Bianca Miccolis ’21
As always, the NBC hit television show “This is Us” continues to surprise its viewers in the third season. Due to several interruptions in the weekly programming since the 7-week holiday break, you may have had some difficulty in keeping up with the series. This is a recap of the wild events of the episodes of “Songbird Road” since the fall finale discovery that Nick Pearson did not die in the war, but presently lives in a trailer in Pennsylvania. The first episode in the winter season begins with Kevin wondering about his uncle and Randall winning his election campaign in Philadelphia. In the next two episodes, the story finally traces how this came to be and what happened in Vietnam that led Jack to say that Nicky had died there. If you still want to watch the episode, be warned that there are spoilers to come.
In the last episode, Kevin finds a mysterious postcard to Jack signed “CK,” which as true “This is Us fans” know stands for “Clark Kent,” a joke between Jack and Nick as children. In “Songbird Road: Part One,” it shows Jack getting several postcards from “CK,” his brother. However, Jack shoves them in his drawer unwilling to entertain the idea of speaking to him. We do not find out until later in Part 1 that it is because of Nicky’s final action that got him discharged from service in Vietnam. As shown in a series of flashbacks between Vietnam, Jack’s visit to Nicky’s trailer in 1992, and the journey of the Big Three to his trailer in 2018, we get the whole story of Vietnam. Remembering back to the explosion in the mid-season finale, we are brought to Nicky who ventures out with a little Vietnamese boy and they throw grenades off the boat into the water. However, Nicky loses one of the grenades and it explodes in the boat despite him trying to tell the boy to jump. While Nicky makes it out alive, Jack finds them with the boy dead, yelling, “He was just a kid!” This is the first time we really see Jack give up on his brother at any point in that story line.
Fast forward to 1992, Jack tells Rebecca and the kids that he has to go on a work trip, but goes to see Nicky. It is clear that the dynamic has changed and Nicky tries to talk about the event, but Jack shuts him down. Nicky asks him, “Did I ruin your life?,” but Jack assures him that he has a good life and shows him a picture of Rebecca, Kate, Kevin, and Randall and leaves.
All of this is happening while Kevin, Kate, and Randall take a roadtrip to their uncle’s trailer. When they get there, Nicky is not there, but appears from behind them and they talk. He tells them the story of Vietnam and laments how he never told Jack what really happened. The whole time, Jack believes that Nicky deliberately killed the boy. Through the years, Nicky has become an alcoholic and lives in a dilapidated trailer that disturbs Kevin. Meanwhile, Rebecca wrestles with the fact that Jack kept so many secrets from her and mulls over the events of that weekend in 1992.
The final scene show a contrast between the actions of Kevin and Jack in what to do about Nicky. Jack considers turning back to Bradford, but decides to just go back to Pittsburg. However, Kevin says after leaving, “I am not going to leave him like Dad did” and turns back to Bradford to get his uncle.
After another two-week hiatus, NBC released the second episode in the two-part story. After taking Nicky from his trailer, the Big Three bring him to a hotel; all throughout this, Nicky is short with them in the encounter, clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation. At breakfast the next morning, Kate and Randall express their apprehensions about helping their long-lost uncle while Kevin is incredibly enthusiastic about it as he is mad at Jack for never telling them about Nicky. As they are arguing about this issue and Kevin accuses Randall of wanting to help everyone but their uncle, Rebecca appears, having decided to drive to Bradford to meet Nicky; she is the only one who supports Kevin in this quest.
Meanwhile, we flash back to that weekend in 1992 when Jack returns home from his visit with Nicky so frustrated and distracted that he cannot fathom taking little Kevin to get his baseball card signed. Rebecca steps in to do this because she sees something is up with Jack. Later in the episode, Rebecca realizes how thoughtful Kevin is when she talks to his baseball idol about their conversation at the signing table.
In the present, Nicky becomes more and more agitated and stressed being away from his trailer while Kevin and Rebecca drag him to a veteran trauma center. After the tour Nicky has had enough and tells Kevin that he cannot be fixed and that Kevin is “out of his depth.” Rebecca goes back to speak to Nicky wanting some memories of Jack that he will not divulge and turns to defending Kevin. Nicky retorts that he does not want to be a “prop” “so a movie star can be a real-life hero.” Realizing that his words were hurtful, Nicky finds Rebecca after the encounter to apologize and tells her a little about Jack. We get a flashback of Jack and Nicky in their backyard while Jack builds a fort saying, “Tongue and groove, Nicky. Tongue and groove.” He then confesses that he’s forgotten how to be a person and is better off in his trailer. He lets Kevin fix his leaky roof and promises to go to AA and the vet center once.
While Kevin and Rebecca spend their day with Nicky, Kate and Randall drive back to New York making a stop at their own home in Pittsburg. They reminisce on the weekend of the trip to see Nicky with Kate remembering it as her favorite memory. They had a sequin fight with Jack and invented the Pearson pizza. However, as they walk around the house and through flashback, we see Randall observing Jack in his agitated state, a way that we have never really seen him before. Randall points out to Kate that there was something wrong with him that weekend and she feels that she has been delusional and made up their childhood. However, Randall assures her that Jack was just good at parenting: he always made sure that he outweighed the bad memories with good ones.
As Kevin and Rebecca drive home from Bradford, the matriarch tells her son how proud she is of him for what he did. In this scene, Kevin stares off with a despondent face because he relapses. When Kevin goes back to clean up Nicky’s trailer, he sees the alcohol and in an intense moment, he decides to start drinking again. Needless to say, he feels completely ashamed and this is explored in the following episodes when Kate goes into labor and has her baby.
“This is Us” airs on Tuesdays at 9 on NBC.
Photo courtesy of TV Line