This is Us’ latest episode sees bubbling tensions simmer up and erupt during a duo of tense dinners that go badly wrong, both in the past and present. At the heart of this is Randall, whom the episode essentially gravitates around, and in both stories we see plenty of drama that culminate in a pretty climactic third act to this story.
We begin with Noah and Deja together riding the bus and discussing Philadelphia and past experiences. When he doesn’t get off the bus at his stop, Deja instead stays on with Malik and they both miss school. Of course, Randall and Beth catch wind of this and immediately berate her for these actions. Meanwhile in the past, Rebecca and Jack prepare a dinner to meet Randall’s teacher as the two main plot lines of this episode interweave and bounce off one another while Deja’s day with Malik nestles itself in the middle of these stories.
In the past, Jack and Rebecca invite Randall’s teacher Corey in who immediately makes a good impression with Randall. Jack tries his best to compete, showing off his intelligence, until Corey interjects again and effortlessly shows off his mental prowess by showing the books should be a different order. At dinner, they begin talking about dinosaurs which leads to more tension as Jack clashes with Randall’s teacher.
Rebecca confronts Jack in the kitchen though and this leads to the rest of dinner awkwardly coming to a close. Outside, he comes clean to Corey and opens up, going on to admit his insecurities surrounding Randall’s affection for his teacher.
During their day together, Malik takes Deja to a steakhouse and immediately introduces her to the workers there. After eating, they head out and visit a beautiful wall mural before snapping photos together and sharing ice-cream. As far as dates go, you couldn’t really ask for a better first impression. All of this culminates in them staring up at the clouds together before holding hands. Deja gets cold feet before things get a chance to manifest though and immediately runs away. Malik rushes after her though and it’s here she admits her hesitation with settling down with him.
Meanwhile in the present, Beth and Randall invite Malik and his parents in and offer a tour of the house. Percival immediately connects with Randall after they talk about the kids, while Beth and Kelly clash over past baggage for their children. At dinner, they say grace but Malik’s daughter immediately starts crying and this happens to be the catalyst for chaos to ensue as tensions spill over. Forcing the kids to go upstairs, the two families sit down and lay everything out on the table.
Deja heads back into the room and immediately apologises for everything…except liking Malik. She goes on to tell her that the day she skipped school was the best day of her life and for that, she’s not sorry. As the episode closes out, Randall and Beth decide to let Deja see Malik in the future before we cut back and see Malik took Deja to see the beautiful lights on the skyline as we close out with a poem from Randall in the past, echoing through our three converging stories.
With no Kate and a contained, stand-alone story focusing on echoing tensions between past and present, This Is Us delivers another emotionally charged, well written episode here. Seeing the past and present converging together with a third plot line used to pad everything out is such a smart editing move and it really helps this episode stand out. For me, this is one of the best of this season and while the show has failed to hit those lofty heights seen in the second season’s Super Bowl Sunday, This Is Us continues to impress here with another very strong episode.