‘This Is Us’ Season 4 Premiere: The Pearsons Meet Some ‘Strangers’ (RECAP)

This Is Us - Season 4
Spoiler Alert
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 1, of This Is Us, “Strangers”]

This Is Us is finally back, and it’s not your usual family ensemble in the premiere episode titled “Strangers.” At first we join Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) as they return from their cross-country adventure to California, but are then introduced to three separate storylines with all-new characters.

Thankfully, by the time the episode ends, almost everything is clear when it comes to their connections with our core Pearson clan, but the possibilities are endless as to how their paths will continue. Below, we’re breaking down every major story explored in the premiere, but beware of major spoilers (you’ll really want to watch this episode before reading).

Jack’s Not Going Anywhere

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

In the main storyline for the episode, we return to the past with Rebecca and Jack as they continue their new romance. A few days after arriving home from their California trip, Jack caves and calls her first, which ends in an invitation to join her, her parents and her parents’ friends.

In an effort to impress her family, Jack goes out to the store to pick up a new suit coat, where he meets Miguel (Jon Huertas). But when Jack sees the price of the coat, Miguel does him a solid by allowing him to buy it with the promise of being able to return it. “This girl, she’s worth it?” Miguel asks Jack, to which he answers, “She’s like no one you’ve ever seen.” The exchange is more profound when you think about the fact that Miguel and Rebecca end up together, but it’s nice to see his first encounter with Jack nonetheless.

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When it’s time to meet the parents, Rebecca warns that her mother (Elizabeth Perkins) can be a lot, that her father (Tim Matheson) is great and that she’s warned them to not bring up Vietnam. All of Rebecca’s statements are quickly brushed aside when moments after sitting, her father asks Jack about Vietnam. It’s a tense dinner to say the least, and when the topic of Jack’s parents is raised, he tells them bluntly that his family isn’t perfect and that Vietnam was terrible — in the Jack fashion viewers have come to love. His speech ends with a promise not to go anywhere when it comes to Rebecca.

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

As the couple is leaving, Rebecca’s father catches up with Jack and tells him he’s not good enough for his daughter. They later head to a bar for a better meal and Jack asks Rebecca to sing for him, capping their storyline for the night.

Meet Cassidy

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Jennifer Morrison’s character has finally been revealed as Cassidy Sharp, a military woman who starts her story overseas as she video chats with her husband (played by Nick Wechsler) and laments missing their son. When she’s called to duty, we follow her and her fellow troops as she checks in with a contact (played by Bahara Golestani).

During a tense conversation, she requests a photo that the woman promised to her of a known terrorist the troops are trying to find. In exchange for helping Sharp, the woman asks for the village to be given water and they come to an agreement. Later on though, we learn that the target Sharp wanted to apprehend was taken out by a predator drone, causing civilian deaths, but her contact does survive.

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We later see her return home to her husband and son, but she’s not right — you can tell by her zoned-out expression. One day she returns home tipsy and her husband is clearly agitated, but when she hears how much their broken water heater will cost to fix, she accidentally lashes out and hits her son.

Her husband kicks her out, and she ends up at a Veteran center where, in a support group session, she admits that she got upset about the water heater because it’s the same amount of money they’d give civilians in villages overseas for loved ones lost in the crossfire. “I can’t feel anything,” she says to the group. Cassidy’s story finds its Pearson connection during this moment as something comes crashing through the window at the hands of Nicky (Griffin Dunne). The move lands the old man in handcuffs with little else explained.

Meet Malik

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Asante Blackk’s (When They See Us) character Malik is introduced as he sits around with friends, but his eyes are glued to his phone when one of the boys teases him about being “obsessed with her.” But who is “her”? Malik says, “If she was your girl you’d be obsessed too.” As they continue to chat, one friend brings up a “kick-back” (a.k.a. barbecue), but Malik isn’t sure he can make it to the gathering.

Later on he returns home with a burger in hand for his working mom (Marsha Stephanie Blake), then announces he’s going upstairs. She threatens him to not wake “that baby,” but he doesn’t listen. Upon his arrival in the baby’s room, we learn he’s the father of the little girl and she was the one he was watching on his phone.

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The next morning Malik heads downstairs to find his parents (his father is played by Omar Epps) having breakfast together. Their family dynamic is cute, there’s no way around it, but mom nixes his chances of going to the kick-back with his friends. After working a shift at the garage together, Malik and his father have a blunt conversation about responsibility, with the father warning his son against going down the wrong path.

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In exchange for the promise, his father says he will babysit so Malik can go to the kick-back. It’s there that his path crosses Deja’s (Lyric Ross) who is introduced to him by a mutual friend named Sky. And it’s clear that they’ve hit it off….

Mystery Man

(Credit: NBC)

One character we’re introduced to without much context is a blind musician who makes a connection with a waitress named Lucy (Auden Thornton). As they chat we learn he can see some light, but asks her to describe the diner to him — in doing so we learn she has aspirations to open her own place some day. When they hold hands, a romance is set in motion, and we see it in the changing size of the man’s fluffy white pup.

Towards the end of the episode, we see the now-married couple get into a car together and Lucy reveals she’s pregnant. Despite her dreams, he promises that they’ll make it work, and when they arrive at their destination we learn that this timeline is part of the future as it’s interspersed with the current timeline with the Pearsons we all know.

Meanwhile, in the present timeline, the Pearsons celebrate the Big 3’s birthday with Randall (Sterling K. Brown) in his new home with Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their daughters. When waiting for Kate (Chrissy Metz) to have cake, Kevin (Justin Hartley) receives a call about Nicky’s arrest when he’s with Rebecca and Miguel.

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As for Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan), they learn their son isn’t picking up visual cues and never will during a doctor’s appointment scene. But in the following snippet from the future, an announcer introduces Jack Damon to a crowd and the mystery man is no longer a mystery.

He is none other than Kate and Toby’s son, which makes total sense considering his charm is similar to his grandfather’s. The applause suggests he achieved what his grandmother Rebecca always wanted — a successful music career. Talk about a twist.

This episode certainly evokes a similar feel to the series premiere in 2016, but let us know what you though of the extended installment for yourself in the comments below.

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