Keeping the timeline of This Is Us straight can feel like an overwhelming task as the mythology and scope of the Pearson family’s story continue to expand into the past, present, and future. (Old Lady Witch Rebecca is truly haunting.) Who has time to think about dates when there is so much crying to be done? Well, we do! As the show fills in Pearson-family milestones, Vulture will sort the timeline-jumping drama out for you in a chronological fashion. Here is a list of the major This Is Us moments, from beginning to end, covering the events of the series through the season-four midseason finale. (So, yes, there are spoilers.) We’ve added actual dates where we can, but for some of them, we had to make our best guess. Know that investigation of facial-hair length is a real and wonderful thing.
Jack Pearson’s grandfather arrives in New York City.
As Kevin (Justin Hartley) explains, the man has a son who has a son who has the Big Three. So he’s the dude who is to blame for all the crying. Mystery solved.
William Hill’s father dies overseas and leaves behind a pregnant war widow.
But not before singing the sweetest version of “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s obvious where Young William (Jermel Nakia) gets his musical talent.
William Hill is born.
He’s born with the gift of poetry, and eventually uses it to achieve minor success while in a cover band with his cousin Ricky (Brian Tyree Henry). It is the first “almost” and “could’ve been” in a life full of them. Raise your hand if you downloaded William’s song “We Can Always Come Back to This” and listened to it on repeat. And if you didn’t, don’t judge.
October 18, 1948 (11:58 p.m., if you want to be exact): Nicky Pearson is born.
Almost immediately, Jack Pearson takes full responsibility for keeping his younger brother safe from life in general, and their angry, abusive dad (who wasn’t always that way!) specifically. Mr. Pearson grows more awful by the day, and is especially tough on Nicky, and so Jack spends most of his childhood standing up for his mother and brother. Jack is superman, Nicky always in need of rescuing.
Jack builds a tree fort for Nicky.
If manual labor didn’t make you cry before, it will now.
The Pearsons are just out there slicing ice cream like it’s cake.
It’s one of the few childhood memories involving Stanley that the Pearson brothers can look back on fondly.
Jack and Nicky hide under the stairs during a particularly awful Pearson-family Thanksgiving.
This was before Pilgrim Rick.
William moves to Pittsburgh.
He promises his cousin that he’ll be back once he tends to his sick mother, but we all know that never happens. This is a huge move which sets into motion … well, everything.
Rebecca rocks bangs, smashes the patriarchy.
After years of watching her mother serve her father, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) has zero time for high-school home-economics class and instead joins shop class. She’ll meet her high-school boyfriend Alan there — poor Alan gets dumped by Rebecca multiple times.
Thanksgiving 1969: Jack and Nicky have the best day ever.
Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Nicky (Michael Angarano) escape another truly terrible Thanksgiving and instead use Nicky’s football-bet winnings to buy and eat five pounds of shrimp. They end the night with Nicky explaining the devastatingly romantic meaning behind Leonard Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne,” and the brothers promise to make this evening their new Thanksgiving tradition for years to come. Things don’t work out as planned.
December 1, 1969: Nicky gets drafted into the Vietnam War.
Nicky’s (Michael Angarano) birth date gets pulled fifth in the lottery, so there’s no question he’ll be going over to fight. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) attempts to help Nicky flee to Canada, but ultimately, Nicky decides he’s not running from this. He becomes a medic in the army and things go bad fast.
1970: Jack enlists in order to save his brother.
Remember when we said Jack was superman? WE ARE NOT LYING. After receiving a distressing letter from Nicky, Jack decides to enlist, even though he was considered a 4F (unfit for war) due to his irregular heartbeat. (Jack has heart problems, hmm, where have we heard this before?? Hint: the future.) Jack gives a speech while in his underwear at the doctor’s office about having to at least be in the same place as Nicky because that’s what brothers do. People across America are confused about how to feel throughout this scene.
Fall 1971: Staff Sergeant Jack Pearson learns a calming trick that will come in handy in the future.
After tragedy befalls Jack’s unit, his friend Robinson (Charles Robinson), who has to be airlifted out after losing his foot, holds Jack’s face and tells him to breathe in order to calm down — something he’ll use when his son Randall starts having anxiety as a child. Yes, there are a few things Jack doesn’t come up with on his own.
November 1971: Jack finds Nicky and takes him under his care.
Nicky is struggling — he’s been “Article-15’d” for dangerous behavior, and is not happy to see his brother. He wants to be left alone. That’s not really in Jack’s DNA, so he pleads with Nicky’s CO to let him take his brother back to the ville he’s stationed at for two weeks and try to straighten him out. The CO is no match for an impassioned Jack Pearson speech and allows it.
Thanksgiving 1971: Jack receives a very important piece of jewelry.
Jack’s time with Nicky is not going well. When a Vietnamese boy in the ville gets injured, Nicky refuses to help him and chides Jack when he does. On the one hand, the incident reveals just how far gone Nicky is, but on the other, the mother of the boy gives Jack her necklace — a Buddhist symbol of purpose — that becomes very important in the Pearson family mythology.
A nightmare situation takes place in Vietnam and the Pearson brothers are never the same.
One morning, while high, Nicky befriends a boy in the ville and accidentally blows him up with a grenade. He’s too shocked to explain what happened before he’s medevaced out of Vietnam and lands in a vet hospital for a while. Jack believes his brother did it on purpose and never forgives him. He tells everyone Nicky died in the war. Which, emotionally speaking, isn’t wrong.
Jack returns from the Vietnam War.
He’s forced to take a series of odd jobs that are at times deflating, and even turns to some high-stakes card-playing, but all of this leads to one very important moment …
December 23, 1972: Jack and Rebecca meet!
The world may remember this date for the Immaculate Reception in the AFC divisional playoffs, but This Is Us fans know it as the night Jack heard Rebecca singing “Moonshadow” and shrugged off a potential life of crime because he fell in love at first sight (sound?). They go on a horrible first date that Jack saves in the end (doesn’t he always?) by telling her that she feels like home to him. It’s all very swoony and they have their first kiss and Rebecca is super into it. Thank goodness, right?
Jack moves his mother out of their house as his father’s abuse gets worse.
Unfortunately, this probably doesn’t stick. There are also some historical inaccuracies happening here, in case you’re into that sort of thing: This is supposed to be the day after Jack and Rebecca’s date on December 23, but the trees in Pittsburgh are very green, there’s like one Christmas wreath to be found, and Jack’s dad is watching Nixon sign the first SALT agreement at the May 1972 summit in Moscow. Come on This Is Us, get your timelines straight!
Jack and Rebecca do the dishes together for the first time.
Jack and Rebecca doing the dishes together is iconic, you guys.
Jack and Rebecca take a road trip to Los Angeles.
This is not just any road trip, this is the road trip. After like a week of knowing each other, they decide to drive across the country together (kids, don’t do this), they have sex for the first time, Jack’s PTSD reveals itself, Jack calls Rebecca “Bec” for the first time, and Rebecca decides she wants to be wherever Jack is. Then she makes him cry for the first time in a long time by singing to him. Jack and Rebecca forever.
The most momentous occasion on this timeline: Jack and Miguel meet!
When Jack needs a sport coat for dinner with the Malones at their country club, he walks into a suit store only to be helped by none other than his future BFF Miguel (Jon Huertas). Miguel lets him borrow the jacket for the dinner when Jack tells him he can’t afford it. We don’t deserve Miguel Rivas.
Jack meets Rebecca’s parents.
Oh wow, this is a roller-coaster event: On the one hand, Jack talking about protecting his brother from the monster in his bedroom, opening up a miniscule amount about Vietnam, and confirming that he’s going to be in Rebecca’s life for a while really wins Rebecca over — you can practically see her falling in love right there in front of that country-club lobster. On the other hand, after the meal, Mr. Malone (Tim Matheson) tells Jack no way, no how is he ever getting close to his daughter. Game on, Malone.
Jack plays golf with Rebecca’s dad and tells him he is DEFINITELY marrying his daughter.
Surprisingly, this does not go well at all.
Jack and Rebecca tie the knot at City Hall.
Flower crowns. Facial hair. Vows that make you believe in true love again. What were you expecting?
Jack and Rebecca celebrate their first anniversary in a very Jack and Rebecca way.
It’s basically a Pearson tradition now: Rebecca does something nice, and then Jack does something that blows Rebecca’s thing out of the water. This time they go bowling and Rebecca gives Jack a nicely bound journal of his doodlings. Jack turns the bowling alley into their own private dance floor.
William turns to drugs after losing his mother.
Sweet, soft-spoken William falls hard for Randall’s mother and pain-numbing drugs. Oh, William.
Jack gives Rebecca some red dish towels for Christmas.
The real gift is the bracelet inside those red dish towels, but the towels are much more important to our story. The towels are death.
January 20, 1980: Rebecca gets knocked up in a bar bathroom after Super Bowl XIV.
Probably not the only time Terry Bradshaw has acted as an aphrodisiac.
Jack and Rebecca learn they’re having triplets, proceed to freak out.
In order to be a provider for his growing family, Jack does the unthinkable and goes to his estranged father for money so he can afford a house in which the eventual family of five will fit. Meanwhile, we have to watch Jack be mistreated by this awful man again. Not a fun time for anyone involved.
Jack and Rebecca have their first meal in their new house.
Jack fights a pigeon — his greatest enemy — and reveals a squeal one might never have suspected to come out of our mustachioed baritone. But it does, people. It does.
Jack and Rebecca’s friendly neighbors gift them a slow cooker.
THE MURDER WEAPON HAS ARRIVED.
Another Jack and Rebecca anniversary extravaganza!
On their fourth anniversary, Rebecca gives Jack a hammer engraved with his name and Jack one-ups his wife by … giving her a piano. Like, we love the guy, but also we hate him, right?
August 31, 1980: Happy 36th birthday, Jack Pearson! And welcome to the world, Big Three!
For the big day in 1980, Jack receives a gross banana-nut muffin/Twinkie-filling cupcake concoction, a pseudo lap dance from his pregnant wife, and the most intense roller coaster of emotions in experiencing the elation at the birth of his children, the devastating loss of one child, and the hopefulness in recovery brought by finding baby Randall in need of a family. This is a very big day.
Dr. K and Firefighter Joe find ways to heal.
Thanks to the divine intervention of the Pearson family, Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) can finally move on from his paralyzing grief over the loss of his wife and goes on a very cute date with a very cute lady from the neighborhood. Firefighter Joe (Brian Oblak), realizing the baby dropped off at the station will not solve his marital problems, does the right thing by little Randall and then goes home to start rebuilding his marriage.
Rebecca meets Randall.
Jack was all in the moment he laid eyes on baby Randall, but Rebecca needed convincing. Eventually, she has a chat with that little man — the first of so many lovely heart-to-hearts between them — and she is in love. So are we.
Rebecca meets William.
Unable to connect with her adopted newborn, Rebecca seeks out the man she believes to be his biological father. He’s in a very bad way, but still offers some helpful advice: Rebecca should give the baby his own name, not the name meant for the baby she lost. He also hands her a book of poetry by his favorite poet, Dudley Randall. You see where this is going, yes?
The Pearsons officially adopt Randall.
It’s not easy, but one year and an arts-and-crafts family photo later, Randall belongs to Jack and Rebecca in their hearts and in the eyes of the law. Speaking of eyes, are yours welling up, too?
William gets arrested for possession, but gets a reprieve.
A kindly judge is tired of seeing the same story play out over and over, and he wants to give William a chance to get clean and tell a different story. It works, mostly! William gets clean, stays clean, and because of this, he’s around when a certain biological child comes knocking.
Meet RadioShack Jack
The guy insists on preserving his family’s memories and thus needs top-of-the-line video cameras. Did he know something? You decide!
Miguel jokes that Jack Pearson can never die and it’s really not funny, sir.
While Jack’s signing a life insurance policy, he makes Miguel promise that should something happen to him, he’d look after Rebecca and the kids. Oh boy, does that have some layers.
Jack takes a desk job to make more money.
On one hand, it is soul crushing. On the other, Jack looks nice in an Oxford and tie.
Jack promises Rebecca he’ll be a “12” for her, melts hearts everywhere.
After Rebecca gives Jack an ultimatum that he stop the drinking or else, Jack gets his act together, makes a big romantic speech, and wins Rebecca’s forgiveness. He also gives her that moon necklace — you know, the one she promises to never take off. This is all lovely and swoony, but almost immediately Jack gets a call from his boss and the real-world stressors that lead to him hitting the bottle don’t seem to care much about a big, romantic speech.
The Pearsons buy a shiny new Jeep Grand Wagoneer (because salesmen are helpless against a good Jack Pearson speech).
This may also be a bit of a continuity error. When the Pearsons buy the car, Rebecca is wearing the moon necklace. But Jack already has the Wagoneer the day he goes boxing and to the talent show, which seems to be the same day as the morning Jack gives Rebecca her necklace. Since the Pearsons have suffered enough, let’s say the talent show is a different day than the “I’ll be a 12 for you” speech, okay?
Jack visits Little Kate at school, all humans weep.
It’s a very intense conversation! Little Kate knows something is up with her dad, so she grabs his face! Jack talks to her about marrying the luckiest guy in the world and that he’ll be there! Spoiler: HE WILL NOT BE THERE.
Jack takes up boxing in order to fight his drinking problem.
Hot Sad Dads box, it’s just their thing.
The Pearsons attend an extremely awkward school talent show.
Little Kate is so intimidated by her mother’s talent and overbearing enthusiasm, she gives up singing without even trying. Meanwhile, everyone thinks it’s cool for Kevin to do a terrible Mr. T impression. Sophie likes it, so that’s something.
May 27, 1988: “Weird Al” Yankovic releases “Lasagna,” delights the Pearsons.
Delights all of us, really.
July 1988: There’s a heat wave in Pittsburgh, and the Pearsons meet Yvette.
The gang heads to the local pool for a healthy dose of drama. Randall (Lonnie Chavis) makes friends with some of the other black kids at the pool, but one of the mothers, Yvette (Ryan Michelle Bathe), doesn’t warm up to Rebecca and her parenting style very easily. Don’t worry, though — they become buddies!
Jack’s dad dies.
It happens while Jack is off on a Be Nicer to Your Brother, Kevin Camping Trip. Rebecca and Kate head to the nursing home, where Rebecca meets her father-in-law, Stanley, for the first time. They reach Jack before Stanley passes, but he wants nothing to do with his dad. Rebecca has to tell Stanley that Jack isn’t coming — she also mentions that Jack is a great father, despite what Stanley did to him. That’s Rebecca for you, harsh but truthful.
Jack gives up dreams of his own company so Randall can go to private school.
Plans for Big Three Homes construction company are shoved in the bottom of a drawer when it’s clear Randall needs the challenge of a prestigious private school. The kid solves Rubik’s cubes, for goodness sake!
Jack teaches Randall how to tie a tie.
We are all grateful for this.
The Pearson Thanksgiving traditions begin.
Creepy guys named Pilgrim Rick and gas station hot dogs covered in fake cheese have never seemed so lovely.
Rebecca meets William, the sequel.
So important, so sad. It brings to light Rebecca’s greatest fear: that Randall could, at any moment, be taken away from Jack and Rebecca. Her fierce need to protect her family is understandable, but it doesn’t make the look of heartbreak on William’s face easier to take when he receives Rebecca’s letter denying him any interaction with Randall. What Rebecca doesn’t know is that William follows her home that day. He almost knocks on the door, but thanks to three little bikes on the front lawn, he decides it’s not right to inject himself into Randall’s life. What a different story this would’ve been if the Big Three had put their bikes away LIKE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO. Kids, am I right?
Randall joins a dojo, Jack proves that push-ups can make humans cry.
Just kidding! We’ve always known they can do that.
December 24, 1989: Kate needs an appendectomy.
Looky here: Dr. K turns up again, this time needing comfort from the Pearsons instead of the other way around. Both Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) and Dr. K make it out just fine. Rebecca’s right: Nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve!
Little Toby helps his mom through her depression.
We learn that depression runs in Toby’s family and also that he does a great Rodney Dangerfield impression.
August 31, 1990: The Big Three celebrate the big 1-0.
It is a day of partying in which Rebecca and Jack learn that Randall is the most self-aware and self-assured 10-year-old on the planet, that Kate has some issues with her friends but not with voguing, and that Kevin (Parker Bates) is madly in love with Kate’s best friend, Sophie (Sophia Coto).
October 31, 1990: Kate holds Billy Palmer’s hand.
Billy Palmer’s hand, people! It’s thanks to a secret Halloween candy trade between Kevin and Billy, but Kate doesn’t need to know that.
October 31, 1990: Rebecca tells Randall about Kyle.
All Randall wanted to do was dress up as Michael Jackson and go on his meticulously planned trick-or-treating schedule, but instead he gets another heart-to-heart with a parent. That’s a real trick. But a very heartwarming, necessary one.
Winter 1990-91: The Big Three get the chicken pox and Rebecca outs her mother as a racist.
Rebecca’s mother is the worst!
February 1992: Jack sees Nicky for the last time.
After receiving multiple postcards from his estranged brother, Jack goes to see Nicky for the first time since Vietnam, but still does not want to hear Nicky’s side of things. Jack can see Nicky is truly hurting, but his desire to protect his family from some of his demons is stronger than his desire to help his brother. He makes a choice and sticks to it. Nicky never sees Jack again.
Pearson Pizza is invented!
Has a child ever seemed more excited to order pizza than little Randall? It’s not a rhetorical question, the answer is emphatically “no.”
Rebecca learns how thoughtful Kevin is.
You’d think a mother would know this about her son, but it takes an afternoon waiting in line to have John Smiley sign his rookie card to do so. This affects their relationship for the rest of their lives.
The Pearsons go to the cabin for the first time.
Equally important: This is when Randall gets his glasses. It’s also when Jack tells Kate that she’s his most favorite-looking person in the world and the world collectively rains down tears. And it’s the time when Kevin gets a snuggle session from his mother after feeling like the fifth wheel of the family. Kevin may not remember this, but we do. WE DO.
May 16, 1992: The kids beat Jack at his own gift-giving game.
It feels like the “first time at the cabin” should come after this, since the Big Three had clearly been out of school for a while in that episode, but Randall already has his glasses in this one! Alas, it cannot be. Anyway, the Big Three throw their parents an anniversary party complete with a meteor shower. Grand gestures run in the family. Jack tells Rebecca that he doesn’t “need an anniversary to see [her]” because he “[sees her] every day.” I immediately being searching for a mustachioed boyfriend with an affinity for flannel.
The Big Three go to their first school dance.
Sometime in 1992, the Big Three go to their first school dance and Kevin gets his first kiss from Sophie.
Little Beth (sorry, Bethany) is accepted into an elite ballet academy.
Our little island girl, “who danced before she walked,” has some big dreams.
Jack teaches Randall how to box, makes us all cry again.
By my calculations, this Moment in Pearson History doesn’t exactly seem to fit. When Jack secretly teaches Randall how to box, Rebecca clearly states that the Big Three are 12. Maybe Rebecca is rounding up? That would mean it’s still pretty close to August, and yet Randall doesn’t have his glasses — glasses he was wearing in the anniversary episode from May 1992, when the kids were 11. Maybe Randall gets contacts as a child? Teen Randall doesn’t wear glasses. Is this the biggest mystery of This Is Us? But if they are 12, that puts Randall in seventh grade and Randall wanting to be his father’s son-son doesn’t quite match up with his other seventh-grade narrative of exploring his identity as a black man in this world. Also, that bookcase Jack builds for all of Randall’s seventh-grade books is nowhere to be found. Anyway, it could just be plot inconsistency, but my brain hurts and I’m going to have a rest and think about Jack teaching Rebecca how to box before making out.
The Pearsons have an eventful day at the pool ahead of seventh grade.
Kate has her first kiss (go, Stewart!); Kevin wonders if he’s a good person after deliberately humiliating Randall in front of his friends; Jack teaches Kevin about the Pearson men being “complicated”; Rebecca faces the fact that her kids are growing up and want nothing to do with her; and we, oh, we are treated to the best of all: Jack singing “Rump Shaker” while in a bathing suit. A blessed day!
Randall starts seventh grade and meets Mr. Lawrence.
Cory Lawrence (Brandon Scott) is the only black teacher Randall’s ever had, and he wants to impress him. He becomes a mentor. Jack, per usual, feels threatened.
Miguel saves Jack’s ass when Jack is almost fired for messing up at work.
The purest love on this show is cemented.
Jack teaches Randall to golf.
Jack hates golf. Jack isn’t very good at golf. But after seeing Randall take an interest in Tiger Woods, thanks to Mr. Lawrence, Jack wants to relate more to his son. He wants Randall to be prepared for a life that will surely involve wheelin’ and dealin’ on the golf course.
Jack invites Mr. Lawrence and his wife over for dinner.
In which we finally discover one thing Jack fails to give a moving speech about, no matter how hard he tries: types of wood. Okay, also he and Cory fight for Randall’s approval, but in the end realize they are grown-ass adults who both care about Randall, and Cory gives Jack a book of Langston Hughes poetry.
Rebecca has a cancer scare and Jack introduces The Tree into the Pearson family history.
Rebecca ends up being fine, but not before Jack brings her to “his favorite tree” to calm her down. Of course, he made up the whole story about The Tree and only selected it because it was closest to a payphone, so they could wait there for her test results. It’s very cute and becomes an enduring part of the Pearson family story.
Rebecca joins her old band.
She feels alive again! Jack just feels threatened.
Kevin and Randall’s sibling rivalry boils over during a high-school football game.
All Randall (Niles Fitch) wants is the love and respect of his brother. All Kevin (Logan Shroyer) wants is to be left alone in his new basement bachelor pad. Teen Kevin is so mean! Not even Teen Randall’s offering of Yoo-hoo and Pop-Tarts melt his brother’s icy exterior.
Miguel gets a divorce.
The news from Miguel (Jon Huertas) throws both Jack and Rebecca into a bit of a spiral. Okay, it’s mostly just Jack, who realizes he and Rebecca have been getting complacent and he needs to fight for his marriage before he loses it. Rebecca, on the other hand, finds it upsetting but not upsetting enough to make her rethink her next big decision …
Rebecca decides to go on tour with her band.
Alongside her ex-boyfriend Ben (Sam Trammell), no less. Jack is less than enthused and his jealousy pushes him back to the bottle. Things are going downhill fast, people!
Rebecca leaves for her tour and Jack goes after her.
It sounds romantic until you realize Jack is completely drunk as he hops in the car to drive all the way to Cleveland to make things right with his wife. HOLD ME.
Rebecca and Jack decide to separate.
After an intense screaming match in which Rebecca admits to feeling like a ghost in her own life and Jack calls her “music career” ridiculous, they decide it is best to take a breather. They gather the Big Three for a family meeting and ruin diner breakfasts forever.
Rebecca and Jack decide not to separate.
It doesn’t take long for Rebecca to show up at Miguel’s door looking for her husband. They are Jack and Rebecca, dammit! They don’t give up on each other. That unconditional support will prove useful now that Jack admits he’s been drinking again. He’s an alcoholic and he needs help. Rebecca gets her reluctant husband in the car and promises him that in a few months, everything will be better. Spoiler alert: It will not.
Jack goes to Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s a lot like Hot Sad Dad Boxing, but it may actually stick this time.
Rebecca pulls a Jack Pearson on Jack Pearson.
Things are still rocky for the world’s most romantic couple, and since her man is struggling these days, Rebecca fills the role of Swooniest Person to Ever Swoon and takes Jack on a romantic date to get the ol’ fire going. At first, it bombs. But Jack finally begins to open up to Rebecca about some of the pain he’s feeling, and the two chat in the car. Then they do other stuff in the car. Jack Pearsoning always works!
Welcome, Louie the Dog!
Jack and Rebecca find a stray dog outside of their home. He is cute in an “I’m so ugly and mangy please love me” sort of way.
Kevin shatters his knee and his dream.
Kevin had a plan: Go to college to play football and then go pro. When he gets hurt during a high-school game and told he’ll never play again, it’s heartbreaking — even if the kid can be an ass. The only one who can really comfort him is his dad. Jack! If Jack could take on his son’s pain for him, he would. He passes on the Buddhist necklace he got while in Vietnam. That necklace is only halfway through its journey.
Rebecca discovers Kate secretly wants to go to Berklee School of Music for singing.
Rebecca also discovers that her daughter really, really resents her.
Randall visits Howard University and has never been happier.
Seriously, did you see how big that kid’s smile was while he was standing in the middle of the campus library? A LIBRARY. We know Randall’s a nerd and all, but still. He finally found a place where he felt normal.
Beth’s dad dies, and so do her dreams of being a ballerina.
Beth is around 17 when all of this goes down, and losing her dad affects her enormously — although you wouldn’t know it from the way the Big Three act around her in the present. More than one person can have a sad Dead Dad story!
It’s Jack’s last Thanksgiving.
He and Miguel have a touching heart-to-heart about Miguel not giving up on being part of his kids’ lives. Is this their last BFF chat? Oh dear Lord, this is sad!
Family mall trip!
It’s an eventful afternoon: We learn about Kate’s eating disorder, Randall asks Allison out with a Magic 8-Ball, Kevin realizes the sacrifices Jack has made for him, and Rebecca and Jack forget to pick up batteries for the smoke detectors in the house. That last one really hurts.
January 25, 1998: Super Bowl XXXII becomes everyone’s least favorite Super Bowl.
Jack and Rebecca spend the day getting shamed by a surly Kevin, ignored by Randall who skips the game to take Allison to see Titanic (and get his first kiss!), and Jack reminds his daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world. Oh, then Jack places a red dish towel next to a faulty slow cooker and the Pearson house goes up in flames while the family is sleeping. REAL COOL DAY.
January 26, 1998: The Pearson house burns down … and Jack dies.
Jack is the superhero we always knew he was. He runs through fire to get Rebecca, Randall, and Kate safely out of the house and then goes back in to save Louie the Dog and some family mementos. It looks like he’s fine, but he goes to the hospital to get his burns checked out, and never leaves. While Rebecca is on the phone in the waiting room, Jack Pearson has a heart attack due to smoke inhalation complications and dies.
January 31, 1998: The Pearsons honor Jack exactly how he would’ve wanted.
Okay, so the funeral starts out very tense—especially between Randall and Kevin—but after a visit from Dr. K, things turn around. Rebecca takes the kids to The Tree to scatter Jack’s ashes, and then she tells them that Jack had bought them all tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert for that night. Jack loved the Boss. It just feels right.
Things are very bleak at the Pearson house and Randall has the worst prom experience in history.
Everyone is just so sad! Rebecca can barely function, Kate is eating her feelings, Kevin is drinking his, and Randall has to hold the family together. Miguel makes good on his promise to look after Jack’s family, but not even he can fix Randall having to deal with his girlfriend’s racist father. Randall decides to defer going to Howard even though it is his greatest dream. Look what you did, Jack!
Some rando dad WHO KNOWS JACK JUST DIED hits on Rebecca in a RadioShack.
Because women can’t catch a break.
May 1998: The Big Three graduate!
It’s a horrible time for everybody since Kate has no college plans, she’s mad at Kevin for going to NYC to be an actor, Rebecca’s crying outside of school gymnasiums, and no one’s paying attention to Randall being valedictorian. It was a rough year. Hey, at least Rebecca — at Miguel’s insistence — starts grief counseling. That’s something, right?
Randall and Beth bump into each other at the Carnegie Mellon new-student mixer.
THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW, GUYS.
Kevin helps Randall score a date with Beth.
Ah, the infamous phone call we heard talk about but didn’t get to see until season three. Kevin and Randall won’t truly bond until years later, but this is a nice foundational moment for the always-at-odds brothers. I mean, Kevin’s advice is horrible, but it kind of works.
Randall and Beth go on a disastrous first date.
Within ten minutes, Randall’s told Beth his entire life story and doesn’t spare any details. She is rightfully terrified, but eventually his charm wins her over.
It’s Parents Weekend at CMU!
Rebecca forces Randall to have lunch with Beth and Carol Clarke (Phylicia Rashad), which in turn helps Beth realize that Randall truly sees her, lemon slice and all, and they start dating. So I guess we have Rebecca to thank for R&B productions really getting off the ground. And Carol helps Rebecca realize she can move forward in her life after the loss of her husband. So I guess we have Carol to thank for Rebecca not remaining in a fetal position on her floor for the rest of her life. Thanks, ladies!
Kate gets a job at a record store and meets Marc (Austin Abrams).
He quickly becomes controlling and possessive because Kate Pearson cannot have nice things.
Kevin and Sophie (Amanda Leighton) get married!
He tells his mother over voice-mail, if you can even believe this child.
Rebecca and Kate move out of the Apartment of Sadness and into a new home.
The first dinner party, celebrating the newlyweds, is sort of a disaster thanks to Kevin and Sophie being cheesy as hell, Rebecca not knowing how to cook Cornish game hens after all these years, and Marc showing up to be weird. The evening is saved, however, by Miguel giving Rebecca a nice speech about being patient with her grief and Rebecca starting a Princess Bride sing-along.
Rebecca reenters the workforce.
With a huge assist from Randall, who is basically keeping his mother alive at this point.
Randall says the phrase, “Résumés are my jam.”
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) get engaged!
It takes several attempts, and surprisingly it is not body rolls to Jagged Edge’s “Let’s Get Married” that win Beth over, but assurance from Rebecca that Randall would never let Beth lose herself in their relationship. Beth is scared that Randall has the power to charm her into giving up what she wants. She should be!
Deja is born.
Her mom Shauna is just 16 and relies on her grandma to take care of her and Deja, but when grandma dies, things really go downhill.
William meets Chichi.
A young, pregnant Nigerian woman moves into William’s building in Philadelphia and the two become friends. Randall will be thankful for this moment.
Randall and Beth have a backyard wedding!
Kevin’s plus-one is an awful soul patch. May it stay in the past, where it belongs!
October 31, 2008: Welcome to the world, Tess Pearson!
You were named after a ceiling fan.
The saddest game ever is invented!
When Tess is just 3 months old, Randall and Beth invent their “worst-case-scenario game.” It wasn’t fun then, it isn’t fun now.
Kate and Kevin decide it’s time to get their lives together.
For Kate (Chrissy Metz), that means she’s going to stop sleeping with married men, eating fast food while sitting outside the old Pearson house, and move to Los Angeles to live with her brother. Kevin is going to join an improv group. You would think Kate’s plan is the sound one, but it’s Kevin who ends up getting cast in a successful television show and making millions. Go figure.
Rebecca reconnects with Miguel.
2008 is a very sad year for Rebecca, who’s still learning how to live as a widow. Encouraged by friends to join Facebook so that she can stay connected with her kids and see pictures of her new granddaughter, Rebecca logs in. What do you know? She gets a message from Jack’s long-lost best friend, Miguel. They haven’t seen each other in eight years. That’s about to change.
Deja visits Philadelphia with her mom and grandmother.
Hold on to the memories of Boathouse Row and water ice, Tater Tot!
Toby gets divorced and becomes suicidal.
Things get rough for Mr. Damon (Chris Sullivan), but he bounces back and eventually crosses paths with Kate Pearson!
William meets Jesse (Denis O’Hare).
We don’t yet know how long these two dated, but gosh darn, is their first meeting on Thanksgiving cute. They fall for each other pretty quickly. That happens when “a nice boy offers you pie,” right, William?
2011: Kevin films the “Untitled Hot Babysitter Pilot.”
Here’s the big secret about the soon-to-be megastar of the hit TV series The Man-ny: In this moment, he doesn’t even know if he wants to act. But then he makes a baby laugh, and Kevin’s entire life changes.
Deja enters the foster-care system.
Before she cuts her hand and Child Protective Services spot some red flags, Deja is watching The Man-ny, so this is pre-Kevin’s breakdown. She spends a lot of time being moved from home to home (and bed to bed) until she is reunited with her mother … and unfortunately, her mother’s deadbeat boyfriend.
August 31, 2016: Happy 36th birthday, Kevin, Kate, and Randall!
Welcome to the big twist, everyone else!
Kevin goes full Jerry Maguire on the set of The Man-ny.
He doesn’t know the human head weighs eight pounds, but he does know that he deserves more than a character whose basic function is to take off his shirt while tending to a child.
Kate meets Toby.
She cannot fall for a person like Toby right now, but guess what? She totally does.
Randall knocks on William’s door.
William (Ron Cephas Jones) says it best: That was some thing Randall (Sterling K. Brown) did, knocking on his door. After a lifetime of searching, Randall finally tracks down his birth father and bangs on his door, looking to confront the man who gave him up. Randall wants to heal his own wounds, but little does he know, he’s saving William from giving in to his drug addiction one last time. Of course, the timing isn’t exactly perfect, since William is dying of cancer and only has a few months left. It’s not the first unfair thing in Randall’s life, nor will it be the last.
William and Annie have the cutest stairwell chat in history.
William wants to sneak out during his first night at Randall’s, so as not to cause problems, but little Annie catches him. They talk about being scared in new places and trying to be brave. It is so adorable, they really should have made a weekly podcast taped live from the stairs.
Sterling K. Brown calls Mandy Moore “mommy.”
All of our lives are forever changed.
Rebecca meets William, part three.
This time with 100 percent more wrinkles! Rebecca wants William to keep their secret just a little bit longer, until she finds the right time to tell Randall. Girl, there will never be a right time to tell your son you’ve been lying to him about his birth father for his entire life.
Kevin moves to New York City.
Knock, knock! It’s Uncle Kevin, here to stay in the basement at Randall’s house indefinitely so that he can try out the New York theater scene and become more than just the Man-ny.
Kate introduces Toby to Jack’s ashes.
The three of them watch the Steelers game together. Kate won’t say much about her father’s death, which eventually becomes a big problem for Toby, which eventually becomes a big problem for everyone else. Give the girl some space, dude!
Kate gets a new job … sort of.
It looks like Kate has finally started a life for herself when she takes a job assisting a woman (Jami Gertz) who runs charities or something of the sort. We’ve only really seen Kate in this role once. Is the biggest mystery of This Is Us how Kate has any money? Will this be the biggest twist of all?
Kevin finally calls Randall his brother.
It happens during a physical fight in the middle of New York City, but still, it is all Randall has ever wanted from Kevin. Let the fraternal healing begin!
Randall and William catch Beth in a big lie.
Beth just wants one night away from the “estranged fathers and white brothers” who are currently taking over her house, so she lies about going to a work conference. Unfortunately, she gets caught wine-handed by Randall and William. Beth’s not getting this night away from Pearson chaos will have ramifications later. Fun!
William accidentally tells Beth that he’s met Rebecca.
In all fairness to William, he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are totally high and he is moved by the poetry of Dudley Randall. But of course, Beth and Randall’s marriage is based on trust and not keeping secrets from one another, so she is in a tough spot. She tries to get Rebecca to tell Randall, but Rebecca doesn’t move fast enough.
November 24, 2016: Randall teaches us that a Thanksgiving Dad is a Hot Dad.
The greatest lesson to come out of This Is Us so far.
Kevin and Olivia Maine kiss.
Olivia (Janet Montgomery) is dark and twisty inside, but Kevin seems very into it. He calls the kiss one of the greatest of his life, but I’m pretty sure she was just in it for the pumpkin pie.
Kevin lets Miguel be Pilgrim Rick.
Of the three Pearson kids, Kevin’s relationship with stepdad Miguel is the most fraught. This not-so-small gesture of letting Miguel participate in Jack’s Thanksgiving tradition is a huge step for their relationship.
Kate dumps Toby and decides to get gastric bypass surgery.
Toby giving up on his diet is too much temptation for Kate to handle at the moment. She needs to focus on herself, so she kicks him to the curb. After a not-so-near-death experience on a plane, Kate decides life is too short and she wants to start living her best life immediately. Gastric bypass surgery, it is!
Randall discovers that Rebecca and William knew each other.
When Randall goes to William’s apartment to grab some music recordings that are part of his birth father’s Thanksgiving traditions, he happens upon Rebecca’s letter, which reveals her decision to never tell Randall about William. Randall confronts Rebecca at the Thanksgiving dinner table, tearing apart one of the most important relationships in his life.
Randall trips hard at the family’s cabin and chats with his dead father.
Hallucination Jack takes Randall’s face into his hands and tells his son that he was never a choice, he was a fact. He also tries to show Randall that Rebecca was constantly fighting to protect her family. Maybe that could offer some explanation as to her choices. Even in hallucinatory form, Jack Pearson is wonderful.
William tells Randall why he never came looking for him.
Who knew kids’ bicycles could be so moving?
Olivia goes off the grid and Kevin’s play is canceled.
Kevin is pretty upset about losing his love interest and his chance to become a “serious actor,” but everyone else, including the audience, is pumped because, geez, was Olivia Maine the worst or what?
William reconnects with his great love, Jesse.
These two guys! Jesse (Denis O’Hare) was heartbroken when William left to live at Randall’s without telling him, but is willing to forgive him as long as William promises not to shut him out anymore. Jesse wants as much time with him as William has left. Aww!
Kevin and Sloane decide to self-produce The Back of an Egg.
Terrible title be damned! The show must go on!
December 24, 2016: Randall talks a co-worker off the ledge.
Randall saves his suicidal colleague (Jimmi Simpson), but where did we land exactly with that boat purchase?
December 24, 2016: Toby collapses in Randall’s living room.
Toby flies out to New Jersey to try and win back Kate with a very lovely speech, but hours later he collapses to the floor. So it turns out Rebecca was wrong — bad things do happen on Christmas Eve!
Kate and Toby get engaged.
After Toby makes it through a second heart surgery, Kate unloads all of her feelings on the guy, assuming he is asleep. He’s not. He hears everything she says, including that part about wanting to marry him. He’d marry the hell out of her, too. And thus, an engagement!
William tells Randall he wants to stop his chemo treatments.
It is the beginning of the end.
Kate puts gastric bypass surgery on hold and goes to fat camp.
While in an aerobic drumming class (!), Kate has an emotional breakthrough and realizes that her weight issues are very much tied to the death of her father and her inability to deal with her grief and guilt. Don’t knock aerobic drumming class until you try it.
Kevin makes a grand, romantic gesture to win back … his ex-wife?
Kevin and his childhood sweetheart Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) divorced after he moved to Los Angeles and cheated on her, and they haven’t seen each other in 12 years. She’s hesitant, but he wins her over by taking her to their old haunts and professing his love for her in a dramatic speech. He really is his father’s son!
Randall teaches William how to drive.
Randall begrudgingly gives his father the gift of his perfect day: driving a cool car while wearing a new pair of shades, sipping on his favorite drink (an egg cream) with the music up and the windows down. What a cool cat that William Hill is.
Toby tells Kate they should slow down their marriage plans.
He doesn’t think they should be getting married if she can’t openly talk about her father’s death with him. Oh, Toby, so pushy.
Randall has an anxiety-induced breakdown on Kevin’s opening night.
The mounting pressure at work, the pile of responsibilities at home, not to mention the emotional stress of watching his birth father slowly die after just meeting him all becomes too much for Randall. He becomes paralyzed with stress in his own office. Thankfully, Kevin realizes what’s happening and rushes to his brother’s rescue — even though it means ditching opening night of his play. Brothers come first, finally.
William and Beth have a series of heartfelt chats.
He tells Beth that he also has anxiety and panic attacks and is upset that he passed that on to his son. He also explains how his mother used to calm him down with seltzer water, which will come in handy later. Meanwhile, when Beth confesses she doesn’t think she can help Randall through another breakdown, William assures her she can. He also reminds her that she can’t always be the support system — someday she’ll be the one who needs to be lifted up. Dang, William. You don’t know how right you are.
Randall and William take a road trip to Memphis, where William dies cradled by his son.
“Roll all your windows down, Randall. Crank up the music. Grow out that fro. Let someone else make your bed.” Be right back, need to go slide down a wall while ugly crying.
Randall forgives Rebecca.
The Pearsons honor William’s memory with a plethora of breakfast foods, balloons, and confetti, and a nice stroll through the neighborhood while wearing fedoras. During this walk, Rebecca stops her son to once again say how sorry she is that she kept William from him, denying Randall more time with his birth father. She did it because she was scared, but she knows how selfish that was. It was enough time to know William loved him, Randall tells her. And that’s enough. This new peacefulness also seems to be in honor of William’s memory.
Kevin has a second shot at opening night.
He finally makes his big stage debut with The Back of an Egg’s opening night redux, and it is quite the success. Almost unbelievably, Ron Howard happens to be in the audience that night and he calls Kevin to offer him a part in his next movie. Too bad he just told Sophie that he realized he moved to New York City to be with her and that he won’t mess this up a second time. Sounds like some drama is afoot!
Kate (almost) opens up about Jack’s death.
William’s memorial brings on another swell of emotions for Kate regarding Jack’s death. It’s Randall who encourages her to finally deal with her grief by talking about it with the people she loves … including Toby. Later, Kate tells Toby that she has such a hard time talking about Jack’s death because it was all her fault.
Randall quits his job.
William’s greatest gift to his son was showing him that life is short and we should enjoy every moment we have. With that in mind, Randall shows up at work and tells his awful co-workers that he’s had enough. He’s going to live his life more like his father did — slow it down a little, go on more walks, talk to his mailman. It is a brave new world for Randall Pearson.
Randall decides to adopt.
Randall wants to adopt a baby to honor both his fathers, but Beth has a different idea: If they’re going to adopt, she wants to take in an older child who has been rejected by the world. A child who really needs them. It honestly is the better way to honor Jack and (especially) William. They’re going to become foster parents.
The world is forced to watch a grown man crawl around in a diaper.
By which we mean, the Pearson clan attends a very special taping of The Man-ny. No one knows why Kevin would want to do this, or why The Man-ny would allow him to do this, but we’ll go with it because it means all of our Pearsons are together in Los Angeles.
Kate has her first real singing gig!
She sings “Landslide” as Rebecca looks on with pride and maybe a tiny bit of jealousy. Rebecca is the last person Kate wants to see in the crowd, and afterward she basically tells her mother that she hates her for existing. You don’t know the whole story, Kate! Get off her perfectly postured back!
Beth and Randall make out in a Hollywood backlot and America’s collective knees go weak.
She has had enough of her husband Randall-ing out over caring for a child who has possibly been emotionally or physically abused, but then is reminded by Kevin that the only situation in which Randall has taken a risk is his relationship with Beth. Beth reminds Randall that together, they can do anything. She reminds him of this with nice words, but also with her mouth. Swoon!
Beth and Randall’s first foster child arrives with a lot of emotional baggage. Even Mr. Type A, always-follow-the-plan Randall Pearson finds the transition difficult. There’s hair and hygiene issues, and a general unwillingness to connect on Deja’s part. She’s only 12, but the girl has been through a lot. Maybe Randall’s willingness to throw down at a bowling alley on her behalf will win her over.
Kevin injures his knee on set, begins his descent toward rock bottom.
The flare up of his old football injury and his co-star Sylvester Stallone’s insisting Kevin talk about his father drudges up a whole lot of emotion that he has worked his entire life to keep stuffed down. He begins taking pain pills to numb, well, everything. Things are about to get very bleak for Kevin Pearson.
Kate is pregnant!
Like most major life events, the news is exciting and wonderful but also terrifying. We’re all (cautiously) happy for Kate, but sad for ourselves because it means we have to watch Toby do a Flashdance routine in a coffee shop to a Hootie and the Blowfish song. None of that is made up, and it all seems very, very Toby.
The Pearson Brothers attend a charity gala.
Kevin embarrasses himself and Sophie as he spirals further down with his addiction, while Randall reaches a turning point with Deja. She has a very sweet crush on Kevin, so Randall agrees to take her to the event, where he learns about her rough time in other foster homes and why she flinches around Randall. If you’re keeping track, the evening is a loss for Kevin, but a major win for his brother.
Kate and Toby almost get married at City Hall.
Thanks to a nice chat with Urn Jack, Toby decides that skipping the big wedding is exactly the opposite of what Kate really wants. He re-proposes to her and gives us all the gift that is imagining Kate’s “ridiculously handsome brothers” walking her down the aisle. Can we get to that please? We’ve all been so good!
Kevin breaks up with Sophie.
On the very stoop where not too long ago he wooed the love of his life back with a grand gesture of swoony words. Salt, meet wound.
Kate has a miscarriage.
It’s devastating, but there are some silver linings: First, it bonds Kate and Rebecca together, and oof, did they need some bonding. The pain also makes Kate stronger — she’s not going to let this break her or her relationship with Toby. Finally, Kate and Toby decide they want to try again once they’re ready. It keeps the dream alive that Kate will have a little boy named Jack. WE NEED THAT, SHOW.
Kevin has a breakdown on the lawn of a one-night stand.
If you think that sentence is rough, try this one: While trying to get a prescription for fentanyl using a script he stole from that one-night stand, he realizes he lost his dad’s necklace — the one thing he has left of his father. As if visits back to your old high school weren’t bad enough on their own.
Randall reminds us that a Thanksgiving Dad is a Hot Dad.
Bless you, Randall.
The Pearsons say good-bye to Deja.
She isn’t with Randall and Beth long before the charges against her mother are dropped and Deja returns home, but man, did she become a part of the family.
Social Worker Linda has a giant martini and celebrates never having to hear that Randall Pearson guy mansplain her job to her ever again.
One would assume.
Kevin gets arrested for a DUI.
Post-breakdown, Kevin heads to Randall’s house to FINALLY ask for help, but news of Kate’s miscarriage steals his thunder. He chugs some vodka and goes for a ride instead. Poor little Tess, who is hiding the backseat of Kevin’s car, has to watch her uncle hit rock bottom. Can someone finally get this guy some help?
The Pearsons have an intense family therapy session.
Kevin wants Rebecca to admit that Randall is her favorite and he goads her until she breaks down and tells him that it was easier to love Randall. Let’s never go back to this therapy room, okay? The revelation does, at least, bring the Big Three closer, and helps to heal Kevin and Rebecca’s relationship, which is a good thing because …
Kevin moves in with Rebecca and Miguel!
Kevin begins to see both his mother and Miguel in a new light. Kevin and Rebecca have never been closer. Kevin and Miguel have never been more, hmm, let’s say cordial? Kevin is trying! Also, Kevin is privy to all the LaCroix his heart desires. Not a bad deal, really.
Kate and Madison become friends and go wedding dress shopping.
They do not, thankfully, start a podcast.
Randall decides he wants to buy William’s old building and turn it into a business venture with Beth.
The first day does not go well, but R&B Properties will survive.
Randall delivers this gutting line about his father: “He’s been gone longer than we had him.”
Just when you think you’re done crying.
Kate adopts a dog for her and Toby.
The dog is named Audio and he is adorable. Still, the memories of Louie and Jack’s death loom large. But again, the cuteness.
Kevin makes amends.
The saddest talk is with Sophie, as he says what seems to be a very final good-bye. The most surprising is with Dr. Charlotte, who returns Kevin’s necklace, PRAISE BE. And the most heartbreaking is with his dad: Kevin can’t actually apologize to his dad, but he makes the best of it by going to The Tree to tell Jack that he’s going to make him proud. It might not be the right tree, but the sentiment is very nice.
February 4, 2018: Super Bowl LII
The Philadelphia Eagles win! Okay, some other things also happen: Rebecca makes Jack’s favorite lasagna, Mr. McGiggles dies (RIP), Kate almost loses the only video she has of her father (you know, the one where he beams with pride and love while watching her sing), and Randall has a very sweet conversation with Tess (Eris Baker) about always being her No. 1. In that last one, Randall promises Tess that they’ll have dinner together once a week at her office when she is all grown up and fancy. It doesn’t feel like a monumental conversation, but it really is.
Deja arrives at the Pearson house.
She needs money to get the heat turned back on and didn’t know where else to go. Randall and Beth continue to worry.
The Big Three and their people head to Vegas for Kate and Toby’s simultaneous-but-definitely-not-together bachelorette and bachelor parties. Kate and Beth bond. Kevin finds out that his movie may change his life. Randall can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong with Deja.
Beth and Randall find Deja and Shauna asleep in their car.
They’ve been evicted, so Beth and Randall invite them to stay at their house for a while. After Shauna sees how happy Deja is, she decides to leave … and give up all parental rights. Deja does not take it well.
Somebody’s getting married! It’s Kate and Toby.
The Ka-Toby wedding arrives, as coordinated by Kevin and Randall. They are delights. But before Kate can walk down the aisle at the family cabin in her gorgeous dress, she has something to do: She needs to let go of Jack, at least a little bit. She goes out into the woods and sits on the tree stump she used to share with her dad, and tells him she needs to make room for Toby. She finally spreads Jack’s remaining ashes, and then Kevin and Randall walk her down the aisle. She isn’t the only Pearson experiencing some catharsis, though: Rebecca and Kate discuss their issues head-on and have a misty-eyed makeup. Kevin uses his toast time to get himself, Kate, Randall, and Rebecca to finally release that deep breath is feels like they’ve been holding in since Jack died. Nice sentiment, but weird wedding toast.
Deja gets upset at the wedding.
Even a conversation with Beth’s very nice cousin Zoe about not hating the people who love you can’t stop Deja from taking out her anger on Randall’s car windshield. This does not bode well for the future.
Kevin and Zoe meet by the wedding punch bowl and start dating.
What a hot couple. Beth does not approve.
Deja gives Randall the best 38th birthday gift.
And we’re not just talking about those slick Nike sneakers she makes her biological father give her as payment for abandoning her — she tells Randall and Beth that they can formally adopt her. It took a lot of therapy and even more running to get to this place, but it pays off!
People love Hill 400!
According to Rebecca it has a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and even NPR’s Terry Gross is into it. It’s her probing questions that send Kevin on a hunt to learn more about his father’s time in Vietnam.
Kate and Toby are successful with IVF.
There are several setbacks and Toby makes the boneheaded decision to quit his antidepressants cold turkey in hopes of upping his sperm count. Toby falls back into a depression, but Kate ends up pregnant and their relationship is stronger than ever.
Randall discovers that The Other Big Three (Beth, Miguel, and Toby) have a group text.
Not like we’re jealous or anything.
Randall decides to run for Philadelphia City Council.
After visiting the rec center near William’s building and learning some hard truths about the neighborhood from William’s friend Chichi, Randall is compelled to do something about it: He’s going to run for city council. Never mind that he and his family live in Alpine, New Jersey (he signed William’s lease, so), he’s going to defeat the longtime incumbent Councilman Brown.
Beth gets fired.
Poor Beth! She loses her job of 12 years, and realizes that William was right — she needs to tell Randall that she can’t be the strong one right now. She is not okay.
We learn that The Manny is the No. 1 show in South Korea.
Just a fun fact we should all be aware of!
Randall hires a campaign manager and a field director.
The campaign manager is a nice, politically active Korean-American from the neighborhood named Jae-won and the field director is Beth. They don’t get along.
Kevin meets Robinson.
He learns that his father was definitely not “just a mechanic” in the war. Robinson can’t answer any questions about Jack’s brother, but he does hand Kevin a photo of Jack with a Vietnamese woman wearing the Very Important Necklace that Jack gave to Kevin. There’s a mystery to solve!
Kevin and Zoe go to Vietnam.
Kevin has a lot to learn about what happened to his dad and uncle during the war, but he also has a lot to learn about his girlfriend. She confides in him that she was sexually abused by her father, and the two admit that they are falling deeply in love with each other.
Thanksgiving 2018: Randall appears only in his undies at a time when the world really needed it.
We are forever grateful that a Thanksgiving Dad is a Hot Dad.
Thanksgiving 2018: Miguel attempts to make amends with his kids, they are dicks.
Miguel has tried to stay in Andy and Amber’s lives, but they’ve made it very difficult. All of this leads to an extremely tense Thanksgiving dinner in which he ends up valiantly defending Rebecca and their relationship. Everyone realizes Miguel is a wonderful, gorgeous human and perhaps, one day, he and his kids can rebuild what they lost.
Tess comes out.
First, she tells Kate on Thanksgiving 2018, but makes it clear she isn’t ready to tell her parents. Tess realizes that Kate told Rebecca — since Kate lives so far away, she wanted someone looking after Tess. It seems like a shitty thing for an aunt to do, but it all works out in the end! Rebecca gives Tess a beautiful speech about what keeping a secret can do to you (she would know!), and it inspires Tess to come out to Randall and Beth. They are, as you may have guessed, wonderful with the entire thing.
Kate decides to go back to college.
It’s time for her to make some changes — to the bursar’s office!
Randall makes his failing campaign his top priority, sleeps on the couch.
Randall wins his debate against Councilman Brown, but campaign manager Jae-won informs him that based on polling, there’s just no way he can win this thing. Beth sees it as a blessing, Randall sees it as a challenge. Beth asks him to give up the politics and focus on family, but Randall refuses. So, he’ll be sleeping on the couch from now on. Mom and Dad!
Kate and Toby learn they’re having a boy!
If they don’t name this kid Jack, heads will roll.
Kevin’s trip to Vietnam ends with a surprising revelation.
No one at the ville recognizes Jack or the woman wearing the necklace and Kevin resigns himself to returning home having learned nothing. But wait! Thanks to a resourceful hotel proprietor, he learns one very huge, startling thing: There’s no record of Nicholas Pearson dying in the Vietnam War.
Old Nick Pearson brings his mail back to his trailer.
NICKY IS ALIVE.
Randall wins the election!
He’s very excited, but no one else, perhaps even including the audience, is. At least he and Beth seem okay … for now.
Kevin and Zoe move in together!
Who knew a John Stamos keychain would be so emotionally stirring?
The Pearsons go on a road trip to find their long-lost uncle.
Although not a complete disaster, it doesn’t go well. Nicky is finally able to tell them the story of what really happened in Vietnam, although, he discovers, he’ll never be able to tell his brother. Rebecca gets to meet Jack’s brother, so that’s nice. But Nicky is an alcoholic and very depressed and doesn’t want any help from Jack’s kids. Kevin tries to persuade him otherwise, and although he doesn’t get to save Nicky in any way, the door is left open for the future.
Finding his uncle in that state and grappling with the thought that Jack kept him a secret all those years is enough to make anyone feel helpless and lost, so Kevin starts drinking again while alone in Nicky’s trailer.
Nicky starts going to therapy at the local VA.
He may have played it cool with his nephew, but Kevin really got under his skin, and Nicky makes an attempt at putting his life back together. With the help of his therapist, Dr. Ruiz (Misha Gonz-Cirkl), he really makes some progress!
Beth figures out what she wants to be when she grows up!
After a very cathartic visit to her mother’s, Beth realizes that she only felt truly alive when she was dancing — so she becomes a dance teacher. Great for Beth, but it puts an intense strain on her marriage.
Kate graduates! But then goes into premature labor! While in the car with her drunk brother!
The most dramatic winter-mester graduation ever! Kevin’s drinking is outed and Kate goes into labor at only 28 weeks. Never a dull moment with the Pearsons.
Baby Jack Pearson Damon is born!
After a long, excruciating wait in which some grievances are aired, Kate gives birth to baby Jack. He has a long road ahead of him, which scares the hell out of Toby, but Kate is all over it. Plus, Rebecca and Miguel decide to move to Los Angeles to help Kate. That should be super helpful and not at all suffocating.
Beth and Randall hit the lowest of lows in their marriage.
It gets very intense there for a while, but eventually they decide they’re going to move to Philadelphia, where Randall can still be city councilman and Beth is going to open her own dance studio. They’re betting on themselves, baby.
Kevin and Zoe come to an impasse in their relationship.
Zoe never wants to have kids. Kevin goes along with that for, like, an afternoon because he loves her, but she can see how badly he wants to be a dad. She’ll never change her mind on this, and so there’s no hope for them. Zoe moves out.
Cassidy Sharp returns from deployment; it does not go well.
We do not know when or for how long Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) was deployed in Afghanistan. We do, however, know that she has done multiple tours. We also know that when she returns in 2019, her marriage is fraught, she is suffering from PTSD, and hits her son, Matty (Noah Salsbury Lipson), out of frustration. She finds herself in group therapy at the local VA.
Kevin moves back to Los Angeles!
Post-Zoe-breakup, Kevin decides he wants to be where the action is: in L.A. with Kate, Toby, Rebecca, Miguel, and Baby Jack. Again: super helpful and not suffocating at all!
Randall and Beth Pearson move to Philadelphia.
This is not downsizing, folks.
His therapist is transferred and he feels abandoned, so he starts drinking again, and eventually throws a chair through the window of a group-therapy meeting being attended by Cassidy Sharp.
Malik Hodges (Asante Blackk) meets Deja Pearson at a backyard barbeque.
Deja smiles for the first time in history.
Baby Jack is diagnosed as blind.
Kate refuses to be anything but positive — her son will have a great, big life.
Toby gets secretly super into CrossFit.
As if this dude could be any more annoying, now he’s CrossFit Toby. He’s losing a ton of weight, while Kate is stress-eating, and it’s all causing a rift in their marriage.
Kate meets her neighbor, Gregory (Timothy Omundson).
He is recovering from a stroke, and she begins to go on walks around the block with him and Baby Jack.
Kevin gives up a new movie to go to Bradford, Pennsylvania, and help Uncle Nicky.
Nicky doesn’t want his help, but since when has that ever stopped Kevin?
Cassidy asks Kevin if he was in Who’s the Boss?
It remains devastatingly hilarious.
Kevin, Nicky, and Cassidy get kicked out of an AA meeting for laughing at Kevin.
Sorry that it is at Kevin’s expense, but not sorry that these three are now bonded for life.
The Man-ny is canceled!
Sure, this sends Kevin into a tailspin, but has anyone checked on Morris Chestnut? Think about Morris Chestnut!
The Clarke School of Dance opens!
Sure, the place is all stunk up by a dead opossum, but at least it’s not a family of dead opossums, right? And sure, Beth and Randall learn that 14-year-old Deja wants to date a boy with a baby, but maybe for now just focus on the fact that Beth’s dreams are coming true?
Kevin really digs in during his stay in Bradford.
He buys a fancy trailer so he can live next to Nicky while they await his hearing, and he promises Cassidy that he’s going to help her get back together with her husband, Ryan (Nick Wechsler). Of course they end up sleeping together first, but he does make good on his promise eventually!
Tess has a panic attack.
Beth teaches her husband and daughter that La Croix isn’t just a refreshing beverage. It’s here that she also begins to suspect Randall might be headed toward another breakdown, what with the leg tapping and ten-mile running and working extra late hours. He refuses to get any help.
Nicky cuts ice cream like cake for Kevin.
Not only does he tell a heartbreaking story about buying his trailer for his One True Love but never going after her, he also tells Kevin about how his dad would slice ice cream like a cake for him and Jack when they were kids, something Jack used to do for Kevin. He’s just opening up so much!
Randall and Kevin send Kate and Baby Jack a gift.
It’s their family piano! And it’s full of pictures of Kate and her old boyfriend Marc, who definitely was abusive somehow and now those memories are dredged up. The gift is not the best.
Toby calls Miguel “Miggy Stardust.”
Okay, he can stay now.
Randall pretends to be bad at golf to win over fellow councilmen. As if.
No way, no how could Randall Pearson ever willingly play a sport he’s bad at. He’s great at golf, thanks to his father’s insistence that he learn to play. He’s so good, in fact, that he knows exactly how to pretend to be bad enough to endear himself to fellow golfers on the City Council. The man has allies now. Thanks, Dad!
Deja and Malik go on an epic first date, become the cutest couple on this show.
These two lovebirds skip school so Malik can take Deja on a proper tour of Philadelphia and help her believe she is worthy of love. It is the sweetest. Though she disparages cheesesteaks, I will overlook it because everyone deserves to be seen the way Deja is seen.
The Pearsons have the Hodges over for The World’s Most Awkward Dinner.
Each blames the other’s kid for being a bad influence, some hostile words regarding class are exchanged, but in the end, after a heartfelt speech from Deja, Beth, Randall, Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake), and Darnell (Omar Epps) agree to let the kids see each other as long as there is a chaperone. Oh, and we learn about Beth’s secret Pantry Wine! A true gift.
Cassidy delivers the harshest truth of this entire series.
“Not all of us have to talk about our dead dads all the time,” she tells Kevin after he comments that she’s never spoken about her father. BOY OH BOY. Cassidy saw the Pearsons; Cassidy knows the Pearsons.
Nicky has his court hearing!
After Kevin FIXES NICKY’S TIE, Nicky gives a gorgeous little speech about how throwing that chair was the best thing to happen to him because it got him sober and brought his nephew into his life. Nicky avoids prison and is finally turning his life around. Anyway, I’m crying about it. Our Nicky!
Cassidy reunites with her family.
Well, she is allowed to sit down at a diner with Ryan and Matty, even though she’s signed the divorce papers. It seems like they are poised for reconciliation, but who knows.
Baby Jack eats his first solid food while Toby is off CrossFitting or whatever.
Apparently this is the gravest tragedy this family has suffered.
Randall notices his mother is having more than a few mental slipups when she arrives in Philly.
He and Rebecca have a blowout fight when Randall calls her on it, and implies that he’s the actual parent figure in this relationship.
Thanksgiving 2019: The Pearsons descend on Philadelphia, drama ensues.
Shauna comes to see Deja, which upsets Beth, but it ends up bringing Deja and Beth closer together. Kevin helps Tess come out to her classmates. Kate discovers that Toby is complaining about her to his CrossFit friends, especially someone named “LadyKryptonite.” After Nicky realizes Jack didn’t completely erase him from his life once he hears Randall tell the “So Long, Marianne” story, he tells the story of his and Jack’s perfect Thanksgiving and introduces the tradition of Thanksgiving Shrimp. Rebecca, after leaving all day to see a movie, confides to Randall that he was right and she needs to see a doctor, but to keep it between them. This is all before we’ve even had pie!
August 2020: The Big Three turn 40, but there is very little to celebrate.
Rebecca’s dementia has progressed incredibly fast, so much so that she gets lost trying to buy a birthday cake and is brought back to the family cabin, where Kevin, Kate, Miguel, and Kevin’s as-yet-unseen pregnant fiancée are waiting. And when Rebecca brings up Randall, Kevin has to remind her that he and Randall aren’t speaking anymore. Cool, cool, cool. Everything is totally fine here.
Old Randall and Adult Tess have dinner, but it is full of angst!
Randall makes good on his promise to have dinner with his social-worker daughter once a week. The dinner we see isn’t very pleasant: Randall tells Tess, “It’s time to go see her,” but neither Tess nor Randall are really ready to do so. “Her,” as it turns out, is Rebecca. And she’s not doing so well.
Beth runs her own dance company!
Betting on her and Randall paid off.
Old Randall invites Old Toby to come see Rebecca.
Old Toby is alone, not wearing a wedding ring, and has to be convinced to come and see Rebecca. When he does arrive, he informs Randall that he “just talked to Jack and they’re on their way.” Just what in the heck is happening here?
The family gathers at Kevin’s house to begin their good-byes.
“The family” includes: Old Randall and Old Beth (still happily married), Adult Tess, Old Toby, Kevin’s preteen/teen son (!!), AND NICKY PEARSON. Randall is the first to go talk to his mother, who is in a hospice bed and suffering from dementia. The future does not look fun at all.
The Way, Way Future: Adult Baby Jack (Blake Stadnik) falls for a waitress named Lucy (Auden Thornton), becomes a huge music star.
Remember that great, big life Kate wanted for her son? Well, he got it. Adult Baby Jack is selling out stadiums, his wife just opened up a restaurant, there’s a baby on the way, and yes, they are still serving five pounds of shrimp at Thanksgiving.