[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 6, Episode 4 of This Is Us, “Don’t Let Me Keep You.”]
This Is Us is shining a light on the Pearson family patriarch and fan favorite Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) in its latest installment, “Don’t Let Me Keep You.”
The episode follows last week’s revelation that his mother Marilyn (played by returning guest star Laura Niemi) has died. What ensues is a moving journey of discovery for the son who realizes he didn’t actually know his mother as well as he may have believed.
Below, we’re breaking down all of the emotional drama playing out in the hard-hitting installment.
When the action picks up, the episode follows Jack’s task of packing a proper suit and hitting the road to Ohio, where Marilyn had relocated after leaving his father Stanley (Peter Onorati). Frazzled by the news, Jack insists that he attend to the matter on his own, as dragging three six-year-olds along for the trip would only cause undue stress.
While Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is reluctant, she respects Jack’s feelings and allows him to set off amid a snowstorm. In the meantime, the Big 3 — played by Isabella Rose Landau (Kate), Kaz Womack (Kevin), and Ca’Ron Jaden Coleman (Randall) — discuss the death of their grandmother that they don’t know too well, unaware in their youth about how their comments might hit Jack.
Once Jack does arrive in Ohio, he’s greeted by his cousin Debby (Camryn Manheim), who makes a snide comment about how it’s been 13 years since she last saw him. When he tries broaching the topic of arrangements, Debby reveals Marilyn took care of everything when she was alive, noting the woman never wanted to be a burden to anyone.
While Debby tells Jack she’ll be reading a poem and handling the flowers due to her job as a florist, she asks him to write a eulogy and pick a dress for his mother. Excusing himself from the living room, he enters his mom’s bedroom and notices little details like a bowl of chocolates on her dresser, a basket of yarn, photos of her family, and more.
He becomes startled when a cat crosses his path, and after Debby finishes a call, he asks about the pet. She tells him the cat belonged to Marilyn, but Jack never knew about the animal and remembers his father Stanley hated cats. Debby points out that Marilyn always loved the furry felines though. Jack wonders aloud about Stanley, and Debby says she doesn’t plan on telling him and doesn’t expect the man to come.
Before Jack can turn in, Debby tells him that the cat is supposed to be staying with Mike (Jim Cody Williams), Marilyn’s boyfriend. Jack is floored to learn that his mother had a significant other, as she never mentioned it on their weekly calls — Sunday nights at 6pm.
Crossing the street, Jack introduces himself to Mike, who is very nervous. Offering Jack a beer, Mike asks about Rebecca and the kids and shows him photos of Marilyn, revealing a side to his mother he never knew existed. Mike shares that he and Marilyn met when they discovered they had the same favorite table at a local diner-like spot.
With all of this new information in tow, Jack turns in for the evening and wakes the next day with the eulogy on his mind. Visiting a local coffee shop, he sits with a mug of joe and gets to work. As the day carries on, he finds himself at a nearby bar, where he runs into Debby and Mike along with more of Marilyn’s friends. As he sits there and toasts to his mother, Jack imagines the evenings his mom was sat at the table with her pals, and it’s like she was another person.
Returning to Debby’s place, Jack takes a moment to ring up Stanley and inform him that Marilyn died. Jack immediately regrets the drunken decision as his father insists he attend the funeral. The next morning, Jack informs Debby of his mistake, but they both hope Stanley is bluffing about his attendance.
Turning his attention to the next task, Jack selects a dress he saw Marilyn wearing in one of her photos with Mike. When the sash falls off of the hanger though, Jack discovers a box under his mother’s bed labeled with his kids’ names. Inside are ice skates, as she frequently insisted over their phone calls that he should bring the kids to Ohio to ice skate.
Calling Rebecca, he tells her about the skates and how he is having a tough time writing Marilyn’s eulogy. Ever the supportive wife, Rebecca encourages Jack that he can do it. The next day, he suits up and attends the funeral celebration, thanking Debby for the flowers and gearing up for his big moment. Before he takes the podium though, Jack and the rest of the attendees listen to Debby’s poem for Marilyn, and she and him eye the door for Stanley’s potential arrival.
When it does come time for Jack’s moment, Rebecca and the kids walk in, giving him the strength to find the right words. He thanks the people attending for helping his mother build a home in Ohio, noting that the one he was raised in and helped her escape from wasn’t always kind.
He ends the eulogy in the words his mother always ended their phone calls, saying, “don’t let me keep you.” Following the ceremony, the Pearsons return to Debby’s house, where they talk and laugh about Marilyn as Mike teaches the Big 3 some wrestling moves. Eventually, the fun leads outside as the kids don their ice skates and take to the pond with Debby and Mike as Rebecca and Jack look on.
When the family finally returns home to Pennsylvania, Jack whips up dinner — tomato soup and hot dogs — something his own mom used to make for him, as a tribute to her. Shortly after sitting down, Jack excuses himself to take a moment in the living room. Rebecca checks on him and he breaks down, saying that he doesn’t have a mom anymore. She hugs him and the couple return to the table after his brief shedding of tears.
Jack may not have a mom anymore, but his memories are clearer than ever. Throughout the episode, there are moments through time where Jack remembers his mom, beginning with their drive from Pennsylvania to Ohio and how they decide to make Sundays their weekly call time. He promises to visit, but there is always an underlying fear of Stanley.
A short time later after Marilyn’s arrival in Ohio, she calls Stanley to send for some of her things, but realizes her mistake. She worries about being found by her abusive husband, but Jack tries to reassure her it will be okay. A brief push in time shows just how busy dad life can be as Jack halfheartedly listens to his mom over the phone and continues to promise he’ll visit at some point.
That visit never comes though, as Marilyn comes to Pennsylvania but can barely focus over her fear of Stanley discovering her nearby proximity. As an attempt to distract herself, she brings up the tomato soup and hot dog as Jack’s favorite meal. He doesn’t quite remember, but a further back memory that frames the episode follows a very young Jack as he attempts sledding in fresh snow, but winds up with a broken sled. Agreeing to hide the item, Marilyn welcomes him home and serves that favorite meal that Jack now makes for his kids.
The meal makes us wonder — do the Big 3 ever make tomato soup and hot dogs for their family? When it comes to the linked threads on this show, anything is possible.
This Is Us, Season 6, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC