This Is Us closes out the first half of its freshman season with an emotional Christmas episode, titled “Last Christmas.” In the past, we go back to the hospital and meet Dr. Nathan Katowsky (Gerald McRaney), while in the present, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) deal with the repercussions of their decisions during the first half of the season.
“Last Christmas” was mostly set in the present, where creator Dan Fogelman had some breathtaking twists in the mix.
Here’s a look at the action in “Last Christmas.”
“Last Christmas” opens in the past, with Kate helping Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) decorate their Christmas tree. Kate is complaining about her stomach hurting her, but Rebecca dismisses it because she ate the cookies that were supposed to be for Santa. Meanwhile, Kevin took Randall’s money from their grandmother and Kevin makes fun of Randall for saving his money.
Jack asks the kids what the true meaning of Christmas is. “Jesus stuff,” is all Kevin can muster. So, the parents decide that they have to go to church. Kate complains again and Jack feels that she has a fever. They rush her to the hospital to have her appendix removed. To ease her worries, Rebecca gives her a branch from a Christmas tree and tells Kate that it has “Christmas magic.” “Nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve,” Rebecca says. While Kate is taken into an operating room, Rebecca will hold onto the branch and everyone will be waiting for Kate when she comes out.
In the waiting room, Rebecca sees Dr. K, who delivered the children nine years before. Dr. K was in a car crash. He tells her not to worry about Kate’s appendectomy. Rebecca wonders where his family is, but they’re in Montana and wouldn’t get there in time to “say goodbye,” he says. As a doctor himself, Dr. K is convinced that there’s nothing the hospital can do to save him because of his age.
Later, Rebecca and Jack explain to Randall that Dr. K is “responsible” for creating their family, since Jack wouldn’t have adopted Randall if Dr. K hadn’t planted the idea in his head. They decide that, while Kate is in surgery, they will be Dr. K’s family. After all, the only reason why Dr. K delivered their children was because another doctor’s appendix burst. Jack insists that it can’t just be some coincidence. Rebecca asks Dr. K if he’s scared of dying. He said no, but he’s “curious.”
At the hospital gift shop, Randall decides to finally spend some of his money on a snowglobe. Then, Kevin goes up to the hospital reception desk, where he sees the Nativity scene, a figure of Mary and a Menorah. He thinks about praying.
Later, Randall thanks Dr. K for giving his father the idea of adopting him. Randall then gives him the snowglobe. But Dr. K, in his never-ending stream of wisdom, says he thinks he just nudged Jack in a direction he was already thinking about going in.
“If at some point in your life, you find a way to show somebody else the same kindness they showed you, that’s all the present I’ll need,” Dr. K tells him. “But I sure do like that snowglobe.”
After the title, we head to the present, where Sloane (Milana Vayntrub) and Kevin are complaining about having her play canceled. Apparently, Olivia hasn’t been seen in a month since the events of “The Trip.” So, the producers canceled the play on Christmas Eve. Sloane blames Kevin for ruining everything. Now, she’ll have to go to Hanukkah dinner with her family and Kevin has to go. She already told her family that she’s dating the Manny. They have to pretend they’re dating and Kevin agrees. After all, they did this kind of story on The Manny twice.
During the dinner, Sloane reads the story of Hanukkah. She has everyone at the table completely engrossed, including Kevin. After the story, Kevin is so into it that he suggests they stage her play without the producers’ help. Unfortunately, Sloane hadn’t told her family that her play isn’t happening any longer. Kevin offers to put up his own money and have Sloane star in it. She happily agrees.
Kate is at a doctor’s office with Rebecca, learning about gastric bypass and the side effects. Rebecca keeps making comments, while Kate sits silently. Kate reveals that she was on Prozac and Rebecca learns more about her daughter. It highlights how disconnected the two have become.
In the car, Kate reveals that she doesn’t want to go to Randall’s. It’s an eerily quiet car ride to her brother’s house. Before leaving the car, Rebecca asks Kate, “Did I do this to you?” “I don’t know,” Kate replies. “I want one person to tell me that I’m doing the right thing.”
Rebecca recalls the moment Kate got her appendix removed. “What did you say to me then?” Kate asks. “That nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve,” Rebecca responds. “And I bet I liked it.” The scene ends with the two laughing as Miguel (Jon Huertas) finally gets an inflatable snowman to work.
William (Ron Cephas Jones) is sitting in a hospital meeting, recalling the moments before Randall walked up to his door. “The holidays are hard times, but tonight I’ll go back to my son’s house, have Christmas with his beautiful family, and stay up late enough to feel Christmas Eve turn into Christmas Day one last time,” William says.
Jesse (Denis O’Hare), another person at the meeting gives his story, recalling how he had dark nights after losing someone he loved. He later found out that his love found a new love. So, the man returned to his old habits. To get better, he tried to learn forgiveness and asked for prayers from the other members of this group.
William stays at the meeting a little longer because it turns out that William was the man in Jesse’s story. William didn’t tell Jesse about his cancer and didn’t say anything when he went to live with Randall. He admits that he did something wrong. Jesse says that he would like to spend whatever time William has left with him.
Meanwhile, at his boss’ Christmas party, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) admits to Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) that he bought a boat from co-worker Andy. “Sometimes a man just needs a boat,” he says. Beth insists that the little boy in him is still angry at his mother. Randall agrees to try to un-buy the boat and admits that he wishes he could go back to the way things used to be, before he found William.
Cut to a man ready to jump off the ledge. Randall interrupts the man, who is Andy. He tries to get Andy to come inside to talk about the boat. During the conversation, Andy reveals that he had a year-long affair with a woman they met at last year’s party. Andy feels like his whole life is ruined. Randall tries his best to talk Andy out of killing himself. He tells Randall that he has the perfect life and couldn’t possibly understand.
“You don’t have a monopoly on pain,” Randall tells Andy and then proceeds to tell Andy that it took him his whole to find his father and his mother lied to him. But they are still around. “There’s always a chance things will get better,” Randall tells him. He tells Andy that he must be there for his daughter.
Beth arrives, and Randall turns around. He goes back to Andy and doesn’t see him. He thinks Andy jumped, but after looking around, he sees Andy inside. Andy decided not to kill himself. “Why did you come out here?” Beth asks.
“Because nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve,” Randall replies and gives Beth a hug. “Let’s go get our girls.”
When they arrive home, Kevin and Sloane follow them in. Miguel, Rebecca and Kate come in, too. There’s still some frost between Rebecca and Randall. But the real surprise is that Toby (Chris Sullivan) flew all the way to New York to see Kate. He comes in with presents for Randall’s daughters and instantly hugs Randall. “Are you really here?” Kate asks.
“Kate, I am here to take the steps in overcoming our insanity one last time, for both of us, because it’s Christmas and because we’re good together,” Toby says. He is ready to go back on a diet because the one thing he cannot live without is her. They share a kiss under the mistletoe and go upstairs. After they come down, Beth notices how out-of-breath Toby is.
The last person to enter the house is William, who brought Jesse along. Randall is puzzled by Jesse, but Tess (Eris Baker) gets it. “Grandpa’s gay, or at least bi.” Randall is stunned by the idea.
The episode ends with a montage of the family having fun together. Although it doesn’t look like their problems are fixed, Randall and Rebecca put it aside for now. In the past, we see Kate wake up in the hospital. The family also sees Dr. K go into surgery.
We quickly cut between the past and present. In the past, Dr. K survives surgery. In the present, Toby is rushed to the hospital after collapsing in Randall’s home. The last scene of the episode shows Toby in surgery. We do not know if he survived.
It’s a shocking ending that leaves us breathless. We will not know if Toby survived until January 10, 2017. Hopefully he lives, because nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve. We also can’t take the loss of such a great character, who brought humor to a show often weighed down by serious drama. This is one way to make sure the audience will tune in next month after a four-week break.