There wasn’t a big hook or plot twist on tonight’s This Is Us episode; instead, the show-runners gave us a poignant, emotional 42 minutes where we learned more about the characters than arguably ever before. Here’s what happened (spoilers ahead, of course):
Jack and Rebecca
We open with a friendly little reminder that Rebecca and Jack didn’t formally adopt Randall: They straight-up just took him home from the hospital, so a social worker is now entering the picture to make things official. She’s sweet, but at one point savagely pops into Rebecca and Jack’s house for a surprise check-up, which gives me life. Keep Jack and his beard in check, girl!
The Pearson gang has to appear in front of a judge, Ernest Bradley (a black man), to make Randall’s adoption legit. But this dude isn’t playing games; he immediately asks to speak to the Pearson’s social worker, and because she isn’t there he reschedules their court date for three weeks. Rebecca and Jack are shook because the social worker told them she didn’t need to be present for the hearing. Something’s fishy. It’s probably concerning Rebecca’s middle-part.
Nope, it’s not that: The judge doesn’t think Randall belongs in Jack and Rebecca’s home; he thinks Randall belongs with a black family. He says Randall won’t be prepared to live life as a black man if he’s raised by Rebecca and Jack. Rebecca tries to fight the judge on this, but he says his opinion won’t change. So, she writes an angry letter to the judge saying her family won’t stop until he does his job.
Instead, he recuses himself from the case, and the Pearsons go before another judge (a black woman) to formally adopt Randall. It’s a much smoother process this time around. She has no objections and signs Randall’s adoption into law.
Randall isn’t pleased about taking Déjà on a court-ordered trip to visit her mother, who, remember, is in jail. He immediately tries to block Déjà from seeing someone in handcuffs when they get to the jail, which is such a Randall thing to do. He’s the best.
But, oh man, Déjà’s mother—for whatever reason—opts out of the visit. She doesn’t want to see Déjà, but Randall massages the situation to make it seem less harsh. And the hits keep coming: Apparently, Déjà had been saving up every cent of her allowance to give her mother so she’d be more comfortable in jail. Oy.
Now, Beth’s the one who isn’t pleased; she says that as long as Déjà is under their roof she’s not visiting her birth mother. That’s a bit of a statement to make since, ya know, these visits are mandatory. But Beth’s a queen who’s above the law, so I support her.
Randall visits Déjà’s birth mother on his own and learns more about her situation. She didn’t want to see Déjà the other day because she has large bruises on her face. (She was jumped.) They proceed to have a very tense argument about what’s best for Déjà, which ends with Randall saying Déjà’s mother will have to “go through him” in order to get to her. There’s a lot of nuances at play here that I’m not sure how to unpack. Ultimately, Randall decides to give Déjà’s mom their phone number so she can call her that night.
Oh my God, Kate and Toby tell Kevin they’re pregnant in the cheesiest, dorkiest way—but, like, it’s kind of cute. Sweatshirts are involved. Kevin’s either too drunk/high/sad to grasp the news right away, but eventually he feigns enthusiasm. I’m so over sad Kevin and want them to bring back shirtless Kevin.
Kate, of course, notices that Kevin was a hazy mess during their pregnancy announcement—but she immediately pivots the conversation to Toby’s very Catholic mother. Toby’s afraid to talk to his mom about their pregnancy because they aren’t married, which is a big no-no for Catholics. So Kate’s wild-ass solution is for them to get married that day. Alrighty then.
But maybe this isn’t going to happen? Kate and Toby get awkward about the whole thing at city hall—and then Toby has a super creepy conversation with Jack’s urn about how much Kate loves traditional weddings. So, yeah, they’re probably going to have a big wedding.
Toby re-proposes to Kate and says they should have a big, ridiculous wedding if that’s what she really wants. They cry. It’s cute and emotional and just a pinch blech. But isn’t all of This Is Us just a pinch blech? That’s why we love it.
Kevin, for some reason, keeps delaying his trip to visit Sophie in New York City. No, actually, he’s delaying moving to New York City; apparently, between last week’s episode and this week’s, Kevin decided to move back East. He’s clearly sad and acting weird, and his burgeoning pill addiction is probably to blame. He immediately pops a pill and takes a swig of beer after talking to Sophie on the phone. Oof.
Kevin, clearly high, manically goes shopping for an engagement ring for Sophie an hour before boarding a flight to New York He ends up buying three rings and telling the jeweler he’ll let Sophie “decide” which one she wants. This makeshift engagement will end badly.
Kevin gets to Sophie’s hospital (remember, she’s a nurse) and immediately starts popping pills. He falls asleep at the hospital, while waiting for Sophie, and has a nightmare about being a bad father. Then, he shows up to Sophie’s house—sweaty, high, and clearly strung-out—and says he’s not the guy she thinks he is. He says the dreams he has of their future are nightmares. Sophie then abruptly shuts the door in his face. So…they’re broken up? Yikes, this is all just so depressing.
Young William/2016 William
But wait! Tonight’s episode also included some backstory about Randall’s father, William, and it was emotional. In an earlier flashback, we see William being sentenced to jail for drug possession; he gives a very emotional monologue about how he does drugs to mask the pain of losing his mother, girlfriend, and son. He calls himself the most disappointed man alive. It’s a doozy—if not a wee bit melodramatic.
Equally as melodramatic—but damn it, so effective—is the monologue William’s judge gives him about also being disappointed. He says he’s tired of sentencing people to long, hopeless prison stints for crimes that could’ve been prevented, and he wants to take a chance on him. It’s a poignant scene, and it makes me miss 2016 William. Bring him back!
OK, so 2016 William does come back—for a very sad mini-arc. It’s at the moment he finds out his cancer is fatal. William returns to his apartment with the materials to shoot up heroine, but before he does it he visualizes the face of the judge who gave him mercy decades before. Immediately after this, he gets a knock on the door: It’s Randall, from the pilot, telling William he’s his biological son. Damn it, here come the tears.
And get this: The judge who recused himself from the Pearson’s case and the judge who worked young William’s case know each other. It’s a convoluted and forced twist, but I have goosebumps regardless, so who’s the real sucker here?