The season one finale of NBC‘s This Is Us is almost here. First, we have to get through the emotional 17th episode, “What Now?” During the next-to-last hour of season one, Randall tried his best to memorialize his biological father William, while Kate told Toby more about her past. The episode took us one more step to seeing exactly how Jack died.
“Jack Pearson’s Son,” which aired back on February 14, was the last time we heard from Kate and Kevin. As you’ll recall, Kate and Toby agreed to put the brakes on their relationship until Kate was more open to talking about Jack‘s death. Kevin squandered his opening night by rushing to help Randall after his nervous breakdown.
Here’s a look at all the action in “What Now?”
The scenes in the past open with Rebecca packing up to head out on tour. She’s angry that Jack is not going home to say goodbye to his wife. Instead, he’s at the office, celebrating the retirement of a man he doesn’t like. Miguel tries to get him to leave and he does.
When Jack finally arrives, Rebecca complains to Jack about him not coming home on time. It’s clear that the tension that boiled over when Jack learned about Rebecca’s past with Ben is still there. Rebecca tries to tell him about the kids’ schedule, as Jack isn’t taking things too seriously. They laugh about Kevin’s relationship with Sophie as Ben arrives. She hugs the kids. Jack kisses her on the cheek, opens the door for Rebecca and she leaves. Kate sees that something’s up and he leaves the home to watch her go. He’s too late to give her a proper kiss.
In the next scene in the past, Jack drops Sophie and Kevin off at Sophie’s house. Kate is still sitting in the back and she asks Jack if she and her mom are OK. “Look, it’s marriage,” he says. “OK? Just stuff. We’re fine.” She’s clearly not buying it and asks why he didn’t go to her show. He tells her that they’re the last thing in the world they need to worry about. “Don’t sit all tonight and be sad,” she tells him. “How can I be sad when I have a kid like you?” he asks as she leaves the car.
Sadly, a night alone is exactly what Jack has. He’s watching an old black & white movie and eating Chinese food. He decides to leave and heads to a bar to meet his co-workers. He lets co-worker Heather (Megan West) get him a drink. (Heather is the girl Jack thought Miguel was having an affair with in “I Call Marriage.”)
At the bar, Heather asks about the family and Jack gives a full list of all the places Rebecca is going. She tells her that he knows something is going on and puts her hand on his lap. He’s had enough, telling her that she’s embarrassing herself. He leaves to make a phone call.
The episode kicks off in the near-present, with William writing a letter and packing up his room at Randall’s house. As the camera moves over, we find Randall looking into the room with a box. It’s been a couple of days since William’s death and Beth tells him that he doesn’t really need to be the one to pack it all up. But Randall says it’s OK and he starts wondering how he could honor his biological father’s legacy. Beth tells him that the only thing anyone expects from him is to plan his service. They discover the letter William wrote.
At a coffee shop, Kevin is on the phone, desperate to get a New York Times critic to go to opening night of his play. Sophie is there and he explains that the critic doesn’t want to show up because he already went to the failed opening night. Sophie asks if he could just explain what happened, but he won’t talk about Randall. “You know, you’re sexy when you’re loyal,” Sophie tells him.
Kevin tries to get Sophie to go to the play and sit with his family, but she refuses. Instead, she’ll only go into the theater after the lights go down. She still doesn’t want the Pearson family to know that they’re back together, especially Kate. Sophie still won’t let Kevin sleep with her since they started dating. She cuts the conversation short because she has to go to work. She reminds him that he won her back, so he should be able to win this critic back.
At the dinner table at Randall’s house, he explains to his girls that William left behind some instructions. William wants them to smile and plan his memorial. “Adults make these things said, and I want you two to make it fun,” he wrote to them. “Fill it with things that make you smile.” The girls don’t even want to let their dad deliver a eulogy.
Some time later, Kate is on the phone, ordering balloons for the memorial. Toby sits, saying that he’d like to go back to Los Angeles to spend time with her. She’s ignoring him, but Toby tries to get her to open up. She’s trying to make everything special for Randall and her nieces and takes out her frustration with the poor woman on the other line.
After the break, Randall is trying to write his eulogy for William, but is having trouble. He looks at William’s poems for a second when Jesse suddenly calls. Jesse tells William that he’s in Chicago and is having trouble coming to terms. He tells Randall about a boy addicted to Vicodin they met at one of their meetings. William pretended to be interested in football just so the boy could have someone to relate to. While telling this story, Jesse breaks down in tears. “He was a soft arm rest for weary souls to lean on,” Jesse says of William. Randall thanks Jesse for calling and tells him to take care.
Kevin bursts into the office of the Times critic, Bandon Novak (Ken Lerner) and begs him to reconsider. Novak tells him that he thinks Kevin choked under the pressure, but he tells Novak that he’s uprooted his entire life. Kevin makes his plea, but before we hear an answer, we go back to Randall’s house.
A mail man delivers a box to Randall and he had no idea that the man knew William. The mail main breaks into tears as he tells Randall that the entire neighborhood will miss William. As the mail man leaves, Beth asks who the box was from. It came from work and it wasn’t even personally signed. Beth storms up the stairs, as Randall asks her if she’s all right. She nods as she walks up.
Rebecca and Miguel head over to Randall’s house. She’s still nervous about seeing Randall for the first time since Christmas and reminds Miguel that it was Randall’s daughters who invited them to William’s memorial. He only “tolerates” her, Rebecca says. Next, we see Kate and Toby bringing in the balloons. Kevin meets them at the house, then Randall shows up and asks if they are ready for the “fun-eral.” Rebecca then arrives.
The first thing the girls do is re-enact William’s perfect day – complete with pills… er… M&M’s.
When Randall tries to get Beth to join the memorial, he finds her in the kitchen. She feels left out because he got to take William to Memphis and the girls got their “fun-eral,” but she never got to say goodbye to William herself. After a commercial break, the girls call for the toast. They let Randall talk about his father. He says that the reason his father didn’t want him to speak was because there was another person who could give a better speech – Beth.
She is left speechless for a bit, but once she starts talking about William, she goes on a roll. She lists all the things William was, and remembers he was her friend. Every part of the house now reminds her of him. “William’s moves weren’t fast, but they were endearing as hell. He was endearing as hell.” They will remember things as “before William and after William,” she says through tears.
Kate is flooded with memories of her father and she runs out the door. Toby thinks he can help, but it’s Randall who runs outside to comfort Kate. He lets her open up to him about how things have changed since her time at the weight-loss camp. “All this stuff is coming up about dad,” she says. Randall tells her that he’s OK. He tells her about a dream he had about Jack meeting Randall. The two were having a conversation like they were best friends, talking about driving.
“I’m not the guy to tell you how to handle your feelings, but I’ve learned that you got to let them out,” Randall tells her. “You got to share them with the people who love you.” She says she understands, but he reminds her that Toby is there for her to talk to.
Tess and Annie tell the adults that they are going on William’s walk route. They’ve provided everyone with fake fedoras, but Randall gets to wear William’s real hat. During the walk, Kate tells Toby that she’s ready to open up to him later, but Kevin announces that he has to leave to go into the city for his play.
During the walk, Randall and Rebecca finally talk. Rebecca tells Randall that he came into this world with a lot of traits that he got directly from William. She insists that she finally tell him that she thought she was doing the right thing by never introducing him to his real father. She again tells him that William was “so-far gone” when she first met him. But when she met him again, he was so much better and she got scared the moment he started asking about his son. She said that she always had a plan to tell him, but she always lost her nerve. She was so terrified that the “big lie” would devastate him. She thought she would lose him and she couldn’t lose him. It was no excuse, and she admits that it was selfish and wrong. She thinks that it was her fault that he didn’t get more time with William.
“I got enough,” Randall says as he stops her. “It was enough time to know that I love him. I loved him and I know that he loved me.”
“I’m so glad,” she says. The two tell each other that they still love each other and Randall kisses her on the cheek. She continues to apologize as they walk away and the scene ends.
The last 10 minutes of the show start with Kevin making last second preparations before the opening. Sophie shows up at his dressing room. The two share a kiss, and he gives him a crutch for when he breaks his leg. It’s a half-hour before show time, so she leaves and he thanks her for the crutch.
The play goes off without any problems and everyone’s in the theater, watching. As it ends, everyone gives him a standing ovation, but Sophie leaves just after the curtain goes up. After the show, everyone congratulates him for his performance. “There is now a man where the Manny once stood,” Randall says.
After the show, Randall and Beth note that they’re late to relieve the babysitter. So, Randall rushes to the office. When he arrives, he tells his boss about all the time he’s spent devoted to the company. But on the day of his father’s memorial, they sent him pears, which he’s allergic to. “How do I honor my father’s legacy? And I realized that I honor it by taking what I’ve learned from how he lived his life and having it shape the way I go on living mine and so, here it is Tyler – I quit.”
His boss tries to convince him otherwise, but Randall says no. “I came. I saw. I conquered. Sanjay, it’s all on you, bother. Peace.”
When he’s asked what he’s going to do, Randall says, “I don’t know. Maybe instead of running, I’ll go for a walk. Slow it down a little. Talk to my mail man. That seems like a good way to start the day.”
Outside the theater, Sophie meets Kevin. She tells him that he broke the hell out of his leg. Unfortunately, the Times critic never showed up. He says it doesn’t matter. During the show, he realized that the play wasn’t all that mattered. He said he realized that he came back to New York to win back his girl. “I’m not messing things up with you again. And however long it takes to convince you of that, I’ll just wait. I cam here for you. That’s all.” Back at Kevin’s apartment, the two finally decide to sleep together.
Beth arrives home alone and finds a stack of postcards from Memphis, written by William. He really did say goodbye to her. “Goodbye my dearest Beth, the daughter I never had,” she wrote.
Kevin is woken up by (drum roll please) the real Ron Howard, who was actually at his play! “Man, you were phenomenal,” Ron Howard says. He tells Kevin that he’d be perfect for a part in a movie he’s working on.
In a scene in the past, Jack calls a friend to ask if a babysitter can take care of the kids for a night. After this scene, we see Kate finally ready to talk to Toby about Jack’s death. Kate says it was her fault that Jack is dead. She asked her father to go see Rebecca in Cleveland and he decided that it was the right thing to do. He got behind the wheel of the car, even though he was drunk. Even though we know what happened, the episode ends just before it does.
The season finale for This Is Us airs on March 14 at 9 p.m. ET. We will finally see how Jack died.