‘This Is Us’: Kevin & Kate’s Bond Is Tested in ‘The Graduates’ (RECAP)

This Is Us - Season 3
Spoiler Alert
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 14, of This Is Us, “The Graduates”]

This Is Us is finally back and on a regular schedule after weeks of unpredictable airing, and things aren’t getting any easier for the Pearson family.

This week’s episode revolved around two different graduation days — the Big 3’s high school graduation and Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) celebration over her finishing college. The episode was jam-packed with heightened emotional moments, including a little cliffhanger ending, so buckle up for the rundown below and beware of the bumpy spoiler road ahead.

Of course, you can’t connect the Pearsons’ current lives to the past without Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), so the episode opens up with Jack and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) 1982 outing to a local Radio Shack, where Jack insists on purchasing a camera for the family. With the toddler Big 3 in tow, Rebecca caves and allows Jack his moment to make new memories with the upgrade. The scene shifts to the ’90s as Rebecca attempts to find a new camera for the Big 3’s high school graduation.

There, she runs into a salesman, Matt Dickson (Matt Corboy) — a single father whose kids attended middle school with the Big 3. Their exchange is innocent, and it’s clear Rebecca’s having a difficult time, because the task reminds her of Jack, but things turn bad when he asks her out sometime. She walks away, but an emotional breakdown is bubbling under her mostly composed face.

Back in the present, at Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) house, he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) — who also has her first day of teaching — stress over schedules considering his impending service in Philadelphia. On Beth’s way out, Randall tells her to have a good day, but his is soon worried when he gets a panicked call from Deja (Lyric Ross), but viewers are put on hold with a scene between Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan).

It’s graduation day in L.A. and Toby’s pulling out all the stops as Kate makes her way to the living room and finds Rebecca there. Back in Kevin’s hotel room, things aren’t so cheery, because the bottles surrounding him make it clear he’s been on a bender. When he wakes up to a call from Zoe (Melanie Liburd), who reveals she’s minutes away, it’s clear that he’s been lying about his plans when she mentions his supposed morning meeting with Steven Soderbergh. He diverts Zoe by telling her to meet him at the party for Kate rather than his hotel.

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Meanwhile, in the past, graduation day for the Big 3 isn’t being received well by Kate (Hannah Zeile) who is mad at Kevin (Logan Shroyer) about leaving for college in New York so soon after Jack’s death while Randall (Niles Fitch) is worried about his robes as valedictorian. Ultimately, teenage Kate has no interest in attending graduation, much to her family’s sadness, which makes her college graduation in the present all the more special.

In the midst of party prep with friend Madison (Caitlin Thompson), Kevin arrives and greets Kate, and her twin intuition is automatic because she knows something’s up with him. Back with Randall, he’s on his way to Deja’s school when he spots her walking — the issue? Deja left school because her teacher shared a personal essay with the school newspaper, and now all of the students know about her past homelessness. The news shakes Randall, who is speechless in the moment but collects himself to confront the teacher.

Initially, he comes on strong by telling Ms. Cunningham how embarrassed Deja is about the exposure, but he’s softened when she begins to cry. He apologizes but tells her that Deja’s feelings are important to him. She shares that she thinks Deja is really smart and that’s why she had done what she did. The teacher also tells Randall that Deja is capable of skipping eighth grade, leaving him with a lot to think about.

Back at Kate’s party, Kate asks Kevin if he’s okay, voicing her previously unaired concern, and he assures her that he is as Zoe shows up. But Kate catches him when Zoe starts asking them about their recent activities that Kevin so clearly lied about. Before she can question him, Kevin offers up a speech to his sister but is sidetracked by the bar in the background. Looking for an escape, he tells them he just got a text from his agent for a meeting and leaves to drink away from their prying eyes.

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Randall continues to deal with Deja, telling her what the teacher said about her moving up, but she feels like it’s special treatment that she just doesn’t want. In saying that, she implies that Randall likes special treatment, in being a story, but she tells him she wants more than that.

Worried about Kevin, Kate keeps texting him without answer, while Rebecca gets a selfie with her grad daughter, telling Kate that she always wanted to see her in a graduation cap and gown. Rebecca says that she knows it was hard for both her and Kate following Jack’s death, and the moment melts into a flashback at Randall’s graduation from high school, when Rebecca is overcome with Jack’s absence. Miguel (Jon Huertas) suggests that she go to a grief group meeting, and offers to record the ceremony, but tells her she has to be there for Randall no matter how hard it is.

When the scene returns to the present, Rebecca tells Kate that she thinks her graduation came “right on friggin’ time,” and Kate jokes that her mother dropped the “f-bomb.”

By now it’s clear Kate skipped her high school graduation, and viewers are shown her leaving the car and heading into the small apartment the Pearsons shared following the fire. There, she watches old home videos, and has a moment of self-reflection.

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Unable to shake her concern in the present, though, Kate seeks out Kevin, whom she finds at the hotel drinking, and he’s honest with her that’s he’s had a hard time following Nicky’s (Griffin Dunne) refusal of help. He begins bargaining that he’ll go to a meeting as long as she doesn’t tell Zoe.

At Randall’s, Deja opens up about the reason she doesn’t want to jump to high school so soon, and says that she enjoys her routine for the first time in her life. Randall listens and understands that she doesn’t want to give that up so soon considering high school is a huge change.

On Kate and Kevin’s trip to an AA meeting, she slows the car and says she thinks her water has broken, but she’s only 28 weeks pregnant — too early to give birth. Kevin tells her to pull over and calls Toby, but in doing so admits he can’t drive because he’s been drinking. They get an ambulance, and Toby’s waiting at the hospital when they arrive. It’s clear he’s angry at Kevin.

After his exchange with Deja, Randall misplaces his understanding and puts tension back into his relationship with Beth when he suggests, minutes after Beth arrives home from her first day, that she give up teaching dance until he’s done with his political gig. Needless to say, this didn’t go well, and why should it — Randall has been a little selfish with his career and relationship views.

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Back in the past, Rebecca is on edge as the Big 3 are out at a party, and she ends up calling Miguel, who takes her to a grief group meeting, a first step to healing. At the party, Kate tells Kevin that he should go to New York and not feel responsible, when Randall joins them, he asks if they’ll stay close in the next chapter of their lives, as we’re shown a present scene of Kate at the hospital with Kevin, who tells her things will be okay. That’s only backed up when Randall (who we can never be mad at for too long) shows up as well.

“Hey, I know the answer. What’s gonna happen to us, as long as we stay in each other’s lives, we’ll be okay,” teenage Randall says. And just as he reinforces this idea with an “I promise,” Randall does the same in the present when Kate says that this baby can’t die.

So how will everything turn out? Fans will have to tune in next week, but until then here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • By the end of next episode there could be a new Pearson joining the family, and considering the pain this family has endured we hope all goes as well as possible.
  • In the meantime, Toby is likely to have a few words with Kevin. It wouldn’t be unfair for him to somewhat blame Kevin’s behavior for causing Kate’s premature labor.
  • What will Kevin tell Zoe? Will she be ready to help him or turn her back on him for lying? From what we’ve learned about her, it could go either way.

This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC