This Scene on the TV Series THIS IS US Was Not What We Were Expecting!
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
Like many couples in America, my wife and I enjoy watching the notoriously emotional TV show THIS IS US. Believe it or not, I’m the one that pushes for us to watch the show. Apparently somewhere deep inside of me, I know I need a good cry (Jesus wept, so I can too). One evening while watching an episode, there was an exchange between two characters, a husband and wife that was so powerful, so counter cultural from what we normally see in the media, I still think about this scene eight months later. Before I explain why, I need to set the stage.
THIS IS US is a Drama on NBC about a unique family with varying pains, struggles and triumphs all told and explored from different periods in the family’s life. Jack and Rebecca are the parents, and their story is mostly told in the 80’s and 90’s. The very first episode of the show shows how Rebecca was pregnant with triplets, but while delivering, they lose one of the babies. They name the two babies Kate and Kevin, but they’re of course grieving the loss of the other child. By happenstance, that same day, a newborn African-American baby boy was abandoned at a fire-station and was now at the same hospital as Jack and Rebecca. Jack decides that they should adopt the abandoned baby and give him a proper home since they were all set up to take care of triplets. They name him Randall.
In the show, each episode jumps between the life of Kate, Kevin and Randall as children to them as adults with careers, spouses, exes, and the various struggles and trials they face. Issues of addiction, fame, mixed race adoption, obesity, family and work life balance are explored, but in accessible and uplifting ways.
What makes THIS IS US feel the most out of place in the TV world is the marriage between Jack and Rebecca. Jack is a Vietnam war veteran, who came from an abusive home, but works hard to provide for the family as a construction foreman. Rebecca was pursuing her dream to be a singer, but of course having three children puts that on hold, so she holds the fort down at home. The husband and wife duo are a team, and a potent one at that.
This gets us to the episode that impacted me and made me wonder why we don’t see this more in movies and TV. Jack, like his father, struggles with alcohol abuse. Though Jack stopped drinking to focus on his family while his children were young, when they were teenagers, the drinking came back, all of which he wrongfully hid from Rebecca. In the final episodes of season one, unfortunate events, misunderstanding, and, of course, the ever common problem of lack of communication and honesty culminates to a very big argument between Jack and Rebecca. It gets so bad that Jack decides he needs to go stay with his best friend Miguel, but before he does so he reminds his wife that they’re still a team and that he loves her. This was the end of season one, so like TV writers like to do, we were forced to wait several months to find out if they’d resolve their differences.
Season two starts off on the day after the fight. Jack and Rebecca are separated, and both have every right to be upset (since this is a TV drama, you can assume the emotions are played up considerably more than I can describe). The next night, Rebecca shows up at Miguel’s home to give Jack a speech and explain why she was hurt by his actions. Rebecca says that she should’ve never let Jack leave the house, even though she was so angry at him, because that’s not who they are, that’s not what they do.
Jack however has more news for his wife. He confesses to Rebecca right there that he’s drunk, that he’s been drunk all day and has been drunk for weeks. He’s an alcoholic, and she didn’t even know. In an emotional plea to Rebecca, Jack says, “I have a problem Rebecca. I’ve hidden it from you for a very long time. I’ve hidden it from my kids. And, I need to get a handle on it before I walk back into that house. I’m sorry…. I need to fix this on my own.” Jack then closes the door with Rebecca standing there shocked. The TV screen fades to black.
In most TV shows, this is where marital drama and conflict would be strung out over an entire season while the writers play with your heart strings as you hope that Jack and Rebecca resolve their hurts with each other. This is a classic storytelling ploy to keep viewers watching, so why would THIS IS US do anything differently.
Only a few seconds after the screen goes dark, the picture comes back, we see Jack inside the house, and there’s a knock at the door he just closed. Jack reopens the doors and Rebecca stands there and strongly says, “You are my husband, and I am you wife, and if you have a problem, we will fix it together. I just need you to get in the car, so we can go home.” Jack becomes an emotional mess as his wife convinces him to come home so they can be a family and work on Jack’s problem together.
My wife and I viewed this episode only two months after we got married, and it was a rare moment on television where forgiveness, reconciliation and marital unity were portrayed on the small screen in a single episode. It was immensely refreshing. In a day and age where the divorce rate for couples is nearly 50%, and the media often chooses to focus on the negatives and frustrations of marriage rather than the gift that it is, the writers of THIS IS US positively took the story in a counter-cultural direction. Too often, we have TV and movie couples fall “out of love” with their spouses, as if love is something that comes and goes like a common cold. Love isn’t dependent on our feelings or emotions towards someone else, it’s a promise and a commitment. As 1 Corinthians 13:8 states, “Love never fails”. The next time we want to use the verb of love as a passive emotion, we’re either feeling or not in regards to our spouse, we should reflect on the fact that God never “falls out of love” with us. That should give us perspective.
The other unique thing unique about this exchange between Jack and Rebecca is that they chose to work as a team to address character issues or flaws. As Ecclesiastes 4:9 says. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s extremely difficult to be that vulnerable and humble to our spouse because everything in our flesh tells us to do the opposite, but the restoration that comes from repentance is so worth it.
THIS IS US isn’t really a spiritual show, which is a shame, however there are a surprising amount of Biblical principles scattered in the stories, which makes it a joy to watch with my wife, and something that has actually benefited our marriage.
Editors Note: Movieguide® will be publishing individual episode reviews of THIS IS US, with content and worldview breakdowns so your family can know which episodes are safe, and which ones require stronger caution.