The elusive Barbara deserves the whole story, the truth, so here’s Jon to give it to us — or some of it, anyway.
Rather than intermittent flashbacks, this whole episode is set in the past. In fact, it all takes place the day before…(It tells us so on the screen and in the episode’s title!)
The day before his death, Jon wakes up in his home with Delilah. He immediately grabs his phone and goes to the bathroom to listen to voicemail from Constance Zimmer’s character, whoever she might be. “I’m sorry, I can’t do what you want me to do,” she tells him in the recorded message. Jon is noticeably distressed by this but then D wakes up and reminds him they have a dinner reservation that night. She’s adamant he’s there because they really need to talk. I’m assuming she wants to break the news of her affair with Eddie. She’s also mad about the smoke detector beeping in their ensuite bathroom — this must be coming back later in the episode, otherwise, it’s a completely arbitrary plot point. Jon leaves and Delilah calls Eddie to tell him they’re really ending their marriages that night.
Elsewhere, Maggie is moving into her Boston apartment. She’s on the phone with her doctor’s office and we learn she’s been in remission for 6 months at this point but, on realizing her cancer is back, she’s now looking for a new doctor. Just then, her dad shows up to help her unpack so she abruptly ends the call. He puts on R.E.M.’s “Shiny, Happy People” on the record player and they get to it — apparently, it’s a tradition of theirs.
While they’re unpacking, Maggie’s dad comes across her stuffed-toy panda and gets emotional. They share a sweet moment reminiscing about the day at the carnival when Maggie’s brother stole is for her when she couldn’t win it for herself. He then tells her not to be too hard on her mom, because everyone copes in different ways. There must’ve been a rift there since her bother’s death. When he’s leaving, he tells her to make friends and join a support group. She wanders back inside, takes one look at her beautifully-set up apartment and flashes back to her dad telling her she can’t keep running away and that he’s so happy she’s better now. Maggie can’t face telling him her cancer is back after that. Instead, she grabs her panda, puts on her record and starts repacking everything into boxes again?? How exhausting.
Over at Gary’s, he wakes up next to a woman who has presumably been part of his life for a while, considering she does something as audacious as try to leave a spare phone charger at his place. She makes plans to see a movie with him that Saturday, but having spotted the moved-in charger, Gary breaks up with her. He goes to meet the guys to play ball and they rib him for being a commitment-phobe. Jon gets worked up, yelling at Gary that he wants him to live his life now that he’s survived cancer. “What’s the point of living if you’re not going to live,” he tells Gary. This is all hitting a little too close to home. Gary tells Jon to go to hell.
Rome has a big pitch meeting for a super bowl commercial that advertises Hidden Valley ranch dressing. He pitches a narrative of a girl drinking her ranch dressing rather than give it up at airport security and everyone in the room is just like, “Wow, genius! Game changer! Who is this man? Give him all the free cheese baskets.” And if the premise of that commercial sounds familiar, that’s because it is! Yes, it’s a real Hidden Valley commercial and yes, it was the first ad to run during the next break. Somebody over at H.V. is a marketing genius! I’d wondered why there was such blatant product placement up until this point. Anyway, here’s the commercial, because why not? I may as well join in this massive ranch dressing push. (Honestly, though, doesn’t it kinda put you off the stuff?)
Anyway, I digress! The Hidden Valley got me. While Rome is playing commercial king, Regina is having a far less enjoyable day at work. She’s working a catering job, when a douchey guy grabs her ass. But that’s not even the worst part; when Gina goes to tell her boss about it, he’s all, he’s a big client, suck it up and don’t make a scene like that again. Lovely. Gina calls Jon to talk her down and, realizing that she can’t go on feeling unsafe at work, tells her she needs to get her own place again. He then starts negotiations for the restaurant we already know he bought for her.
Later at home, Rome is surrounded by cheese baskets and ready to celebrate his ranch-y genius. Then Gina reads a note that tells him to savor this moment because it doesn’t get better than this. The message gives Rome pause as he pops champagne. You can see the thought process on his face as he realizes none of this is actually going to make him happy. The next day, Gina wants to celebrate some more, but Rome isn’t feeling it. He pretends he’s just hungover from last night’s champagne, and Gina tells him to take two Ibuprofen and get ready for a night to remember. Oh, boy. (Recap continued on page 2.)
Okay, let’s get back to Jon. At his office, Ashley opens his mail and finds a traffic ticket for Delilah for running a red light. It’s one of those red-light cameras so it includes a photo of D behind the wheel canoodling with Eddie. Ashley doesn’t mention that part or show it to Jon. He goes into his office, gets on the phone and starts yelling at someone named Jerry for not having the votes. He tells Ashley, “they” aren’t going to take up the subway vote this session so it’s going to die at committee. Jon realizes he’s over-leveraged and that the subway vote was the only thing keeping them afloat. Ashley tries to find a solution, but he tells her it’s over and then says they’re taking the night off; he wants to show her something. She leaves the office to grab her stuff and he goes into a drawer and take out a blue folder and writes “Delilah” on it.
Jon takes Ashley to the apartment building we’ve seen them at in flashbacks before, (where he told her, “I’m not the man everyone thinks I am”). As the door closes she kisses him (the same kiss we’ve seen before), but he immediately breaks away from her, telling her that’s not why he brought her here. She’s embarrassed, but he’s kind about it and explains he just wanted to show her this place because it’s very special to him.
Across town, Delilah waits for her husband at the restaurant but Jon is busy showing Ashley pics from his freshman orientation. She realizes this was his apartment in his college days. She’d thought he’d just overpaid for the block because of the subway development, but now she’s realizing he bought the entire block to save that one apartment. He tells her he wanted her to see what they worked so hard for. Ashley spots one pic of a woman and asks who she is, but Jon wants to talk about Ashley instead, asking her what she would do if she could do anything. She says she’d do to Barcelona, where her grandparents are from. Jon tells her she must go or she’ll regret it for the rest of her life. She turns the question on him and he says he’d go back and never have bought a bottle of wine that he picks up from the cabinet next to him. What he means to say is that sometimes you make small choices in life and don’t realize how much they can affect everything, but before he can expound on this Regina calls about her horrible day at work. Before they leave the apartment, Jon asks Ashley to sign a trust form making her trustee because he trusts her with his life. She doesn’t read it, just signs. He puts the forms in an envelope and writes Rutledge on it. Is buying the apartment block the Rutledge “take care of my family” deal?? Guess we’ll find out in 12-15 episodes.
When they’re leaving, Jon asks Ashley not to tell anyone about the apartment, then thanks her for everything with a hug and sneakily slips the keys to the place into her purse. He goes home and puts the envelope behind the picture in his office. Then writes another envelope addressed to Barbara Morgan. Realizing he’s missed dinner, he makes his way to the restaurant, but when he gets there Eddie has shown up instead (since Katherine was stuck at work late, he hasn’t told his spouse either) and Jon watches from outside as his “best friend” kisses Delilah’s hand. Later, he comes home to D asleep in bed and says he’s sorry to the room. Only pretending to be asleep, Delilah hears his apology. The next morning, she notices he’s changed the battery in the smoke detector but has left before she can yell at him for standing him up.
While all that has been going on, Gary has found a stray dog, named him Colin and decided to keep him. The next day (ie. the day of) Gary has his cancer screening and we’re back to scenes from the pilot with the obnoxious doctor’s more interested in ordering a salad than telling Gary he’s cancer-free.
We cut to Rome, who is frantically searching for a notepad to write his suicide note to Gina, and Jon on the phone brokering his final deal for Gina’s restaurant. He hangs up having secured it and calls Eddie leaving him that voicemail we’ve heard before, telling them to love each other. Jon has told Ashley to take a long lunch, but when she receives plane tickets to Barcelona in the mail she comes back into Jon’s office to thank him just as he jumps off the balcony. Thankfully we don’t see this happen, just Ashley’s response.
At the doctor’s office, Gary immediately calls Jon to tell him he’s still cancer free. He starts talking quickly, apologizing for the way he left things and sharing that he got a dog so how’s that for commitment? He then realizes he’s talking to a very upset Ashley instead.
And that catches us up to the where the pilot kicked off. We still don’t know who Barbara Morgan is, or what’s in all the envelopes, but there’s always next week and the next and the next. Dry your tears and meet me back here then!