This Is Us recap: Did the best man win?
Need to catch up? Check out the previous This Is Us recap here.
A: They both hit it big — and quickly — in the City of Brotherly Love.
Yup, this week’s episode reveals that Randall managed to eke out a win in his contentious campaign for Solomon Brown’s city council seat, no matter how impossible that outcome seemed the last time we saw him. And he’s able to do so without completely obliterating his marriage to Beth… though at one point, it’s a close thing.
The hour begins on Election Night and then rewinds to seven weeks earlier, which allows us to watch Kevin and Zoe navigate the rocky channel of cohabitation and then stumble on a major clue in the Uncle Nicky mystery.Read on for the highlights of “The Last Seven Weeks.”
ELECTION NIGHT | At Randall’s campaign headquarters, Brown is only four percentage points ahead of Randall: The race officially is too close to call. Rebecca and Miguel are on hand to wait it out with the candidate, as are Zoe, Kevin, Beth and the girls. Things are weird between Kevin and Zoe, and when she says “I can’t do this” and hands him a key ring featuring a photo of John Stamos from the Early Katsopolis era, the mood between the two is even more strained.
SEVEN WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT | On the morning immediately following the events of the fall finale, Beth is incensed to learn that Randall plans to continue his campaign, despite her insistence that she will no longer support him. He claims to have it under control — he even ordered an audiobook by Ellen DeGeneres’ mom in order to better understand Tess’ burgeoning sexual identity! — but Beth isn’t swayed one inch. “You cannot audiobook your way through our daughter’s life,” she replies, making it clear that he is on his own. Randall has a flashback to when he and Jack visited Washington, D.C.. “What a great life you’re going to have. What a great man you’re going to be,” the elder Pearson tells his teen son.
Kate tells Toby that she’s ready to turn their office into a nursery, “so you have to sell all of your toys.” (She’s referring to collectible action figures and the like.) He looks slightly pained.
Kevin and Zoe return from Vietnam with a ton of questions — Did Nicky ever return to the United States? Did Jack know his brother wasn’t dead? Was this a Dick Whitman-type situation? — but that gets tabled when Zoe casually refers to his apartment as “home,” prompting Kevin to invite her to move in. She’s hesitant, but then she agrees, and he hands her the Stamos key ring. (In case you’re wondering: It was a gift from his Full House-obsessed nieces.)
FIVE WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT | Randall is still 10 points behind Brown in the polls, despite his volunteers’ fervent efforts (hi, Chichi!), and he’s been staying overnight in Philadelphia more often. As you might have guessed, Beth is still not on board with this plan. In the flashback, teen Randall worries about balancing his future family against his future job, and Papa Pearson good-naturedly teases him about it.
Thanks to some unclear box markings and an overzealous Kate, Toby’s full set of 1977 Star Wars action figures have been sold for $10 to a fellow student at her college. “They’re just toys,” she reasons as Toby fumes, but he sadly says that they’ve been with him forever and he wanted to pass them on to his son.
At the Veterans’ Administration, a clerk says she can’t release Nicky’s records to Kevin without documentation — though getting a VIP to authorize the release would probably do the trick. (Side note: I love how thoroughly uncharmed the woman is by all of Kevin’s attempts to charm her.) Zoe says she might be able to help: She dated a congressman for a while.
THREE WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT | On the drive back to Alpine, Randall hears Brown point out that Beth and the kids haven’t been seen much in Philly lately. So he’s super angry as he returns home and demands that his family join him for events. She’s wrapping Christmas presents and points out that he has no idea what’s in the boxes because he hasn’t been around much for weeks. Then things get ugly. “Are you really mad at me, Beth?” he asks. “Or are you mad that I got something that I care about right now and you don’t?” DAMN. Then, he points out that he stayed at home with the girls all last year and didn’t complain. Beth wisely exits the room “before you say something else you’re going to regret.”
Zoe’s ex, it turns out, is still quite angry about the way they broke up after dating for a couple of years: She sent him an email, and that was it. The congressman agrees to help release Nicky’s records, but he’s not real happy about it.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT | On New Year’s Eve, Jae-wan runs into campaign headquarters with a gift for Randall: Proof that his political opponent was arrested for driving while intoxicated years ago, but paid off the cops and the local press to bury the incident. They’ll deliver the goods to the media the next day; for now, Randall heads to a diner to buy a blueberry pie, because eating blueberry pie at midnight is one of their family traditions.
Only problem: The diner he stops at is fresh outta blueberry pie. But Reverend Hawley happens to be sitting at the counter, and his brief inquiry about Randall’s life leads Pearson into a monologue about how “I’m starting to think it might be harder to be a good man than a great man.” He also vaguely mentions that he’s sitting on something that could “change the whole game,” but he doesn’t want to win that way. Hawley listens, then offers up some advice he’s honed after years of attending to his congregants’ death beds: “Act in a way that’ll make you smile when you’re old and gray and lying under a pale pink nursing home blanket, thinking about the life you’ve lived,” the older man says. “You do that, you’ll be the man your father wanted.” Then he takes pity on Randall and hands him the blueberry pie he’d bought to take home. On the way out, Randall crumples the envelope of evidence incriminating Brown and tosses it into the garbage.
Back at home, Beth is icy to Randall but thaws as he interrupts their New Year’s Eve revelry to apologize for everything he’s missed in the weeks prior. “This family is what makes me special. You four. You’re what make me great. And I’m sorry if I haven’t done a good enough job of showing you that lately,” he says. Then he pulls out the pie, and it appears that Beth is willing to forgive her man.
Kate tries to play the “I’m pregnant and my house burned down and my dad died and I have nothing from my own childhood including the replica of Three Rivers Stadium that my dad made me to give my baby” card, but the college kid she sold the Star Wars toys to is unmoved.
Nicky’s file reveals that he was medevac’d out of Vietnam in 1971, sent for a psych evaluation and eventually signed his discharge papers “Clark Kent.” But Kevin is pissy when Zoe wants to talk about it, and that’s because he can’t shake the feeling that she’s going to leave him like she left the Congressman. After all, she hasn’t even unpacked her boxes at his place yet. Feeling attacked, Zoe counters that she only moved in to make him happy and that he’s pushing her to do things she’s not comfortable with.
A FEW DAYS BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT | Upon realizing that Randall plans to skip Rev. Hawley’s service the Sunday before the election, she tells him he has to go — and she’ll go with him. “I will not let you forget who you are. I should’ve had your back. You need to finish this campaign,” she says. And it’s a good thing, too, because during his remarks from the pulpit, Hawley calls Randall “fundamentally decent” and tells the congregation that Philadelphia would be in capable hands with either Randall or Brown in office. (Hawley also makes mention of Randall’s two-hour-one-way drive between Alpine and Philadelphia, and we feel seen.)
Beth surprises Toby with replacements of his action figures, but he’s still bummed that they’re not his action figures. She tries to cheer him up by saying, “I know with every part of me that you are going to be our son’s favorite thing.”
ELECTION NIGHT, AGAIN | In California, Toby calls Kate into the nursery to show her the finished decorations… and the replica of Three Rivers Stadium he commissioned a dollhouse maker to create in order to replace the one she’d lost in the fire. She cries a lot, but she’s touched. “For the record,” Toby adds, “I’m going to be our kid’s second favorite thing. You’re the first.”
In Philadelphia, it becomes clear that the official election results won’t be in until after midnight. So Randall thanks everyone who worked on his campaign and sends them home. Outside, Zoe tells Kevin that he’s one of the only people who knows about her dad and what he did to her, and that it’s always been important for her to feel she has her own, secure space. But she does want to live with Kevin, she says. “I think I like what you’re pushing for. I’m in love with you. And I want John Stamos back.” Kevin smiles at her and hands the key over, then they go home.
Later, as they’re unpacking, Zoe finds a postcard dated 1992 in a box of Jack’s Vietnam paraphernalia. “Jack, Last one. — C.K.” it reads, along with a return address we recognize as Nicky’s trailer in Bradford, Penn. “My dad knew Nicky was alive. Why would he lie to us?” Kevin wonders aloud.
In bed that night, a very sleepy Randall ruminates on how “sometimes it feels like there’s been a plan for my life from the beginning.” Then he gets a call. After he hangs up, he turns to Beth and somewhat dazedly gives her the news: “I won.”