Just like a Thanksgiving table, with green bean casserole, cranberry relish, turkey and mashed potatoes, this Turkey Day episode had a little something for everyone. My stomach may be full tomorrow, but my heart was filled right up by this gorgeous hour of storytelling.
- In the past (1997), we find Rebecca tearing up as she chops onions. Is it the onions, or is it “the last,” the last time the whole family will be home together for Thanksgiving before the Big 3 go off to college etc? (I am experiencing the same “last”: SNIFFLE!) Teen Randall is discussing a college essay question with his siblings: Who has had the most impact on your life up until this point?
2. Miguel, experiencing his first Thanksgiving since his divorce from Shelly (apparently Rebecca’s best friend), enters the Pearson home bickering with his ex on the phone. But his heart is breaking as he sees Jack’s happy family, and he needs a moment to get it together. Jack, who always says something perfect, encourages his buddy, who worries his kids are being turned against him, and that he worked too much and now he is paying the price. “You gotta take that fight and show your kids you are still their father,” Jack says. Ooh, watery eyes! Jon Huertas is a compelling actor, is he not?
3. In the present, Beth, newly appointed as the field director for Randall’s campaign, is clashing hard with Jae Won, Randall’s campaign manager. He questions her experience (limited) and wants to steer things in a very different direction. Really, as savvy as she is, Beth IS a newcomer to politics and doesn’t know what she’s doing. But does she know that?
4. Deja just scoops my heart right out of my chest sometimes. Her pained eyes when she gets a text from her birth mom, and witnesses a tender moment between Beth and Tess! Later, as she serves at the soup kitchen with her new family, Deja remembers what it’s like to be on the receiving end of charity food.
5. It’s Katoby in the kitchen, whipping up the feast so Randall and family can serve a meal in his would-be district of Philly. Soooo good to see Toby on the upswing, with his one-liners–“my fingers are tension assassins!” and basic amiable nature. He does have a bit of a meltdown, though, over Randall’s 30-ingredient homemade cranberry sauce, with “Fresh mint from (Randall’s garden)”. OY!
6. Throwing back even farther, to Vietnam in the late 1960s, we find Jack and his brother, Nicky, at odds over how the local Vietnamese should be treated. Nick’s heart is hard as a stone, and he refuses to help the ADORABLE little Vietnamese boy whose foot has been cut by wire and is now festering. “I’m not going to save a life so someday he can zap Americans,” he spits out. (Later we find out his sergeant was betrayed and killed by a seemingly sweet village grandmother, which explains his rancor.) Jack speaks the language of kindness, though, and gently tries to clean the child’s wound and bind it up. The boy’s mother is, of course, our mysterious Vietnamese woman from the photo, and we feel her palpable gratitude to Jack for helping her son.
7. A photographer snaps The Photo of Jack and the Vietnamese woman and we realize there is not much of a relationship there–yet. Could it be that it was a simple matter of Jack being kind to the woman and her son?
8. Beautiful William is back, if only in the past. His story picks up where he meets Jesse–a fellow addict with whom he shares an instant affinity. (Jesse reminded me so much of my late, beloved Uncle Al I could barely stand it….sigh. Nothing like the holidays to make you miss the ones who are gone.)
9. Back in the present day Pearson kitchen, things are going bonkers. First, Tessa isn’t sick, per se, but she has just gotten her first period. The scene where Toby encounters Tess clutching a wad of pads and tampons, and they both yell as if they’d seen a rabid wolverine? Awesome. A close second for Best Scene was when Aunt Kate saves the day, helping her niece with the practicalities of moment and reassuring her with warmth and stories of her own first period. She also hears a big reveal–that Tess may be attracted to girls.
10. OMG! Miguel’s adult daughter Amber is Luisa from “Jane the Virgin”! And his son is…to put it kindly, Meat on a Stick. Yeah, Miggy had a reason to be nervous about Thanksgiving dinner at his daughter’s house. He tries to bond with his new grandson (adoption again!) and makes the kid cry. Then his horse pucky of a son says the worst thing to Rebecca: “First you steal my father from my mother and now you are trying to poison my brother in law…” I mean, what the FORK? Obviously, 10 years after the marriage ended and his ex-wife had remarried, Miguel wasn’t exactly “stolen.” But Miguel pushes back, not too hard but hard enough, and lays down a firm boundary. “(Rebecca and I) filled a hole in each other’s lives,” he said. My third favorite scene of the night–when Luisa, er, Amber, reaches across the table for her dad’s hand, a bridge over troubled waters. Yara Martinez is such a nuanced actor. I sure hope we more of her in the future.
11. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen with Toby, things are not going smoothly with meal prep–“I dropped the turkey and stepped onto, nay into it”– although the big guy has run out to Popeyes and Cracker Barrel for assorted side dishes. “That,” says an impressed Kate, “is Jack Pearson level magic.”
12. A full circle back to 1997 as Randall reads his essay to the family. “Everyone starts out as a stranger…” he says, over a montage that includes the Vietnamese woman, who gives Jack the necklace out of gratitude for his help. But even strangers can influence us in ways that change our lives. Take the fireman who found baby Randall in 1980. Yes, he was the perfect person for Randall to write about having a huge impact on his life.
13. What am I talking about? My FAVORITE scene was really when Miguel and Rebecca come to the Pearson Thanksgiving, and little Annie cries out “Grandpa” and he scoops her up in his arms with a look of deep joy on his face!
But really, SO MANY good scenes this week, am I right?
What was your favorite?
Did your eyes water, too? When?
What do you think will happen to Kevin and Zoe? Will they find the Vietnamese woman or her son?
Don’t even try to pretend it was about the onions you were chopping!!!
Happy Thanksgiving, US friends, far and wide!
Let’s all reconvene next week for the Fall finale (ALREADY!)