This Is Us Recap: Trick or Bittersweet

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

This Is Us‘ Halloween episode contains a flashback to when The Big Three were twentysomethings. And that’s apt on this Halloween evening, because in the years between teenhood and settled-adulthood, Kate, Kevin and (to some degree) Randall are a horror show.

During various time periods contained within the hour, we watch Tessa’s momentous entry into the world (via Randall and Beth’s living room), Rebecca’s first overture from Miguel, Randall’s realization of how he came to be a Pearson and Kate’s unsuccessful attempt to turn a flirtation into something real. Also: Kevin shampoos someone.

Read on for the highlights of “The 20s.”

TRICKS AND TREATS | In a flashback to Halloween 1990, Randall works out a strategy for maximum candy in minimum time (there’s a map involved) while Rebecca finishes off the kids’ homemade costumes: Bad-era Michael Jackson for Randall, a veterinarian for Kate, and a cigar-smoking bum for Kevin — which is apparently a repeat costume. “That’s his ultimate fantasy: No chores and nothing tucked in,” Rebecca notes. Mama Pearson balks when Kate wants to change her costume to Grease‘s “Pretty Sandy” (as opposed to “Tough Sandy”) at the last minute, but Jack says it’s fine. That leads the parents to discuss who’s too easy on whom: Rebecca thinks Jack is a pushover for their only daughter, while he’s convinced that she babies Randall.

On Halloween night, Jack and Rebecca dress in some (pretty excellent) Sonny and Cher outfits and prepare to take the kids door-to-door. But the twins want to go to a haunted house, while Randall really wants to stick to his map. So Jack takes Kate and Kevin, soon realizing that Kate only wants to visit in the hopes that she’ll run into a popular boy from her class, and he’ll hold her hand during the scary parts. Though Kevin doesn’t think that’s likely to happen, Kate later exits the house holding the hand of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-clad boy in question… and Jack soon realizes that Kevin bribed the kid with candy to be nice to his sister.

Meanwhile, after Rebecca tries to teach Randall a lesson about not being so rigid, some unhelpful neighbors blurt out to the boy that he’s a “miracle” who filled the hole left by the child Jack and Rebecca lost. So that means Rebecca is forced to have THE adoption talk with 10-year-old Randall as they sit on the curb in their costumes. We learn that the dead triplet’s name was Kyle, and Rebecca insists that she and Jack were just waiting until Randall was old enough to understand before they told him. “You’re not ‘instead of’ anything,” she stresses. “You’re the way it was always supposed to be.” But as they share a Twix, neither parent nor child seems satisfied with the way the discussion went.

At home, Rebecca laments that Jack wasn’t there to help her break the news to Randall,then they talk about how he’s got to always be around because “I don’t know how any of this would work without you,” she says. Sniff!

TOTALLY CRUSHING IT | Years later, we catch up with The Big Three in their 20s. Kate is a waitress at a diner who spends her free time sitting in her car, eating, as she stares at the spot their childhood home used to be. Kevin is a shampoo guy at a salon who tells people he’s just there until pilot season gets going. And Randall is two months past his nervous breakdown — the one Beth told William about in Season 1 — and is about to become a father for the first time.

Kate flirts with a customer who seems to really like her. But when she shows up at a bar he says he’ll be at, he quickly asks her to leave with him. They go back to her place and hit the sheets, then he uses the “I’ve got an early morning” excuse to make an early exit. She surmises that he’s married, which she kinda knew but went through with the sex anyway in an effort to feel better… which she doesn’t.

Kevin pretends to be happy for his roommate, Zeke, who lands a part in a movie. (And for a little behind-the-scenes scoop on a last-minute edit to that scene, click here.) But when Zeke brings Kev to a party for the cast, Kevin uses the opportunity to sneakily ask the film’s director if he wants him to read for the part his roomie got. The director is so flabbergasted at Kevin’s self-involved gall, he declares, “You will never work for me, buddy. Not in a movie, not even carrying a tray.” And when Zeke finds out what happened, he angrily moves out.

SWEETBITTER | Rebecca comes to visit Randall and Beth the day before Beth is scheduled to have labor induced. The two women discuss Randall, who isn’t really back to himself yet, with Rebecca reassuring her daughter-in-law that he eventually will be fine again. Beth, who’s hella pregnant, looks dubious.

And that’s partly because Randall is obsessing about making everything perfect before the kid arrives. He freaks when he can’t get the ceiling fan in the nursery to work, then heads out to the hardware store to replace it. That’s where a kindly store employee winds up comforting a tearful Randall, who confesses that he doesn’t have any of the answers he knows his child is going to need. “What they don’t tell you is that babies come with the answers. They come out, they look up at you, and you at them, and they tell you who you are,” the employee tells him. “Tomorrow, you’ll have all the answers you need.” He then recommends a new fan to a very grateful Randall, but then Rebecca calls and Randall runs out: Beth is in labor.

Randall makes it home before an ambulance can arrive — streets are closed for Halloween, though that seems like a really bad idea if it means emergency medical services can’t get through — and he winds up delivering Tess on his living room floor. (Side note: Did no one think about putting down a garbage bag? Those are nice rugs!)

Everyone does great, but later, after Beth and the baby are all set up at the hospital, Randall finds Rebecca crying in the kitchen. She explains that witnessing her first granddaughter’s birth was one of the happiest moments of her life, but also kinda sad, because Jack wasn’t there to share it with her — and that the rest of the happy times she’ll experience are going to feel the same way. (There’s also a really great monologue Mandy Moore gives, in which Rebecca is simultaneously in the hospital’s newborn room at the time of The Big Three’s birth and Tessa’s, but if I keep crying, I won’t be able to see well enough to type the rest of this recap. Suffice to say, it’s very moving.)

At the end of the episode, we see Rebecca on her newly set-up Facebook account (made to share photos of the grandkid, naturally), and Miguel messages her. So that’s how it started!

I’M A BIG FAN | Kevin and Kate come to New Jersey to see their new niece, and after some initial posturing about how great their lives are going, both confess that they feel like big losers. So they make changes: Kate moves in with Kevin in California, and he joins a comedy troupe (which is likely the foundation for how he got The Manny). And Randall and Beth name their little girl Tess, after Tessana — the name of the model of ceiling fan that the hardware employee recommended.

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