After a disastrous Thanksgiving dinner in “Pilgrim Rick,” the Pearson family will try to rebuild the bridges destroyed after Randall (Sterling K. Brown) learned that his adoptive mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore) knew his biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones) almost from the moment she adopted him. Rebecca tried to keep it a secret, but Randall found a letter from his mother at William’s apartment. Kate (Chrissy Metz) also revealed that she wants gastric bypass surgery, but her revelation came after Randall stormed out of his dining room.
Now, the Pearson family will try to come together in “The Trip,” as Kate, Randall and Kevin (Justin Hartley) head to their family cabin.
Here’s a look at the action in “The Trip.”
In the present, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) finds Randall pacing in their bedroom and insists that he talk with William. Randall is told that William met Rebecca right after they took him home from the hospital, but William thinks that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) never knew him. Randall puts this down on his list of reasons why he’s angry with Rebecca. He feels that Rebecca betrayed him and vows to make sure she hears every idem on the list.
Kate and Kevin are talking about the events at dinner. They’re surprised that Rebecca never told the truth and Kevin is stunned that Kate wants to get surgery instead of dieting. Kevin also breaks the news that Rebecca plans on selling their family cabin, news that comes as a shock to Kate. She comes up with the idea of going to the cabin, with Randall joining them. Randall makes it sound like he wants to clear out his stuff from the cabin and leave the family. As Kevin and Randall go into the cabin, Kate texts Toby a picture and doesn’t hear back from him immediately.
Kate tries to assure Randall that he really was a part of the family by showing him old photos. He can’t let it go that his mother lied to him. Kate begs him to forget about it for a moment.
They aren’t completely alone though, since Kevin invited Olivia to the cabin. Unbeknownst to him, she brought her friend Asher (Nick George) and playwright Sloane (Milana Vayntrub) with her. Kate isn’t happy about that. “I’m sorry, I love you, but I want to punch you,” Kate tells Kevin.
Kevin tries to impress Olivia, but Kate sees right through him. Meanwhile, Randall hears some clicking and leaves the cabin. Kevin learns that Olivia dated the guy she brought to the cabin. Kate is stunned that Kevin would bring his ex to the cabin. “Who are you right now?” she asks.
Outside, Randall finds the “ghost” of Jack, under the influence of the mushrooms inside Olivia’s friend Asher’s drink. He’s completely oblivious to everyone else. During the conversation with his dad, Randall reveals that Rebecca knew about William. The ghost of his father thinks that’s crazy. His father disappears after he says that’s the truth.
Kate then has a confrontation with Olivia. Kate thinks she’s taking advantage of her brother, who she calls “uncomplicated,” but Olivia doesn’t think of Kevin that way. “I know you’re holding him back,” Olivia tells Kate. Olivia tells Kate that she’s jealous of Kevin because he’s changing and she’s not. She keeps giving Kate a dose of reality, telling her that she fears losing weight will not change who she is. “If I were you, I’d be terrified,” Olivia tells Kate and she insists that she doesn’t know women like her.
During a conversation with Kevin, Kate is surprised that he thinks she has a point. Kate can’t believe the way Kevin is behaving. But maybe she’s finally learning who Kevin really is. His friends aren’t acting, but she is.
Meanwhile, Randall continues his conversation with Jack. Randall says that the reason why he always strives to be perfect is because it helps him forget that he was unwanted or that he was a replacement for the third Pearson baby that died in childbirth. But Jack tells Randall that they loved him and always wanted him. “The moment I saw you, I knew you were my boy. You weren’t a choice Randall, you are a fact,” Jack tells him. (Get the tissues out now, please.) Jack leads Randall back to the cabin, where he sees an image of the family in the past. “I want her to hurt as much as I do,” Randall says, looking at his mother.
Later, Kevin has a conversation with Sloane. She reveals that the only reason why Olivia wanted to go to the cabin was to have an “authentic cabin experience.”
Kate calls Toby (Chris Sullivan), who surprisingly picks up. Kate tells Toby all about the events at the cabin, but he is not his usual jovial self. Instead, he wants to know right away: “Are we still broken up.” Kate says they are and he tells her that he can no longer be the friendly guy for her. He hangs up.
Inside the cabin, Kevin, Asher and Olivia are watching old home videos, including one where Kate tries to sing “Time After Time” and is interrupted by Kevin. Upon seeing Olivia and Asher’s PDA, Kevin stops the tape. “What’s wrong with being normal?” he asks them, pointing out that Asher has been making fun of the cabin all day. He accuses Olivia of never having experiencing anything real in her life. He tells her that there must have been something between them because of that kiss on Thanksgiving. Olivia says nothing, other than that it’s time for them to leave.
Kevin meets Kate outside, and Kate tells him that she’s really mad at him. He apologizes for everything and tells her that she was right about Olivia. But Kate thinks Olivia was right about her. What if she has the surgery and nothing changes? She starts second-guessing her break-up with Toby and the idea of having the surgery. “I can’t do this any more Kevin and I can’t do it without my brothers.” Kevin insists that they will be there for her and suggests that she stay in New York because he needs her around. They spot their names etched in a tree and they are still there.
Continuing the Christmas Carol theme, Randall tries to butt into a scene of his childhood at the cabin. He tries to tell his mother all of the reasons why he’s angry, but they aren’t paying attention. It’s all a vision (those were some strong mushrooms) and yelling at Rebecca didn’t make him feel better. Jack asks her to look deeper at Rebecca’s point of view. She always tried to keep everyone safe, Jack reminds Randall. She did what she had to do and Randall finally begins to understand.
The next morning, Randall works on the roof of the cabin. Kate finds Kevin in bed with the writer. Outside, Randall tells Kevin and Kate that he’s not working on the roof for their mom, but for their dad.
The story in the past begins with the Pearsons at a supermarket. Young Randall has already started his quest to find his birth parents, and is seen asking a couple if they can roll their tongues. At home, Jack says it kills him that Randall will never know who his birth parents are and Rebecca continues to lie about knowing William. Rebecca makes the case for Randall not knowing his birth parents, but Jack knows that there will always be something missing between Randall and them. The scene ends with the two kissing after Rebecca reveals that she can roll her tongue, but Jack can’t.
At one of Randall’s friend’s house, Rebecca and Jack tell his friend’s mother, Yvette, about Randall’s search for his birth parents. She says that Randall has been telling her sons several different stories about who his father might be. “I think he may need black male role models. Men who can show him who he might grow into,” Yvette tells Jack.
After that conversation, Jack decides to take Randall to a karate class, where the teacher, Ray, is black. Jack introduces Randall to Ray, who teaches him about Ron Van Cleef, the black marital arts champion.
At home, Jack suggests to Rebecca that they hire a private investigator to find Randall’s parents. The idea doesn’t go over well and Rebecca tries to dissuade Jack. “I’m hoping that he gets a better understanding of who he is,” Jack says. It’s amazing that the one parent consumed with finding Randall’s parents isn’t the one who knows William. Jack can’t understand why Rebecca is so against this.
The next day, Rebecca visits William (Jermel Nakia), who didn’t think he’d ever see her again. In this meeting, it’s clear that the younger William is not the drug addict Rebecca convinced Randall he was. William is now clean for five years at this point, with a career as a musician. Rebecca gives an update on Randall, confirming that they named him after Dudley Randall. “He is a very, very sweet boy,” she says.
William said that he wondered about the past nine years, but decided that it was a good idea that he not even know Rebecca’s real last name. After telling William that Randall wants to meet him, William gets really excited about the idea. However, from the moment the thought leaves her mouth, Rebecca is cautious.
Now, we are taken back to the scene in Rebecca and Jack’s bedroom. Why is she against finding Randall’s parents? “Because what if they’re great?” a tearful Rebecca shoots back. “And they want him back?” Rebecca fears that Randall’s parents might want him back.
And back in William’s apartment, he gets up from his music collection – only to find Rebecca gone. What she feared – that William might not be the drug addict she thought he was – came true.
Back at the dojo, Randall is introduced to the rest of the cast. Ray tells Randall that he will learn that life will get hard. “As Randall’s father, you hare his foundation,” Ray tells Jack. “Jack, your back was built to carry your son through his life. Are you willing to hold him up, no matter what comes his way?”
“Yes,” Jack responds and does a push-up with Randall on his back. And in that moment, it appears that Rebecca realizes that Jack is really Randall’s father and that they are his parents.
We go back to their bedroom, where Rebecca just finished explaining that she can’t give up Randall. “I would never let that happen,” Jack promises. “We need to be enough for him,” she says repeatedly.
The Final Moments
The show’s sequences in the past end in the dojo, with Rebecca reading the letter Randall found in William’s apartment. In the letter, Rebecca explained why William shouldn’t see his son. “I hope you take comfort in knowing just how loved Randall is.” As he reads the letter, we see William in tears, putting it in a manuscript titled “Poems For My Son.”
We go back to the present for one final moment – Randall confronting Rebecca. Instead of reading the list of reasons his life was destroyed by the secret, he tells her, “You kept the secret for 36 years. That must have been incredibly lonely.” Rebecca breaks down into tears. She leans forward to hug him, but he pulls back.
“No, not yet. I’ll see you at Christmas.”
Overall, that was an incredible, emotional episode. This is why This Is Us has connected so well with audiences. While the show could be sappy, or seen as manipulative, the genuine performances from this cast give it an authenticity shows so rarely have this early into a run. Sterling K. Brown has such command of the screen that you have to believe every word he says. Mandy Moore has been a revelation and Justin Hartley makes you forget that he’s spent the majority of his career in daytime spoaps. Let’s hope This Is Us keeps the bar high for the rest of its freshman season.
This Is Us airs on NBC at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesdays.