After spending most of last week on The Big Three (and rightfully so — that therapy session was INTENSE), we begin this week’s episode on…a cat. Yes, you read that right. The cat is William’s, his name is Clooney, and William took him in as a stray before he died. William, despite his physical absence in Randall’s life, is very present in this episode as Randall prepares to go back to his biological father’s apartment to pick up the last of his belongings. Beth is more invested in Randall’s potential job interview than his apartment duties, though, because she’s worried he’s not taking returning to work seriously. She claims it’s not about the money, and it’s probably not — everyone needs some space, especially after what they’ve been dealing with.
Randall promises he’ll try to give the job interview a shot even though he’s not particularly interested, but of course that goes out the window when he gets to William’s apartment, where he finds out from a neighbor that William may have been having an affair with a woman in the building. People in the building have lots of happy memories of William — he really was loved! — but no one knows anything about a romance. Randall is invested, though — he even leaves during his job interview to take a call from the neighbor.
As Randall investigates, it becomes increasingly clear that William had a profound impact on everyone he met. He was helpful and kind, and he made people feel good. Randall eventually realizes there was no secret affair — just William’s love of Billie Holiday — but also that his late father changed him in ways he can’t ever live up to. But he plans to try by buying the building and changing people’s lives. Beth is actually on board with this because it gives them a chance to do something good, and something together, which could help with issues Beth thought were from Randall not being at work.
Meanwhile, Kevin has decided to stay with his mom to try to heal their relationship, and in the process, he works out some of his issues with Miguel, too. After last week’s “new Big Three” discussion, where Miguel confessed his feelings about not being able to live up to Jack’s memory, we got to see Miguel in a way that I think we, as viewers, needed. And this week, Kevin sees that too.
In the present, Rebecca is happy to see her son and does what she can to put him first as they reminisce and talk. But Miguel is along for the ride, too, and wants to protect Rebecca, which causes a rift between him and Kevin. When Kevin finally broaches the uncomfortable question we’ve all been asking in our heads — did he love Rebecca when Jack was still alive? — Miguel answers honestly: Rebecca and Jack were always Rebecca and Jack, one unit. They were meant to be, they loved each other, and the thought of anyone else coming between that wasn’t even on the radar. Does Miguel love her now? Well, of course.
Kevin then asks his mother if she’s happy. She says that she let go of happiness after Jack’s death, but that, yes, now she’s happy. At some point we flash back to Miguel in the past, bitter after his divorce, running to Jack. It’s an entire Pearson family outing, but Jack and Kevin run into him on their own. And in that moment, Kevin and Miguel have more in common with each other than with Jack — they’re both sad and mourning the loss of things (football and a wife).
Meanwhile, teenage Kate is trying on winter formal dresses with her mother and sneaking out of the store. This ties in to what’s happening in the present, where Kate is hesitant to go wedding-dress shopping. Madison convinces her to go, though, and this leads to Kate finding out that Madison is struggling with bulimia. When she later calls Kate for help after fainting, she admits she struggled with eating disorders in middle school and relapsed recently. Kate understands — right before Jack died, she lost a ton of weight. But she still didn’t feel comfortable in her body.
All of this emotion becomes less important as we reach the end of the episode, when the Pearsons return home from the mall and Jack decides to give his failed business (which he put on hold to raise his kids) another chance. Why is this important? Because Rebecca told Jack at the beginning of the episode to remind her to get batteries, which didn’t happen. And when the camera pans to the smoke alarm… well, you can guess where this is heading.
(photos via NBC)