This Is Us recap: 'Our Little Island Girl' finally focuses on Beth's past

Posted February 20, 2019 8:03 a.m. EST

Tuesday night's episode of "This Is Us" gave us a break from the Pearsons (I didn't hate it, tbh) and (finally) focused on Beth's past.

Tuesday night's episode of "This Is Us" gave us a break from the Pearsons (I didn't hate it, tbh) and (finally) focused on Beth's past.

The sister-cousins, Beth and Zoe, head down to DC to check in on Beth's mom, Carol, a high school principal who has recently bruised her hip. Carol is equal parts stern and scary, but the girls make a pact that they will tell her she needs to retire, despite Beth's tendency to "clam up" around her mom.

During a late-night dinner, Beth tells her mom she's been laid off. Carol has always pushed Beth and her siblings to be the best they can be, so this was not easy for Beth to admit to her mother.

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Throughout the episode, through the beautiful "This Is Us" flashbacks the writers have down to a science, we find out more about Beth's relationship with her mother and how her father's death helped shape her into the woman she is today.

Near the beginning of the episode, a young Beth (Bethany) learns she has been accepted into a prestigious ballet academy - an announcement that certainly came as a surprise to her parents.

Little Bethany wants to be a ballerina! And her father, Abe, is her biggest fan. After all, she is their "little island girl, who danced before she could walk."

So Carol and Abe decide to work overtime and teach summer school, respectively, to afford to send Beth to the ballet academy. Carol makes her agree that she will work hard and become the best (no pressure!), but things do not go according to plan.

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As Beth gets older, it is clear she is falling behind, and her teacher suggests she pick up a different style of dance. Now, as her father is dying of lung cancer, she is determined to get the solo in the senior showcase and works as hard as she can.

Abe dies, and Beth does not get cast in the showcase. Carol reassures Beth that she did her best, but that it is time to look at a different path - college. She adds that Beth is not going to make it as a professional ballerina and that she is no longer going to pay for her classes.

Without her father there, she forgets she is his "little island girl" and moves on from dance.

Back in present day, Beth and Zoe find an old joint Zoe hid behind a photo years ago. The two get high in the laundry room, giggling and talking about growing up together. Zoe acknowledges that Carol was always tougher on her own kids, but she realizes something is bothering Beth and encourages her to talk about it "before she explodes."

Beth finally confronts her mother about how she and her siblings feel like there is no air when they are around their mother. And how she pretty much made Beth quit dance. "No air to be sad. No air to fail," Beth says. She feels like she was free before, when she was dancing, and now she’s not.

Carol tries to explain to Beth that she had a mother to impress and that she and Abe sort of evened each other out. Of course, Beth is not mad, college is the place she found her husband, but the recognition of what happened is all Beth wanted to hear.

In a final flashback, we see Carol dropping Beth off at a freshman college mixer. Teen Beth, not Bethany, bumps into teen Randall. He seems totally smitten, but she doesn't really acknowledge his presence.

Back at home present day, Beth announces to Randall she knows what she wants to do next! It is so exciting seeing Beth get her groove back. We see Beth dancing alone at a studio when a teacher walks in and says she may be bored by the beginner class. Beth tells her she has something else in mind...she wants to teach! Beth, yes! I bet she will run the place in no time.