If you ever wondered how the Pearsons spent Halloween, the Tuesday, October 31, episode of This Is Us filled you in, and spoiler alert — it’s probably eerily similar to how you spent your own childhood Halloweens. “The 20’s” also gave us our first look at the Big Three in their twenties, when their lives were way less put together than they are in the present.
This episode was told entirely in flashbacks. In part, we spent Halloween 1990 with the Pearsons. Randall had mapped out the entire neighborhood to maximize the family’s “house-to-candy ratio,” but Kate and Kevin were more interested in going to a haunted house. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) promised Randall they could stick to his map, so she took Randall house-to-house while Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) accompanied Kate and Kevin (in a “cigar-smoking bum” costume) to the haunted house. But before they left, Rebecca and Jack had a slight disagreement over their treatment of the kids — Rebecca said Jack needed to stop always saying yes to Kate, and Jack told Rebecca she treated Randall like he was made of glass.
Kate — aka “pretty Sandy” from Grease — mentioned she was meeting her crush Billy at the haunted house and she thought if he got scared enough, he might hold her hand. Kevin told his dad how improbable this was, considering Billy was almost as popular as Kevin. Jack was on pins and needles hoping Billy wouldn’t break Kate’s heart, but all his fears subsided when he saw Billy take Kate’s hand. Then he noticed Kevin giving all his candy to Billy. Turns out Kevin had bribed Billy to hold Kate’s hand. Oh, Kevin … always looking out for his sis!
Meanwhile Randall, dressed in his Michael Jackson getup, was stressing out over staying precisely on map. Rebecca realized how rigid Randall had become, which Jack had pointed out earlier, and encouraged him to venture off his plan to the Larsons house. Randall reluctantly agreed to swing by the licorice-only household, but licorice was not all he walked away with. The blabber-mouth Larsons also told Randall he was a miracle because Jack and Rebecca had lost their third baby and found him instead. This forced Rebecca to tell Randall about his adoption without Jack there to back her up. The conversation went OK, but Rebecca later wondered aloud to Jack (the Sonny to her Cher) what she would do without him.
The Washed-Up Actor
The episode’s other flashbacks took us to the Big Three’s twenties in 2008. Kevin (Justin Hartley) had not yet hit it big as an actor. Instead he was shampooing women’s hair in a salon and complaining about being pegged as a “tall Tom Cruise.” Kevin’s roommate, the never-before-seen Zeke, had just landed a role and offered to take Kevin to a party the director was hosting so Kevin could make some connections.
Kevin ended up trying to steal the part out from under Zeke, which the director didn’t appreciate — and neither did Zeke, who kicked him out. Kevin admitted while talking to Kate (Chrissy Metz) that he hadn’t had an audition in a year, and she gave him the idea to join an improv group. We never discovered how this led to his big break, but we’re guessing it had something to do with him becoming The Manny.
The Other Woman
Kate was also struggling, living in Pittsburgh and working as a waitress at a diner. Her “favorite customer” mentioned that he was getting drinks with some friends at a local bar, so Kate took a chance and met him there. He asked if she knew of some place quieter they could go to, so they went to her apartment and had sex.
Afterward she asked if he was married. She said she’d known he was for a while — he never talked about anything other than work, he left his hometown bar when people noticed him talking to Kate. She admitted that nothing had felt right to her in a long time, and she was hoping that after she did something, it would feel right — but it didn’t.
Kevin later asked Kate if she was still sitting in her car eating fast food looking at where their house used to be. She was. He told her Jack wouldn’t want her staying in Pittsburgh just waiting for him to come back because he wasn’t coming back. This conversation is what prompted Kate to move to L.A., which is where she’d eventually work for Kevin and meet Toby.
The First-Time Dad
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) was a day away from welcoming his first daughter into the world, or so he thought. It had been a few months since his first mental breakdown, so Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) had called Rebecca to come in for the baby’s birth. Randall was stressed out over a ceiling fan, and after he overheard Beth and Rebecca talking about his state of mind, he left for the hardware store to buy a new fan. Beth confided in Rebecca that she and Randall had been walking on eggshells around each other; her concern for him was more than noticeable.
At the hardware store, Randall opened up to an employee about his breakdown and how he worried about not having all the answers for his child. The employee, himself a father of five, assured Randall that the baby would be the one with all the answers and gave him a pamphlet for the best fan on the market. Rebecca called saying Beth was in labor, and Randall had to rush out before he could buy the fan. But the man’s advice stuck with him, and Randall and Beth named Tess — who was unexpectedly, but healthily, delivered in their living room — after the ceiling fan he had recommended.
Rebecca was a calming influence for Beth and Randall during Tess’s birth, which Rebecca called one of the happiest moments of her life. But it only reminded her that Jack wasn’t there to share her happiest moments with her anymore. Rebecca’s friends suggested she join Facebook to keep up with Tess’s baby photos, and Beth offered to help her set it up. We ultimately found out that this is how Rebecca reconnected with Miguel (Jon Huertas). Jack’s best friend and Rebecca’s future husband reached out to her in a private message, revealing that they hadn’t spoken in eight years. So now we know Rebecca and Miguel didn’t begin their relationship until the Big Three were in their 20s.
This Is Us airs on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
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