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This is Us - Songbird Road: Part One - Review: Unanswered Postcards

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This is Us - Songbird Road: Part One - Review: Unanswered Postcards

Warning - this review has a lot of spoilers. So, please watch the episode first, unless you don't mind me spoiling things.

Episode 3.11

Rebecca and the Big Three reckon with secrets Jack kept from them. Jack's Vietnam story continues to be revealed.

The cast for this episode:
Present day Nicky (Griffin Dunne)
Vietnam era/1990s Nicky (Michael Angarano)
Jack (Milo Ventimiglia)
Miguel (Jon Huertas)
Kevin (Justin Hartley)
Randall (Sterling K. Brown)
Kate (Chrissy Metz)
Rebecca (Mandy Moore)

My reaction to watching this episode I posted as a comment on the "What did you think of This is Us episode" with poll SpoilerTV does after most tv show episodes air.

"Wow! I just watched this episode and though I intentionally didn't watch what happened, the impact was definitely felt. This is why this show in all its flawed glory makes you keep coming back week after week, even knowing you will be emotionally eviscerated at the end of each episode."

And, a week later, I keep thinking the same thing.

I didn't really understand Nicky played by Michael Angarano. But now I do. I wondered from last week's episode, did Nicky fake his own death? Could that be what the postcards meant?

But I was so wrong. And the truth is more devastating and real than anything I could have imagined. Jack is a good guy. We know this in our bones. Yet this episode showed that he is not infallible, but human with all of misunderstandings and unwillingness to forgive. This episode also humanizes Nicky and Kevin in a real way.

This episode was brilliant in all its flaws.

Last episode we discover that Nicky, Jack's younger brother who everyone in the family thought died in Vietnam, was alive.

This episode opens with Jack being delivered postcards to his job. The music and the visuals of Jack receiving multiple postcards with a sentence or two and then being thrown into a draw sets the tone of this episode for part of this episode. These postcards mean so much more than just a picture with some words. It's Nicky reaching out to his older brother Jack who's always been there for him, even going to the extreme and going to Vietnam for Nicky. And yet here we are now years later, and Jack acts like this isn't his little brother. The previous scenes from the season they aired for this episode says a lot when Jack told Rebecca he had a little brother who died in Vietnam. Yet we know Nicky didn't die. What could have possibly happened for this radical change in their relationship?

The postcard sent to Jack's house where his wife and children live finally propelled him to address the elephant in the room. He actually lies to Rebecca telling her he needs to out of town for work. Though later in the episode he tells her more of the truth, it's only half-truths, which was interesting to watch. There is one other scene with a young Kevin that impacts Kevin's reaction to meeting his uncle I thought was profound.

We now jump to the present with Rebecca, Randall and Kevin skyping with Kate. Their Uncle Nicky is alive and he is in Pennsylvania. Rebecca decides she doesn't want to go on the road trip to meet this man that Jack told her years ago had died. Kate wasn't originally going to go, seeing as she was in California and pregnant. But at the last moment changed her mind and shows up. Beth packs fofo food for Randall and the three adult children of Jack go off to meet their uncle and find out why their dad would lie. I enjoyed some of this, but I truly believe that this episode was about Nicky.

"Sibling Road trip"

Oh, on a side note, the Beth pep talk take 2 Randall gives was inspirational! And, when he tells Beth why he's really going on this road trip, you can see that Randall and Kevin are brothers are there for each other especially when it counts.

One great thing about this show, is they show the past with the present and how things relate and happen at the same time. This was really good in this episode. The soundtrack for this episode really worked too.

The flashback scene of a young Nicky and young Jack walking through the woods where Nicky tells his older brother Jack that he's "going to live in a big house on the lake someday" and he will be a surgeon is so profound when you see what happens when your past gets in the way of your future. Instead, Nicky is living in a trailer all alone. A trailer he still lives in thirty years later when the 3 siblings track him down.

When the 3 siblings meet Nicky you don't realize he knows who they are. The last time Jack visited Nicky he showed him a picture of the 3 children. When you see this scene and all the other scenes that flashback and forth you realize how profound everything really is. Nicky could have been part of their lives. And yet he is all alone. He doesn't even know Jack died all those years ago. One of the most intense moments in this episode is when Nicky says that he never got to tell Jack what really happened that day. The day he lost his brother Jack from his life. Wow, what a moment. Right up there when Jack tells Nicky in the 1990s to stop sending him postcards to his house where his children live.
Both actors who play Nicky own this episode. Twenty-something Nicky played by Michael Angarano and Present-day Nicky played by Griffin Dunne were awesome. But I think Michael Angarano's desperation to connect with Jack in that trailer was beyond real. The animosity coming off Jack played by Milo Ventimiglia made it all the more intense. When Nicky tells Jack he won't bother him again, how could you not be devastated for him.

"He should never have come for me." Present day Nicky said.

It was the truth. By Jack going to Vietnam and trying to save Nicky, he lost him anyway just not physically. The previous flashbacks to Vietnam over this season set up everything in motion for Jack's reaction to what happens.

The Vietnam flashback which is what causes the rift between brothers Jack and Nicky was intense. The beginning of that scene where Nicky befriends the Vietnamese boy showed what kind of man Nicky was. Now, I had to fast forward through what actually happens, but essentially it was an accident, children repeat what adults do.... Nicky and boy going fishing on the lake and Nicky uses a hand grenade to get the fish. The next part I fast forwarded through, but the boy is dead and it was an accident. Unfortunately, Jack doesn't listen to Nicky saying it was an accident. He thinks Nicky has gone over the edge and killed the boy intentionally. And at that moment Nicky became dead to Jack and everything changes. Even all those years later Jack doesn't want to hear what he thinks is an excuse.

Nicky asks Jack, "Did I ruin your life?" And you can tell he means it. This is why Michael Angarano performance as Nicky was so brilliant. "I won't write you anymore," Nicky says after Jack shows him a picture of Rebecca and the kids. This is what he lost. And for a second Jack almost let him back into his life. But, when Jack was pulling out of the parking lot of a store he could choose to go left back to his brother or make a right towards his family. And for a second he puts the left blinker on but instead turns right towards home leaving his brother in his past. This same chose of going left or right is something that Kevin must make. And as he flashback to that day when Jack spoke to Kevin, we see that Kevin is his father's son, the compassionate one. Kevin does what Jack couldn't, he turns left, going back to Nicky!

There were a lot of great scenes in this episode where there was no dialogue, but so much was said by what you saw on screen.

Present day Nicky said, "I never got to tell him. It was an accident"

This episode was a punch to the gut. It made you feel, question and hope for something better in the future. I can't wait to see where the story goes with Nicky finally coming home to his family, something that should have happened years ago.

Note several of the pictures included in this review are from previous episodes.
Hope you liked this review. What did you think of this episode of This is Us? Leave a comment.

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