Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (currently virtual) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in all things drama. It’s summer drama season over at MASTERPIECE, and just in time for everyone to combust with a year’s worth of suppressed wanderlust, we’ve got a brand new show, Us, which promises stunning international hijinks (and, because it is a drama, after all, an imploding marriage). I'm here to recap both episodes of the miniseries.

Speaking of an imploding marriage, the first episode opens with the wifely half of our pairing, played by Saskia Reeves, a very respected actress who recently had a turn on Roadkill, but who will always be Luther’s salty boss to me, lying awake next to her sleeping husband, Knock-Off Jack Pearson. Did I recap-name him that because I keep mixing up the title of this show with This is Us, even though I’ve never seen it (I get my crying done during Call The Midwife, thank you very much)? Yes, and I’m not taking any questions at this time. Anyway, Knock-Off Jack insists on sleeping despite Not Mandy Moore calling his name repeatedly, until she really drops the hammer.

Not Mandy Moore: Hey I might leave.
Knock-Off Jack, turning on the bedside lamp: Exsqueeze me? What?
Not Mandy Moore: Like, I might just start again. These boots were made for walking! Metaphorically, of course, we’re in bed.
Knock-Off Jack: So you want to… divorce?
Not Mandy Moore: I mean, that’s something future us can deal with.
Knock-Off Jack: So you want to separate.
Not Mandy Moore: Yeah. Permanently.
Knock-Off Jack: I’m sorry, so you’d rather be alone? Alone?!
Not Mandy Moore: Uh, yeah. I just think it’s over.
Knock-Off Jack: I don’t want it to be though! And I don’t think it is, we talk all the time!
Not Mandy Moore: About boring house stuff!
Knock-Off Jack: So what do you want?
Not Mandy Moore: I want change!
Knock-Off Jack: Great, make me a list and I’ll get to changing. I can change for you, I love change!
Not Mandy Moore, reverse “I can change him!”-ing: I don’t want you to change, you’re fine! We’re just not fine together any more, and I just can’t spend the rest of my life with you. See, part of it is definitely that a LOT of my identity has been wrapped up in our kid, and now he’s getting to be an adult and I’m not sure who I am anymore? Like doesn’t it freak you out to think about just the two of us alone in this house?
Knock-Off Jack: No? We’d do stuff! We’d travel!
Not Mandy Moore: But we’d have to come home eventually, and then where would we be? I need to find something else.
Knock-Off Jack: Great, let’s find it together!
Not Mandy Moore: I mean, don’t you ever feel like we did our job raising the kid and now we’re done?
Knock-Off Jack: It didn’t feel like a job.
Me: Well that’s because you’re a man, probably.
Not Mandy Moore: Well, now that we’ve talked all night should we try to sleep?

What a fun, cheery way to start off a miniseries, huh? Anyway, just as they close their eyes, the doorbell rings. You see, it seems that Knock-Off Jack has scheduled a grocery delivery for this, the very early hours of a Sunday morning. Why? Because it’s hard to get a slot, and, per Knock-Off Jack, if he’d known his wife was gonna leave, he’d have pushed the time back. With that actually pretty funny barb out of the way, the grocery delivery guy, who’s awkwardly trying to just do his job, finally gets to leave.

A man stands awkwardly in a living room, and shrugs

So here’s the deal: our pals Knock-Off Jack and Not Mandy Moore? They’re meant to be heading off on a planned 3 week long holiday. But Recap Lady, I hear you ask: three weeks? Yes, friend: our heroes come from a country with reasonable paid time off policies, and so they have time for proper vacations. Pity they’ll probably cancel, since a long family vacation is maybe the worst option when one has just decided to end one’s marriage. PSYCH: they’re obviously still going, because what else are we gonna watch, 4 hours worth of couples counseling?

A man says "Yeah, that's gonna be a no from me, dawg."

It turns out that it would be way too expensive to cancel the trip, and, as Knock-Off Jack points out, trip insurance doesn’t really cover emotional devastation. Sick of bickering in the kitchen, he heads upstairs to annoy their teenage son, Third Wheel, who’s missed most of this fairly significant family sea-change due to loud music and generally not giving a crap about anything happening before noon.

A man exclaims "Youths!"

Sick of everyone’s nonsense, Knock-Off Jack heads off to take a bunch of trash to the dump, which is apparently, for some unknown reason, his happy place. Or, perhaps not: whilst garbage and feathers fly, our jilted friend sits in his car listening to opera until he gets the go ahead to bring his rubbish to the dumpster, and an opportunity to go full Office Space on his cardboard boxes.

Three office workers destroy a printer in a field with their feet and a baseball bat

It’s obviously effective, at least temporarily. Never underestimate the power of absolutely wailing on an inanimate object, I always say. Once home, Not Mandy Moore corners him for a walk with the dog so they can keep discussing the impending dissolution of their marriage.

Knock-Off Jack: So should one of us move out? What’s the plan?
Not Mandy Moore: Look, I have kind of a wild idea. Let’s just go on the vacation and figure it out after. It’ll be good for the kid before he goes to school, and you can spend more time with him. I know you think his career plans are whack.
Knock-Off Jack: I mean, he’s taking exams in ART. That’s not really something you can test on! Anyway, doing it for the kid is such a cliché. I guess at least when we come back you’ll already be packed.
Not Mandy Moore: Don’t be such a bummer, man. Let’s go out on a high note!
Knock-Off Jack:

A woman says "after zero consideration, i'm happy to say 'hard pass'"

Later that night, however, Knock-Off Jack decides to maybe give this whole thing a little more than zero consideration, and thinks back to a night 24 years ago when he, presumably, met Not Mandy Moore at a party. But not before past him gets greeted at the door by ESTHER DENHAM who is just as catty and hot as she was in Sanditon, bless her.

Esther: Girl, what is this horrible outfit? And you’re late!
Past Knock-Off Jack: I know, I had to come straight from the lab.
Esther: Ugh, obviously. Go home and change.
Past Knock-Off Jack: If I go home I’m not coming back.
Esther: Fine. Come in, and check out that babe over there! She’s smart, funny and newly single. And, best of all, she’s not a jerk about bad clothes, so you’ll do fine!
Past Knock-Off Jack: NO.
Esther: YES. Everybody, check out my brother, Knock-Off Jack!
Me, still thinking about Sanditon: Whew, finally a normal sibling relationship for this gal!
Esther: Anyway, please enjoy this obvious setup. I made some kind of weird casserole!
Past Not Mandy Moore: LOL well, this might as well happen. What’s your deal?
Past Knock-Off Jack: I’m a scientist.
Past Not Mandy Moore: Cool. Evil, or Mad?
Past Knock-Off Jack: I alternate. Can’t talk about it.
Past Not Mandy Moore: Why, is it top secret?
Past Knock-Off Jack: No, Esther forbade me to talk about it because it’s too boring. Anyway, what do you do?
Past Not Mandy Moore: Well, embarrassing, but I’m an artist.
Past Knock-Off Jack: Cool, what kind? Watercolors or oils or something?
Interrupting Clown on the other side of the table: LOL, it’s not that simple, you sell out!
Past Not Mandy Moore: See, interrupting clown is ALSO an artist. A trapeze artist.
Me, a certified circus nerd, suddenly interested: Go on….
Past Knock-Off Jack, going in for the kill: How exactly DO you join the circus? Did they just see your outfit and take you?
Interrupting clown: Want the long version?
Everyone: NO.

Later on, Past Knock-Off Jack starts actually explaining his work, which, like many scientists, involves introducing mutations into fruit flies. Past Not Mandy Moore isn’t really feeling it, but she doesn’t take the out when it’s offered, so that’s something, I guess. Interrupting Clown, on the other hand, is appalled, taking an anti-science stance that makes his “I use natural deodorant” vibes really pop.

Past Knock-Off Jack, a nerd, but correct: Look, guy, everything is chemicals. YOU are chemicals.
Interrupting Clown: Don’t try and fence me in, bro.
Past Knock-Off Jack: I’m literally right though?
Interrupting Clown: We’d all be better off if you science freaks stopped meddling with nature.
Past Knock-Off Jack: Oh, we’re going there? Let’s go there. Imagine you break your dumb body on the trapeze, and you get an infection, and the only solution is to operate. You don’t want antibiotics, anesthetic or pain relief? What if you die? Your family will be upset, but at least you didn’t mess around with SCIENCE.
Everyone at the party, horrified:

A woman says "That was way harsh, Tai."

Me, also a nerd, with many scientist friends: GET HIS ASS!
Past Not Mandy Moore: I’m surprisingly ok with what just happened!

They seem to be vibing, but unfortunately those dilated pupils Past Knock-Off Jack has noticed in Past Not Mandy Moore aren’t due to attraction (or not just to attraction, at any rate). She’s been partaking of some “chemicals.” And maybe it’s the “chemicals,” but Past Not Mandy Moore isn’t beating around the bush. Yes, she’s aware that this is a setup. No, she isn’t interested. But on the plus side, it’s not because she doesn’t LIKE Past Knock-Off Jack! It’s because she’s just got out of a long relationship. Brush off applied, she then asks if he’ll walk her home so she can clear her head, so perhaps it wasn’t as much of a brush off as we might have assumed.

Back in the present, the two awkwardly jockey for toothbrushing space at the sink, get dressed, and prepare to head off for work. On the plus side, Knock-Off Jack’s fashion has definitely improved over the last couple of decades. On the minus side, it’s super awkward and sad — even Not Mandy Moore finally cracks and has a little cry in her car. The car cry seems to have been the catalyst that Knock-Off Jack needed. Before he can stop himself, he sprints out of the house, chasing her down the driveway in his socks. He looks totally bonkers, and honestly, as grand romantic gestures go, it kind of works. Once he finally catches her, he lays it all on the line: we SHOULD go on the trip, for the kiddo, but also, for all of us! Also, maybe he’s been kind of boring this whole time. He tries to make one last big statement, but between his agreeing to the trip and the honks of the cars behind her, Not Mandy Moore decides that’s probably enough for now, and heads off.

Back at home, Knock-Off Jack falls back on the old standby of the anxious, and, if Bridget Jones is to be believed, the English: he makes a to-do list for himself. Here’s his plan:

1: Be awake and available (and yes, I think we are to gather this means emotionally AND sexually)
2: Stop fighting with Third Wheel by being in a better mood
3: Try new things
4: Give up on trying to be right about everything (even when you know you are right)
5: Try to be organized but not TOO organized
6: Be a good partner to Not Mandy Moore.

Of course, these vacation resolutions are immediately tested when Third Wheel insists on bringing his guitar so he can busk, almost prompting a breakdown of items 2, 4 and 5. Will this harebrained scheme to change Not Mandy Moore’s mind? Who knows, but we’ve got about 3 and a half hours to find out. Everyone, including this recapper, seems to be cautiously optimistic! And with one last crack about emotional baggage vs. actual luggage dispatched by Knock-Off Jack, they’re off.

First stop? France, by way of the chunnel. Alas, or maybe thankfully, depending on your worldview, the only grisly crime we encounter is Third Wheel and Not Mandy Moore completely ignoring Knock-Off Jack’s earnest attempts at family chat time, which is definitely not enough to call in the detectives on The Tunnel. As he muses about the exact location of the border, the relative merits of bridges vs. tunnels, and whether the threesome is like U2 with their touring schedule, Third Wheel blithely ignores him in favor of photographing his coffee and then fleeing to the sanctity of his noise cancelling headphones.

Knock-Off Jack: Great, well I hope we get copies of what I’m sure will be stunning work with that coffee picture.
Not Mandy Moore: Come on, he’s supposed to be trying new things.
Knock-Off Jack: I mean but like… how hard is photography anyway? And he’s never even taken a photo of me :(
Not Mandy Moore: Well why don’t you ask him? I bet he just thinks you don’t care.

Deciding to be game, Knock-Off Jack heads over and asks to see Third Wheel’s pictures. That goes surprisingly well; it’s the “please take some pictures of me looking like I’m leaning on the Eiffel Tower” request that gets a full “Mother, who is this horrible man and what has he done with my dad” facial expression SOS from Third Wheel. Progress? Maybe! Before we can spend much more time aboard the awkward train (choo choo), we head back in time to the evening our couple met, and their very long walk home to Past Not Mandy Moore’s place.

Past Not Mandy Moore muses that art is a dangerous career, but still worth it if you love it. Past Knock-Off Jack, as it happens, is in the happy position to have a career that makes money AND which he finds fascinating, even if most people really don’t want to hear anyone wax poetic about biochemistry and the wonderful world of scientific inquiry. Lucky for him, Past Not Mandy Moore is, in this moment, one of those people, because his impassioned speech about making discovery is bringing her down to earth… in a good way?

Back in the present, Knock-Off Jack fills everyone in on the extensive plan, which makes Third Wheel roll his eyes, Not Mandy Moore faintly amused, and me, a person who, like many of you, hasn’t traveled outside of my own city in the last year and change, incandescent with jealous wrath. Arriving in Paris, Knock-Off Jack helpfully reminds everyone to keep an eye on their stuff, lest they fall prey to pickpockets, in what apparently is such a well-trod path of a warning that the rest of the family recites his words along with him. Unmolested by the Artful Dodger or any of his ilk, they arrive at their hotel, where Knock-Off Jack briefly tricks everyone into thinking he’s only gotten one room for everyone. Before Third Wheel can actually dissolve into a puddle of teenage angst, and I can wonder how he plans to woo his wife back with Third Wheel living up to his recap name THAT extensively, Knock-Off Jack hands his son a separate room key, tells him to lay off the minibar, and sends him on his way. Meanwhile, we head into the grownups room, which, if House Hunters International can be trusted, is absolutely gigantic by Parisian standards, and is also NOT clean. Not Mandy Moore, unwilling to make a big deal of it, tells Knock-Off Jack to just chill out for a bit! They’re on vacation, after all!

Knock-Off Jack: I just want everything to be perfect!
Not Mandy Moore: Well that’s unrealistic! Ugh, can I tell you I fell asleep in an armchair last week? I’m getting old and napping!
Knock-Off Jack: I mean, we are getting older, it’s only natural. We’d be miraculously old 500 years ago! And look, you’re still you — I knew we’d age if we were lucky. I had this image that we’d like… travel a lot, and then get kinda old, and eventually die in a hopefully not so horrible way? That might not be giving you the hard sell, huh?
Not Mandy Moore: Decidedly not. Here’s the rule for this trip: we’re going to live in the moment.
Knock-Off Jack: Ok! But first I’m going to check on Third Wheel.

Not Mandy Moore is annoyed, but it might have been a good instinct, because Third Wheel is, at that very moment, in the process of sneaking out. It turns out that he doesn’t really want to live up to his name, and can we blame him? While he takes photos, and attempts to busk, his parents head out on date night.

Knock-Off Jack: Does Third Wheel even know anyone here?
Not Mandy Moore: Nah, but he’ll just meet up with someone he finds through his online friends.
Knock-Off Jack: Sounds terrifying. I couldn’t even have done that when I was younger.
Not Mandy Moore: Same!
Knock-Off Jack: Whaaaat? I always thought you were so confident.
Not Mandy Moore: I mean, I was drunk or high most of the time… that helped.

And speaking of which, Past Not Mandy Moore, now mostly sober, muses about how much she’d like to settle down and be steadier, even as Past Knock-Off Jack tells her it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. It seems like some of the things Past Not Mandy Moore is searching for aren’t as great as she’d hoped a few decades later, as Knock-Off Jack’s steadiness and analytical mind (he’s obsessed with his pedometer, for one) become more stifling. Despite all this, they still work pretty well together, both making the same corny joke about an Edith Piaf menu item. Knock-Off Jack even orders some champagne, and immediately gets clocked as NOT French, much to his chagrin. They reflect on their youth, but then, living in the moment, decide to rent some scooters and ride, laughing, into the night. In the past, after finally arriving at Past Not Mandy Moore’s flat, she invites him upstairs to see her “etchings.” And lest you worry about present day Paris, etching ogling is still on the menu, as it were.

A man smiles and says "oooh!"

Apparently, it’s to be “etchings” all around. That’s right: Knock-Off Jack and Not Mandy Moore are awakened at 2AM by carousing from the room next door, and as it turns out, no one likes to hear their family members getting it on! After a brief confab, they decide the best course of action is to shoot him a text? Maybe? After some brief, amused back and forth on the wording, they give up and decide to just read. The next morning, however, Knock-Off Jack is less amused: should he have a sex talk with Third Wheel? I’m with Not Mandy Moore, who points out that it’s probably a little late for that, but before they can get into it further, Third Wheel himself appears, and he’s brought along his “friend”: Fourth Wheel. She’s chaotic AF, and I’m immediately smitten.

Fourth Wheel: Ugh, Not Mandy Moore, you’re just as lovely as I was led to believe! And Knock-Off Jack, you also meet my expectations by kind of sucking. Now, are the rumors true? Is there a breakfast buffet? Anyway, I have to give you all props, this is so cool: if I did this with my family we’d kill each other.
Third Wheel: To be fair, it’s only the first day.
Not Mandy Moore: And what brings you to Paris, Fourth Wheel?
Fourth Wheel: Music! Wow, this buffet is nuts — so much free stuff!
Knock-Off Jack: Well, technically it ISN’T free, it’s the cost of the room.
Third Wheel, changing the subject: Fourth Wheel is in a band!
Not Mandy Moore: Oh, yeah, we figured that out when we heard you last night!
Fourth Wheel, noticing their faces but missing a key element: OH, you didn’t like the music?
Not Mandy Moore: Music, yes, defiling my baby boy at 2AM, not so much. So where’s the rest of your band?
Fourth Wheel: They went home, I decided to stay here and bum around. That’s how I picked up your kid — he stole my spot!
Knock-Off Jack, charmed, despite himself: So you’re a busker too?
Fourth Wheel: Street musician! It adds an air of seriousness to the proceedings. Damn, I’m getting lunch too — this ham looks delicious. See, I’m basically a vegan EXCEPT for cured meats.
Me: Weird flex but ok.
Knock-Off Jack: Yo, can you stop taking all the meat? Or like, don’t put it in your pockets?
Fourth Wheel: You calling me a thief?
Knock-Off Jack: Noooo, it’s just meant to be eaten here, ya know? If you go around creating ham pockets it’s a slippery slope into anarchy!
Fourth Wheel: Yeah, but a lot of this will get wasted otherwise!
Knock-Off Jack: But not all of it! Just be cool, huh?
Third Wheel: This is SO embarrassing.

Ok, sure, no one wants their parents to lecture someone they’re attempting to woo, but to be fair, total buffet anarchy is a bit over the top. Back at the table, Knock-Off Jack just can’t win, asking Fourth Wheel what her parents think of this whole musician thing. Third Wheel is embarrassed, Fourth Wheel blithely explains that she doesn’t really talk to her parents, and Not Mandy Moore is bummed out by that revelation, but covers it up pretty well. As the topics of the parents' respective careers come up (she, a career facilitating the arts, but not creating herself, he, an evil pharma stooge) it begins to become clear where Third Wheel’s loyalties lie, and why. Again, research is important, but one can see why the artsy apple prefers the less corporate tree. Breakfast finished, they get up to leave, and Knock-Off Jack gets a tiny lecture from Not Mandy Moore regarding his breakfast buffet smackdown, before attempting a chat with Third Wheel re: Fourth Wheel. Alas, he’s completely rebuffed. Relationship style conversations? In this economy? Those are for mum only, thanks all the same! As they approach the Louvre, Knock-Off Jack’s plan to beat the crowds bears fruit, but Third Wheel doesn’t care: aren't they going to do anything spontaneous on this trip?

A woman says "that was not the plan, Stan."

No matter. We’ve got a world famous museum to investigate! Knock-Off Jack, completely unable to just stand and LOOK at the art, keeps trying to force conversation. It… does not go well. Checklist obsessed as he is, Knock-Off Jack desperately wants to see the Mona Lisa, even as Not Mandy Moore talks him out of it: it’s smaller than you think, hard to see through the crowds, and not as exciting in-person as one would hope. Valid points made on both sides, Knock-Off Jack is transported to a conversation from their youth when he first sees Not Mandy Moore’s artwork. Even then, he’s not sure what to make of art, but he knows he likes hers, and even tries to buy one, the softie. She tries to get him to skip work, but instead, he brings her with him, and shows her some of his work. She’s pretty fascinated, and his colleagues are pretty fascinated that he brought a lady to lab. Weirdly, given the fact that they’re mostly talking about fruit fly reproduction, he manages to get another peek at the etchings, if you will.

A man fires off some very awkward finger guns

Later, at the hotel, Knock-Off Jack actually breaks into the mini bar in, I’m assuming, an attempt to impress Not Mandy Moore. She turns him down, so he’s stuck with the expensive drink AND the awkward realization that he’s still not great at conversing with their son. Will Third Wheel be coming to dinner with them tonight? Who can say! Certainly not Knock-Off Jack. Surprisingly, it will indeed be a family outing tonight, but rather than talk, Third Wheel, a certified teen, reads reviews for the restaurant (which apparently specializes in intimidatingly spicy Sichuan cuisine, to Knock-Off Jack’s disdain) on his phone. When Knock-Off Jack tries to get a menu in English, unwilling to pretend he isn’t a tourist, Third Wheel offers to order for him. What can go wrong?

Now, as a lover of spicy food, I’m pretty jealous, but it certainly is amusing to watch Knock-Off Jack sweat, cry and then, after a chili pepper napkin to the eye, run from the room. Unfortunately, his tolerance for being laughed at by his family is minimal, so rather than rejoin them, he does a runner, fleeing into the Parisian night. Not about to let him get away with that, Not Mandy Moore calls him to gently remind him that she did indeed notice that he left, and is worried about him.

Knock-Off Jack: Living in the moment is way harder when the moment sucks, you know?
Not Mandy Moore: I do. Sorry if I confused you with the sex and stuff.
Knock-Off Jack: No, it’s fine, I just feel like I’M the third wheel, ya know?
Not Mandy Moore, walking up, having tracked him down: Well, you’re not.

Back in the past, we start to see why Past Not Mandy Moore chose him in the first place. They eat lunch on a bench, where she reveals that she’d intended to break up with him, but, surprisingly, didn’t want to. Apparently, our pal is a commitment phobe, and had had concerns about getting deeper into a relationship that just might end in tears. Her solution? If they keep seeing each other, they both have to know it could end someday.

Past Knock-Off Jack: I think… it will be worth the risk.

In the future, they walk back to the hotel, and Knock-Off Jack reiterates his point that this is harder than he expected, especially since it seems like Third Wheel really doesn’t want to be there in the first place.

Not Mandy Moore: I think he does, he just doesn’t want to show it.
Knock-Off Jack: I wonder if we had two kids if it’d be less challenging. More dualities, you know? Do you think about her?
Not Mandy Moore: Obviously. But we’ll never know what it’d be like if she was here.
Knock-Off Jack: I’m sure I’d still drive you nuts. Anyway, I think I’m going to keep walking a bit.
Not Mandy Moore: Please come back — I can’t sleep without you.
Knock-Off Jack: LOL, the irony.
Not Mandy Moore: Indeed.
Knock-Off Jack: And tomorrow we’re off to our next stop. Amsterdam!

Lucky for us, this episode isn’t a Van Der Valk crossover, but there’s still some death on the way to Amsterdam. On the train, the family passes the site of a major WWII battle that killed Knock-Off Jack’s grandfather, which he is very eager to discuss with Third Wheel. But it’s not to be: Third Wheel isn’t keen on history, and can’t find an emotional connection to something that happened so long ago. As the guys continue to bicker, Not Mandy Moore tries unsuccessfully to cut the argument short, but no dice: they just don’t have a lot in common, and can’t seem to get out of each other’s way. Third Wheel, hurt, storms off, but when Knock-Off Jack goes to find him they tentatively mend fences.

A man says "we'll take it."

Arriving in Amsterdam, the family is treated to an abridged walking tour of the city courtesy of Knock-Off Jack, who recently visited for a conference. Lucky for him, his family is in a forgiving mood, and willing to go along with his, I have to admit, somewhat boring stories. At the hotel, things get… spicy.

Third Wheel: Uh.. is this a brothel?
Not Mandy Moore: It is kind of… overtly sexual.
Knock-Off Jack: No way, it’s just a boutique hotel!

Marcia Brady sarcastically says "Sure, Jan."

As it happens, the “happy” couple has been upgraded to the (ironic!) honeymoon suite, which features a jacuzzi.

Third Wheel: Ok, dad, get it!
Knock-Off Jack: I didn’t ask for this! They just assumed we’re groovy that way ;)
Third Wheel: Ew.

And with that, they pedal off into the afternoon, treating us to an absolutely lovely abridged sightseeing tour of the city (and a much less murdery one than we’ve seen in ye olde Vandy V, that’s for sure). At the art museum, Knock-Off Jack and Third Wheel even have a bonding moment over a Vermeer; it appears that Knock-Off Jack actually CAN appreciate art, if he can find a logical angle, like fluid dynamics, to latch onto. Weird, but you know what, it really does take all kinds — who am I to question it!

The tentative good time everyone’s having does have an expiration date, unfortunately, because Knock-Off Jack can’t help but worry about whether Third Wheel will be able to support himself with his art in the future. To be fair, it's a normal dad concern, but it’s too bad he can’t ever stop worrying about it! As the family takes in more art, it’s easier to see why Knock-Off Jack is so gutted that Not Mandy Moore wants to leave: she helps him just enjoy things without relying on a guidebook, and they have genuinely sweet chemistry together.

Later, at lunch, a goofy family moment is interrupted by who else but Fourth Wheel! She appears in the window behind them, making Knock-Off Jack jump a mile (frankly, I can’t blame him, I’d be startled too!).

Not Mandy Moore: Wow, what a surprise!
Fourth Wheel, actually pretty funny: I’m stalking you, Mr. P! Can I call you that?
Knock-Off Jack: No one ever has, and I don’t like it, but this recapper gave me a name based on a character on a totally different TV show so I guess I don’t get much of a say in the matter?
Third Wheel: I figured Fourth Wheel could come join us for the next couple of days?
Not Mandy Moore, trying to be cool: Ok, well maybe give us a heads up next time?
Fourth Wheel: And I hear we’re staying in a brothel or something? Can’t wait to just ravage their breakfast buffet tbh. But I know this is a family thing sooo….

After an awkward silence, Not Mandy Moore says Fourth Wheel is very welcome, despite maybe not actually feeling that way, and with that, they head off to look at some tulips before their appointment at the Anne Frank House. They only have three tickets for that, and Fourth Wheel tries to get everyone to come see “the real Amsterdam” with her instead. Third Wheel, clearly intrigued by the “coffee shop” that Fourth Wheel has described, suggests that he might go off with her instead. And by coffee shop, of course, she means drugs.

It’s a departure from the itinerary, but Not Mandy Moore is game to push the museum to tomorrow. Knock-Off Jack, who isn’t too keen on substances, declines, snapping at Third Wheel when he pushes it with a tasteless gestapo joke. Not Mandy Moore, who, let’s be real, probably isn’t too hype about the drug cafe but wants to hang out as a family, runs after him to try and change his mind: it might be fun AND they can keep an eye on the kids.

Knock-Off Jack: You’re just trying to be the cool parent! I only want him to be clear-headed and drug free, is that too much to ask?
Not Mandy Moore: I mean, we’re in Amsterdam dude, it’d be weirder if he wasn’t interested in trying something while we’re here. And it might be fun!
Knock-Off Jack: Just… please stop making me out to be some kind of boring killjoy? I just want everyone to be safe because I care. I’ll rearrange the tickets, you guys go ahead.
Not Mandy Moore: I think they might actually want you to go too, you know.
Knock-Off Jack: As if. Anyway, be safe, and don’t have the cookies, you can’t control the dosage. I tried it once and it was NOT good times.
Not Mandy Moore: You sure you don’t want to come?
Knock-Off Jack, not sure: Yeah… you’ll have more fun without me.

While they scamper off to, let’s be real, probably eat the cookies, he jumps into a boat for a canal tour, tinged with flashbacks to a VERY awkward party at an art show, which mirrors pretty closely what just happened in the present. It seems that Knock-Off Jack hasn’t ever really known how to hang, and both assumes that Not Mandy Moore will have more fun without him AND wishes she’d try to argue a bit more that he’s not a boring killjoy.

Past Knock-Off Jack: We never go out with your friends!
Past Not Mandy Moore: Well yeah, we party very differently and I just kind of thought you would have a bad time. And if you have a bad time, I have a bad time!
Past Knock-Off Jack: So you’re not embarrassed of me?
Past Not Mandy Moore: Uh, no!

A man says "i love you, man."

Past Knock-Off Jack: Wait, really?
Past Not Mandy Moore: Yeah. So, want to go home, or stay and have fun?

In the present, Knock-Off Jack asks himself that same question, and comes to a very sweet conclusion:

Knock-Off Jack, calling Not Mandy Moore: So, I double checked the guidebook, and it turns out this is a party city after all, and I want to come have fun with you guys. Well, fun within reason. Let me know where you are and I’ll come meet you!

Easier said, however, than done, because Knock-Off Jack can’t seem to figure out which of the approximately 1 million bikes parked on the bridge is his. In fact, he grabs, and subsequently throws on the ground in annoyance, a local guy’s bike. Thankfully, the conflict doesn’t escalate beyond annoyed words, but it’s not an ideal way to start the evening’s festivities. Across town, Not Mandy Moore gets his message, and tells Third Wheel to send Knock-Off Jack their location. He’s making an effort! And that’s nice! But Third Wheel, burned too many times, doesn’t actually send it.

Me, had been hoping for a gentle, weed-fueled reconciliation:

A woman dressed as a medieval peasant yells "boo! Boo!"

Thankfully, Knock-Off Jack handles the lack of communication shockingly well, even going so far as to purchase some drugs for himself with the goal of relaxation, before heading back to the boutique hotel/brothel and enjoying the jacuzzi. He also enjoys some flashbacks of the end of the night he remembered earlier, featuring Past Not Mandy Moore returning home from the party and waking him up, and him, begrudgingly and half asleep, telling her he loves her too. In the present, when Not Mandy Moore returns, they mirror the conversation, with Knock-Off Jack saying that he wished he’d been more spontaneous, and that he loves her no matter what, while she falls asleep next to him.

A crying man says "I'm not crying, you're crying."

Anyway, the next morning at breakfast, Not Mandy Moore is suffering the effects of a vicious hangover, made worse by the loud jerk behaviour of some businessmen at the next table. When Third and Fourth Wheel appear for breakfast, Knock-Off Jack gently snarks at Third Wheel for not inviting him along the night before.

Not Mandy Moore: You texted, right?
Third Wheel, fake as hell: Maybe it got lost?
Knock-Off Jack: Yeah, probably. Anyway, should we talk a bit about Fourth Wheel?

No time, because at that very minute Third Wheel notices that, in an attempt to support a server who’s being yelled at by the aforementioned loud jerk businessmen, Fourth Wheel is now in the line of loud jerk fire. He gets up to defend her, and ends up in a scuffle with said loud jerk and his pals. Both parents intervene, and Knock-Off Jack, true to form, ends up apologizing on behalf of Third Wheel, saying that he was behaving poorly and being an idiot. Now look: is that kind of social smoothing necessary when there’s been a breakfast fight in a boutique hotel? Probably! But should you get all the facts first, and also stick up for your kid? Definitely.

It seems that Not Mandy Moore agrees. As the original duo head off for a museum visit, she stops to ask Knock-Off Jack why he thought it was ok to insult their kid in front of everyone, and why he apologized.

Not Mandy Moore: He was sticking up for Fourth Wheel AND for that poor server who was being treated awfully. And you’re embarrassed by that?
Knock-Off Jack: Yes! He was trying to start a fight! I just wanted to calm him down. He’s always acting like he’s embarrassed of me, what’s the difference?
Not Mandy Moore: He’s a teenager! You should have punched that guy in the face; he deserved it, and Third Wheel deserved your support.
Knock-Off Jack: Ok, cool, I’ll just change my whole personality to fight three dudes.
Not Mandy Moore: I would have at least respected that — instead, you apologized for your own son when he was doing the right thing.
Knock-Off Jack: Fine. You’re not wrong. Can we keep going?
Not Mandy Moore: No, I can’t do this anymore.
Knock-Off Jack: It was your idea!
Not Mandy Moore: Sure, whatever, it was. I was wrong, is that what you want me to say? I thought maybe you could change; you seemed like you wanted to. Maybe we’d be able to rekindle something and I’d be able to see SOMETHING of the man I fell in love with.
Knock-Off Jack: That’s all I’ve been trying to do this whole time!
Not Mandy Moore: It’s over. I can’t love you anymore. I’ll see you at checkout.

Harsh words, but if you thought that was as bad as it could get, you’d be wrong. Sorry! Back at the hotel, Knock-Off Jack tries to convince Not Mandy Moore that they should try again, but she passes him a note from Third Wheel.

The Note:

Dear mum and dad,

I’m leaving. I can’t seem to do anything right on this trip, and that’s not really my idea of a fun vacation. I need some time to sort myself out, and TBH, I can tell that you guys also need some time alone for the same reason. I’m going to go off with Fourth Wheel. Don’t worry about me; I’m an adult, as you keep reminding me, and I can take care of myself. Just please don’t contact me and wait for me to be in touch. I’m sorry I disappoint you, and I’ll see you at some point.

Third Wheel

Obviously kind of a nightmarish note to get at any time, but somehow worse in the middle of a “let’s salvage our relationship” vacation. Knock-Off Jack sends Third Wheel a text apologizing, but Third Wheel deletes it immediately after reading it. Knock-Off Jack tries to keep Not Mandy Moore’s spirits up: Third Wheel does, after all, have some cash and his guitar, and a pretty self reliant travelling companion. He also suggests that they continue the trip: they’ll be worried no matter what, might as well do it while taking in the sights. Not Mandy Moore isn’t keen, but Knock-Off Jack wants nothing less than to just keep avoiding their problems. Lucky for him, fate intervenes, in the form of a phone call.

The call isn’t coming from inside the house, but it IS coming from their hotel in Venice, to confirm their changed reservation. That’s right: Third Wheel, the little scamp, has moved up the booking, meaning that Knock-Off Jack now knows where his son will be. Seizing that scrap of good fortune, he tells Not Mandy Moore his new plan: head on to Italy, make amends, and bring Third Wheel back.

Not Mandy Moore, standing by the train home with their luggage: Well what the hell am I supposed to do?
Knock-Off Jack: I guess tell everyone at home the truth? I have a purpose, Not Mandy Moore, and I’m going to fulfill it!

Waiting on the platform, Not Mandy Moore has a flashback to their wedding, and her glowing toast about Knock-Off Jack and their imminently arriving firstborn. A firstborn who turns out to NOT be Third Wheel. This is the second time the show has alluded to a child they lost, which is an incredibly sad addition to the show, albeit one that does slightly explain their tension. Meanwhile, in the present, Not Mandy Moore arrives back at home, whilst Knock-Off Jack takes a series of trains to Venice, where he hops in a water taxi to the hotel. Once there, he rather awkwardly explains to the concierge that he’s got no luggage, and despite having a map and several travel books, needs directions to somewhere he can buy some clothes. Behind him, a woman about the same age gets in line, and Knock-Off Jack quickly steps aside to let her deal with her much smaller roomkey issue, so he can take all the time he needs to explain his “surprising my son” plan to the concierge.

In the hotel room, Knock-Off Jack remembers back to what appears to be their honeymoon, in the very same location (romantic!). Shockingly, not much has changed: Past Knock-Off Jack has got a map, a plan, and a sharpie at the ready to highlight said plan on said map. And, adorably, present Knock-Off Jack has brought that very same map along for this trip. Guidebook in hand, he heads out into the city to try and find some new clothes and the prodigal son, Third Wheel. Alas, all he finds is a hilariously terrible tourist shirt.

A man gestures to his garish vacation shirt which reads "what's up beaches?"

After an afternoon of searching, he calls home for an “I’m here” and a fight to relitigate the “are you happier now that you’re free of my boring clutches” question. Sad, and alone, Knock-Off Jack thinks back to their last trip to Venice, when the two talked about parenting in light of their impending baby. Back at home, Not Mandy Moore leaves Third Wheel’s bedroom, where she’d fallen into a stressed sleep, and heads into their room, where she takes down a box of keepsakes. Looking through it, she remembers giving birth to their daughter: going into labor, and then holding the baby afterward.

In Venice, Knock-Off Jack quietly contemplates the breakfast buffet, finally choosing a solo banana, when the lady from the concierge desk, heretofore dubbed Mystery Traveler, ambles over.

Mystery Traveler: Oh, another morning person? Delightful! This breakfast is weird as hell, right? Italy owns, but breakfast champions they are not.

Later, sitting at tables next to each other, she spies his elaborate map (and misses his subtle banana theft) and strikes up a conversation.

Knock-Off Jack: Yes, the map is big, but Venice requires a big map!
Mystery Traveler: And you <3 Venice, apparently?
Knock-Off Jack, recovering from his initial confusion: OH, my shirt. It’s heinous, right? All I could find yesterday. Haven’t been here in 20 years!
Mystery Traveler: You know you’re talking weird, right? I can understand you.
Knock-Off Jack: Ugh, I’m sorry. Your English is beautiful… and I should be going.
Mystery Traveler: Well, thanks. Have a nice day.

At the concierge desk, Knock-Off Jack prints out a bunch of photos of Third Wheel, again reminding the nice man at the desk to ring him if Third Wheel appears, before heading into the city to look for his son. He mainly chats to street musicians, which seems like a pretty good plan, when he once again bumps into Mystery Traveler.

Mystery Traveler: You know, you could ditch the map — getting lost on vacation can be a good thing?
Knock-Off Jack: I’m not actually lost. But it’s a super long story.

Surprisingly, he elects to actually talk to her about it, and they set up shop in a cafe, where he explains his goals with what feels like, for him, a predictable metaphor: two mice in a maze, trying to find each other. She, for whatever reason, plays along, and backs his theory that if both mice move around, not at random, they’ll meet sooner. She does have a pretty reasonable question, however: why doesn’t one mouse simply call the other and arrange a meeting?

Mystery Traveler: Sorry to pry.
Knock-Off Jack: Nah, it’s ok! The other mouse doesn’t want me to call.
Mystery Traveler: But see, we ran into each other, so I bet your plan will work.
Knock-Off Jack: Not a bad point. Are you traveling alone?
Mystery Traveler: Yup. Just celebrating my divorce!
Knock-Off Jack, awkward: Oh, geez, I’m sorry.
Mystery Traveler: Don’t worry, it was for the best. And your wife had to go home early?
Knock-Off Jack: Yep. For… family reasons. Anyway, I better crack on.

And with that, he wanders away, continuing his search. He doesn’t know it, but his plan is a good one: Third Wheel crosses his path at least once, but they don’t see each other. That night, feet one massive blister, Knock-Off Jack calls home to check in. Not Mandy Moore hasn’t heard from Third Wheel either, and they both worry a bit together on the phone whilst she lets the dog up on the sofa (not allowed) and he soaks his feet in the bidet (allowed, but an absolutely disgusting choice).

Not Mandy Moore: It’s ok to come home, you know.
Knock-Off Jack: I can’t — I know he’s here, I can feel it.
Not Mandy Moore: Well that’s confirmation bias you know.
Knock-Off Jack: You’re probably right. I might be having a midlife crisis. Anyway, I miss you.
Not Mandy Moore: Ditto.

Maybe it’s the bidet water, but Knock-Off Jack’s next flashback isn’t as far into the past. In fact, it looks quite recent, and it features a fight between Knock-Off Jack and Third Wheel.

Knock-Off Jack: Look, you’re choosing a super unstable career path. I’m worried about you, and you have to be an exceptional artist to be able to succeed!
Third Wheel: Mum thinks I can be a success! And so does my teacher!
Knock-Off Jack: Well obviously HE says that, we pay him. Succeeding is about working hard at hard stuff, and I want that for you!
Third Wheel: No, you want me to be just like you!
Knock-Off Jack: And what’s so bad about that? The future is really scary; I just want you to be ready to survive.
Third Wheel: So you’re saying you want me to be scared, and wimp out, because I have no talent?
Knock-Off Jack: I just don’t think you should assume you’re special.
Me/Third Wheel/Not Mandy Moore, who’s listening to this from the other room: YIKES, WTF man?

Well after THAT it’s easy to see why everyone is so on edge! And I was promised a light farcical travelogue, so I’m very put out! Will Knock-Off Jack find Third Wheel and figure out a way to mend fences? Will Not Mandy Moore and Knock-Off Jack work it out? What’s Fourth Wheel up to? And what fabulous destinations will we see next, if any? We’ll just have to tune in next week to find out.