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BWW Recap: Exploring Vietnam and Los Angeles on THIS IS US

BWW Recap: Exploring Vietnam and Los Angeles on THIS IS US

"This is Us" returned this week after a midterm-elections-related hiatus, providing a more zeroed-in experience than usual. We focus on Vietnam tonight--the experience of it, the aftermath of it, and a son's putting together the pieces of it.

We come back to Jack's time in Vietnam exactly where we left it, with Jack standing in front of his younger brother, Nicky, hoping to be the savior he thinks his brother needs. The reunion is bittersweet, to say the least.

Nicky seems to think he's hallucinating Jack--or, if not, that it's too late for Jack to do anything to help him. He's already been formally disciplined by the Army. There's nothing he can do other than wait to be sent home or die.

Jack isn't about to give up on saving his baby brother. He goes to Nicky's superior officer and asks if he can bring him back to his platoon and whip him into shape.

The answer is no, at first; it's army policy not to put two brothers into the same outfit, for obvious family safety reasons that I understand because I've seen "Saving Private Ryan." They also seem to think Nicky is a lost cause, having been reprimanded for out-of-control partying and such. Jack explains in a tender, high-fructose-corn-syrupy speech about why Nicky was never cut out to fight a war (he likes to take spiders outside instead of killing them!). Nicky's superior officer tells Jack he'd better get going before the roads turn to "VC" territory.

Defeated, Jack starts his trek home, where he comes upon a Vietnamese man with a motorcycle. He asks him to transport him back to the fishing village where he's stationed. The next few minutes are about wondering whether or not this man is a "good guy" or a "bad guy"--he helps Jack get home, but he also stops and turns in a bunch of cans that will be made into Vietcong weapons. I wonder if we needed this conflict, when it seems like Jack hasn't yet done that "good versus bad" interrogation within himself.

But he does get back to his "ville." Later that night, Nicky's superior officer shows up with Nicky in tow, telling Jack he has a week to reform him. This seems like the setup for Nicky's untimely death, something I'm not sure if I'm ready to experience!

Later that night, while on patrol, Jack encounters the mysterious ~woman with the necklace~ for the first time--the woman Kevin and Zoe went all the way around the world to find.

Kevin and Zoe arrive in Vietnam and hop into a Jaguar to start their journey, which makes sense to me because Kevin is a super rich and famous movie star. I don't know that the show gives it adequate attention, though--Vietnam, to this day, lives the effects of the myriad imperial and colonial wars they fought against invading powers, and Kevin's in a Jaguar. Go figure.

Kevin keeps asking Zoe personal questions and Zoe keeps evading them, even when they're sitting together in a public market and Zoe is doing something that can only be described as an intimate experience (eating BAT for the first time). Kevin doesn't pay too close attention, though--he sees some tourists wearing the same necklace his father passed down to him and finds out the necklace is super commonly produced and bought by people passing through. He doesn't find out anything about the meaning or context of the necklace, but this is enough to make him furious. He came all the way across the world for a souvenir!

He's furious! He and Zoe leave the market and he starts venting about the futility of the situation, and about Zoe's inability to open up to him (he just NOW found out her father lives in China, for God's sake). Zoe keeps saying she doesn't want to talk about it, and that she doesn't feel well, which Kevin assumes is another evasion tactic until Zoe vomits up some bat a few seconds later.

Kevin takes care of Zoe post-food-poisoning and tells her he's in love with her, which is why he wants her to feel comfortable talking about her past. Zoe tells Kevin that she's falling in love with him, too--and that's not the reason she's going to share part of herself with him. She confides in Kevin that her father sexually abused her growing up, which is why the no contact and the fear of being found out. She's not going to let him ruin this relationship for the two of them.

The third story line of the week is Jack and Rebecca's postwar, second date road trip to Los Angeles. They stop in lots of motels, have lots of sex, and get a lot of perspective. They say the best way to get to know someone is to travel with them, and this feels like no exception.

Rebecca starts noticing that Jack's having nightmares--when she asks about them, he says he never remembers his dreams. She tries to talk to him about the war and he deflects her.

When they get to LA, they go to a party at Rebecca's actress friend's house. A bottle of champagne pops and Jack jumps to the defensive, insisting he's fine with terror in his eyes.

Later, Rebecca goes to her big meeting at the record label and Jack goes to his secret meeting at someone secret's house.

Someone secret turns out to be the parents of one of the guys from Jack's platoon who was killed in the accident with the football a few episodes back. Jack tries to take responsibility for the death--he let his guard down, and he should have been watching out for the kid instead of enjoying a semi-relaxing night. The parents assure Jack that it wasn't his fault, that nothing he could have done would have prevented the accident. It's extremely emotional.

We hear Rebecca's beautiful voice playing over the speaker system in the big music producer's office. The song ends, and she asks for feedback--the producer tells her the song is great! Thanks so much! Keep in touch!

That doesn't do much for Rebecca, who drove too long a way to leave with a "keep in touch." She asks for further feedback, and the record producer tells her he thinks she's "Pittsburgh-good." So. That hurts.

Jack comes to pick Rebecca up--they've both had big, emotionally exhausting days, and Jack asks Rebecca to sing for him. She does, and he cries--a huge release from a man who, earlier in the episode, insisted he never cries. It's big and intimate and hugely indicative of their relationship to come.

This episode felt stilted at moments--"This is Us" doesn't currently seem to be going for it as much as it used to. Hopefully next week we'll see a return to deep, well-thought-out, non predictable storylines. And Randall! I miss Randall!

Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

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