This Is Us recap: ‘Vegas, Baby’

Jack Pearson has long been known as the king of the grand romantic gesture. But as the illuminating beginning of “Vegas, Baby” reminds, it can be a tricky thing to be on the receiving end of one. We open in a bowling alley, on Rebecca and Jack’s first anniversary. She gets him a notebook because she always sees him scribbling; he essentially shuts down the whole alley for them as they take center stage and dance in the beautifully dimmed lighting. Then, on their fourth anniversary, Rebecca gets Jack a hammer with his name engraved on it; he gets her, well, a grand piano. For the anniversary that frames “Vegas, Baby,” however, Rebecca wants a break from feeling upstaged. She just wants to put the three kids to bed early and watch TV with her husband.

Of course, Jack not going all out for Rebecca feels plain wrong to the kids. Kevin asks his father why he’s not doing anything special, to which Jack replies, “I’m not allowed to this year.” The kids then decide to assume the anniversary duties: They’ll create a lavish set piece, prepare an elaborate meal, and handle all of the research and prep that goes into making a special night.

There’s an interesting thread here between the Pearson siblings as kids and as adults: In the episode, we that they’re blind to the desires and needs of those around them. In the past timeline, they assume their parents are headed toward divorce and try to remedy that in a panic, when in fact Rebecca just wants something low key — the very opposite of what the kids will ultimately deliver. In the present, things are much more complicated. So goes adulthood.

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