This Is Us recap: season 3 episode 15 “The Waiting Room”

In this very special episode of This Is Us, tensions run high and the Pearsons gather in the hospital waiting room to hear news of Kate and her baby.

Last time on This Is Us, Kate’s water broke at only 28-weeks pregnant and she was rushed to the hospital. Kevin, who had been drinking all day after his secret relapse, had to call her an ambulance. Meanwhile, Beth and Randall are in the middle of a dispute over the financial feasibility of Beth’s dance teacher job.

The Pearsons are gathered in the hospital waiting room and have apparently been there for some time. Rebecca and Miguel, Kevin and Zoe,  and Randall and Beth are all there. Everyone is nervous and exhausted. Kevin complains about the lack of updates while Randall tries to ease the tension. As Kevin and Randall start to bicker, Rebecca puts an early stop to it. She hasn’t moved in hours and Randall asks if she’s doing okay, if she wants to get up and stretch maybe. She is distracted, but says she’s fine. She just noticed that electrical outlets look like little surprised faces, frozen mid-scream.

The doctor comes to talk to the family, telling them that while 28 weeks is very early, it’s also an important milestone for fetal development. They are trying to delay labor as long as possible to allow the baby’s lungs and brain to develop, but the longer they wait the longer they risk infection, so Kate is on antibiotics. Everyone has been waiting there since Kate was admitted 26 hours ago, so the doctor tells them they should take a break and freshen up. There’s no need for them all to stay. Rebecca insists that they are all staying and the doctor doesn’t argue with her.

Kevin questions the doctor’s ability to give Kate the best care, so he tells him that he has the financial means to get any doctor in Los Angeles if he feels at any time that he’s out of his depth. Randall steps in and apologizes for Kevin, saying that they know he’s doing his best for Kate. The doctor promises that the fact they see him out here means nothing crazy is happening back there.

Miguel starts a game he used to play with his kids where the challenge is to name a food that isn’t made better with either chocolate or ranch. Kevin acknowledges that he’s started drinking again, since Toby told everyone anyway. Rebecca cuts it short and says they’ll talk about it another time. They’re here for Kate. Randall tries to talk with Beth about the dance thing, but she tries to brush it off for now. He persists though and they air their fight in front of everyone.

Madison shows up with donuts, which is awkward but really shouldn’t be. Everyone just treats her like she’s some random person and not a friend of Kate’s who’s just trying to be there for her and the family. Kevin asks her what she’s doing there, like a jerk, and Madison graciously leaves. Kevin admits that he’s being a jerk and takes a walk to get some air. Randall wants to talk about Kevin’s relapse, to try to get ahead of it, but Miguel tells him one thing at a time. “Did Miguel just dad voice me?” Randall asks Beth.

Beth is worried about Rebecca, asks if she can get her something to eat. Miguel answers for her, saying she already had a bar and has water. Beth shuts Miguel down, saying that Rebecca can answer for herself. Rebecca says she’s fine, she had a bar. But when she stands up, she has a moment where she’s lightheaded, so Beth persuades her to eat a donut.

Rebecca is showing a lot of distraction, sitting for long periods without thinking to move, forgetting to eat. That moment where Miguel spoke for her, that screams of a caretaker who is familiar with the needs of a patient. There is another moment where he takes her hand when she has one of her distracted observations, like he’s trying to form a connection to bring her back into the moment. I have a theory that Rebecca has Alzheimers in those flash forwards and I’m starting to think that whatever happens with Rebecca is starting to show now.

Miguel runs into Madison in the hallway. She’s not welcome in the waiting room but she can’t just leave either. Miguel sympathizes, he knows what its like to be on the outside of a family.  He tells her that it was hard to find his place without sitting in someone else’s seat, but he doesn’t mind standing. He says that if she really wants to help Kate through this, he’s sure she’ll find a way.

THIS IS US — “The Waiting Room” Episode 315 — Pictured: Caitlin Thompson as Madison — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Kevin comes back and he tells Zoe when the drinking started and that he promises he’ll talk to her all about it when this is all over. But he promises that he’s done drinking. Zoe just needs to know that Kevin isn’t lying to her. Beth talks to Zoe, saying that she wouldn’t judge her if she left Kevin. Zoe asks her if she’d judge her if she stayed and Beth seems surprised. Never, she promises.

Everyone still plays the game on and off. Beth offers squash, but squash is technically a pumpkin, which they already did. Miguel asks if Kate and Toby had picked out a name, but Rebecca says they were waiting to meet him because its hard to name someone you haven’t met. Randall remembers that Kate used to name her stuffed animals the craziest things, and that she would say goodnight to each one before she went to bed, because she wanted them to hear their name before she fell asleep. She was born to be a mother.

THIS IS US — “The Waiting Room” Episode 315 — Pictured: (l-r) Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Melanie Liburd as Zoe — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Randall suggests that Rebecca and Miguel can help them out by spending more time with the girls. However, they were apparently considering relocating to California to help Kate with the baby and settling in a nice retirement community. Randall is a little upset by this, more shocked that he’s just now hearing about it. Kevin can’t take the nature special on the TV anymore and unplugs it. He freaks out and demands an update on Kate from the nurse. Zoe has some of Kevin’s water, and while there’s nothing that suggests it other than the set up, I’m pretty sure there’s vodka in there.

Kevin finds out that the doctor is in emergency surgery but there’s no way of knowing whether the surgery is for Kate specificially. Randall tries to ask the nurse, thinking maybe his polite manner will help get information, but there’s nothing she can tell him. Kevin gets all offended that Randall thought he’d get more information, then blames his relapse on Randall leaving him alone with Nicky. They argue and Miguel tries to intervene, he says is own stuff about wanting a seat at the table, he doesn’t want to always stand, but he is drowned out.

Rebecca finally yells at everyone to just stop it. None of this matters. She remembers every detail of the waiting room the night she took Jack to see about his burn. She describes it perfectly. She says that anything that’s bothering them right now that doesn’t have to do with Kate or the baby doesn’t matter and doesn’t belong here.

And that’s when Toby finally comes out. And surprise! Everyone is okay. The baby is super small and can’t breathe on his own yet, but everyone is alive and more or less healthy. Well, that was anti-climactic. They want to see Kate, but it will be a while. Toby says she asked to see Miguel first. Miguel’s face lights up and he says, “Really?” But no, that was Toby’s poor attempt at humor. Poor Miguel, but he laughs himself after some initial disappointment.

Miguel tells Rebecca the end of the game: you can’t put chocolate on ranch. She laughs and thanks him for putting up with them. A gentleman as always, he insists its his pleasure. Randall thanks the nurse for putting up with them too. She gives them all some forms to fill out before they see Kate, but tells them they should eat and change first because “this could be a long road.”

Madison catches Miguel before they leave and gives him something to give to Kate. It’s the Ruth Bader Ginsberg doll that she bought for her son. Madison was able to lie her way into Kate’s apartment and get it for her. Miguel thanks Madison for putting up with them. Randall tells Rebecca that the move to California will be good for them and for Kate. Randall and Beth will figure it out, they always do. Kevin tells Zoe that he doesn’t know if he can get through his relapse without her and she hugs him. Beth tells Zoe she’s proud of her for changing her habits and sticking with it. Zoe reveals to Beth that Kevin’s water bottle was full of vodka. Called it!

THIS IS US — “The Waiting Room” Episode 315 — Pictured: (l-r) Melanie Liburd as Zoe, Justin Hartley as Kevin — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

In the NICU Kate and Toby get to see their son. He is super tiny and actually looks premature as opposed to some shows that have this kind of storyline. They decide to name him Jack – which I think Kevin and Randall suspected when Miguel initially asked – and they send up a prayer to Jack Sr. to protect their son.

Related Story: Why Miguel isn't getting his special episode after all

While I appreciate the performances and theatricality of this episode, it felt like an annoying summary of all the issues we already know about and without any kind of purpose, and leading up to a really anti-climatic finish. Not that I wanted Kate or the baby to die, but I mean, that’s it? Everyone is okay and that’s it?

The nurse did hint at a struggle to come, as I’m sure there will be plenty of challenges ahead for Jack Jr. and family, but I don’t really see the point of this episode in the grand scheme of things. And it’s not like I don’t appreciate the artistry of television where nothing actually happens – just think of Twin Peaks: The Return and how literally nothing happens in the best episode of the season. But this, to borrow a phrase from USA Today, was just pointless and painful. 

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