If you love Nicky as much as I do, this was your night.
This Is Us Season 5 Episode 11 dedicated the entire hour to Nicky's struggle to move forward in his life.
The parallels between Nicky's failed journey to California and the one he took now made for an emotional hour, and thank goodness he didn't decide to run away AGAIN after talking to Kevin.
Present-day Nicky was as blunt, cantankerous, and ambivalent about being part of Kevin's family as always.
I couldn't help cracking up every time he called the security measures at the airport a sign of idiocy.
His inability to deal with things like Cassidy wrapping the gifts imperfectly and the TSA agent not allowing him to bring the snow globes onto the plane was as endearing as they were heartbreaking.
And who couldn't relate to Nicky's bewilderment at the idea of a Zoom party?
Most of us aren't able to jump on a plane instead just yet because of the pandemic, but the virtual world has taken its toll on all of us, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who knows someone who doesn't feel comfortable with Zoom.
But Nicky's difficulties in the present were made that much easier to empathize with because of what he'd gone through in his past.
Nicky's past storylines were heartbreaking because we knew from the beginning how they were going to turn out.
We've already seen Nicky's future and knew that there was no nomadic lifestyle with Sally and no reunion with Jack before Jack's death.
And although it couldn't be different than it was, I couldn't help root for Nicky to throw caution to the wind and go with Sally or call Jack's name in the parking lot.
This is one of the things This Is Us does best. We always know the end of the story before we know its beginning, and when the ending is unhappy, it's made that much more poignant by learning what might have been instead.
One of the saddest things to me was not that Nicky didn't leave with Sally -- though that was sad too -- but the deeper reasons he didn't.
Early in the hour, he told Jack that living with his parents helped his dad be nicer to his mom, and right before Nicky chickened out, his father reminisced about listening to FDR's announcement about Pearl Harbor with his own father.
I can't believe I was your age sitting her listening to the radio with my old man when Roosevelt came on and said Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Things change. Now I'm the old man sitting with my son watching three men come back from the moon.Nicky's father
Part of Nicky's reason for holding back was his fear of not fitting in or being accepted, but it seemed like he was also desperate for some connection with his family of origin.
He felt like his mom needed him to be a buffer between him and his dad, but more than that: the night he was supposed to leave, he finally, at long last, had a connection with his father because they were watching the moon landing together.
It's also tragic that Nicky and Kevin share the need to live up to their idealized version of Jack in their minds.
Jack kept encouraging Nicky to take risks in the name of love, from asking Sally out to hitting the road with her.
Girl lights a fire in you. I'm happy for you, little brother.Jack
But online self-confident, spontaneous Jack, Nicky was shy and awkward and felt he didn't fit in. From the moment Sally asked him to go on that road trip, I think I would have known he wasn't going to even if we didn't know his future.
It's a shame that there was no way to stay in touch with Sally while Nicky stayed home. I'm so curious now as to whatever became of her!
Anyway, as Cassidy pointed out, Nicky had been comparing himself to Jack and coming up short his whole life even though Jack would have been proud of him for finally making it to California.
I was glad, too, that Cassidy is nothing more than a sounding board for Nicky. She didn't come with him and create complications for Kevin and Madison that nobody needed.
She's a great friend to Nicky and encourages him to allow himself to be part of his family at long last, which he badly needs, but isn't intrusive in any way.
I wasn't surprised that Nicky was freaked out by Kevin's reaction to his visit, either.
Nicky is only able to take baby steps toward being part of the Pearsons' lives, while Kevin is overexcited and more or less treats him as his substitute Jack.
Kevin seemed oblivious to Nicky's discomfort as he rambled on about all the things he wanted to do while Nicky was visiting, and his overeagerness to include Nicky in everything was sure to scare the hell out of him.
That just made Nicky's monologue to the kids that much sweeter, though.
I jotted down some things for you. No great words of wisdom but when you're an old man and you're looking out the plane window, you think about all the mistakes you make in life. I lived alone, every day same routine for 50 years. But then I got an invitation to meet you two, and you know what it got me thinking about? It got me thinking about the moon and July 20, 1969. I watched a man walk on the moon. One day, we'd never been to the moon. It was impossible to fathom even walking on it. And the next day we're walking on it. The impossible became possible just like that. For 50 years, I lived in a trailer, a trailer that went nowhere. Whatever the opposite is of an astronaut, that's what I became. And then I got that invitation in the mail for a Zoom, whatever the hell that is, but an invitation to meet my great-nephew and my great-niece. My big brother's grandchildren. I went a really long time, and I've been stuck. Anything good that would ever happen to me, it just seemed impossible. But here I am. I made it. You two are my moon.Nicky
That whole speech made me tear up, and then Kevin found that old photograph of Jack and Nicky inside the book.
What a poignant ending to the long, long journey Nicky took that he dismissed as "nothing."
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics. What did you think of the Nicky-centered hour of This Is Us? Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!
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This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST. The next new episode airs on April 6, 2021.