‘This Is Us’ Season 5 Premiere: Randall’s History Is Revisited as The Big 3 Turn 40 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 5 Premiere of This Is Us, “Forty: Part 1” & “Forty: Part 2”]
The guessing game of what’s going to happen next for the Pearson family has finally ended as NBC’s fan-favorite drama This Is Us returned for Season 5 this Tuesday.
The super-sized premiere which included two back-to-back installments — “Forty: Part 1″ and Forty: Part 2” — sewed some of Season 4’s loose threads while introducing new ones along the way. As usual, the show bounces through time, juxtaposing the present with past events that are eerily timely.
Below, we’re delving into all of the major twists and turns that took place in the epic Season 5 premiere, but beware of spoilers ahead.
Diving Back In With Kevin
The episode opens with the moment in which Kevin (Justin Hartley) learns that Madison (Caitlin Thompson) is pregnant with twins. She mentions concerns about the world, but Kevin reassures that the coronavirus isn’t serious, otherwise he would have heard from his agents. Just as he states this, his phone buzzes indicating that the situation is more dire than he would have known. In a small time jump we see Kevin share the news of his impending fatherhood with sister Kate (Chrissy Metz) and brother-in-law Toby (Chris Sullivan) who are over the moon to learn he’s expecting with Madison. Even neighbor Gregory (Timothy Omundson) wishes them congratulations during the front lawn reveal.
As Kevin and Madison contemplate their future, she allows him to set up in her guest room as they bunker down for the quarantine. On a night in, she suggests that they take a road trip in an RV across the country to see Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) who have set up shop in the Pearson family cabin after Rebecca’s St. Louis-based medical trial was canceled due to COVID-19.
So, Kevin agrees to travel with Madison, Kate, Toby and baby Jack to visit just in time for The Big 3’s 40th birthday.
Randall in Philly
Meanwhile, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) is set up in his own world as he and his girls take in the political events taking place around them. While daughter Deja (Lyric Ross) is worrying about the virus, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) is busy informing her family about Tom Hanks’ COVID-19 diagnosis, noting that people will care now that the beloved actor has it.
After a day at work, we see Randall’s routine of being greeted at the door by Beth as she sanitizes him. He talks about PPE distribution in the community and the struggles he’s facing with his job as a councilman. During their chat, Beth also reveals that Madison is pregnant with Kevin’s twins, which is surprising to both of them. In a show of good will, Randall texts his brother congratulations and we see various short but civil texts between the pair as tension over their Season 4 fight hangs in the air. Right after receiving a one word “thanks” response, Randall’s phone gets an alert of the news story focusing on George Floyd’s death.
That evening he and Beth talk about the horribleness of it all, repeating over and over “eight minutes” which is the amount of time a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he was essentially lifeless. “It’s too much,” Beth says to her husband, who continues to go about his schedule despite the hardships. During a virtual therapy session with Dr. Leigh, Randall discusses the financial difficulties and burdens his family faces with the shutdowns, but when the conversation turns to the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, it’s clear Randall shuts down a bit. Later that night, he sits with his family and watches protests on the news and receives a text with photos of baby Jack, Toby and Kate at one of the marches in Los Angeles.
In an attempt to relieve some of his stress, Beth tries to get sexy with her husband on his birthday, but he wants a “rain check.” When concerns over his mental state seem to hang in the air, Randall shows Beth his hands, promising her he’s solid. She then asks about the family who are gathering at the cabin for the kids’ 40th birthday and Randall says he’ll never know if that’s his real birthday because the only people who know the truth — his biological parents — aren’t around.
While Deja and Tess (Eris Baker) work on a cake as a birthday surprise for Randall, Annie (Faithe Herman) creates a special smoothie for him. Randall plants himself outside on the family stoop to get some fresh air where he’s approached by Malik (Asante Blackk). The pair have a heart-to-heart about the Black Lives Matter movement, with Malik talking about his father’s support. Randall realizes that he never had that kind of support in his white household in which he endured and watched racial violence alone on the news. We see Randall then ignore an incoming call from Kate, but he soon changes his response as he notices her concerns over Rebecca’s missing state.
While Rebecca and Miguel are settled in at the cabin, gardening and enjoying life together, Kate doesn’t like being there without Randall around and complains to Toby. When she tries to call Randall though, she doesn’t hear back. Kate is equally weirded out by Kevin and Madison’s little budding romance as she struggles to picture her brother and best friend together.
Things aren’t so great for them though as Madison scares after an accidental fall because she can’t feel the babies kicking. Kevin agrees to bring her to a nearby doctor, but they don’t share this info with anyone else. Meanwhile, Kate and Toby are decorating as Rebecca announces that she’s leaving to pick up a cake, which prompts her scary memory-bending outing fans saw during the Midseason 4 finale. Kate is clearly worried, but Miguel seems unperturbed.
As for Kevin and Madison, they pay a visit to the doctors where only one baby’s heartbeat can be heard on the monitor, causing a further flurry of panic. Despite the concerns, Kevin tries his best to stay upbeat, promising that everything will be fine — he even proposes to Madison in the height of emotions. Once they learn the babies are actually fine, she tries to release him from the proposal, but he doesn’t want to be.
As the search for Rebecca picks up, Kate turns to Randall for help. Kevin goes out to look upon returning back at the cabin, but not long after leaving Miguel gets a call that the police have found her. He wants to make sure Rebecca doesn’t feel panic and asks everyone to keep their emotions in check. Just as Kate is catching up with Kevin after Rebecca has come home, she hears him refer to Madison as fiancee and wants an explanation. But this is interrupted when Randall arrives, spoiling the news Kate was just about to share with Kevin.
The face-to-face is intense but civil as he’s let inside the house and confirms that he’s being tested for the virus multiple times a week. While Kevin insists Rebecca has been doing great on her recent meds and Kate apologizes for causing panic, Randall is just thankful their mom is okay and goes to check on her upstairs. When she awakes to find her son there, Rebecca asks about Beth and the girls, but he tells her he isn’t staying and is only visiting. He apologizes about pushing St. Louis on her and she mentions that her bad memory spell began when she thought she saw William in the park. The conversation turns concerning when Rebecca asks about Beth and the girls again.
Downstairs, Kate tells Kevin that she wants him to fix the rift between himself and Randall because she’s getting weird vibes from him too now. Meanwhile, trying to piece Rebecca’s blank spell together, Randall finds meds in the bathroom cabinet and wonders if they could have interacted badly with her Alzheimer’s prescription. In the kitchen, Toby and Miguel talk about taking things “one day at a time,” suggesting that Rebecca believes that her bright future is possible by taking it step by step. When the doctor calls to chat about Rebecca’s situation, Randall brings up his theory which is confirmed over the phone, meaning a bad combo of drugs caused the memory issue that day after Rebecca took allergy meds for a poison ivy rash.
After Randall knows Rebecca is going to be fine, he begins to leave, bidding everyone farewell before heading for his car. Kate confronts him in the yard, wondering why he’s being weird towards her, but he can’t hide his pain as he talks about her support for racial injustice now, when he’s been dealing with it forever. Tears in both their eyes, he doesn’t want to hurt her, but he tells Kate he can’t make things better for everyone anymore. She understands, but it’s tough and she heads back inside.
Next up is Kevin who follows after Randall to reveal that he’s having a boy and girl with Madison, and he asks for advice. Randall tells him to let the girl get away with anything because her mother will keep her in line. Kevin also tells Randall that Madison might be the one. The unspoken tension doesn’t lift as they wish each other happy birthday and Randall drives away.
On Randall’s way home from the cabin he calls Dr. Leigh to tell her he will be leaving her to see a Black therapist because he feels he’ll be more comfortable and she’s very supportive of the idea. At the cabin, Miguel finishes dinner for Rebecca who worries about forgetting the little things. But her husband is optimistic, revealing a handful of seeds he wants to plant that will sprout a sizable tree within 6-10 years, a symbolic promise of the future.
Toby and Kate get a surprise of their own when they learn they’ve been matched at the adoption agency for a child. Kevin and Madison continue to enjoy their little bubble before the Pearsons minus Randall celebrate with cake. At Randall’s house, he tells Beth he’s not having a breakdown after his stressful day, but instead he’s just sad. “It’s just so tragic,” he tells her of what their people are going through. She gives him a pep talk, reminding him of his resiliency, and promises there will be no surprises in 2020. Of course, this isn’t quite the case as the final flashback scene suggests.
Flashing Back to the Big 3’s Births
In the episodes’ first and main flashback sequence, we see a young William (Jermel Nakia) tending to his crying son when he discovers his love — and Randall’s biological mother who recently gave birth at home — Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes) appears to be overdosing. The scene shifts to a time further in the past where Laurel and William are chatting with friends. She complains about the issues plaguing their neighborhoods including drugs, which she admits she’s struggling with, but is happy to reveal she’s pregnant.
Blasting him forward in time, William watches helplessly as paramedics try to revive Laurel and he remembers quiet moments with her when she thanked him for not pushing to know more about her past. Just as the paramedics are ready to call a time of death on Laurel, William bolts with baby Randall. While he heads to the fire station where he leaves Randall, William recalls Laurel’s disappointment after she didn’t land a job she needed and learning about her friends’ being arrested just for hanging flyers.
As he sits on the bus after leaving Randall, William remembers promising Laurel he would make sure Randall had a good family if she wasn’t able to care for him, and so he gets off the ride to look for his son at the hospital where he watches his baby through the nursery window. All of this is juxtaposed with Rebecca and Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) journey to the hospital where they’re about to give birth to Kevin, Kate and still born Kyle. While Jack runs around looking for a radio that Rebecca had wanted to play music in the delivery room, she talks to the nurse about fathers being anxious.
Just as Jack is rushing back to Rebecca, he passes William in the hall, unaware that he’s been in the presence of his future son’s biological father. William then seeks out the chapel to light a candle for Laurel and his son as he cries there. William prays for forgiveness as he remembers helping Laurel get drugs to ease the pain after childbirth.
Once Jack is kicked out of the delivery room where Rebecca goes into distress he joins William in the chapel, praying himself. We learn that Jack hasn’t prayed much in recent years after his prayers for his father to be better never worked. He begs for Rebecca’s life and wonders what his father used to pray for in church, leading to one interesting phone conversation. His estranged father tells him he used to pray his kids would be better than him, which is clearly the case when it comes to Jack.
Later we see William riding the bus again after leaving Randall behind, and as he stays on board despite reaching his apartment, we see heartbreak apparent on his face as he remembers the first time he met Laurel on the bus. Before the episode’s credits roll, we’re brought back to William and Laurel’s apartment, where we see the paramedics do a double take as Laurel begins breathing again. Yes, this means Randall probably has a biological mother out there somewhere.
Don’t miss the drama unfold as Season 5 continues each week on NBC.
This Is Us, Season 5 Continues, Tuesday, November 10, 9/8c, NBC