And not only does the hour tell about Miguel’s past, it also witnesses his passing: Jon Huertas’ character dies at the end of the hour. (Click here for a statement from Huertas.)
Read on for the highlights of ‘Miguel’.
A DIFFICULT MOVEMENT † In flashbacks to Miguel’s childhood, we learn that his family moved to Pennsylvania to live with a cousin after Miguel’s father was unable to find work in their native Puerto Rico. He eventually did the landscaping, and while on a job with a wealthy white family, young Miguel entered the house to use the bathroom but was distracted by a TV baseball game. The man of the house invited Miguel to watch Roberto Clemente and the Pirates play, then asked if the boy had been to a game yet. Miguel said no, but that he would like to sit somewhere in the park and watch Clemente do his thing. The homeowner corrects him: “Son, where you sit is all that matters.”
MIGUEL MAKES IT |Then we get fragments from Miguel’s life as a young adult. He gets the job at the construction company he and Jack eventually work for, but he only gets an interview if he submits his resume under the name “Mike Rivers” – because of the multiple attempts he made to apply under his real name, Miguel Rivas ‘Never called back’, he points out to the boss, Mr. Lundy.
Miguel’s professional success irritates his parents, and what begins as a happy Christmas visit ends badly. His parents don’t like their son straightening his curls because “I’m trying not to look like I just flew in from San Juan, Mami.” Miguel can’t understand why his father, in particular, is angry about the new car he just bought or his offer to help pay for the constant care his aunt, who had a stroke when she was in her 20s, needed. “Why is it so hard for you to watch me make something of myself in this place, in this place that… you brought us to?” asks Miguel, hurt, and his father doesn’t have a good answer. Miguel leaves in anger.
THE BALLAD OF MIGUEL AND REBECCA † Flashes of Miguel’s life with Jack, Rebecca and Shelly follow. We see Jack setting up a bar hangout, forcing Miguel and Rebecca, who initially dislike each other, to get to know each other better. Then Miguel meets Shelly, they get engaged and bring their first child, Andy, home from the hospital. Things get less happy. Mr and Mrs Rivas argue as Andy and his younger sister, Amber, watch from the stairs.
The story jumps forward. As we know Miguel says goodbye to Rebecca in tears just as they realize they are more than friends. His relationship with his children suffers more after moving to Houston. In 2008 he receives a phone call from his mother that his father has passed away. After the funeral, his mother reassures him that his father died ‘proud of you. He would want you to know that.’ And after Miguel is amazed at how his elderly mother still provides much of the physically taxing care for her sister, she says, “Love is giving your heart without expectation.” He says he’s lost, and she reassures him that he’ll find his way — and someone to love.
One night, after seeing Beth’s Facebook post about baby Tessa (and Rebecca’s tagging inside), he sends her a direct message. Their relationship develops into long, frequent phone calls, and then they eat dinner while he’s in Pennsylvania for work. While the interaction is a little awkward at first, Miguel cuts quickly (VERY fast, right?!) “I’ve never felt at home anywhere. And if I’m honest, the first time in my life I felt homesick was when I left you on that porch.” Rebecca smiles, gets up from her chair, sits down next to him and kisses him. “It’s really nice to see you again,” she says.
He retires and returns to Pennsylvania. They move in together, but their plan to teach the kids this newfound knowledge over Thanksgiving is thwarted when Randall, Beth, Kevin and Kate walk in while their mother and Miguel kiss in the cabin kitchen. Although everyone is shocked at first, Randall and Kate eventually agree with the idea. Kevin, as we know from the show’s first season, isn’t — especially when Miguel announces that he’s in love with Rebecca.
RISK OF FALLING † The current part of the episode takes place with Miguel and Rebecca living in the house Kevin built for them. Based on that, and Rebecca’s general state of being, I’m guessing we’re in the era not too long after Kate and Philip’s wedding. Miguel wakes up every morning at 5:30 am, arranges his and her medication, and is ready to meet Rebecca when she wakes up around 6:45 am. We see bits and pieces of Miguel’s doctor visits: he had a hip replaced, he has high blood pressure and he suffers from shortness of breath during exercise. Still, he insists he doesn’t have time for a stress test. It is clear that he is Rebecca’s primary caretaker.
That’s not to say an assistant won’t come home to help with physiotherapy, chores, etc. But Miguel doesn’t let her do much and often sends her away in the middle of the afternoon; Often agitated and confused by a change in routine or a new face in the house, Rebecca later explains that doing everything yourself just makes life easier…
…until it doesn’t. One night, he wakes up to find Rebecca missing from their bed. She is outside, giggling and spinning in the falling snow. And while trying to lure her back in, he slips and falls, seriously hurting himself. But when Kev, Randall and Kate visit the big house for Thanksgiving, Miguel puts his injuries into perspective. And the moment he steps out of the room to take a painkiller for his back, Rebecca becomes very upset and won’t calm down until Miguel rushes back and takes her in his arms.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END † After accidentally catching a glimpse of the giant bruise on Miguel’s back, Kevin and his siblings close the home care worker in the corner and ask her what’s going on. She tells them about the fall (Miguel insisted he just slept wrong on his back), and the Big Three sat their stepfather down for a chat.
In short, it’s time to seek full-time help for Rebecca. Miguel hesitates: ‘She’s my wife! I made a vow.” — and insists he’s abandoned everyone he loved, so he won’t leave Rebecca’s side. Randall does what he does so well by using a soothing voice and being very honest with the older man: “We’re not doing this until you. we do this for you,” he says. Miguel realizes they’re right and quietly admits.
In the montage that follows, the home helper takes care of both Miguel and Rebecca. But when Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” hits the soundtrack, you just KNOW things are going to get sad soon. Miguel’s heart is not in top shape. He begins to use a stick. Kevin is there more to help both his mom and Migs. Finally, Kevin visits Andy and lets him know that “your dad may not have much time left,” adding that his doctors are concerned about heart failure. Andy doesn’t know how to respond to that information, but Kevin leaves him with this: “Take it from me, man. You don’t want to leave things unfinished.”
Fortunately, Andy and his children are there while we watch a gathering of the families. And then less fortunately, everyone is dressed in black, Rebecca is in a wheelchair and Miguel is gone.
His ashes were scattered in two places: the base of an apple tree in front of the new(ish) house, and a field in Puerto Rico where he played baseball as a child.
Now it’s your turn. Did Miguel’s death hit you hard? Sound off in the comments!