The mid-season finale of This is Us is here and it is full of shocking reveals! If you haven’t watched the episode yet, remember that this recap is filled with spoilers so you may want to stop reading now. Ready to continue? Okay.
The episode begins with a small montage of Jack and Nick in Vietnam. More specifically, Jack is attempting to take care of his brother who is going through withdrawal, and Nick is avoiding him and the rest of the unit as much as possible. One day Jack finds him behind a hut and tells him he wants to take him somewhere. Nick refuses and Jack begins telling him he understands how hard it is for him. Nick scoffs and becomes aggressive towards Jack, eventually punching his brother in the face. “I’ve got 48 hours left with you, kid,” Jack tells him. Finally, Nick agrees to go with him.
In modern-day Vietnam, Kevin and Zoe are stranded in their hotel due to road closures caused by rain. Zoe is laid back and calm about waiting while Kevin is anxious to get to the village where his dad served. The next morning, a young Vietnamese man working at the hotel brings breakfast out to the two of them and informs them that the roads are cleared. He can take them to Jack’s village the next day.
Kate and Toby are at their second ultrasound. The doctor tells them everything looks good and that they can find out the sex of the baby if they want to. Toby wants to be surprised and Kate agrees. The doctor then gives the bad news: because of how much driving it requires combined with Kate’s high blood pressure, she doesn’t think Kate’s job as a singing Adele-o-gram is a good idea.
At Randall and Beth’s house, Randall is helping Annie study for a spelling bee. Beth is worried that Randall isn’t prepared for his upcoming debate with Councilman Brown and agrees to help him. She has quit working for his campaign and he has apologized “profusely, with chocolate” over the events of last week’s episode. As they talk, Tess walks out of the bathroom, barely speaking to her parents, and slams her bedroom door. As they walk past Deja’s room, they hear her on the phone with her mother. It is apparent that there is a lot going on with the girls that Randall and Beth are unaware of.
In Vietnam, Jack has taken Nick to the other side of a body of water, away from the village. He thinks Nick just needs to get through the war and then distance himself from it. He worries that Nick won’t get out of the war alive unless he stays focused on the mission. “The mission is to kill,” responds Nick.
“No, Nicky,” answers Jack. “The mission is to get home.”
Kevin and Zoe have finally arrived at the village. Kevin tells the young man about his uncle and then asks about the woman in Jack’s photo. The young man tells him that there is a historian in the village who was alive during the war. He will speak with Kevin and Zoe. Will he have answers about the mysterious woman? Kevin, who has been comparing his trip to a Netflix documentary, follows the young man. “Next episode begins in 5…4…3…”
Kate and Madison walk in the park, trying to come up with job options now that Kate’s job as an Adele-o-gram is no longer a good idea with her pregnancy. Madison suddenly remembers that the high school she volunteers for is desperate for a choir teacher and thinks Kate should apply. It would be a good job that would not require her traveling as much and would make her happy.
Randall, Beth, Jae-Won, Deja, and Annie are backstage at the big debate. Jae-Won attempts to give Randall some last-minute pointers as his candidate is extremely distracted by his daughters. Beth ushers everyone else out of the room and begins giving a pep talk to her husband. On their way to the debate, Rebecca tells Tess how nervous she is. She tries subtly asking about how Tess is doing in middle school, but it becomes apparent to Tess that Kate told her about her “or girlfriend” comment last week. She’s worried Kate told Randall and Beth but Rebecca assures her that she didn’t. Tess is still upset and refuses to talk to Rebecca.
A montage of Jack and Kevin walking the same path in the village plays before we go to Kate at her interview with the high school. The interview is going extremely well, until it’s time for the background check. Despite liking her so much, they are unable to hire her with no college degree because of state regulation.
Things are also not going well for Randall at his debate. Councilman Brown jumps on his mispronunciation of the moderator’s name and uses it to emphasize Randall’s status as an outsider. When Randall attempts to counter him, Brown refuses to allow it. The debate seems to be going against Randall on all sides.
Kevin and Zoe meet the village historian as Nick is shown waking up from what appears to be a nightmare. When Jack finds him the next morning, he is once again high. He tells him he’ll get him clean again but Nick says he doesn’t want to be clean. He doesn’t want to remember everything that’s happened and taking drugs is his way of coping. He does not want Jack’s help.
At home with Toby, Kate talks about her disappointment in not getting the job with the high school. He ponders if maybe she should not work because of her pregnancy, which he immediately retracts when he realizes it wasn’t the right thing to say. She explains that she needs to work and keep busy because she doesn’t truly believe the baby will ever come. She points to their refusal to know the baby’s sex even though they both hate surprises because they’re both terrified, then refuses to talk about it further.
Back at the debate, Randall continues to deal with Brown’s attempts to throw him down at any chance he gets. Finally, Randall begins speaking about growing up in Pittsburgh and being overlooked by people who thought he didn’t belong. Brown condescendingly begins clapping but Randall continues. He explains the people of his district are also overlooked, specifically by Councilman Brown. In a moment that appears to turn the tide of the debate, Randall sits on the steps of the stage and begins pointing out things that Brown said he would fix but did not, despite multiple complaints. “Take a chance!” Randall implores the audience.
Kevin and Zoe are eating with the historian. Kevin shows him pictures of both Jack and the mystery woman but the man has no idea who they are. He doesn’t know Jack but he recognizes Kevin from TV. He explains his own father had to sneak into the village to see them because he was Viet Cong. He never knew his father was off fighting a war because he was such a good actor, much like Kevin. He says that although their fathers were enemies, they were also very similar. Kevin’s disappointment is written all over his face. It appears to be a dead-end on his quest to learn more about Jack.
After the debate, Rebecca and Tess are waiting outside. Rebecca explains to Tess how the toll of keeping secrets has affected her physically through the years. She doesn’t want her to share her secret with Randall and Beth until she’s ready but she also doesn’t want her to keep the secret for so long it begins to have a physical effect on her.
Toby has brought Kate to a local community college. He gives a long speech about their impending parenthood and then tells her that he believes finishing her degree will make her smile. He wants their child to inherit her smile because it makes the world better.
Jae-Won gives Randall bad news after the debate. Despite everything he’s done so far and the positive outcome of the debate, Brown still has the better poll numbers and Randall does not have a chance. He apologizes but tells him, “You’re not going to win this one.”
At home, Randall and Beth are talking in the kitchen. Deja comes in and asks if she can visit her mother in Delaware. They agree to it and tell her they will work something out. After Deja leaves, Tess comes downstairs to speak to them. “It’s like an adolescent girl conveyor belt in here,” remarks Beth. Tess apologizes for her recent behavior and finally, showing incredible courage for her age, tells them that she might like girls instead of boys. She is crying and unsure. Her parents are extremely supportive and in a tear-jerking moment, Beth asks her to look at the two of them. “Do you see anything other than two people who love you more than any two people could ever love anyone in the entire world?” Tess shakes her head no, but tells them she’s still not ready to talk about what’s going on.
After she leaves, Beth and Randall get back to talking about the campaign. Beth expects Randall to drop out of the race because of what’s happening with the family and Jae-Won’s news that he won’t win against Brown. Randall refuses to quit. When Beth confronts him with his promise to stop when she no longer supports it, he tells her as much as he loves her he can’t give up. She leaves, angry.
Kevin apologizes to Zoe for bringing her to Vietnam for no reason. Zoe tries to make him see things differently, suggesting that maybe there’s more to discover.
In the village, Jack is searching for Nick when there is an explosion nearby. He runs toward it.
Beth prepares the couch for Randall. We jump forward again to adult Tess and an older Randall. Randall asks if she’s called Beth. Beth, now a dance instructor, explains to her assistant that they are going to see Rebecca. Beth looks great while Randall appears older than he is, calling into question what exactly happens between them? Do they get divorced? Is the campaign the beginning of the end of one of the best couples on prime time?
Toby stares at a cake, wondering how a bakery would find out the sex of their baby. Kate explains and then, together, they cut it, revealing an inside of blue. It’s a boy!
Jack has reached the dock and finds out a boat has exploded with one of their men on board. He dives into the water. In modern-day Vietnam, Kevin finds out that his uncle, Nick, did not die in Vietnam as he believed – at least, not in the war. The episode ends with a shot of a man walking through a trailer sorting through his mail. A close-up of an envelope reveals the name Nicholas Pearson. Nick is alive!
There were plenty of reveals this episode and more questions than answers. Hopefully the next half of the season explores more of modern-day Nick and what he has been up to. As enjoyable as the bits of Jack and Nick in Vietnam have been, it would be nice to get back to Jack’s life in Pittsburgh. Hopefully there will also be a new baby Pearson to look forward to coming up as well!
This is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8 central on NBC. The third season will continue January 15, 2019.