because he put more time and energy into his work than into his family. Jack reminds Miguel about everything he has accomplished since coming to America from Puerto Rico and tells him to take that drive and apply it to his kids. “You don’t want to be 65 years old and not know your grandkids.”
In present time, we are given a true Thanksgiving blessing as Randall walks out of the bathroom to answer a question from Beth about Jae-Won and their soup kitchen visit wearing nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs. Beth wants their visit moved to the rec centerm and she says that she does not think Jae-Won likes her working for Randall’s campaign. Randall tells her that’s crazy because she’s had “300 stupendous ideas” and then begins to list them for her. Feeling better about things, she agrees and says she is “crushing” being his field director.
She then talks about Toby and Kate, who are coming over to cook while they are gone to the soup kitchen. Tess comes to get Beth, telling her she doesn’t feel well. Tess says that she will get Kate to keep an eye on her while they are gone and tells her to go lie down.
Kate and Toby arrive. Randall excitedly hugs his sister, asking how she is with “her little turducken in the oven.” She explains the morning sickness hasn’t hit her too bad and that Toby has been helping. Randall and Beth wonder if they are ok, and Toby explains that small victories are important to his recovery and “…helping Kate cook a 15-pound Butterball using Snoop and Martha’s recipe will be a small but meaningful victory.”
Randall, Beth, Deja, and Annie begin walking out as Randall notices a giant teddy bear on their table. He asks Annie what’s going on, she tells him that it is a secret. “It’s creepy is what it is,” says her dad.
They arrive at the rec center soup kitchen, where Jae-Won meets them and asks why they thought it was better to move from the church. It turns out that the church’s soup kitchen is the biggest in Philadelphia, complete with big media coverage, and now Randall’s opponent Councilman Brown is serving at that soup kitchen and getting the big coverage.
Beth tells him they don’t need a photo op, but that they need Randall to connect to the people of Philadelphia. She cuts Jae-Won off as Annie comes to get her mother. Jae-Won is upset with Beth’s role in the campaign but Randall refuses to budge.
As Randall, Beth, Deja, and Annie serve food, Deja thinks back to when she was on the other side of the table. Annie tells her that she is giving out too many cookies, but Deja explains that the person in charge does not understand what it’s like. Beth worries that her messages to Kate aren’t going through. Jae-Won excitedly runs up and tells them that he has convinced the photographer from the church to come to the rec center. Beth argues that it is not a good idea, and Jae-Won gets upset. They argue for a moment, and then Randall blurts out, “I don’t care if it’s a mistake. she’s my wife.” Jae-Won storms off as Beth, having overheard, walks out as well.
Once outside, Beth asks Randall how many of her ideas he actually thought were good and how many he was just trying to make her feel better about. He does not answer her but she knows, and before they can discuss it, she gets a message on her phone telling her that they have to get home.
In Vietnam, the third Thanksgiving begins. Jack walks up behind Nick while he is working on the wire fence, and asks him how he is feeling. Nick complains that he was better where he was, to which Jack remarks that he has almost got everything out of his system. They look at a mother and son, and Jack mentions how the son hurt his foot on the wire the week before. Nick says the wire is doing its job.
In the mess tent, Jack’s men ask about Nick. After Jack says he is fine, another medic chimes in and says, “He ain’t fine. He’s a medic. He shovels guts back into body cavities.” Jack listens quietly and then notices the young mother struggling to carry two buckets of water in front of Nick. As he goes to help, one of Jack’s men snaps their picture (the picture Kevin now carries). Jack is obviously disappointed when Nick does not make a move to help her.
Later on, Jack brings fish to the young woman and her family. The boy is sick, so Jack goes to check on him. His foot has become infected by the wire. Jack leaves to go get Nick to help, but Nick refuses. Jack orders him to help. Nick still refuses, so Jack does what he can to help while Nick leaves. Afterwards, Jack goes to find him. He tells him the village is only women, children, and old men and Nick needs to “wake the hell up.”
Nick begins to tell Jack about when he first arrived in Vietnam and how nervous he was, and he relays a story of how his first commanding officer got the rest of his unit to respect him. It is very obvious that Nick has a deep respect for this man, who was called “Bones”. Then he tells Jack about how the Viet Cong killed Bones. He was targeted by the brother of a woman that he was kind to. Jack listens quietly as Nick talks. “You can be nice to them all you want, Jack. But they’re not just women and children.”
William finishes a song on the piano as a man (Jesse) walks up clapping. They introduce themselves and soon build a friendship with each other. Jesse tells him how he became an addict and how Thanksgiving depresses him. He cannot face his family’s questions about his sobriety. William invites him to come listen to him and other musicians playing together. He jokes about listening to jazz sober but agrees to go.
Toby and Kate are preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Kate puts him in charge of the cranberry sauce. When Toby worries that it is a “high stakes” job, she points him to Randall’s recipe binder and a recipe that requires “fresh mint” from Randall’s garden. Toby begins panicking, and Kate reassures him that they are going to be ok. Then we have a wonderfully cute “KaToby on 3?” moment between the two.
Toby goes upstairs carrying food for Tess and meets her coming out of the bathroom carrying boxes of feminine products. Tess screams, and Toby jumps and goes back downstairs to tell Kate that Tess might need her.
Kate goes to check on Tess and asks if she has called Beth. She says Beth did not answer, so Kate asks if she needs anything. They go back to Tess’ room where Tess says she can never face Toby again. Kate shares her own embarrassing first period story, which happened on vacation with Miguel’s family. Kate then tells her that she can talk to her about anything, like her first boyfriend. “Or girlfriend,” Tess quietly adds. “Or girlfriend,” repeats Kate.
Miguel and Rebecca are driving to his daughter Amber’s house. Miguel is distracted and tells Rebecca that he feels like they were only invited because Shelly wouldn’t be there. He apologizes that Rebecca is missing Thanksgiving with her family, but she reassures him that she is happy to spend time with them.
During the dinner, it is clear that the relationship among Miguel and Rebecca and Rebecca’s kids is still strained. This is made extremely apparent when Miguel’s son tells Rebecca, “First, you steal my father from my mother, and now you’re trying to kill my brother-in-law.” Miguel talks about how he promised Jack to fight for his kids, but he was lucky if the kids gave him any time. He tells them how they both found each other, ten years after Jack died and after Shelly remarried, and that he was not going to apologize for them being together. There is an awkward quiet before Rebecca asks about the score of the football game.
Rebecca goes downstairs to Toby, who is surrounded by bags from different restaurants. He burned the food and says it is a disaster. Kate tells him it’s Jack Pearson magic.
The episode ends with Randall reading his college application essay answer, as a montage of the various Thanksgiving dinners plays. We see the young Vietnamese woman giving her necklace to Jack in thanks. And the giant teddy bear of Annie’s? They have set up a video call of Kevin to “join them” for Thanksgiving.
This is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8 central on NBC.