This Is Us went back in time for its fourth episode of the second season.


Rebecca’s overbearing mother Janet (Elizabeth Perkins) visits during a snow storm, and Rebecca says her kids have chicken pox. Janet’s arrival throws Rebecca and Jack’s household out of sync. Interestingly, the list of things that Rebecca says drive her crazy about Janet is about the same as what adult Kate and Toby said about Rebecca a few episodes ago.

It’s not hard to side with Rebecca now though, after seeing how Janet interacts with Rebecca’s three children. She instills superficial ideals in Kate and Kevin, and acts as if Randall isn’t part of the family. They fight over the fact that Janet never bonded with Randall, not because he’s adopted but because he’s black.

In the present day, Kevin is dealing with a mangled knee from an injury on set. Before undergoing a needed surgery, he sees an image of his father, cheering him on at a football. It appears his death is haunting Kevin in more ways than one. Kate and Toby care for him while he recovers from the surgery, and tells them he doesn’t need the painkillers. But once they are away, Kevin grabs the bottle after watching a video of Jack beaming with pride at a football game.

Meanwhile, Randall and Beth struggle to help Deja acclimate to their home. She still declines to participate in family things, and has even not washed her hair in weeks. Beth wants to have a sit down as a family, but Randall says that he should be the one to take the lead on this, even if he’s failed so far.

But it doesn’t work. He plans a bowling night for himself and the girls, but it’s a failure from the get-go. Deja refuses to take off her shoes or bowl in her socks, and then she shoves a girl who makes fun of her hair. Randall and the girl’s father get into a heated exchange, and the family leaves the alley quickly. Randall begins to realize that throwing fun and luxuries at Deja might not fix anything.

And then Deja is more responsive to Beth, after they have a sit-down chat. She even lets her adoptive mother braid her hair. But then Randall jumps in and tries to bond over similar things, and instead of being happy, Deja is upset that Beth shared their private conversation. She cuts off her newly braided hair in rebellion.

The episode ends back in the past with Janet and Rebecca. “It’s not because he’s black, or I don’t know if it’s adoption – it’s all of it,” Janet admits. “It just all feels really foreign to me. I swear, Rebecca, I swear I try.” Rebecca is upset that Janet even has to “try,” but there’s no way around it. The episode ends with Janet having a nice moment of bonding with Randall over his science fair project. But despite this, the viewers now that Janet and Rebecca’s relationship will never be the same. But in the future timeline, while we know Rebecca and Kate also have mother-daughter issues, they do appear to be better.

We also learn why Kate’s been so quiet lately – she’s six weeks pregnant.

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