This Is Us recap: 'What Now?'
In the wake of William's death, the Pearsons do their best to honor his memory, while someone reveals they may be at fault for Jack's untimely death.
As a weekly watcher of This Is Us, you’ve come to understand that you don’t ever really stop crying. There are just recovery moments between episodes — moments of relief where you get to blow your nose or do stuff in Excel spreadsheets at work or make dinner before you start crying again. And then there are episodes like last week’s. If you’re a weird person who misses episodes and then reads recaps after not seeing past episodes, this is your one-week-later spoiler warning: William has died, and it was devastating.
So this is where we pick up the pieces. But before we get that chance, we get a quick flashback to William leaving a note in his room before leaving for Memphis. Randall stands in his room, ready to pack up his stuff, but he’s not sure how to process it all or honor his father’s legacy. It’s a tough road for Randall because this is not the first time he’s buried a father. But Beth finds a note under his pillow and tells Randall, “You need to read this.”
There’s also Kevin, who has much less severe pieces to pick up after bailing on the opening night of his play to take care of Randall. Granted, that’s not an easy task, but it is a task. He also has to make the big reveal that he’s dating Sophie again, so like I said… Kevin has his own stuff. But back to Randall. That note William left for Randall was actually for the girls, asking them to organize his memorial. The only part they’ll allow input on is Randall’s desire to give the
eulogy toast. It’s a toast because the girls aren’t about being sad. So they launch into it, rainbow balloons and all.
We flash back to Rebecca and Jack’s world; Jack is running late from work. Rebecca needed him home when he said he would be there because Randall has his robotics class and Kevin is practically sexually active, but girlfriend has to get on tour with her band because no matter what world we live in, Rebecca is Mandy Moore, and Mandy Moore was born to sing. Jack takes Randall and drops him off, leaving Jack alone with Kate. The father and daughter have a way of stealing the show, so when she asks her dad if he and Rebecca are okay before she hops out of the car, it’s a powerful moment that captures the bond they have and the strange line you have to walk between parent and spouse.
Back on the funeral-masquerading-as-a-party front, Randall is working on his toast when he’s interrupted by Jessie, who calls to send his condolences and offers up a warm sentiment about William: “He was a soft armrest for weary souls to lean on.” Which is the eloquent British way of saying he was a great man. It’s followed quickly by the postman checking in on William and taking his death pretty hard. How’d he know William? From his morning walks. William had a way with the neighborhood.
At the “fun”-eral, the goodbye to William begins with the girls announcing that they’re going to re-create William’s perfect day. Of course, that starts with breakfast and taking your pills. But after all the prep, it’s Beth who isn’t ready to say goodbye. She tells Randall that he got Memphis and the girls got their note, but she loved him too. In short, Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth, is a subtle goddess, bringing life to the shortest of exchanges.
Randall’s toast begins, carried out on an incredible pink microphone/ boom box combo. But as he starts, it’s clear that his plan isn’t one that anyone could have ever expected — he hands the microphone over to the person who was there every day and truly saw William: Beth. Her speech is defensive and passionate and vulnerable, much like Beth. But it’s too much for Kate because this talk about losing a father figure hits close to home. She steps outside; as the door slams behind her, she tells Toby to go away, but it’s not Toby standing beside her. It’s Randall.
He tells Kate about a dream he had where William and Jack had finally gotten the chance to sit down and have a conversation about their son. They exchange stories — one about Jack teaching Randall to drive and one about Randall teaching William to drive. And in that moment, the dream is enough to remind Randall and Kate that life is only bearable when you tell those stories and let those feelings out. If you were on the ground crying, it’s okay. We all were.
We get a break from outright heartbreak and return to Jack’s world, where his night seems to be ending with a box of carry-out and television, but he takes Kate’s advice to not sit home all sad and heads to the retirement party he had decided to pass up at the bar. He takes up a bar stool next to that trollop from his office. Is it right to call her a trollop? Maybe not. But she does put her hand on his thigh, which he immediately stops. Thank goodness.
It’s enough of a break that we can return to William’s perfect day, where everyone is required to wear fedoras and walk around the block. Kevin leaves because he has to get to the thea-tah (said in the way only pretentious theater people say “theater,” you know, like Kevin), leaving us to catch up with Rebecca and Randall. She attempts to explain her decision to keep William from his son. Rebecca explains that at first, William was a mess, but later on, he had improved. She always promised that she would eventually tell Randall, but she was scared of losing him, and ultimately it was too late. It’s a beautiful moment between Rebecca and Randall, and it sheds even more light on how Randall always had to rise up and be twice the child any other kid would be expected to be.
But if all that fun-eral business and Pearson family emotion was too heavy for you, don’t worry — there’s a diet brand of drama for you in the form of Kevin’s play. After reuniting with Sophie and attempting to convince the critic to come back and review his new opening night, he finally takes the stage. Mind you, the critic never shows up so that can’t be great, but the whole Pearson family is there, and that’s what matters. Even Miguel! As the night is winding down and everyone goes their own way, Randall tells Beth that he has to stop by the office. But when he walks in, he isn’t there to do work.
Randall launches into a monologue about the box of pears his company sent him with the one-line sympathy card signed, “From the team.” Why was it the breaking point? Because after years of service and long days, they sent him pears. The same pears that he’s allergic to that nearly killed him on his first day’s lunch when he started. So with all of that, he quits and explains that instead, he’s going to start his day the same way William used to. With Randall jobless and the family leaving New York, Sophie and Kevin meet up outside of the theater to discuss how to execute dating again and what their future will look like. Apparently, it will be naked, because they end up sleeping together again.
But in an episode of absolute choke-up moments, the final five minutes are where the biggest twists lie: Not only does Ron Howard call Kevin to offer him a movie script — yes, that Ron Howard — Beth finds a postcard from Memphis that William sent her, officially saying goodbye to the “daughter he never had.” And then there’s the whole reveal that Kate is the reason for Jack’s death. Yep. (At least, that’s her take on it. Get Milo Ventimiglia’s take, which he shared with EW, here.) After heading out of the bar, Jack calls Kate to explain that she was right and that he’ll work on his marriage. He drops his keys and picks them up before loading into the car and driving off (or attempting to).
This Is Us
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.