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This Is Us Mid-Season Premiere Recap: Too Close to Call

This Is Us

The Last Seven Weeks
Season 3 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

The Last Seven Weeks
Season 3 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

If, in the seven weeks since the last time you sat down to feel things again by watching This Is Us, you somehow forgot that this drama loves to play around with time, the mid-season premiere is here to remind you. “The Last Seven Weeks” starts off at Randall’s campaign headquarters as everyone waits for election-night results — it is currently, surprisingly, too close to call. There are lots of knowing glances and pained expressions and talk of John Stamos. All of these things, of course, require some context we don’t yet have. And with Randall’s almost too-precious utterance that it’s been “the longest seven weeks of his life,” you know the show is telling your pretty head not to worry, we’ll get to it. As with all things This Is Us, the journey is just as important as the destination.

And so we jump back to seven weeks prior, the day after the epic Randall and Beth fight that left us wondering if that strategically edited flash-forward meant that the show’s power couple would one day be no-more. We haven’t gotten definitive proof of what’s going on in that glimpse of the future, but come on people, have a little faith in Randall and Beth! They love each other too damn much to not work things out! Not that the first half of this episode shows that — with Randall refusing to let go of his dying campaign even though Beth has asked him to, things are still icy at home. Even without Beth’s support, Randall pushes harder. He’s going door-to-door, canvassing the entire 12th District in hopes of closing the gap between him and Sol Brown.

With just three weeks to go until the election, Randall realizes the optics of not having his wife and daughters beside him are, uh, not great. Surprising no one, Beth doesn’t care. The fight that follows might be even worse than what happened the night Randall was regulated to the sofa. He wonders if Beth is just mad because he has something to care about while she, with her recent unemployment, does not. He also reminds her that when he played stay-at-home dad last year, he didn’t complain. Oh, Randall. Insulting someone repeatedly is definitely not the way to win them over to your side.

Two weeks before the election, on New Year’s Eve, Randall is at a low point. He’s been thinking a lot about his trip to Washington, D.C. to visit Howard University with Jack, better known as the evening Kevin broke his leg. We’re given some new scenes from this evening: Jack tells his son that he’s going to live a big life and be a great man and Teen Randall worries about his work-life balance, which is so Randall Pearson it hurts.

This conversation has stayed with Randall, pushing him to excel his entire life. Only, he never stopped to think that his pursuit of becoming a “great” man might mean he’d have to give up being a good one. Come on, you knew this show would give Randall the chance to turn down playing dirty to win, didn’t you? It comes in the form of some info on Sol Brown’s buried DUI. And who should Randall run into just as he’s having this crisis of conscience? The reverend from the Philly  church that Randall’s been attending. Never change, This Is Us!

After the reverend gives Randall a little speech about how the important things in life are the ones that will make you smile on your deathbed, things are finally clear for Mr. Pearson. He throws out the dirt on Brown (like we ever thought our Randall would go there!), and goes home to give a heartfelt apology to the four ladies in his life who truly make him great. I never thought I’d be so happy to see Randall Pearson laughing at Fuller House! But I am! I truly am!

Beth has a change of heart, too. With one week to go until election night, she realizes that the man she married would never just blow off this campaign. He cares too much and he tries too hard and she won’t let him forget who he is! The man she married needs to Finish This Campaign, sir! Okay, I get Beth wanting to be supportive of her husband, but I also was very pro–Beth standing up to Randall doing whatever the hell he wanted, especially if it meant making his family a second priority and going back on promises he made to his wife. So, I don’t know. Randall’s gonna do what Randall’s gonna do, I guess.

Back on election night, armed with his wife and daughters and a nice little endorsement from the reverend, Randall’s race is too close to call … until a late-night phone call informs him that he’s done the unthinkable: Randall Pearson just beat Sol Brown. I guess if anyone is going to be both a good man and a great one, it’s Randall. Prepare yourselves for more political storylines, friends!

Randall’s not the only Pearson brother who’s had a roller-coaster seven weeks. On election night, we get some awkward interaction between Kevin and Zoe — a change from last we saw them when they were declaring their love and sharing some big revelations in Vietnam — until Zoe seemingly breaks up with Kevin. She hands him some type of John Stamos keychain (Full House is getting a lot of play tonight!) and tells him she can’t do this anymore. But what! Not these two! These two are the best two! Have mercy!

Well, it seems things were going fine post-Vietnam: Kevin asks Zoe to move in with him and she says yes (and gets the spare key on the John Stamos keychain). But things take a turn when, weeks later, she still hasn’t unpacked, and they have to meet up with Zoe’s ex, a congressman who can help them get access to Nick Pearson’s records from Veterans Affairs. This dude is an angel person apparently, because he is still willing to help Kevin even though he and Zoe dated for two years and were making plans to move to New York together until she dumped him via email. Real cold, Zoe.

That story, paired with the mountain of unpacked boxes sitting in his loft, gives Kevin pause. The concern grows until the two have an all-out fight about how Zoe is being cagey and Kevin is being pushy. He’s a pusher, Cady! So, that fight explains the break-up. But not to fear! There is more to their election-night story: Zoe is inspired by Randall’s Go Home It’s Too Close to Call Speech about how they “kept pushing because [they] believed in what [their] future could be.” She tells Kevin that not unpacking had nothing to do with him: After dealing with the trauma of what her father did to her, she made sure she felt safe in her own apartment — leaving that safe space is a huge deal for her. But she’s in love with Kevin and loves what he’s pushing her toward. That John Stamos keychain is back, baby!

This Is the Rest

The Nicky Pearson mystery gets juicier: Thanks to Congressman Broken Heart, Kevin learns that Nicky was med-evac’ed from Vietnam in 1971 and sent for a psych evaluation from which he was discharged months later — signing his discharge papers as “Clark Kent.” Kevin also discovers a postcard from a “C.K.” to his father in 1992. Jack knew Nicky was alive and lied about it, even to Teen Randall at the Vietnam War Memorial! Thank God there’s a return address on that postcard.

Beth tells a story about a time when she and Randall were first dating and she had a breakdown in a shoe store because of her late father. They’re priming us for the Beth-centric episode. I welcome it with open arms!

Kate and Toby are wrapped up in a storyline about passing things from childhood on to their son. It’s ostensibly about Kate accidentally selling Toby’s most prized Star Wars action figures, but then turns out to be about how Kate has nothing from her childhood to pass on because of pesky Crock-Pot fires. Don’t worry, in the end Toby pulls a Jack and gets a replica of the model Three Rivers Stadium that Jack had made for Kate as a kid.

Imagine if Toby had sold something from Kate’s childhood? The world would be over! For Toby, they just buy replacement action-figures on eBay. It’s the Pearsons’ world, Tobes.

Might your lowly recapper voice a gripe? This Is Us really needs to get Kate and Toby on the East Coast. They’re already saddled with the least interesting storylines and removing them from the main Pearson hub does them no favors. The present-day timeline is always better when the adult siblings are interacting face-to-face. Get KaToby back in the action!

This Is Us Mid-Season Premiere Recap: Too Close to Call