[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers about "A Father's Advice," the Season 2 premiere of This Is Us.]
Not two seconds in and the tissue box is already in use, for This Is Us’ Season 2 premiere, which begins with narration from a ghost. The ghost in question isn’t Jack, nor is his death immediately explained, but rather William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) words to his once long-separated son, Randall. As clips of a young William writing at a type writer are intermittently shown with glimpses of “The Big 3,” the sage old words, “It’s better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all,” are uttered, setting the tone for the episode.
Picking up where last season left off, This Is Us finds the Pearson siblings pursing their new plans for life on the day of their thirty-seventh birthday, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) looking to adopt, Kate (Chrissy Metz) gearing up for a singing audition, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) working on Ron Howard’s new film. While life seems to be moving forward in the present, the Pearson’s of the past are only just heading into what is sure to be a storm of emotion. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are dealing with the fallout of their explosive season ending fight, and the chaos finally finds its way into their kid’s lives.
After arriving home from the party that Kevin, Kate and Randall had been attending last season finale, they are confused over finding their mother home since she should have been on tour. “What’s mom doing back,” a teenager Kate (Hannah Zeile) ponders aloud. They are rounded up by Rebecca who brings them to a local diner-type setting where they meet up with Jack. Facing their kids, the couple share the news that they will be spending some time apart, to which Kate gets emotional and storms out. In true Kevin fashion, he follows his sister out to comfort, and when Jack suggests that Randall tag along he receives are sarcastic response from his perfectionist son. This small moment is uncharacteristic for the usually polite and straight-laced Randall, but is crucial later in the episode.
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When Rebecca asks Jack if they are making the right choice by doing this to their family, he tells her that, “We’ll be fine,” and although Rebecca believes this as well, she doesn’t want to go back on their plan to take a break. “I need to stop feeling so disappointed,” Rebecca says, in regards of her and Jack’s relationship, before parting the table. In the first full scene from present day, Randall is seen serving his daughter’s breakfast, who are questioning his role in the house, noting that he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) have essentially swapped roles, as she is now the working family member. Randall claps back at his daughters, chiding them for not being more progressive with their thoughts. Before Beth leaves the house, Randall alludes to secret adoption plans they have for later in the day.
Next, we are reintroduced to Kevin on set of his big Hollywood break with Ron Howard, where he is surprised with a birthday cake. After leaving the studio he makes a call to Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) who is supposed to be on her way to visiting him in Los Angeles, when he sees otherwise he cannot hide his disappointment. Sophie shares in the disappointment as she explains that her mother who has MS isn’t doing well. Kevin does his best to be supportive when Sophie laments the loss of her potential Kardashian sighting from the planned visit, to which Kevin responds, “They’re like gremlins, by next week there will be like a bazillion more,” and the irony of this quote relating to the current Kardashian pregnancies is almost too coincidental. After hanging up the phone, Kevin lets the façade fall and he is sad that Sophie won’t be there for his birthday.
Finally, Kate and Toby are back as well, enjoying life as an engaged couple, the duo are discussing Kate’s audition outfit, and when things start to get frisky, Kevin comes bursting through the door. The interruption is clearly unwelcome to Toby (Chris Sullivan), but Kate embraces her brother as they discuss the update on Sophie’s status. The scene shows an obvious divide between Kate’s connection to Toby versus Kevin, to which Toby remarks sarcastically, “Love it when you guys talk twin in front of me.”
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Moving back in time, the next scene finds Jack at Miguel’s (Jon Huertas), where he recounts the events that took place between him and Rebecca. Miguel in an attempt to take Jack’s mind off the situation suggests that he accompany him to the office, when Jack declines, he claims it is because Rebecca will be calling. Meanwhile, Rebecca takes the kids out to see the latest Tom Hanks flick where she is trying to clear her head for some much-needed stress-free time. Both Jack and Rebecca can’t seem to settle down, and their love for one another is obvious as the separation progresses.
When it comes time to visit the adoption agency Randall and Beth have differing opinions on the matter, as they discuss options with the agent, Beth loses her grip and tells Randall that he hasn’t allowed her to digest the decision they’re making together. Instead of turning into an all-out battle, Beth removes herself from the situation to take a breather. While Kate takes in the scene at her audition, she has flashbacks of her time at the public pool as a kid, where she was mocked. In a moment of weakness, Kate removed herself, just like Beth, from a situation that just seemed to be too much for her to handle, leaving the audition behind.
In another scene from the past, Jack waits by the phone at Miguel’s while Rebecca and the kids sit in a dim movie theater. After moving down the line of their faces in the row of seats, the camera settles on a teenage Randall (Niles Fitch), who has a flashback from the previous night. In Randall’s memory, he is shown at the party where he observes his siblings enjoying their time, feeling left out, he heads for home where he observes Jack and Rebecca’s blow-out fight, suddenly clarifying Randall’s odd behavior towards Jack in the diner that morning.
After leaving Beth at the adoption agency, Randall went to confide in his mother about the situation, asking if she had known right away that she wanted to adopt him. Truthfully Rebecca admits that Jack pushed her to do it, “can’t you just feel it, can’t you just see it,” Jack says to Rebecca in a hospital flashback. Rebecca tells Randall that she doesn’t regret the decision, and that it was one of the best choices she had ever made. Finally, Rebecca says that her and Jack’s “marriage wasn’t perfect, but none are,” in an attempt to console her son.
While Randall went soul-searching, so did Beth who is seen sitting in a park with William pre-Memphis. “He brought you home without even asking me,” Beth says, mirroring her frustration from the present situation. William comforts her and the scene between the two allows Beth to see a possible solution for her and Randall.
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Back in Los Angeles, the trio of Toby, Kate and Kevin are heading into an exclusive restaurant while Toby plugs Kate with questions about her audition. After sitting down, Kate admits that she didn’t go, to which Kevin tells Toby that he was trying to cheer her up when he found out. Clearly Toby feels second rate to his fiancée’s brother, and cannot hide it any longer. Meanwhile, Randall returns home to Beth and tells her that he thinks they are “perfectly imperfect,” two which Beth agrees and asks Randall to accompany her somewhere.
In the past, Jack is seen entering a bar, but instead of drinking, he attempts to find work for Rebecca, asking if they would allow a solo performer, after being turned down, Jack exits the building in an angered state. All of this happening as Rebecca sits at home, unable to read the book in her lap.
Shortly after leaving the restaurant, Kevin seeks out Toby, asking him to work things out. Toby tells Kevin “I’m supposed to be her person,” referencing the strong bond between the siblings. When Kate catches the boys discussion, she ditches them to go back to her audition, claiming that she doesn’t need their influence to accomplish things in her own life.
Next, Randall and Beth are seen sitting in William’s favorite spot, which Beth reveals has been a thinking spot for her everyday. She gives Randall a bound version of his father’s poetry book, telling him that she wants to change a life like Randall wants, but that maybe they need to look for someone older. She points out a group of teens drinking in the park, trying to show Randall that they can turn someone’s life around, rather than taking the easy way out by raising a newborn.
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Going back to Kate’s audition, she stands up for herself, asking to be heard even when she’s told auditions are over. Getting up to the microphone, she sings a few seconds of “Nothing Compares to You.” Kate doesn’t accept the dismissive tone, asking that she be given the same opportunity as anyone with a more acceptable physique. The man running the audition bluntly tells Kate that it has nothing to do with size, and instead of letting the words crush her, she takes them in stride, telling Toby and Kevin when she exits, that she will work her way up. Before meeting them though, Kevin and Toby continue their talk from earlier, Kevin defends his sibling bond, trying to tell Toby that Kate is the person who has been with him every second of his life, and the person who told him about their dad passing. When Kate suggests a night cap, Kevin takes his leave and finds that Sophie was able to make it after all.
In the final scenes of the episode, Rebecca goes to bring Jack home, telling him that, “I shouldn’t have let you leave,” and, “That’s not us.” Jack admits to her that he has had a drinking problem for some time and doesn’t want to be around the kids until he is better. After the door closes between them, Rebecca knocks on the door again, and says she will not leave without him, that they will fix this problem together. In the car she says they will be fine, and future clips of the night Jack dies are finally revealed, showing a crying Kate and Randall with an unknown character in a living room, Rebecca driving with Jack’s personal effects on the front seat as she pulls up to a charred Pearson home, a mournful scream of heartbreak escaping her. In the last scene, Kate turns to Randall and tell him they have to tell Kevin, alluding to Kevin’s earlier admittance to Toby that Kate was the one to tell them about their father’s death.
This Is Us, Tuesdays 9/8c, NBC