The episode begins with the inevitable: The fire that burned down the Pearsons’ beloved home. Since Jack hadn’t gotten a replacement battery for the fire alarm, the Pearsons didn’t realize the kitchen — and soon the entire house — was on fire. During the night, Jack opens the door and is greeted with a burst of flames. He bursts into action mode, and shepherds the kids at home (Randall and Kate) to Jack and Rebecca’s bedroom, which is still safe. Things get hairy during Kate’s passage over. Jack blocks the flames with a mattress, which soon catches on fire. The fear was real (and some great acting from Young Kate).
Jack lowers Randall, Kate, and Rebecca down to the ground using a rope made of sheets. Then, they hear the dog, Louie, barking. Despite Rebecca’s protests, Jack goes back into the house. This is the moment we think Jack is going to die. There’s an explosion in the window, and viewers around the country cringe. But then Jack emerges from the door, holding the dog and a sack of the family's precious belongings.
He’s inhaled a lot of smoke, but he’s survived. “It’s just a house,” Rebecca says, watching from the ambulance. “It was a good house, though,” Randall says.
Jack and Rebecca go to the hospital to treat that second degree burn. While the doctor remarks upon the amount of smoke that Jack inhaled, he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the soot potentially blocking Jack’s airways (though doesn’t that sound concerning to you?).
Jack is in his fully positive, relentlessly charming mode, focusing more on the Super Bowl and joking with Rebecca than worrying about his health. They have a conversation about the batteries neither of them managed to get. Even though they lost the house, Jack’s confident he’s “still got the only thing that I ever really needed:” Rebecca.
There’s a real symmetry in this scene, which Jack and Rebecca comment on. This Is Us began in the very same hospital, with the birth of the Kevin and Kate, the loss of Kyle, and the adoption of Randall.
Rebecca leaves the hospital room to call a hotel, and speak to her kids over at Miguel’s. In the background, doctors start rushing around. She doesn’t know what had happened until the doctor comes to tell her, gently, that Jack had a heart attack. Rebecca refuses to believe this is possible. Instead, she takes a bite of the candy bar. Incredulously, she runs to Jack’s room, and that’s where she sees his body sprawled out. She weeps.
Rebecca goes to Miguel’s, where Kate and Randall are. She breaks the news to Miguel in the front yard. Miguel seems about to lose it, but Rebecca forces herself to remain composed. “I have to talk to my kids. I’m going to ruin the rest of their lives, but I have to be strong for them. And if you can’t be strong for them, then you have to take a walk around the block until you can.” Wow, Rebecca. SHE IS A PARAGON OF FORTITUDE. That is all.
Afterwards, Rebecca goes into her car to weep, and let go. She puts Jack’s cross on. Jesus. This is really devastating.
Adult Kate is watching her college audition video that Jack had taken the day the house burned down. Clearly, this video is something Jack had salvaged during his grand tour of the burning house.
Apparently, this is Kate’s annual Super Bowl Sunday tradition. Since today marks the 20th anniversary of Jack’s death, she’s aiming for the “catharsis jugular,” and fully basking in her grief. Toby, watching from the back of the kitchen, feels left out that he had never heard Kate sing that particular song (he likes feeling left out from Pearson Family Lore). Kate retorts that of course he hasn’t heard that song — it was from the day Jack died. Come on, Tobes!
Then, disaster strikes. The VCR starts bugging. The tape, it seems, is permanently damaged. Kate’s in panic mode. Toby brings the tape to the VCR doctor, who can put it on the cloud, which Kate vehemently disapproves.
Toby offers to film something new, and make new memories. Kate shoots his earnest suggestion down. She's adamant about remaining deeply sad today. “He died because of me. Because in the scariest moments of our lives, he couldn’t bear to disappointment me. So if once a year I want to beat myself up for it, just let me. Just let me sit in it,” she says.
At least Kate can be happy about something — the VCR doctor fixes the tape, so all is well. Still, they put it on the cloud, so now Kate can watch the video whenever she wants.
Kate and Toby wrap up their storyline with a really sweet conversation that emphasizes just how strong their relationship has become. Kate says that the night Jack died, she thought she would never, ever recover. Maybe her other family members could, because she thought they were inherently stronger than she was. But meeting Toby made her believe in her own strength. "He would've loved you. I love you," Kate says. They are over the moon with each other.
“I’m always crying,” Kate then says, in a very meta moment. She does cry a lot.
Kevin and Rebecca are continuing their trend of Relationship Rehabilitation. He makes her coffee, and sits down for a Super Bowl Sunday heart-to-heart at the kitchen table. There’s no Miguel in sight – Rebecca explains that he gives her space on that day. On most Super Bowls, Rebecca says she makes lasagna (Jack’s favorite) and watches the game. She says that each year, Jack sends her a little "laugh" from the Great Beyond that brighten his very sad day. Kevin's routine is much different – he gets drunk and avoids the subject of his father altogether.
Remember, the last time Kevin ever spoke to his father, they exchanged gruesome words. This year, for the first time, Kevin is going to confront the memory of his father. Sitting against Jack's tree by the river, Kevin gets real with his father about his problems of late. Kevin says he knows his father would be disappointed in the person he became. But that he’s going to be better, and do better, for Jack.
“I will get there. I promise you, Dad," he says.
Afterwards, Kevin calls his mom for another outpouring of emotion. He thanks her for the strength she showed after Jack's death. Rebecca, also feeling vulnerable, says that she's still haunted by that candy bar.
Rebecca says that this year, the "laugh" Jack sent her was Kevin. Cut to Kevin and Rebecca sitting at the TV together, laughing and having a grand 'ol time. I'm so happy to see these two getting along.
Randall is in prime Randall mode. He's wearing an apron that says "Hot Dad," and is preparing countless sandwiches for the massive Super Bowl party he's planning for Annie and Tess's friends. Beth's trying to talk him down from his high and be practical, but Randall's not letting anyone dampen his mood. Not on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Kate wallows. Kevin avoids. But this is my dad’s favorite day, but I celebrate him. That’s how Randall rolls!” he says, explaining his mood.
Fine, then – Randall will be happy. Tess and Annie aren't so thrilled by the party (they're not crazy about the Super Bowl to begin with). Annie's more fixated on her new pet, a gecko named Mr. McGiggles.
Randall remarks that he needs a boy in the house. Cut, suddenly, to a young boy named Jordan being told he'll be set up in a foster home. Of course, we assume this is for Beth and Randall. More on this soon.
At the party, Mr. McGiggles goes missing, and it's a disaster. Beth leaves the living room, where everyone has gotten on the floor to search for the gecko. She answers the phone — it's a telemarketer — and after hanging up, steps right on the gecko.
Randall delivers a lofty eulogy for Mr. McGiggles that ends up being colored by his own grief for his father. He compares sudden loss to the experience of a really bad toothache. The lightning pain of it. Seeing Randall go off the rails, Beth swoops in and suggests turning the channel to the Puppy Bowl. Everyone is relieved.
Except for Tess, who's upset, for some reason. She sneaks out of the living room and runs away to her room. Randall follows her. Tess confesses that she's been cutting the land line, because she doesn't want to hear about a foster child. It's not that she doesn't want a new foster sibling — it's that with William, and Deja, and now the potential of a new kid, she gets the feeling that her father wants a new life entirely.
Randall then delivers a Grade-A Randall speech about how he wasn't sure he could live up to his father's legacy, but then had Tess, and knew he would be the best dad ever (which he is). He paints a picture of Tess' growing up, and how he'll always be a part of her life.
Also, sidenote: A cover of Lalo Siffre's “Watch Me” is playing, which was used earlier on in the season, when William was still alive. This song is clearly a Randall Pearson theme.
The phone downstairs rings. We think it's going to be the social worker. But the social worker is actually giving Jordan to other parents. The person on the phone is Deja – she's back. That's twist Number One.
Twist Number Two is that the social worker is TESS, all grown up. Her dad, old Randall, is visiting her at work, just like he said he would. We can't wait to see all of Next Gen This Is Us.
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