Refresh yourself on all the feelings from This is Us season 1 with this handy recap, before season 2 premieres.
This is Us season 1 introduced us to the Pearson family and the often beautiful, sometimes difficult, always real, and powerfully emotional lives that they lead. We met them on Jack’s 36th birthday, when “The Big Three” came into the world, and followed the triplets past their own 36th birthday which, unfortunately, Jack didn’t make it to.
Before another season of tears begins, let’s look back on everything that happened in This is Us season 1.
’This is Us’ season 1 recap
First came me…
and Dad said, ‘Gee.’
Growing up, Kevin Pearson was the one who always succeeded at everything. He was popular, he was the star of his high school football team, and he had the girl of his dreams.
When we met him on his 36th birthday, it still seemed like he had it all! He had the lead role in the hit sitcom, The Manny, tons of cash and all the fixins, and all of the scantily clad women he could handle.
Unfortunately, it turns out that money and lingerie really can’t buy happiness, because Kevin was miserable. His role as the Manny made him feel like a joke, and he longed to be taken seriously as an actor. One particularly soul crushing day on set, he snapped, and he quit!
The network threatened to ruin him and his career, but the power of “The Big Three” gave him the confidence to say “Manny out,” and he moved to New York to begin his career as a serious theater actor.
New York turned out to be just what Kevin needed. Almost immediately, he landed an audition for a play that he was really excited about. Was his audition great? Not quite. The lead actress was very quick to tell him so. Fortunately, The Manny proved to be the gift that kept on giving, and Kevin got the lead role because “they thought the Manny would sell tickets.”
Once Kevin began rehearsing for the play, the drama really started, both on and off stage! He started dating his co-star, Olivia, who did crazy things like take Kevin to funerals for people she didn’t know.
Despite Olivia’s flair for the dramatic, things started going pretty well for the new couple when she spent Thanksgiving with Kevin’s family. She appreciated his family ties, and it even led to her crashing the Big Three’s cottage weekend… with the playwright and her ex-boyfriend in tow.
That weekend showed Kevin that Olivia really wasn’t right for him, so he kicked her out. Don’t fret though, because he basically started dating Sloan, the aforementioned playwright, the very same day, after Olivia made her grand exit with her car. Sloan ended up taking Olivia’s role in the play, since the oh-so-subtle Olivia also skipped town, and Kevin was forced to financially back the play himself, following her departure.
This went well until Olivia returned, ready to run back into Kevin’s arms. After much deliberation, Kevin told Olivia that he was going to stay with Sloan because “sometimes you just gotta do the right thing.” Sloan heard him, so you can probably guess how that worked out.
Kevin turned to the self-proclaimed “King of Grand Gestures,” Toby, for advice. Toby told him to close his eyes, picture the love of his life, and say three sentences to win her back. So, was he picturing Sloan or Olivia? Turns out, neither.
The love of Kevin’s life is apparently his high school sweetheart/Kate’s childhood friend/his ex-wife who he cheated on and hasn’t spoken to in 12 years… Sophie. He said the three, run-on sentences, he won her back. Looks like Toby really is the king.
Believe it or not, Kevin’s issues went even deeper than his wacky catch phrase and having too many women who wanted to sleep with him. Manny say WHAT? Even though he seemed to have it easy as a child, he always craved more attention from his parents, feeling neglected due to the bigger issues that Kate and Randall faced.
Kevin and Kate were always extremely close, but the same couldn’t be said for the two brothers. When Kevin moved in with Randall in New York, they got to work through some of their issues, and became a lot closer. The deal was sealed when Kevin ditched the opening night of his play to help Randall through a panic attack.
When Kevin finally showed up to the next opening night, the play went great. The critic he was counting on didn’t show, but his performance was amazing and he realized that the real reason he came to New York was to win Sophie back. So sweet! That is, until Ron Howard called Kevin and said he wanted him for a role in Los Angeles. Since distance was what ruined Kevin and Sophie before, we’ll see how they fare in This is Us season 2.
Then came me…
and Mom said ‘Whee!’
For Kate, “it’s always gonna be about the weight.” From her early childhood, to her adulthood, we see her struggling with it. As a child she was put on a special diet and teased by her classmates, and as an adult, she felt like she “ate her dream life away.”
Kate finally decided to lose the weight after a particularly painful and embarrassing slip on her bathroom scale. Her BFF, Kevin, used his twin powers to help her come to the decision, and she’s been trying ever since.
She started going to a support group, which is where she met Toby. He immediately started flirting with her, but she told him that she couldn’t “fall for a fat person, right now.” So, Toby assured her that he would lose the weight!
At the beginning of This is Us season 1, Kate was working as Kevin’s assistant. She was damn good at it, but she seemed to always be in the background of everyone else’s life, and never in the spotlight.
Toby, the aforementioned “King of Grand Gestures,” helped her realize that she also deserved to be seen, heard, and celebrated. He and Kevin managed to convince Kate to stay in LA when Kevin moved to New York.
Things were going great between Kate and Toby until they bumped into his gorgeous ex-wife. This left Kate feeling insecure, so obviously, she had to do her research. She accidentally ended up taking a job with her, so she had to tell Toby. He got upset and told Kate that his ex-wife was horrible to him, and that she even made him contemplate suicide.
Kate took another assistant position, and in the interview she let it slip that she fell in love with her old boss, which could very well come back to haunt her in the future of This is Us.
While Kate and Toby’s relationship could withstand the ex-wife drama and the fact that Kate needs to watch Steelers games alone (with her father’s ashes), it couldn’t weather Toby going off the diet. After she pushed Toby to order dessert, she ended up binging and breaking up with him.
The breakup lasted exactly the length of one turbulent plane ride, one gastric bypass announcement, and one grand romantic gesture. Toby showed up to surprise Kate at Christmas and the power couple was back on. Unfortunately, their reunion was short-lived, because Toby’s arrhythmia (which apparently is more serious than the inability to dance) caused him to collapse, that night.
Toby’s condition required surgery, and before he went under the knife he told Kate that he was in love with her, and that he would “marry the hell out of her,” “just like that.” All of the romance and scary surgery stuff made Kate second guess her decision to have gastric bypass surgery, and she instead enrolled in a wellness camp.
Kate didn’t last too long at the camp, since she got kicked out for telling off the owner’s son, who had a thing for her. However, she actually did make some progress before she left. It seems like a lot of her issues stem from the death of her father.
After camp, she and Toby vowed to tell each other everything, but she wasn’t able to be honest when he asked about her father, which caused Toby to postpone the wedding. All of Kate’s feelings returned when William died, and she finally told Toby that the reason she couldn’t talk about her dad’s death was because it was her fault! Manny say WHAT?!
Then came me…
and they said, ‘that’s three!’
Randall had a slightly different beginning than the rest of the Pearson children. His father left him outside of a fire station when he was a baby, and he ended up at the hospital on the same day that Kevin and Kate were born, and the day that Jack and Rebecca’s third baby died. However, he was taken home in a “Big Three” onesie, just the same.
As a child, Randall had his own set of struggles. He was teased and called “Webster” by the other kids at school, he held himself back to keep from outshining Kate and Kevin, and he was constantly looking for other people who looked like him. More specifically, he was looking for his father.
As an adult, Randall found his father! He hired someone to find him, and he confidently walked up to his door with the intention of saying “screw you,” once and for all. He did that, but when William invited him in, he couldn’t resist. William confessed that he was on drugs when he left Randall, but he was now clean. He also confessed that he was dying of cancer.
That day, William came to stay with Randall and began getting to know him, his wife, Beth, and his two daughters. He quickly became an integral part of the family, and he developed a strong bond with everyone.
This only made things more difficult when Randall discovered that Rebecca knew about William all along, and kept him from him. At first, Rebecca didn’t want William in Randall’s life because he was an addict, but she did name Randall after William’s favorite poet. Later, when Randall was desperately looking for black male role models, Rebecca kept a clean William away from him because she was terrified of losing her son. Randall and Rebecca’s relationship still hasn’t fully recovered from this discovery.
In This is Us season 1, we learned about Randall’s “compulsive need to be perfect.” Beth initially told William that he’d sacrifice anything to help him, and we saw it happen. William tried to keep the stress away from Randall by leaning on his boyfriend, Jesse, but Randall wouldn’t have it.
Eventually, the stress of being underappreciated at his difficult job, his family life, and William’s slow death became too much for him and he started suffering from panic attacks. In the past, Jack was always the one to help Randall get through these episodes, but this time, it was Kevin, whose acknowledgement Randall had always craved, who got him through it.
Despite Beth’s protestations, Randall took William on a road trip to Memphis, his home town. They visited the tree where Jack’s ashes were scattered, met William’s estranged cousin (and many more second and third cousins to Randall), and Randall got to discover even more about his father.
Unbeknownst to Randall and his family, William knew he wouldn’t make it back home. He died in Memphis, with his son at his side. When Randall’s office sent him a box of pears (which he’s allergic to) and a generic condolences card, he marched right in and quit, vowing to live by William’s example and take things more slowly.
It all started in a bar
Jack and Kate met in a bar when they were both supposed to be on dates with other people. Jack, desperate to make a name for himself and to get out from under his abusive father’s thumb, missed his date because he was tired of being the nice guy. Rebecca skipped out on her date because there was an open mic that she wanted to be at, and she just had to sing.
Jack was just about to steal the contents of the cash register, as he’d planned, when he heard Rebecca’s voice from the next room. The two fell madly in love, and eventually, the Big Three were conceived on Super Bowl Sunday in the bathroom of a bar, after they’d just fought about whether they wanted kids, or not.
The couple struggled financially throughout Rebecca’s pregnancy, and things didn’t get any easier when they found out they were having triplets. Rebecca had resigned herself to moving in with her crazy, overbearing mother, but Jack swallowed his pride and asked for money from his father, so they wouldn’t have to.
Rebecca went into labor on Jack’s 36th birthday, which she’d forgotten all about. Her water broke following an apologetic, traditional birthday strip tease, and they rushed to the hospital. Their regular doctor’s appendix had burst that day, so they got Dr. K instead, who turned out to be the wisest human of all time, so it was a huge win. He helped Jack get through the loss of Kyle, and inspired him to adopt Randall. Big Three!
Jack and Rebecca were fantastic parents, loving their children well and creating fantastic birthday, thanksgiving, and pool day memories for them at every turn. Of course, their parenthood wasn’t without struggle.
At one point, Jack started drinking and hanging out in bars with his friend Miguel a little too much. However, as soon as Rebecca made it clear that his behavior would not be welcome in her home, he cleaned up his act.
When the family began struggling with money again, Jack took a desk job with Miguel and started working longer hours. He had a dream to start a construction company, but he gave it up to send Randall to a special school. As the parents made more and more sacrifices, things kept getting a little more difficult, but the family remained strong.
Rebecca got back into singing when the kids were in high school, and she signed on for a two week tour with her old band. Despite Jack wanting her to stay, he agreed that she should go. That is, until he found out that her bandmate was her ex-boyfriend! The revelation made him turn to drinking again.
On the first night of Rebecca’s tour, Jack went out with his work friends (after Kate told him not to sulk around the house), and he ended up driving two hours, drunk, to Rebecca’s show. When Rebecca’s ex let it slip that he tried to kiss her, Jack punched him. Rebecca drove him home, they had a huge fight, and Jack went to stay with Miguel for a while.
In present day, we know that Jack is tragically dead. He died when the kids were teenagers, but we have no idea how! All we know is that Kate feels responsible. Also, Rebecca is married to Miguel! Manny. Say. WHAT?!