The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Season 4 of This Is Us returned with aptly named Strangers. Certainly, Strangers is the perfect name for this episode. The format is similar to what we’re used to with This Is Us but we’re introduced to new characters; hence the name Stangers. Still, the writers give us some of the old to go along with some of the new. So, what makes Strangers, well, strange?
The episode revolves around three key characters: Cassie, Malik, and Jack. These are strangers. Though they may be strangers, things come full circle in the end. Before we discuss the new folk, we will start with something familiar. Meaning, first we will check in on Beck and Jack.
If you recall from Season 3, Rebecca and Jack take a road trip out to California. After a failed singing audition by Beck and an apology by Jack to the parents of a fallen war brother, they return to Pittsburgh. Almost immediately, Jack’s first chance to meet the parents of Rebecca presents itself. It’s a setting that he is not used to, which is a country club. Coincidentally, when Jack goes buy a sports jacket, we see Miguel for the first time. I’m certain they will return to that but back to Beck and Jack.
What makes this scenario fit the strangers aspect is the chilly reception Jack gets from the country club crew. Though Rebecca has requested Vietnam is not a subject, it is the main subject. The goal is to make Jack feel uncomfortable, which is initially successful. Then, Jack lets them have it. He fills them in on his story and earns the respect of the group…or so it seems. In the end, Beck’s father informs Jack he is a good guy but not good enough for his daughter. Well, we know that Rebecca’s father could not be more wrong. Now, let’s move onto the new characters.
The first of the strangers is Cassie. At this point, we don’t know anything about Cassie. All that we know is that she is a soldier overseas and misses her husband and kid. We don’t see much of her time overseas but we see enough to explain how it affects her back home. When Cassidy does return home, she is a mess. Her marriage is tense, the bills are piling up, and she drinks.
Things come to a head when Cassie suffers from a PTSD-induced flashback and strikes her kid as a result. Naturally, her husband tells her to leave. The next time we see Cassidy, she is at the VA in group therapy. So, how does she connect to the characters we already know? Nicky, the brother of Jack, throws something through the window and interrupts the session. It’s unclear what relationship Nicky and Cassie will be, but we know it will be beneficial. How? In the flash forward to end the episode, Nicky is there. Ok, next stranger.
Next, we meet Malik. Malik is the youngest of the strangers. When we meet him, he’s on his phone while hanging out with his boys. We assume that Malik is enthralled with some new girl in his life. This is mostly correct. Malik is smitten with a new girl but it turns out to be his infant daughter. Malik is a teenage single father who lives with his mom and dad. Also, Malik works for his dad in a body shop.
Struggling to make ends meet and provide for his child, Malik solicits work elsewhere. If you know anything about Philly, you know what that means. This is not something that goes unnoticed by Malik’s father. Malik’s father does not want him to make the same mistakes he did. So, he offers to watch his grandchild for the evening to give Malik a night off to be a kid. Malik goes to a friend’s barbeque where he meets someone we are familiar with: Deja. You can tell by the look he gives Deja that there will be more to tell in their story. Finally, the last stranger.
The last of the strangers was a man named Jack. Certainly, that is a name that jumps out. We know that Jack is the name of the son of Kate and Toby but we don’t know for certain that this is the same person. As far as we know, Jack is blind and lives alone. While trying to placate his puppy, he breaks a plate and has to go out for breakfast. While out to breakfast, Jack meets a waitress named Lucy.
Through some massive flirting, we learn that Jack is a singer but he does not appear to be a successful one. Jack returns home and goes to work on a song. As he composes the song, we see his life with Lucy evolve to the point of engagement and an assumed marriage. In a car with Jack, Lucy reveals that she is pregnant. When they arrive at their location, Jack walks out onto a stage and performs for a crowd. As he performs, we go back to the present. Jack is now an infant with his parents: Kate and Toby. So, it is the Jack we know. It is then that we learn Jack’s blindness is a complication of his premature birth.
For me, Strangers was a great way to start the new season. The one thing I like about This Is Us is that it always manages to stay with its root while introducing fresh content. It seems that they will tell stories of characters outside of the Pearson clan. Still, they will continue to reveal more about the Pearsons. I’m curious how Cassie, Malik, and Jack continue to play a role in the overall story arch. The next episode is The Pool: Part Two. I’m back on schedule now! The recap can be found soon after with Side Spin Media. See you next week!