It's been a loooong, strange fifth season of This is Us, with COVID production delays forcing several hiatuses between episodes since the fall 2020 season premiere. However, with the show back this week after a nearly monthlong hiatus (episode 13 aired April 13) and the season wrapping with two fewer episodes than usual, the end is almost near for this penultimate season of the hit NBC drama.
Last episode focused on the long-awaited reconciliation between Kevin and Randall. This latest episode broadens the scope again to explore the lives of all the Pearsons. But of course, there are common themes throughout. For one, all the stories deal with the Pearsons' career joys — Kate's found hers, and the others have lost or might lose theirs. Another common theme is how sometimes being there for someone doesn't mean trying to fix their problems.
Let's jump into how these themes manifest for different characters in episode 14, "The Music and the Mirror."
NBC Chrissy Metz on 'This Is Us'
At Kate and Toby's, a shower pipe upstairs is loose and water is leaking through the kitchen ceiling. To Kate's chagrin, Toby, still struggling with losing the joy of his job, insists on fixing it himself, since a plumber is expensive… and probably also because he wants to be useful.
With Kate busy, the neighbor Gregory helps watch Jack while Toby attempts the repair. Gregory suggests Toby call someone useful for help. Toby doesn't want to ask Miguel, despite his construction background, because he doesn't want to "send up the Pearson bat signal" and have to spend the day talking about, then crying about, then talking about crying about his feelings. Comical meta line alert!
Toby reluctantly calls his father instead. His father immediately annoys him, but he comes over, and together they fix the pipe. Afterward, Toby vents about his job loss and struggle to juggle Kate's happiness with his own unhappiness. In response, Toby's father confesses he once lost his job and hid it from his family. He praises the Pearsons' willingness to discuss their feelings because he wishes he'd been more open himself. He then says, "People only look for leaks where the water's coming out, but it's the pressure that'll get you." Metaphorically, this suggests people should check on loved ones even when they seem fine, and people should open up before things become overwhelming.
Will Toby heed this advice and talk to Kate, or will he let things fester too long?
Kevin and Nicky attend a screening of the Jordan Martin Foster movie. When it ends, Foster beams about Kevin's performance and the film. Kevin says it's a work of art. But afterward, he frantically calls his agent and says it's awful. Kevin's team agrees; it's unwatchable and threatens Kevin's career. Kevin orders an emergency meeting with his team to book a new project.
However, Kevin's agents reveal he's not being offered much, partly because he's developed a bad reputation. He publicly melted down on The Manny, walked away from a Broadway play (when Randall had his nervous breakdown), and walked away from Foster's set when the twins were born. Kevin is distraught he might lose his joy, like Toby.
Disrupting the meeting's ensuing silence, Nicky says he wishes they still made shows like Bonanza — it featured a man's man. Nicky and Kevin leave the meeting with scripts to consider. It would be amazing if Nicky finds Kevin's saving grace, or if his Bonanza comment inspired Kevin's agents somehow.
On the way out, Kevin sees his ex-girlfriend Zoe (Beth's documentarian cousin) on a screen in another room; she's waiting on a virtual meeting with her own agents. The two chat. Zoe is surprised Kevin knocked up Madison but says he seems happy about her and the twins. Kevin says he is, and that Madison balances him out. Then Zoe says Kevin always fully commits to things, even making unintended situations into something he "wanted all along." Zoe says it's a compliment — essentially, he easily adapts to change and the needs of others around him.
This trait is somewhat antithetical to his professional reputation, so maybe he'll find a way to make people see his true good nature through spinning the story of the Foster film, or through a new project.
Kate and Rebecca
In a college-era flashback, after Kate's breakup with Marc, Rebecca gushes over Kate having a job interview with a colleague. Kate, however, blows off the interview. She instead gets coffee at the diner.
In the present, Kate and Rebecca go wedding dress shopping with Madison. While Madison tries on a dress, Rebecca asks Kate about her music school job. Kate rambles excitedly, which she hasn't been able to do with Toby, since she's worried about his unemployment pain. Rebecca notes that Toby lights up when Kate's happy, like Rebecca always felt seeing Kate's joy when she was a child.
Madison emerges in a beautiful new dress, but crying. Her father said he's not coming to the wedding. Virtually absent from her life for a year and a half, he'd reached out when he saw her magazine cover engagement news, and expressed excitement about attending the wedding. She'd let herself care, only to be let down by him again. Rebecca comforts her, saying how great she is and how the family loves her.
Kate, moved by Rebecca's actions, tells Rebecca she's a good mother and thanks her for loving her despite how difficult a daughter she was. Rebecca says she always sees all of Kate — every Kate she's been or might still be — and that no matter what, Kate was always easy to love. Cue Kate and audience tears.
Kate later takes Rebecca to her choir class. Rebecca subsequently gushes about how perfect the job is for Kate. This scene is connected to a flashback of Kate telling her mother about getting a job at the diner and saying she should stop hoping for much from her. In a flashback within the flashback, Kate sits in that diner with Jack talking about going to college for singing. Jack lauds her talent and how she lights up when she sings, and says her passion will make people see her for who she is. It parallels Rebecca's present-day words, implying that Kate always appreciated her dad's support but never acknowledged her mother's.
Adult Kate rectifies this. She notes that through the years Kate spent at the diner, Rebecca never pressured her into other things but also never stopped believing she'd find herself again. Kate asks how she kept that faith and Rebecca says that "real joy is never gone forever," and Kate just needed time to find that joy again herself. Kate and Rebecca moments are always precious, and the theme of letting someone find their own way applies to another Pearson duo, Beth and Randall.
The episode begins with a flashback to just before Beth first opened her dance studio. In a time-jumping montage, we see a progression of intertwined events for young Beth with her dancing and adult Beth with her dance studio that culminates in young Beth throwing out her dance shoes and adult Beth closing the studio, her business a COVID casualty after masked in-person classes became Zoom classes that dwindled in attendance until Beth couldn't afford to continue. Beth has now twice lost her source of joy, dancing.
In the present, Randall has a meeting with a state senator, while Beth has an interview with an urban planning firm. Worried that Beth is feeling worse about losing the studio and returning to corporate life than she's letting on, Randall asks Déjà to watch Beth during the day. Déjà has her own drama — Malik's baby mama Jennifer is getting closer to Malik and Janelle — but she obliges.
Beth's interview starts off well, but the interviewer abruptly asks to reschedule. Beth starts laughing and says they should just cancel it. She hangs up and continues to laugh oddly. Déjà thinks she's lost it, but nevertheless, when Randall returns home, on Beth's orders, Déjà refuses to disclose where she is. Déjà tries to convince Randall not to push Beth to talk before she's ready or try to "fix things." Randall declines her advice, but when Déjà finally confesses that Beth is cleaning out the studio, Randall seems to actually listen to her last note: Beth doesn't need a hero, he should just be there for her.
Interspersed with present-day Randall-Beth scenes is a flashback to the night Randall surprises Beth with a trip to the ballet. Beth gets upset and demands to go home. The whole way back, Beth doesn't offer an explanation and Randall doesn't press for one. Back on campus, she finally opens up about having her dance career dreams crushed despite working so hard for so long, always closely studying her performances in the mirror to improve. She's a "dancer who doesn't dance." In response, Randall takes out his phone, plays the song "All My Life," by K-Ci & JoJo, and asks her to dance. Beth thinks it's corny, but accepts.
When Randall arrives at the studio, Beth barks that she doesn't want to discuss saving it. Randall takes out his phone, plays "All My Life," and asks for a dance. As they dance — in both timelines — she cries on his shoulder. Randall figured out, as Rebecca did with Kate, the need to be there as a railing, not a repairman. It's a lesson all parents and partners could use… although we can still hope all the Pearsons maintain/regain/save their joys.