There was a lot going on in tonight's episode of This Is Us, so let's take a minute to try and process it all. Kate had her IVF procedure, and while under anesthesia she experienced a pretty emotional dream featuring both Jack, and her own younger self. Randall made a huge decision about his professional future, which unfortunately coincided with Beth getting laid off from her job. And in the 1970s timeline, Rebecca finds her way back to Jack—despite a brief interruption from Alan—and we begin to see some of the reasons they're so drawn to each other.
Here are seven important moments you might have missed from the episode.
1. Jack and Rebecca’s home lives mirror each other.
The episode’s opening sequence shows us that both Jack and Rebecca grew up in homes that suffocated them for some of the same reasons. Both their mothers are completely submissive to their husbands, and while Rebecca’s father doesn’t seem abusive like Jack’s, her mother’s entire day revolves around waiting for him to come home. Rebecca does not want to be a housewife like her mom, and is clearly frustrated by the gender roles she encounters in her 1960s upbringing. During a cooking class at school, she sneaks into woodworking class with the boys instead, which is where she meets Alan (Hunter Parrish), the mustached man who showed up at her door in the season premiere. Rebecca and Alan dated for three years, and his parents became a bit of a surrogate family to Rebecca, who lacked role models in her own household.
When Jack tells Rebecca his dream is to have “a house that feels nothing like the one I grew up in,” Rebecca is clearly moved because she can relate. And because they are soulmates!
2. Beth, Toby, and Miguel have a group text.
“It’s mostly gifs, but sometimes we talk about how messed up y’all are,” Beth tells a shocked Randall. This sounds like a pretty delightful extension of that scene from season two where the three “ ones” commiserate at a bar near Kevin’s rehab facility. What’s it going to take for us to see some of these group texts on screen?
3. Milo Ventimiglia and Chrissy Metz shared their first scene together.
And given Jack and Kate’s incredible father-daughter bond, it was just as heartbreaking as you’d expect. When Jack called her “Katie-girl,” you could almost hear viewers collectively sob. For obvious reasons, Jack doesn’t share a lot of screen time with his adult children, but thanks to dream sequences and hallucinations there are rare exceptions. In season one, it was while Randall was accidentally under the influence of mushrooms at the cabin. In season two, it was while Kevin was using prescription drugs at his alumni event. And here, it’s while Kate is under anesthesia for her IVF procedure. Her dream also gave all three of the on-screen Kates—Metz, Hannah Zeile, and Mackenzie Hancsicsak—the chance to act together, as Kate wrestles with her own fears about having children.
4. There was a reference to one of season one’s most emotional scenes.
Remember when Kevin abandoned his play on opening night to run across town and ? Of course you do—it was one of the standout tearjerker moments of the first season. And in tonight’s episode, we see a glimpse of the aftermath of that moment, as Beth and William sit anxiously talking in the kitchen. “If Kevin hadn’t raced out of that play to go find him…” Beth says, before admitting “I don’t think I can get him through this again.” William reassures her that she can, because she’s “the bass” in the jazz quartet of their relationship. The solo gets all the glory, he says, but the bass is the root of the music, the foundation that holds everything together.
The title of the episode in which Kevin runs to Randall, "Jack Pearson’s Son," also got a direct call-out tonight, when Kevin sends an email to one of Jack’s war buddies entitled “From Jack Pearson’s Son.” Right before Kevin makes the decision to put Randall’s needs ahead of his play, he says that he’s “thinking about what his dad would do.” So many feelings!
5. NPR’s Terry Gross played herself.
Kevin’s acting career offers plenty of opportunities for media cameos—he was previously interviewed by Katie Couric, albeit in a dream. But this Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross is very much real, and ends up propelling Kevin in a new direction. When Gross asks if he drew on his father’s military experience for his role in the Ron Howard movie, Kevin realizes that he doesn’t even know where Jack served, much less what his experience was like. This prompts him to make a Homeland-style cork board to assemble clues about Jack’s time in Vietnam, and to start reaching out to people who might have served with him.
6. Kevin building model planes with Jack is already a big part of the show’s mythology.
Jack takes Kevin to buy a model plane to build in a flashback, and uncharacteristically yells at him when Kevin starts playing with toy guns and grenades. Later, he explains to Kevin that because he was in a real war, where a lot of people got hurt, this isn’t a fun game for him to play. Although we haven’t seen much of the model planes in flashbacks, they were first mentioned early in season one, when Kevin crashes a funeral (thanks to Olivia) and begins talking to the widow about Jack. “I used to pick the most complex ones,” he says, recalling how he used to build model planes with Jack, “because they took the longest. I was one of three kids, so you really had to strategize to get your alone time with dad.” He threw away all of his toy planes after Jack died, which originally sparked a fan theory that Jack might have died in a plane crash, though that has since been debunked.
7. Jack and Rebecca might have had a stint on the West Coast.
Rebecca thankfully comes to her senses by the end of this episode, and figures out that her feelings for Jack—after only four hours together—are too strong to ignore, while Alan belongs in her past. She tracks Jack down at his mom’s friend’s house to tell him so, and they slip pretty effortlessly into a domestic scene together as they wash and dry dishes. But Rebecca’s not giving up on her dream just yet, and asks Jack if he’ll take a drive with her—all the way to LA.
We don’t know much about Jack and Rebecca’s life before her pregnancy, so it’s totally possible that they’ll spend some time living out in LA while Rebecca pursues a singing career. In any case, Rebecca being torn between LA and New York is a cute reference to how much time the show spends jumping between the two coasts.
8. Randall is officially running for office.
We called it! Randall tries yet again to get the city councilman to repair the rec center, reminding him that a lot of residents are counting on him. But it’s clear that Councilman Brown’s priorities are elsewhere, and that he’s grown complacent. The final straw is Skye getting mugged and beaten in one of the (poorly lit) streets near the rec center. “We have to do something about this,” Randall says, and Chi Chi responds: “Then do something.” Later, Randall confirms to Beth that he’s thinking of running against Brown…right before she tells him that she just got fired. What does this mean for Randall’s political ambitions—especially in light of William’s warning to Beth about not always letting Randall be “the soloist?" Guess we'll have to tune in next week to find out!