This Is Us Season 1 Episode 5 Review: The Game Plan

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You Can't Always Get What You Want was playing in my head after watching this, because "if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need" seemed to make a lot of sense in conjunction with This Is Us Season 1 Episode 5.

It's getting boring saying THIS WAS THE BEST EPISODE SO FAR after every one airs, but dang it, it's still holding true. The way everything played out, from learning about the long-standing history of football in the family to the deaths of both of Randall's fathers was done so brilliantly there is nothing else to do but gush about it.

Well, crying is also an option. 

Steelers Fans - This Is Us

Rebecca and Jack almost didn't have children. Their childhoods weren't the best, and early conversations in their relationship always pointed to remaining childless. 

Rebecca: I refuse to be my mother staring at my father staring at the television.
Jack: OK.
Rebecca: So teach me! Teach me football.

But then Rebecca wanted to learn about football, and it became their thing just as much as it was their fathers' thing, Jack thought of his own father and how special it was to him to spend time with him watching football, and he imagined himself having kids and doing the same.

So things changed, but it wasn't something they shared outright. Discussing it during the Super Bowl may not have been the greatest timing, but it was also the very best timing, because magical things happen when you have makeup sex in Froggy's bathroom. You conceive triplets.

That origin story is why football is so special to Kate now, and why she makes a big deal about watching the game, even if it's alone, something Toby finds odd, and most likely believed was because she had no friends with which to watch since Kevin was gone.

He was wrong.

We've been waiting to find out the fate of Jack, why he had been referred to in the past tense, why Rebecca was with Miguel and still wearing the necklace Jack gave her on the special night he told her he'd give her his all going forward. Now we know.

Kate: Growing up, I used to watch the Steelers with my dad, right? Every single Sunday. Until I grew up, and I moved out here, and I got out of the habit. And it wasn't until the 2006 AFC Championship when they played the Broncos, do you remember?
Toby: No.
Kate: Well, anyway, I did, and then they won. And then they won the Super Bowl and I just, it's just what I do now. I watch the Steelers, and I watch them with my dad.

Kate has her dad's ashes, and she never watches the Steelers games alone, she watches with Jack, just like she did when she was a little girl. Oh come on. Tell me the tears were not literally flying out of your eyeballs as this started to go down. 

And the way it played out with the rest of the episode? Puhlease! Not a dry eye in my house for two viewings. Two!!

Granted, I grew up in a Steelers family. Here's my dad smiling with his three friends just before they drove off to the 1975 Super Bowl, grinning like Cheshire cats with their Steelers hats on (and their plaid pants). He's gone now, too. 

But I'm pretty sure the story is just as effective without living my life, and I'm also sure you'll tell me if I'm right.

Now what I'm left wondering is why, exactly, we're stuck at the eight-year-old age for the kids. I'm hoping it's just a first season thing and not wanting to cast too many child actors for filming purposes and not that Jack died when they were that young. That will break my heart in tiny pieces.

Of all the weird things for Toby to do, however, (getting back to the story at hand) was to pause a game during live play. That's just beyond bizarre. But now he gets the whole picture, and he watches the games with Kate and Jack. 

Wise Owl - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 5

Tying the threads in really well, I was so excited to see Randall and Kevin together, but apparently that's not what I needed to see at all. I needed to see Kevin and William while Randall and Beth went off for a night in the city

How many times have I said now that Randall and Beth are my favorite married couple on TV? I have said that, right? They are written so well and Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson have found a rhythm as this couple that feels so genuine. They're so fast and natural together I miss the nuances between them on a first viewing.

Not until I watched a second time did I see Randall drop the chemo pill into the blender to understand what he was talking about with her birth control later, for example. And when they talked to Kevin about being in the house and for how long, it's exactly how a conversation like that would go down.

Randall: Well, there goes Charleston.
Beth: OK, I'm sorry, what?
Randall: Ten years when the girls are both off in college I thought we would take an early retirement in Charleston.
Beth: Forgive me, Randall, but what in the holy hell are you talking about? And since when did you want to move to Charleston?
Randall: I saw something about it on CNN. How they got a great quality of life, good restaurants. Sometimes at work I look up places on Zillow.
Beth: Oh, OK. Well, I'm so sorry that I'm screwing with your super top secret Zillow dreams, honey. My issues are nothing when compared to yours.

That conversation in the drug store was so realistic. It's at times like those, when you're stressed and flat out don't know what to do that things come out of left field. Like all the planning Randall has been doing in his head for their early retirement in Charleston, sneaking looks at Zillow. Those moments make This Is Us spectacular.

While Beth's pregnancy scare really took the excitement out of their night at the suite, they grew closer as a result (if that's even possible), and realized it might not be the worst thing in the world if they had another child. 

And they left Kevin and William alone with the girls, which was beautiful in its own right.

Beth: Bedtimes are at eight and nine; that's teeth brushed and in the bed by eight and nine.
Kevin: So one Sambuca to chase down the ambien and then lights out, right?

Justin Hartley continues to blow my mind with his ability to be one of the best things on television when television took so damn long to realize it. He's natural with everybody. Every Kevin scene was a delight, even when they weren't delightful.

So, you told the kids that he's grandpa, right, but not that he's sick. That's ballsy.


Parents always want to protect their children. Kevin has no children and no filter, he treats everyone the same. He has a sassy sense of humor, and especially without Kate around, is lacking a bit in the self-confidence department. William picked up on that right away.

William: You do that a lot.
Kevin: Do what a lot?
William: Doubt yourself. You were really good on that show, Kevin.
Kevin: You watched The Manny?

Kevin thinking of people in terms of animated characters is cute, and William would work well as the wise owl in a Pixar film. But Kevin isn't the dopey Labrador, even if people love Labradors. 

He could have never expected something as simple as a table read of his play would get him embroiled in a discussion of the meaning of life, and it's doubtful Randall and Beth would have chosen Uncle Kevin to be the one to break the news about William's health and that death is coming for everybody.

You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.

The Painting - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 5

And can you imagine a better explanation of the meaning of life and death, of family and how everyone will always be a part of each other than the one Kevin gave to Tess and Annie?

Even William stayed out of the beginning of the discussion because he could see there was no fear in Kevin talking to the girls. The scariest part of hearing about death is the fear in the voice telling you about it. 

How do you learn to fear anything? Mostly in how you learn about it. I spent so much time at funeral homes growing up, I don't have a fear of bodies or funerals, something many people can't comprehend. Although when my mom threw herself on top of her dad while he was laying in his casket? That was scary. 

So Kevin stuck his foot in his mouth talking honestly about his play. He mentioned ghosts, death and the girls got more than they bargained. But he recognized that and shared with them his painting.

He paints every time he gets a new part so he can better understand what he feels about it. The one he showed the girls was eclectic, a bit of a mess, signifying everyone in his life, those he has known and those he didn't and how they all fit into it.

Where they were, how they cross paths with others and how, as a result, they never fully disappear, but rather blend in with everyone else, until Kevin's life is just one big, sloppy, colorful, magical thing that never ends. And writing that? I'm getting teary eyed again.

If ever there was a time when this world needed the positive messages delivered by This Is Us, it's now. And it delivers week after week. As the montage carried on and we saw Randall packing up William's things, I was struck with just how much of an impact he made in such a short time.

Just like this show, really. Like Kevin told the girls, you never know when death is coming. And we never know when beauty is going to strike us. Randall found his father just in time to know him and to make an impact on his crazy life. Kevin arrived just in time to benefit from William's wise words and to share his own with Randall's girls, proving he's the best uncle they could have.

Everything happens for a reason, and just like we're seeing with the Pearsons, we need to make sure we step back and take it all in before it disappears.

So. There you have it. My take on "The Game Plan." What is yours? Were tears shed? Were you surprised, was your heart warmed, did you laugh? Tell me all about it and if you're late to the party, watch This Is Us online so you can be one of us.

The Game Plan Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (84 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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This Is Us Season 1 Episode 5 Quotes

So, you told the kids that he's grandpa, right, but not that he's sick. That's ballsy.


Rebecca: I refuse to be my mother staring at my father staring at the television.
Jack: OK.
Rebecca: So teach me! Teach me football.