This Is Us Recap Season 1 Episode 17

This Is Us Recap: Death Becomes Him

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

This Is Us‘ William probably didn’t plan for his memorial service to heal major rifts within the Pearson family, but then again, knowing that wise old owl, maybe he did.

Because the celebration of Randall’s dad’s life foments great progress for many members of the gang, most notably Randall and Kevin. Read on for the highlights of “What Now?”

IN SEARCH OF A TRIBUTE | We open on Randall standing in his biological father’s former bedroom at the house, wondering how he can honor William’s legacy. “Do I start wearing sweater vests?” he wonders aloud. (Heh.) Beth then finds a letter from the old man to Tess and Annie: He wants them to plan his memorial, because adults make these kind of things too sad. The girls take their duties (which include getting Kate to procure rainbow balloons on short notice) very seriously, but they allow their dad to prepare a eulogy… but they make him call it a “toast.”

Jessie calls Randall, saying that he is in Chicago and that he and William said goodbye privately before the Memphis trip. He shares some stories from the Narcotics Anonymous group, calling William “a soft armrest for weary souls to lean on.” (Ooh, that’s good, Randall. Write that down!) Randall’s work sends a box of pears and a generic note, to which Beth gives the Raised Eyebrow of Hmmph. I mean, even the mailman cries when he finds out William died. Way to be heartless, Randall’s work.

MOVING ON | On the day of the “fun-eral” (© Randall), Kate is on edge and Rebecca is worried that things are still strained between her and her son. But the girls’ insistence that everyone celebrate their grandfather by enjoying a recreation of his perfect day takes the focus off interfamily dynamics for a little while, at least. When Randall finds a teary Beth in the kitchen, though, she points out that while Randall had the trip to Memphis and the girls had the memorial to plan, “I never got a chance to say goodbye.” (Side note: Nice to see that Beth isn’t emotional ballast all the damn time.)

With that in mind, Randall hands “toast” duties over to his wife when the time comes. “I can look all over this house and see the memories that we shared,” Beth says, speaking off the top of her head. “He was endearing as hell, and even though we only had him for a few months, he’s part of our family now,” she adds, starting to cry. “We’ll remember things as ‘before William’ and ‘after William’ now.”

Kate runs from the room, crying, and shuns Toby’s comfort but sobs in Randall’s arms in the driveway, saying that the old man’s death has stirred up a lot of her painful feelings related to Jack’s passing. Randall says he had a dream about Jack and William sharing stories, then advises her to talk to Toby about her feelings, because it’s the only way she’ll ever get a handle on them. (Side note: LOVED this scene. More Randall/Kate stuff, please.)

The girls then decree that everyone put on one of William’s “old man hats” and stroll the route he walked every afternoon. The constitutional offers Rebecca an opportunity to confront the awkwardness between the two of them, and she takes it. She cries as she explains how she kept chickening out on telling him the truth about his biological father. “It was selfish, and it was wrong, and I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry you didn’t have more time together, that it was my fault you didn’t have more time together,” she says. Randall quietly and calmly replies that he had enough time with William to know that he loved him and that William loved him back. And just like that, everything is kind of OK again between mother and son.

Oh, and later? Beth smiles as she gets her own adios from William, via a Memphis postcard he sent before his death.

TAKE A BOW | Sophie’s planning to come to Kevin’s play, but she’s going to avoid his entire family — “especially Kate.” Kevin wants to go public with their relationship, and he also wants to sleep with his ex-wife again, but Sophie shelves both of these concerns and tells him to focus on convincing the New York Times theater critic to come to the play’s second opening night.

He doesn’t succeed, but the entire family is super impressed with Kevin’s performance. “There is now a man where the Manny once stood,” Randall remarks.

But Randall’s not done with his pitch-perfect pronouncements for the evening. So he stops by his firm, where the team is pulling an all-nighter, and confronts his boss, Tyler, about sending lame fruit — which it turns out Randall is allergic to — before quitting as a means of honoring William’s legacy. And he strolls out of there happy.

Meanwhile, back at the theater, Sophie consoles Kevin about the Times critic’s absence. But he says that seeing his family and her in the audience meant more to him. “I’m not messing things up with you again,” he promises, adding that he’ll wait until she’s convinced. “I came here for you, Sophie.” And that sound you heard? It was Sophie’s bra hitting the ground, alongside her inhibitions.

To top off the evening, Ron Howard (!) happened to have been in the crowd that evening, and he calls Kevin to offer him a potential part in a new movie… in Los Angeles.

‘IT’S MY FAULT’ | In the past, Jack is late coming home before Rebecca leaves on tour, and though things are rather tense, there’s still a warmth that surfaces between them before bandleader Ben honks his horn and Jack remembers that he wants to be a standoffish jerk about the whole thing. Jack gives Rebecca a brief peck on the cheek and a curt goodbye; when Kate admonishes him, he relents and goes outside to say farewell properly… only to see Ben’s van zooming away.

But Kate won’t let her dad off the hook, asking why he didn’t go to that night’s show, despite the fact that it’s only a couple of hours away. He dismisses her concerns, telling her not to worry about him… then hightails it to the bar where a co-worker’s retirement after-party is taking place. And oh, hey, there’s office hot chick Heather, who looks very happy to see Mr. Pearson show up.

Heather puts her hand on his thigh, which Jack quickly shuts down. “You’re embarrassing me. You’re embarrassing yourself,” he says derisively before abruptly getting up from his barstool and making a phone call to see if the kids can stay the night with friends.

In the present, we see Kate tell Toby, “It’s my fault. I’m the reason that he’s dead.” And in the flashback, a clearly inebriated Jack gets in the station wagon and speeds off.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode?

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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55 Comments
  1. Robin says:

    Brilliant story-telling and beautiful performances by all. This show never disappoints and always delights me.

  2. kn1231 says:

    Another great episode! I don’t want this show to end next week! I knew William didn’t forget about Beth, and I’m happy that everyone in Randall’s family got the closure they needed. Not sure what’s in store for the final, but I will say I will be upset if Kevin goes back to LA for this movie. I hope Kevin has grown enough not to make that stupid decision. In my opinion, the Kevin character has been most enjoyable in scenes were he steps up with/for his family. I’m also really enjoying where they are taking him and Sophie. KEVIN, DON’T MESS IT UP!

    • Tina says:

      I agree, awesome episode, But i think Kevin could always go do the movie and come back to NY. And Sophie could always visit him. Plus Kate and Toby are going back as well. Seems like there’s some unfinished business between Kate and Sophie. This could work. Besides, you don’t turn down a Ron Howard movie!!

      • herman1959 says:

        Randall’s family could relocate too, he just quit his job, although Beth still has hers( !). That way, they wouldn’t have to keep trying to make LA look like a neighborhood in NJ.

  3. MTC says:

    Proofread this! Jeez. Randall didn’t die!

    • DS says:

      That’s not what kn1231 said. Just glad that Randall’s family got the closure they needed on the passing of William.

  4. Neelie says:

    Such a good episode. I really love the two time periods. At least we know now pretty much how Jack dies. It is not from an illness or heart attack. For the younger viewers it is important to remember that driving while drunk was more common than now. This was before Uber and we got much smarter about it. Remember even in the first episode, people were smoking in the hospital. So, the fact that Jack drives drunk is just so sad on so many levels. It sounds like the specifics of his death will not be revealed this season, but I don’t know what other conclusion there can be after watching tonight. It is the only thing that prevents Jack from being Perfect!

    • dan says:

      I think the last scenes (Kate telling Toby that Jack’s death was her fault and Jack getting into the car to drive to Cleveland) are a red herring as to Jack’s death. I don’t think it happens next week based on an interview Dan Fogelman gave to this site. He may die while driving drunk and/or he may die during this trip to Cleveland, I just don’t think we’re going to see it during the finale. We’ll continue to get hints and flashbacks, however I think Jack’s death will be explored and revealed in season two.

      • Wrstlgirl says:

        You are 100% correct. creator Dan Fogelman says. “In terms of seeing the moment where something happened to Jack, that’s a little ways away,” he tells our sister site Variety. “Where it will be finally all fully revealed, that’s a ways off.”

        So there are going to be a lot of disappointed people next week, lol. We might see Rebecca or the family get notification or something in the finale’ but no details. Just enough to drive everybody crazy. But I’m with you. I thinking something does happen on this trip but drunk driving is to obvious. Given the quality of this show there’s a twist.

        • ZisforZombie says:

          You are totally correct (IMO). I think that this show has SO many fantastic twists, that drunk driving seems too obvious. This definitely seems like a red herring.

  5. Raevin68 says:

    Another stellar episode. One thought I kept having when I watched Memphis was “what about Jessie???” Leave it to the writers to tie up that loose end early in the show. So glad we got that scene with Randall and Jessie. I’m going to mourn after next week partly because it looks intense and mostly because it’s the last episode of the season!

  6. Brian says:

    I called it – I knew Kate had a connection to Jacks death somehow – though she shouldn’t feel any guilt for that. And thanks to this episode I want my future grandkids to plan my memorial (fun-eral) – that was awesomely cute and funny what they planned for William.

  7. Wrstlgirl says:

    I’m having a hard time believing that Jack dies in a drunk driving accident going to see Rebecca. If that’s the case I’m sorely disappointed that they basically give it away with those scenes for next week. I think something else may happen to him while he’s in Cleveland, which would cause Kate to blame herself.

  8. Big Cheddar says:

    Already crying, and I haven’t even seen the episode. Damn this show!!!

  9. AngieD says:

    Another fantastic episode. I wasn’t a bawling mess this week, but so many beautiful moments made me at a minimum teary eyed to shedding a tear like Randall did as Rebecca apologized to him. Would love to see more interactions amongst the siblings. Recapper forgot to mention that Randall’s boss sent pears knowing that Randall has a severe allergy to them with a typed trite condolence…. Happy that Randal quit his job! Both Randall and Kevin demonstrated that it’s their loved ones who are more important than the outward signs of success. I guess Ron Howard must enjoy this show for him to actually appear on film in a semi-acting role! Whoo hoo. This show deserves multiple Emmy’s!!!!

  10. lovinlarge51 says:

    This show gets me all in my emotions. I bawled, I smiled, I shook my head yes at Kate finally saying what she has been carrying around for all these years and whom better to share than with Randall. She needs to share it with Toby though too. I hope Kevin doesn’t screw over Sofia again. What happened between Sofia and Kate that she wants to avoid Kate?

    All I can say is, *sniff, sniff* do we have to wait til fall before we see more?

  11. Dryheat says:

    I’m used to crying at this show, but that mailman REALLY got me! So sad. :-(

  12. Kevin Tran says:

    Surprised Ron Howard has a cameo in the penultimate episode.

  13. Tiffany says:

    I thought Kevin couldn’t do tv or films for awhile due to him walking away from The Manny and his contract?

    • Normandy says:

      There shouldn’t be any provision about movies. When Rory Cochrane broke his CSI: Miami contract, he wasn’t allowed to do any TV. I don’t know if that meant non-CBS TV or all TV though.

  14. Swimming in tears, again. Every time they showed William, MENTIONED William. First scene of the episode and I was like, nooooo, I wasn’t ready lol.
    .
    Heartbroken and so, so scared for Jack. “Every road leads to an end”? Why do you hurt us like this show? I love “This Is Us”. So beautifully written and a stellar cast. Even the young actors (Randall’s daughters).
    .
    I love that William sent a postcard to Beth. That was such an amazing moment. The daughter I never had. Aaaand I’m crying again. Also, very happy Randall left his job.

  15. Aj says:

    Holy crap, I’m a grown ass man, and this show turns me into a blubbering idiot at least twice an episode. It’s such a good show. Tonight’s episode was great.

  16. Imzadi says:

    I’m not heartless, but I am practical. I can appreciate why Randall quits his job, but, for the love of God, he has a wife, two children (in private school), a mortgage, possibly a car payment. I thought Kevin was wrong when he deserted his play and especially Sloane to go to Randall when he could have asked Rebecca and/or Kate to go. People, you have RESPONSIBILITIES!

    • Billy Bob Johnson says:

      Sometimes you have to do the unexpected to be considered human.

    • dan says:

      I knew Randall was going to quit as soon as he told Beth that the team was still working at 10 pm. Good for him! In the real world making that type of decision would be tough and possibly irresponsible, but its nice to see a fictional tv character do what so many people think about doing but can’t for various reasons. Also, kudos to Susan Kelchi Watson (Beth) for her great performance this week and thanks to the writers for the scene between Kate and Randall (it was good to see these two alone together for possibly the first time). I thought this was a great follow-up episode to William’s death and a perfect segue into next week’s season finale. By the way, I don’t think Jack dies in a car crash next week. Too soon and I expect a twist as to what really happens sometime in season two.

    • Mary says:

      I don’t know sometimes you have to do what your gut tells you. If someone I love needed me I would go in a heartbeat, job or not. From what I gather, they are not hurting financially so maybe they have enough saved up to take that leap of faith. I actually give him credit for finally standing up for himself. Great show will miss, sad that next week is the end until fall.

      • Imzadi says:

        Was that fair to Sloane? NO! Especially after what happened (yes, I know he didn’t know she overheard him). He left her on stage with egg on her face (yes, the Back of an Egg). Kate could have gone to Randall. Rebecca could have gone to Randall. But no one else could have played his role. Sloane deserved better. Yes, I admit I love Lily the telephone girl!

    • flowerduh says:

      I’m practical as well. But I think the firm is going to want Randall back because I don’t think that other dude is up to snuff. Because before Randall made his speech the first thing his boss says, “Randall thank God you are here.” Also, Randall is also a practical man; and he wouldn’t quit his job if they didn’t have anything saved.

  17. Amy says:

    Did they every explain what happened in the theatre on opening night when Kevin was a no show?

  18. Gerald says:

    They got me going with the Mailman…..
    Wonderful episode. Happy they way Randall is handling everything and learning from William.
    Loved the Jack and William dream.
    Loved Beth getting the postcard.
    Shocked with the Ron Howard scene. (ps nobody can fake that voice), Kevin wouldn’t be cheating on Sophie by doing a movie. I think they could survive that.
    Glad Jack shut down that co-worker.
    I don’t want Jack to die. But I know the drama will be fantastic.
    Love this show.

  19. Tracy288 says:

    While I have loved every episode, this is the first that I cried at – and I can’t believe that after next week, we have to wait another 5 months to see more. :-(

    • Laurie says:

      You have never cried before last night’s episode??? I cry every episode!!! :)

    • dan says:

      I’ll support Tracy288’s comment: in prior episodes I’ve felt moistness in my eyes, but no real tears. Last night I actually shed a few tears when Beth was giving her toast and again when Randall was talking to Kate outside.

  20. herman1959 says:

    OK, this is officially “my show” now.

  21. Jan says:

    The mailman did me in!!

  22. T. says:

    I broke down with the postcard…

    On another note the chemistry between Sophie and Kevin is impressive, please don’t mess this up.

  23. scampi745 says:

    Another good episode. Glad to see a scene between Randall and Kate. Always had feeling they were close given he and Kevin not so much. As though Kate was the bridge. Favorite moments were Beth’s memories and both dads together. Glad Jack wasn’t tempted by Heather.

  24. Pedro says:

    Kevin should take the film. He’s an actor. He won’t be gone forever and he doesn’t have to leave right away.