The past and present collided in a big way on this week’s This is Us. Reminder that this recap will contain plenty of spoilers so if you are not caught up on this week’s This is Us you may want to stop reading now.
The episode begins as we watch a young Rebecca and her parents going through their daily routines. Rebecca grows up and is shown in a high school home economics class, attempting to bake but struggling. She leaves the classroom and finds herself in shop class. She struggles like she did in home economics until one of the boys, Alan, comes up and tells her what she was doing wrong. He tells her not to pay any attention to the other boys in the class who are skeptical of a girl taking shop.
Alan, as it turns out, is the man who showed up on Rebecca’s doorstep at the end of the first episode this season. We see Rebecca and Alan back on her doorstep and he tells her that he will never see anyone else like her and she tells him he needs a new pickup line. He tells her it worked for him once, referring to their first meeting in high school, and Rebecca agrees. They kiss. Jack, watching from his car, is disappointed. He drives home where his mother is fixing his dad a sandwich. His dad, drinking and watching TV, yells at her over the quality of the sandwich and throws the food on the floor. Jack tells his mom he has had enough. He says that he will help her find a new place to stay because if she stays with his father, Jack will end up killing him.
Back at Kevin’s movie premiere, everyone is watching Kevin on-screen. As the movie ends Beth excitedly tells him, “Kev, you’re a freaking movie star!” Randall and Kate leave the theater talking about the movie, but Randall quickly changes the subject. Randall tells Kate that Kevin told him about the IVF procedure. He is still upset about her comment about her being the only one able to carry on a piece of Jack. He asks Kate if she thinks having a biological child is the only way that any of them can pass on a part of Jack. She claims she was misunderstood but Randall is upset that she would rather spend tens of thousands on such a dangerous operation than adopt a child who needs a home. Kate cannot believe Randall’s nerve when he is the father of two of his own biological children. She does not understand how he could throw adoption in her face when she and Toby have struggled so much to have a child of their own. She storms away, visibly upset by his words.
Jack and his mother are leaving their home. She has decided to move in with a friend but she is struggling to get in the car. She does not think that she can leave his father but Jack assures her that she can. He will help her. She finally agrees once Jack agrees to buy a cake for her friend so that she does not arrive empty-handed.
Rebecca and Alan are having dinner at Alan’s parents’ home. His mother begins talking about how she knew Rebecca was smart when she turned down Alan after he asked her to move with him to London. Rebecca talks about her music and tells them she has plans to move to Los Angeles to follow her dream. Alan begs her not to go to Los Angeles. He tells her he knows people in New York, and, in front of his parents, asks Rebecca to go to New York with him instead.
Kevin has picked up Zoe from the airport and they enter his apartment. He asks her to go with him to do press for the movie but she declines. He mentions radio host Terry Gross, incorrectly referring to Terry as a man. Zoe immediately corrects him. She is a huge fan of Gross’ and now wants to go with Kevin to his interview so that she can meet her.
Randall calls the councilman back about the rec center. Nothing has been fixed yet and Randall is frustrated. The councilman tells him that he is busy and hangs up. Beth, overhearing, tells Randall she is still waiting to hear about her proposal, too. She asks if he has heard from Kate since their conversation at Kevin’s premiere. Beth acknowledges that Randall went too far, saying, “I love you, boo, but you overstepped.” She begins talking about Miguel’s thoughts on Randall, who is shocked to learn that Beth and Miguel talk to each other regularly. Beth reveals a group text exists between herself, Miguel, and Toby. She jokingly states that it contains “mostly GIFs” but that they also talk about how messed up the Pearson family is. She calls Kate herself and passes the phone to Randall so that he can apologize. He is struggling, much to Beth’s dismay, as a huge flower delivery arrives for Kate from Kevin. Kate tells Randall, “Everyone in this family is making me feel like I’m gonna die tomorrow.” He can sense the fear in her voice and after they hang up he tells Beth that he is flying to Los Angeles to be with her. Beth muses that Miguel was right about how protective he is of his siblings.
Rebecca is thinking about Jack as Alan walks up behind her. He apologizes for springing New York on her so suddenly but she tells him that she has decided to say yes to moving to New York with him.
Kate and Toby are waiting anxiously in their hospital room. The doctor asks how Kate is feeling and then explains the procedure that they are about to go through. When the doctor leaves, Kate begins to tell Toby what to do if she dies. She wants him to find someone else and lists people that he cannot marry: Sharon from accounting or their friend, Madison. He promises not to marry Madison.
Kevin and Zoe are waiting outside Gross’ radio show. He is reading a text about Kate’s surgery and Zoe assures him that Kate will be fine. Gross (playing herself) arrives for Kevin’s interview. She asks him several questions about Jack’s time in Vietnam as Kevin slowly realizes that he knows nothing about his father’s time in the war. With each question, Kevin struggles to find any answer other than “I don’t know.” He remembers playing with a toy grenade in a store and how much it upset Jack. As the interview goes on he realizes he does not know as much about his dad as he thinks he should.
Beth is called into her boss’ office. There is another woman in the room and it is apparent that something is going on. Her boss tells her that she is being let go due to budget cuts. She is shocked as he explains that they had to cut a senior member of the firm. She incredulously asks him to tell her that she was the least valuable senior member and he acknowledges that yes, she was.
Randall has arrived at the hospital where Toby is surprised to see that he flew all the way from New Jersey. “Tell me you used miles,” Toby says as he greets his brother-in-law. A nurse interrupts them, telling them that she needs a sperm sample from Toby. He makes a quip about the awkward timing to which Randall very much agrees.
In the operating room, Kate is put under. She immediately begins to hallucinate that she is back in the hospital in 1980. She sees herself, Kevin, and Randall as babies. As she looks at the empty bassinet where she and Toby’s baby would be, teenage Kate shows up in the doorway. Teen Kate tells adult Kate “there’s no way in hell” that she should be having a baby. She asks if Kate truly believes that she would be able to raise a child. Adult Kate asks her why would she not be able to and they go through the hospital room door into their old home. Teen Kate begins eating a snack and Adult Kate tells her she should not eat so much. Teen Kate does not care because she just lost her father. Young Kate shows up and Teen Kate says that she wants to show her what a train wreck she grows into. Adult and Teen Kate argue with each other until suddenly, Jack walks in the room. He tells them to stop as Adult Kate watches him, shocked. He smiles at her. “Hi, Katie girl.”
Jack and his mother are shopping for a cake at a grocery store when Rebecca happens to show up. Rebecca asks Jack why he is in that end of town. He tells her about his mother. Rebecca remarks that he never showed up again after their date but he tells her that he did. She realizes he must have seen Alan just as Jack tells her that he saw the two of them together. She explains that they dated for three years “a long time ago.” She tells him that she is moving to New York to follow her dream of a singing career but does not mention she is moving with Alan. Jack tells her that she should go. He turns to walk away and she calls after him. Thinking up a reason for stopping him on the spot, she asks if he has a dream. He remarks that he has never been asked that question and smiles thoughtfully. He tells her he wants to know that his mother is okay. He then shares his dream of having a family and a home that is nothing like the situation he was raised in. As she listens, he asks if his answer was stupid. She shakes her head and he tells her goodbye and turns to leave. When he turns back, she is gone.
Beth is back home. She pours herself a drink and begins to think back to a conversation she had with William after Randall’s breakdown. William tells her that she’s “the bass.” Beth listens as he elaborates that while many people pay attention to other aspects of music, when they really listen, they listen to the bass. She holds the fort for the family the same the bass holds the band together. He tells her that a time will come when she will need to let Randall be the bass. She will need to let Randall hold things down for a while so that she can be front and center of their family. William asks her to promise him that when that time comes she will do more than just keep quiet and twist her wedding ring around her finger.
Kevin is back at his apartment with Zoe. He has made a board full of Jack’s pictures from Vietnam. As he looks at the board, he thinks back to being a child in his room after the incident with the toy grenade. Jack walks in and sits down on his bed with him. He tells Kevin that he was in a war where many people were hurt and that is why he does not think that playing war is a fun game. Jack asks if he has any questions about the war and Kevin shakes his head no. As he stares at the board, Zoe tells him that some of the men that served with Jack are likely to still be alive and they may be able to help Kevin piece together Jack’s story.
Back at the hospital, Toby and Randall are waiting for news about Kate. They begin talking about how they each deal with anxiety or depression and how they present a certain way to society because they think as men they have to be tough. Toby says it is hard for him to picture Randall with anxiety and confesses that he takes medication for depression. He does not want Kate to see what he is like when he hits bottom. Randall shares that he does not like that Beth has had to see him crying on their bathroom floor. As they speak, the doctor has come out to talk to them. She tells them that nothing is wrong yet, but that Kate is taking longer than normal to wake up from the anesthesia. She assures them that everything is okay so far and returns to Kate.
We are then shown what Kate is seeing while under anesthesia. Jack has brought Adult, Teen, and Young Kate to their favorite ice cream parlor. As he plays with Young Kate, Teen Kate asks Adult Kate why she needs a baby when she could just stay there with them forever. Jack would be there. The doctor is trying to wake Kate up as they talk. Young Kate asks Adult Kate if she grew up to marry Zack from Saved by the Bell. Adult Kate tells her that she married someone better, she’s a singer, and she’s trying to be a mom. Teen Kate is still cynical. Adult Kate tells Jack that she has to go but he already knew. Adult Kate tells Teen Kate that she knows she is having a difficult time and she will struggle for a while. She will be okay. Jack opens the door for her and she wakes up, out of surgery.
Toby stands above her, smiling. Kate asks if he married Sharon from accounting and he deadpans that yes, he did, before he adds, “We got an annulment as soon as you woke up.” Randall is there, too. Kate is surprised to see him. He apologizes for how he acted at the premiere. Kate tells him that he has a lot of Jack in him. Doing something as big as flying to Los Angeles from New Jersey to apologize was exactly the kind of thing Jack would have done. The doctor comes in and tells Kate and Toby that the procedure was successful. They were able to get eight eggs. Randall leaves as Toby excitedly tells Kate that she is going to be Octomom. Randall’s phone rings. He tells the caller he cannot understand them and then assures them he will be flying back to New Jersey as soon as possible.
Rebecca is talking to Alan’s mom. She asks if his mom would choose to go to New York if she was in Rebecca’s shoes. Rebecca tells her how she knows that she would be okay with Alan, but that there is someone else. She explains about Jack and how even though she does not know anything about him, she has a feeling. It is clear that Rebecca has already made her choice.
Randall arrives at the hospital in New Jersey. The caller was Chichi. Her daughter Sky is in the hospital with a broken arm. Chichi is angry and tells him that it is because Sky is so obsessed with her phone even though it is not safe to have it out in public. Randall tells her that he is going to do something about that. Chichi tells him that everybody talks but nothing gets done. He determinedly tells her that he is different. When he arrives home, Beth is asleep on their couch. She asks about Sky and Randall tells her that the people need someone to help them. He talks about Jack: “He was a superhero and then he died and we’ve all been scrambling ever since, scrambling to keep him alive…” Randall says that Jack would have taken action and that is what he is going to do too. He tells her that he has decided to run for councilman so that he can make the changes that need to be made. Beth tells him that she was laid off as she turns her wedding ring on her finger.
Kevin sends an email to one of the men from Jack’s picture. The man is shown reading the email, which asks for information about Jack’s time in Vietnam.
Rebecca shows up at Jack’s door. He lets her in and she tells him that she hates to arrive empty-handed. He remarks that she is just like his mother. They talk about Alan and she explains that it is over between them. After a few seconds of awkwardness, Jack begins to clean up the dishes that they had used that night. She watches him for a little while and then picks up a dish to help. They begin washing dishes together in silence, unable to hold back their smiles. She asks him if he would like to go for a drive. When he asks where, she responds, “Los Angeles.” He immediately says yes. She smiles and they continue happily washing dishes together.
This week is the first time we got to see three versions of the same character interacting with each other. The stark contrast from Young Kate to Teen Kate to Adult Kate shows just how much Jack’s death affected her and how it shaped the person she became. It was hard to watch the innocence of Young Kate knowing how quickly she would become her cynical teenage self. As Kate dealt with her two former selves, her brothers were struggling just as much. As an adopted son, Randall pushes himself extra hard to live up to Jack’s legacy. He is forever in his father’s shadow, a shadow that at times he himself seems to have created, and with Beth’s layoff it seems like their lives are going to get much worse before they get better.
The most heartbreaking moment of the episode, however, belongs to Justin Hartley and his understated performance as Kevin Pearson, the triplet who has struggled the most in dealing or not dealing with Jack’s death. When Kevin realizes, in the middle of a press interview, that he did not actually know as much about Jack as he should have, the mix of realization, shock, and sadness on his face was heartbreaking. Hartley manages to convey all of Kevin’s emotions without any dialogue and viewers can feel the pain he is in even as he shakes it off in front of everyone else.
Don’t miss next week’s episode! This is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8 central on NBC.