This Is Us show creator Dan Fogelman is all about ironic plots, gut-wrenching twists, and heartfelt symbolism. And in last night's episode, there was no shortage of any of that. But perhaps one of the episode's biggest connections would've gone largely unnoticed if it weren't for one brilliant fan who was able to draw an important parallel between Jack and Randall.
Last night, bo took center stage as the episode's recurring motif. Early on, fans learn in a flashback scene that Jack has a black eye after taking up bo. Rebecca, upset over Jack's injury, implores her husband to only use a punching bag moving forward. Later on, young Randall asks Jack to teach him how to box so he can defend himself from a bully at school (who viewers later find out doesn't actually exist).
Finally, the sport is brought up once again as the entire family gathers around the television set to watch a heated bo match. While watching, Jack points out that one of the boxers spits out blood and smiles after getting punched. When Randall asks why he would do that, Jack responds that "there’s this thing that some fighters do, that if their opponent hits them really hard, they just plaster on a big ole smile." Why? Because the fighter doesn't want the opponent to know that he's hurt, Jack says.
Of course, the immediate reaction is to draw a parallel between the fighter and Jack. Just as the fighter tries to hide the pain from his opponent, Jack does his best to bury his negative emotions and keep his Vietnam War experiences a secret from his family.
But what some may not have noticed, is that the bo metaphor can also apply to more than Jack. In fact, as one especially analytical fan tweeted, another "fighter" appears to be grown-up Randall, who is doing his best to stand tall despite his ongoing identity struggles and the impending uncertainty of his political campaign.
As the fan pointed out, Toby, Beth, and Kate can all be described as "fighters" in this episode. Each are dealing with their own set of problems — Toby is struggling in his life-long battle with depression, Beth is trying to overcome her situational depression, and Kate is desperate to help Toby out while stressing over her "maybe baby." And yet through it all, every character is doing the best they can to keep smiling for those around them.
While the Pearson family has gone through so much already, one thing always seems to get them to the other side: each other. And in this episode, fans saw just that. Every character opened up about their struggles and, by the end, seemed to be feeling much better than before. Who knew such a powerful message could all be achieved by using the sport of bo. Just another example of Dan the Genius at work.