You’ve probably noticed that over the show’s three seasons, Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday for the Pearson family. By now you’re familiar with their family traditions that were created the night that they had to stay at the desolate hotel without air-conditioning when hot dogs and crackers were their only options for a Thanksgiving meal. Episode 8 opens with a flashback as the Pearsons prepare for their final Thanksgiving with Jack (unbeknownst to them). Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) has invited Miguel (Jon Huertas) to dinner and we learn this is shortly after he and his wife’s divorce. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) feels like Miguel didn’t fight hard enough to save his marriage and is uncomfortable choosing to sides when she was once such a close friend to his ex-wife. During dinner Miguel cannot help but notice the loving family dynamic between the Pearsons. Envious and uncomfortable he excuses himself from the table only to be found by Jack who then gives one of his infamous pep talks. Miguel knows he should’ve spent more time at home with his family instead of at the office, he should invested himself more in the lives of his children but Jack is quick to remind that while he was working to provide for his family he was still dedicated to them whether or not they see it that way. This conversation ties into the ending of the episode in the present; Rebecca and Miguel are driving to his daughter’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Despite his strongest efforts, Miguel’s adult children still cannot accept that their parents divorced and that he then married Rebecca. This offers a small peak into Miguel’s character and he and Rebecca’s relationship.
Fast forward to the present, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) is in the middle of his campaign for City Councilman is going to spend his holiday passing out meals to the less fortunate members of the community. Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) has now joined him on the trail but continues to question Randall’s motive for adding her to the team. Beth suspects that she was only offered the position out of pity, although Randall continually promises her that this was not the case. But when tensions rise between Beth and Randall’s campaign manager, he confirms her suspicions, confessing that he didn’t have any other choice. This is one of the rare times when we see an issue fester between a couple that appears to be infallible.
With Randall preoccupied, newly pregnant Kate and Toby (Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan) step in to cook the family meal. Toby’s mental state seems to have drastically improved from the last few episodes and has reverted back to his old bubbly self. He continues to compare himself to all the stories about Jack and feels pressure to make a flawless Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately things don’t go as well as expected and as Kate points out is true Jack fashion, Toby ends up making lemonade out lemons. While the rest of the family is out helping Randall pass out meals, Tess (Eris Baker) decides to stay home with Kate and Toby. She ends up having an intimate conversation with Kate where she decides to come out to her aunt. Kate promises her that she won’t tell Randall or Beth, could this be why in a flash-forward we see Tess being so reluctant to go talk to “her”? It’s still unclear who this “her” is but this certainly looks like it could be her aunt.
Before the episode ends it jumps back to Jack’s looking after his brother in Vietnam. Each day Nick (Michael Angarano) grows more resentful of Jack coming to his rescue instead of leaving him. One day Jack notices a woman (the same woman from the picture that Kevin is now searching for) limping as she carries buckets of water to her son in their small hut. Jack follows her into her hut where he discovers that her little boy is sick from an infected wound on his foot. Nick, a medic, refuses to care for the little boy and Jack can’t understand why he would walk away from an innocent child. Nick replays the details for his brother when his commanding officer trusted a woman in a village who he thought was just an innocent villager. Woman or child, Nick refuses to help them just so one day they can grow up to kill Americans.
As the episode comes to a close we watch as the woman gives Jack her necklace as an expression of her gratitude. This is the necklace that Jack keeps around his neck for several years until he passes it down to Kevin after his football injury. This chance encounter clearly makes a significant impact on Jack. Throughout the show’s three seasons we watch as this necklace helps both men find strength in their weakest moments and reminds them of the power of love.
Now that we finally know who this mystery woman is, do you think she’ll have an even larger influence on Jack’s life other than this small encounter? Comment below and share your thoughts with us!