This Is Us Season 5 Finale Recap: Something Borrowed, Something Screwed — Plus, Grade It!


Warning: This post contains spoilers for This Is Us‘ Season 5 finale. 

I now pronounce you… forever linked via your children but definitely not Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Pearson!

This Is Us‘ Season 5 finale went the way that many of us figured it would Tuesday: On the morning of their wedding, Madison point-blank asked Kevin if he loved her, and when he couldn’t say that he did, she called off their marriage.

It was the right decision, albeit an ill-timed and painful one. And, at some point four or so years down the road, they’ll at least be friends… which we know from the presence of a new flash-forward at the end of the episode!

The final two minutes of the hour zoom us to the morning of another wedding: Kate’s… to Phillip! In case you’re wondering exactly who Phillip is, he’s the music teacher played by Chris Geere (You’re the Worst) whom we’ve seen only a couple of times before this surprising revelation.

What? Huh? How? Yeah, we’re right there with you. Read on for the highlights of “Adirondacks,” then make sure to hear what series creator Dan Fogelman says about the new time jump and what This Is Us‘ final season will look like.

MOLDAVIAN MASSACRE FALLOUT | Let’s start in 1985, as Rebecca gleefully sits down to watch the Dynasty episode that reveals who died in the Moldavian Massacre. She’s got her wine, her M&Ms, her popcorn… and her instant ire upon realizing that Jack recorded a Pirates game over the episode. She runs upstairs to where Jack is putting the kids to bed and promptly reads him the riot act (you all know how much I love the rare occasions when Rebecca loses her cool) but stops when she realizes that Kate, Randall and Kevin are freaked out.

The next morning, the Big Tiny Three are standing by their parents’ bed when Jack and Rebecca wake up. “Do you still love each other?” Kate asks. To prove that everything is OK, Mama and Papa Pearson show their children movies from their wedding, but then she gets irked that he can’t remember his vows. The argument grows, with Jack spoiling the Dynasty episode based on chitchat he’d heard at work. And eventually, the kids are worried again, despite Rebecca’s insistence that their relationship is aces. “Married couples hate us,” she says, and I’m choosing to read the next part of her sentence as a sly commentary on a popular critique of the show: “It’s why we have no friends.” But the babes are undeterred. “You guys need to get married again,” Kate says. “Today,” Randall chimes in.

And because this show is this show, they do. Everyone dresses up and it’s very cute in an Anne Geddes type of way, then Jack has to make a grand gesture (I seriously think it will hurt him if he does not do so) so he asks both Rebecca and their brood, “Will you guys marry me forever?” and there’s a whole lot of smiling and hugging and such.

this-is-us-finale-recap-season-5-episode-16‘GOODBYE, MADISON’ | In a series of completely different flashbacks, Madison remembers the day her mother left, when she said that she couldn’t deal with Madison’s father anymore and gifted her with a pair of earrings she might wear at her wedding someday. Later, we see Madison’s father being rather cold as he tells her to settle for whatever boy will ask her to prom. And eventually we watch a guy break up with her because she’s more into him than he is into her. Hurt, she pulls out a mess of junk food and starts to eat it but then thinks better of the decision and tosses everything into the garbage. And then we see that that was the day that we met her — in the series premiere — at Kate and Toby’s Overeaters Anonymous meeting. (Side note: I know the show wants us to feel bad about thinking she was annoying then, but I’m still OK with it.)

All of this is going through her head on the morning of the wedding, but she still moves forward with going to the venue and starting to get gussied up. Kevin, meanwhile, is intent on making every single aspect of the day perfect… which is tough when Nicky is following him around, documenting every moment via his iPad, and the altar Madison designed collapses.

Nicky and Miguel set about building a new altar, while best man Randall chases Kevin, trying to hold an umbrella over his head in order to avoid sunburn. At a certain point, it all becomes too much. “I need air,” Kevin says. “You’re outside,” Randall replies. “I need inside air,” Kev shoots back. (Ha!)

Eventually, Kevin returns to his room to change, and that’s when Madison — already in her gown and makeup — knocks on his door. “Are you in love with me?” she gently, but firmly, asks. He doesn’t answer her directly, choosing instead to talk about how much he loves their family. “We use that language a lot,” she says, pointing out how often he has said he loves and is committed to their family. However, “I have fallen in love with you, Kevin,” she says. “I have stumbled through a life gratefully accepting whatever scraps of affection anyone would give me.” And the fact that she feels so much a part of the Pearson family means “it would be so easy for me to tiptoe around the fact that you may not be in love with me.”

Kevin is gobsmacked but can’t bring himself to say that he loves her. And she knows it. “What we have, it will grow. It can grow. It will,” he says desperately. “I can’t marry someone who’s not in love with me,” she replies. “I know it’s ironic but I think you have finally helped me realize that I am worthy of that.” She affirms that she is committed to raising the twins with him, and as he begs her “Please don’t do this,” she simply says, “You know this, Kevin. You know it.”

this-is-us-finale-recap-season-5-episode-16ELSEWHERE IN THE BRIDAL PARTY | While the ladies are getting ready, Déja is surprised by a call from Malik: Not only did he get into the four best colleges around Philadelphia, he secretly applied to Harvard and got in there, too. “In Boston,” she notes, and the crestfallen look on her face is enough to stop me from pointing out that it’s actually in Cambridge, Mass. On the other side of the room, Tess is sulking around in that incredibly effectively annoying way that teen girls do. Beth finally asks her exactly what’s wrong, and she says that the dress she’s supposed to wear in the wedding isn’t a true representation of who she is and she feels uncomfortable in it. Instead of saying, “Hey, this is your uncle’s wedding and sometimes we do things for loved ones that we might not personally choose ourselves,” Beth helps her style it into something appropriately funky and cool. Tess loves it and apologizes for being so surly all season, then she tells her mom that she loves her.

That brings us to Kate. Just before leaving for the venue, Toby lets her know that he got the San Francisco job. Her joy at the news is tempered by his follow-up announcement — that he’ll have to be in SF three days a week — and is downright obliterated by his saying, “I love our children, but” he doesn’t want to be home with them anymore.

She’s angry, but when she and Madison (pre-calling off the whole shebang) discuss vows, Kate realizes that her desire for Toby to be happy is more important than her own desire to be happy. (Side note: I’m sure it’s presented in a less biased way, but ugh Toby bugs me a lot and the fact that he’s been home with the kids a relatively short amount of time and feels entitled to complain so much makes me want to throw something at him. I live to eternally side-eye Toby.) Anyway, Kate calls Phillip and tries to resign, but he says she’s too good at her job, so he won’t accept her resignation.

Toby later says he’ll turn down the offer, but she says he should take it. She’s going to keep working at the school, too, and they’ll just make it work. “I’d rather spend four days a week with you than eight days with anyone else,” she reasons.

this-is-us-finale-recap-season-5-episode-16A MOTHER’S LOVE | When Rebecca and Randall get a few minutes together, she asks him about his New Orleans trip. But she starts to cry after he shows her one photo of Laurel, so he quickly changes the subject. Later, Rebecca seeks out her son again to apologize for keeping the truth about William from him for so long. “I knew things, and I hid them, and I’m very ashamed,” she says. She’s crying. He’s crying. It’s a LOT.

But Rebecca is determined to say her piece. “You can tell me how I hurt you. And if that doesn’t come easy, you can tell me about your journey. And if I cry, it’s because I know what I robbed from my favorite person. It’s not because I’m jealous or hurt, OK?,” she says. “So tell me about her. Tell me about your mother.” Randall quietly points out that Laurel was his birth mother — a really nice line reading by Sterling K. Brown, by the way — and they talk some more.

Eventually, Rebecca and Kevin sit in the Adirondack chairs Nicky had made as a wedding gift. Randall and Kate join them. They talk about what Jack would do under the current circumstances (stay with Kev and make sure he doesn’t drink, if you’re curious) and then Rebecca says whether it’s because of time or her mental decline, she’s having a harder time imagining her first husband these days. Then she brings up that she found “a different kind of peace at the cabin” during her quarantine stay.

“Kev, build me that house, the house he was going to build me,” she asks, and Kevin agrees. Then they all hold hands and Rebecca decrees that “Everything’s gonna be all right.”

this-is-us-finale-recap-season-5-episode-16KATE’S WEDDING, TAKE 2 | And that certainly seems to be the case in the next scene, as Kevin stands in a bathroom and practices a speech that at first seemed like it might be his heavily Princess Bride-inspired wedding vows. However, the notepaper he’s scrawled some ideas on is for Big Three Construction — which means we’re likely not in the present.

He’s wearing a tuxedo and moves through his hotel room — which also appears to be inhabited by a woman, as well, though we don’t see her — and exits into the hallway, where he runs into Nicky (who makes a reference to his wife!) and Randall, who was the subject of a New Yorker profile we saw on Kevin’s nightstand. It’s clear that they’re all preparing for a wedding.

Kevin goes to another room and finds Madison and Beth inside, though they both try to shoo him out, saying that he’s entered a no-boys area. He protests that he’s a 45-year-old man, which indicates that we’ve jumped four years ahead of the events of the show’s present-day storyline. Kev and Madison are friendly, maybe even flirty, and from their conversation it’s clear that they have spoken as recently as that morning.

Then the bathroom door opens, and Kate is there in a wedding gown. Kev asks if he can quote The Princess Bride in his speech, and she happily agrees, noting that this is the last time she’s doing this whole thing.

When Kevin leaves, he sees Phillip in the hallway, also clad in formal wear. Kev wonders if he can make jokes about the British during his remarks, and Phillip is OK with it. “Hey, if you can’t take the piss out of your future brother-in-law, who can you take the piss out of?” he says. (Wanna go into detail on this newest flash-forward? Check out our deep dive.)

And there we are! See ya in 2022, Pearsons!

Now it’s your turn. Grade the finale and the season as a whole via the polls below, then hit the comments with your thoughts, reactions, comments and questions!

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