This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 12

This Is Us Recap: Second Time Around

Need to catch up? Check out the previous This Is Us recap here. 

Hey Randall, guess what? You were almost a firefighter’s kid.

This week’s This Is Us is completely set in the past, eschewing an update on the adult adventures of The Big Three in favor of showing us what else happened as Kevin, Kate and Randall were about to enter the world.

Yes, the series premiere offered us one version of that fateful day, in which one of the Pearson triplets dies during labor, prompting Rebecca and Jack to adopt another infant who serendipitously shows up at the hospital after being left at a firehouse. But “The Big Day” gives us more context and fills in more detail — painful, sob-inducing detail — about the firefighter’s marital strife and Dr. K’s all-encompassing grief.

In short: This Is Us somehow found a way to make the day a baby died even sadder.

Read on as we review the major beats of “The Big Day.”

CRAPPY BIRTHDAY | In the fashion-not-as-bad-as-I-remember-’80s, Jack and an incredibly pregnant Rebecca dance to Stevie Wonder and debate baby names. The fact that Rebecca is willing to get up and cut a rug with her husband is very impressive; by that point in my pregnancy, I was at the “Bring me all the finest ice creams of the land, and don’t expect me to get up before the kid turns 1” point.

Pretty soon, we’re seeing Rebecca at peak pregnancy, which is to say that she’s in a terrible mood and nothing fits. She’s so cranky, she forgets that it’s Jack’s birthday and instead harps on him for not having the money pit — pardon me, their dream home — done before the babies arrive. When Miguel calls and asks his buddy to golf, Jack goes. (It helps that Rebecca kicks him out of the house… and only then does she realize what day it is. “I am a monster,” she laments.)

She tries to bake a conciliatory birthday cake but realizes she’s all out of supplies, so she duct-tapes flip-flops to her swollen feet and hoofs it to the nearest store… which happens to be a liquor store… where all she can procure is Twinkies, a checkout-counter banana muffin and a Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel.

She somehow fashions cupcakes from her haul, then levers herself into the rocking chair in the nursery to have a heart-to-heart with the current occupants of Hotel Rebecca. “I can’t wait to meet you guys,” she says, musing about making Halloween costumes with her kids and talking up Jack (“You’re going to be huge fans”) while voicing her concerns about not being a perfect mom. “But I will protect you fiercely, and I will always sing to you when you can’t sleep and I will always be excited to hear you laugh,” she says. “I love you so much it hurts, and I haven’t even met you yet.” Solid work here from Mandy Moore.

When Jack gets home from his golf outing, he films her little unguarded speech. She soon realizes that she’s on camera, and he and Rebecca make up, leading us to the Terrible Towel-as-loincloth moment from the premiere, as well as Rebecca’s water breaking. (Side note: Jack’s conversation with the golf douches, about wanting more time with his wife and kids? Devastating, in light of what we know now, eh?)

This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 12TIME TO HEAL | At Dr. K’s house, we see evidence of his dead wife — her wheelchair, her perfume — everywhere, and he carries on a full conversation with her empty chair at the breakfast table. It’s quite sad.

The OB-GYN later runs into a female friend (and widow) at the grocery store who seems rather interested in bagging his goods, if you catch my drift. But that moment of levity soon gives way to the doc’s incredibly awkward lunch with his son and daughter-in-law, who are very worried that he’s not handling his wife’s passing very well. And that’s when the kindly physician unleashes all of his pent-up pain.

“I will never move on, so stop asking me to,” he points out. “She was my wife. She was my life.” Gerald McRaney is so good, when he’s done, even I feel bad for raising my eyebrow at the empty-chair scene before. You take as much time as you need, Dr. K!

The despondent doc winds up standing at his wife’s grave, telling her that he doesn’t think he can go on without her. And that’s when his beeper goes off: It’s time for the Pearson pups to meet the world.

FIREHOUSE BLUES | Oh, you’d like more heartbreak, you say? Let’s cut to a confessional, where the fireman who will eventually rescue Randall is telling a priest that although he’s hopelessly in love with his wife, they’re in a “rough place lately” and that they need a “miracle” to make things right.

That miracle seems to happen when he’s at the station when William drops Randall there. But when the firefighter brings the baby home to his angry wife, thinking that they can adopt the kiddo and raise him as their own, she’s like, “Oh, honey. NOPE.” And that’s how Randall winds up at the hospital, instead.

The upside? Mrs. Firefighter eventually really appreciates what her husband was going for, with the praying and the newborn and all, and she decides it’s time to give their marriage another shot.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BASSINET | Back to Rebecca and Jack, who are traumatized by the death of Kevin and Kate’s sibling. And after Jack listens to Dr. K deliver his “lemonade” speech, we hear the shell-shocked couple discuss what we only saw in the montage at the end of the pilot.

ALL’S WELL… | How about a happy ending? Dr. K cleans out his house and has dinner with his lady friend. And in a flash-forward, we see the Pearson family — when the kids are 10 or so — watching home movies, including the one shot the day they were born.

*Special thanks to Dave Nemetz for an incredibly helpful assist on this one.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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57 Comments
  1. Mitsotakis says:

    Too bad we missed a quarter of the show in Orlando. Like NBC doesn’t have other channels for breaking news.

  2. Pascal says:

    In series television, prequel usually means writers panic. We hardly know the main characters and an entire episode of the first season is focused on the doctor and the fireman? Can’t they keep the story going forward? Could it be that the season was not planned entirely? Please go forward.

    • Danyelle says:

      What’s it like on your island there? It was a great episode, your “TV Writing 101” cheat sheet or not. lol

    • Lynn says:

      In a normal show set in the present maybe but a show that goes back to the past every week and it’s a regular part of the show? Not so much. The show is a hit. If it goes four or five seasons we’ll have plenty of time to know the main characters. You can’t move forward without understanding the past.

      • Pascal says:

        I understand your argument. But usually, a show waits a few seasons to revisit its pilot. I’m sot saying it was a bad episode. It just felt to me like an episode that put on the « brakes » on the story. I have no problem with the « double timeline » (which I suspect will become a triple one when the kids become teenagers). It is an interesting way of telling a story.

        • LaDonna says:

          But again…this show is different. The earlier timeline is already part of the show, so the fact that we spent an entire episode in one of the two timelines doesn’t seem that strange. If we’d have spent an entire episode in the later timeline, you’d be OK with that? My guess is that we will find out in coming episodes why this episode was important. If not, that’s fine, too, but it was still an incredibly strong episode and I see no signs of writer panic there.

        • herman1959 says:

          I have a couple of comments:
          1) Are you new to the series or have you been watching from episode 1? I ask because this series has been going back and forth in time from the very beginning. I’d think you would be used to it by now, but if you’re not, maybe this isn’t the show for you and that’s OK.

          2) This series is not the first to go back and forth in time, for the sake of exposition, while maintaining a contemporary timeline. There was a show a while back, The West Wing, that used the same technique and ran for 7 seasons and won multiple Emmy awards.

  3. JP says:

    I am a grown man, yet as I watch this I tell my wife every episode, ” this show will make me cry at one point.” Almost got with me with Dr. K tonight, but I think it will be when they show Jack dying

  4. Jamie says:

    It would have been really great to see more of William in this episode. I have always wondered what his few moments with baby Randall were like, given that he probably thought he would never see him again. That would have made this episode better IMO.

  5. drhenning says:

    One thing I noticed which might tell you something about the demo for this show was the ad block for all the health foods.. something younger families are spending extra money buying… tells you that the audience for this show is younger and more well off than the typical show. I wonder what the ratings are doing for this vs Bull.. I

    • LaDonna says:

      TVLine does a ratings rundown pretty much daily. Go back through the archives and look.

    • Sarah says:

      I noticed this too, even though I was fast forwarding through the commercials. But healthy food isn’t necessarily only the province of the young. I’m in my 50s, like Lara bars and recently bought my first can of the Yes soup.

  6. dan says:

    Mandy Moore and Gerald McRaney were excellent. It was great to see my boyhood crush Susan Blakey playing Dr. K’s potential lady friend (I loved her in Towering Inferno). Milo was terrific especially in the scene with Miguel and the other golfers. I wonder if fireman Joe will cross paths with Randall at some point in the future. Solid, enjoyable episode even without the present day Big Three.

    • herman1959 says:

      I know,Susan Blakely is another callback to the 1970s. FYI for the younger viewers (“the demo”): Susan Blakely was one of the most successful models int the ’70s.

  7. Joey Padron says:

    Episode was really good, good prequel episode to the pilot episode. Good to see Dr.K again.

  8. Dannie C says:

    Such a beautiful episode. The whole cast is so damn talented!! Loved seeing more of The Big Day,Dr K & Firefighter

  9. znachki says:

    Someone give Gerald McRaney an Emmy for Guest Actor already!

  10. queensgirl says:

    Mandy Moore killed it (I mean that in a good way!), and Gerald McRaney was quietly powerful.

  11. Mark says:

    I wasn’t that excited about the episode going into it since it wasn’t going to advance any of the current story lines. But I wound up loving it. The acting was perfect and the stories were great as always.

  12. Carla Krae says:

    4 tissues to get through this ep.

  13. Rebecca says:

    The whole time on this episode I thought the 3rd child was alive that the old man probably took it that he raise as his own son. I’m wrong doe but i wish that was the truth so the baby can be alive. But now I get it…it just refreshing memories but more further in the past then the 1st episode.

  14. Jodi says:

    This just beat Thanksgiving as my favorite episode.
    Incredibly powerful and solid performances by Gerald and Mandy this week.
    I expect we’ll have another show that lets us know William and how he got to leave the baby at the firehouse, as well as Jack’s history with his father.
    I love the Big Three but leaving them out to tell those three stories were justified.

  15. Lisa Echerd says:

    I’m continually amazed at how good this show is. Very few shows can successfully time travel as well as they do.

  16. kn1231 says:

    While I enjoyed the episode, I found myself really missing Randall & his family. This show can be quite heavy, and I find they us Randall’s family as the comic relief in the most perfect ways.

    • LaDonna says:

      It’s so interesting to me how everyone has their own take. Yes, you’re absolutely right, this show can be heavy, but it’s also very real. Randall’s family is just a normal American family…some comedy, some tragedy. Kevin is a pretty funny character in his own right. His struggle to find legitimacy as an actor while coming to terms with his man-child ways is quite humorous! His heart is always in the right place, but his methods often make me laugh. Like the scene last week when he was breaking up with the actress while the writer was listening…I was just giggling and shaking my head. Right motivation, wrong execution!

    • Jodi says:

      I see your point, but Rebecca strapping on her sandals and the entire scene in the liquor store was great comic relief.

  17. Linda H Lamb says:

    I’m new to the show, having binge-watched all eps over the long weekend. Have to say I’m a little dismayed about the idea of repeatedly revisiting certain days (e.g. birth day), with a lot of old details and a few new ones. Hope this doesn’t happen all the time, just so they can stretch the show into 12 seasons or whatever. That said — Gerald McRaney’s contributions have been absolutely incredible, so heartfelt and real. Wonderful idea to give his character more depth & backstory.

    • sarah t says:

      I can see why you might think that if you binge watched it since you *just* watched the pilot episode and then watched this one. For most of us though, it’s been a few months and though the pilot did touch on some of this, it definitely expanded on the backstories more (especially of the firefighter and Dr. K). Really, really wish that Gerald McRaney would get his own show. He’s so good. Major Dad reboot anyone? Even Simon and Simon? ;)
      Also, this episode did not endear Miguel to me anymore. In fact, it just made it seem like more of a creep who waited for Jack to be out of the picture before hitting on his wife. I get that they’ll likely expand on his and Rebecca’s backstory eventually but as of now, I’m not on board the Miguel train at all.

    • herman1959 says:

      This is not a series best binge-watched because a lot of the charm of the show is how the characters become important to the viewers over time. We want to know how and why they became who they are, and going back in time helps. Sorry, but they will be doing this for the rest of the season (if not longer). It’s a different approach, but it’s done well.

  18. Sissy says:

    Gerald McRaney. I cannot find the words to describe how this fine actor made me believe his pain. Yes, give this man an Emmy! As Kimberly said, at first I thought he was a little extreme in his talking to an empty chair, but when he read his son and daughter-in-law the riot act, and then turned on a dime to play with his grandkids, Wow, just Wow! Please give us more Dr. K!

  19. MLO says:

    I’m just as interested in Jack and Rebecca’s story as I am in the big three and have no problem with this type of jump back. I hope they keep doing it – it’s the only way we’ll get to know ALL the characters, not just Kate, Kevin and Randall. I don’t know why everyone is so focused on the present-day story – like it’s what the show is SUPPOSED to be about. It’s about all of them – past and present – which is what I love about the show. Without this type of episode, we wouldn’t see Dr. K at all, whom everyone seems to agree is stellar. Just go with the flow people and quit putting your expectations on this show or any other. Just go with the flow.

  20. DZ says:

    I was underwhelmed by the fireman storyline. I thought there would be more meat to his story, like maybe the wife had a change of heart and he ran back to the hospital to get the baby, but it was too late, the Pearsons already claimed him. Or the wife couldn’t see herself raising a black baby, and he saw her in a different light. I don’t know, something.

  21. Louise says:

    This program is the ‘thirtysomething’ for 2017 Been there done that.

  22. Amazing.
    Amazing.
    Amazing.
    .
    One of the best hour of TV I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch.
    And I cried, and I cried.
    Top notch entertainment. I’d watch an entire show just with Rebecca and Jack in the 80ies timeline. Love Randall, Kevin and Kate, but they’re parents, are on another level lol.

  23. fiberlicious says:

    For the first time, I found most of this one a little bit boring. Except for the Dr. K subplot. That had me sobbing (literally) in my actual Cheerios.

    And – I would like to punch future stepdad Miguel in the junk.

  24. dirtydyanna says:

    Who is the actress in the supermarket talking to the doctor? She looks very familiar.

  25. Katherine says:

    I hope that one day the series will show Rebecca and Jack visiting the grave of the Pearson triplet that passed away. Does he have a name? Was there a funeral? I have had a stillborn baby in my family and I feel this is a story point that should be addressed.

    • His name is Kyle. They even gave the name to Randall but Rebecca couldn’t bond with Kyle 2.0. When she visited William and told him she was having a hard time with the non bio child, William told her to give the baby his own name and he gave her a book of poems. That’s where ‘Randall’ comes from.

  26. iloentje says:

    Shout out to the amazing music used on the show!

  27. Alperen Bayraktar says:

    So much tears man,so much tears.That’s how to describe whole episode

  28. Catherine says:

    Loved it! Can all the episodes just stay back in the 80s?

  29. ML says:

    Great show! Who played the lady in the store with the dr?

  30. Sandy Moran says:

    I missed watching the first season, so I am watching one or two episodes a day of it now. I haven’t put on any makeup because I know I will just cry it off. My family keeps asking me if I am OK. “Oh, you’re watching your crying show again.”