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'This Is Us' Recap (and a John Stamos Reaction): Have Mercy!

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 16, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 16, 2019 |


This Is Us is like that pair of LL Bean slippers the dog ran off with six months ago and hid behind the couch: You completely forgot about them, but now that you’ve got them again, you’re like, “How did I go six months without these?” It’s been seven weeks since This Is Us last aired. I didn’t miss it, but I am glad it’s back. That ridiculous, feel-good Pearson drama is warm and cozy, even if the heel has worn away.

The midseason premiere of This Is Us picks up on Randall’s election night. The race, inexplicably, is too close to call. There’s a chilliness in the look across the room at election quarters between Beth and Randall; Zoe gives a John Stamos keychain back to Kevin for reasons unknown; and Kate is back in Los Angeles crying. Why? We have no idea, so the episode jumps back seven weeks to fill us in.

The episode takes us back to the morning after Beth and Randall’s fight. Randall is still determined to win an impossible race, while Beth still believes he should quit and prioritize the family. They come to an uneasy truce: Randall will continue the race, but Beth (and the girls) are out. Randall is on his own.

Being on his own doesn’t particularly suit Randall. He knocks on doors, and keeps fighting the good fight to be a “great man,” but he’s concerned that he’s not being a “good man” to his family. It reaches its nadir on New Year’s Eve when Randall stops by a pie shop to pick up a “Booberry” pie that he traditionally eats with Beth at midnight, but they’re all out. Randall is staring down the barrel of another night in the doghouse, and to complicate matters, his campaign manager gives him some dirt on his political opponent that leaves Randall feeling uneasy.

Lo and behold, in typical Pearson fashion, a small miracle arrives, this time in the form of the Reverend of the Philly church Randall has been attending. The Reverend has a blueberry pie for Randall, but more importantly, he has some sage advice: Live your life in a way that would make you proud as you’re looking back on it from your death bed.

So, Randall ditches the dirt, makes the two-hour trip home (seriously, how can you run for a city council position in a city two hours away?), and he makes amends with Beth and his family. He’s going to be a “good man,” goddamnit, and his family is what’s going to make him a “great man.” I think that’s all Beth really wanted: A simple concession. Randall decides to prioritize his family over the race, and that’s exactly when Beth is like, “Get your ass out there and knock on some doors.” Moreover, the next morning in church, the Reverend does the next best thing to endorsing Randall: He says that the district would be in just as good hands with Randall as with his opponent, Councilman Sol.

Cut to election night. It’s too close to call. Beth and Randall are back in each other’s good graces again — This Is Us is not going to assassinate this couple the way they did Jim and Pam in the final season of The Office. No way. But with the race too close to call, Randall sends his campaign staffers home and tells them to get a good night’s rest. Randall and Beth drive back home (two hours!), and as they’re lying down for bed and a loopy Randall is yammering on like he’s Oscar Isaac in Life Itself, he gets a phone call.

“I won.”

Yeah. I shed a little tear. You can shut the hell right up about it. I just hope that there is never a conversation between Beth and Randall in the future that begins, “You didn’t have faith in me when I was running …” because, God bless him, Randall showed his ass in that fight with Beth earlier in the episode, being all like, “I didn’t hear you complaining when I spent a year being Super Dad,” and “Maybe it’s because I have something to care about right now and you don’t.” Randall: You pick a fight with Beth at your own peril.

Anyway, Kevin and Zoe’s storyline is sweet, too, and pushes the reunion with Uncle Nicky a tad closer. After they return from Vietnam, Kevin asks Zoe to move in with him. She’s hesitant, but it’s a “yes.” Unfortunately, she can’t bring herself to unpack. While Kevin and Zoe are meeting with an ex of Zoe’s to help get Nicky’s military records, Kevin finds out that Zoe blew off a two-year relationship with that other guy in an email. Kevin freaks, worrying that Zoe won’t commit. On election night, Zoe gives Kevin back his John Stamos keychain with the key to his apartment on it. She can’t deal with his pushiness.

However, after Randall’s election night speech — “We kept pushing, and we did it because we believed in what our future here could be” — Zoe has a change of heart. It’s OK that Kevin is pushy, because she believes in what their future can be (the way this show closes a loop makes me vomit. Also weep. Shut up). The coda to the Kevin/Zoe storyline, however, is that Zoe finds an old postcard from Uncle Nicky to Kevin’s Dad. Jack knew Nicky was alive the whole time, and he lied to Randall about it. That old so and so!

Finally, on the other side of the country, Kate and Toby’s storyline is … really great filler! It involved some Star Wars figurines, a toy football stadium, a lime and a tomato, and that’s all I’m going to say about that, except that I love it when Kate gets a win, and that I’m glad to have This Is Us back in our lives.

I would add, however, that the John Stamos namecheck did elicit a reaction from the man himself:

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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