First things first – are you okay? Am I okay? Is anyone okay? Is George okay? Or have This Is Us fans already found him and covered his lawn with crockpots filled with tears? That’s still left to be determined, but one thing is for sure – crockpots are OFFICIALLY canceled. That beautiful, oh so beautiful, cooking appliance that keeps your famous queso warm and delicious for hours will now haunt you until the end of time because as we found out in tonight’s episode, “That’ll Be The Day” the Pearson’s crockpot and its faulty switch is what caused the fire at their home – and while it’s still not completely confirmed, this fire will most likely lead to Jack’s death.
Me and my crockpot at 10:01 pm:
There’s so much to unpack here that I am choosing to bypass my Top 5 Moments format this week and instead just chit chat my way through this recap with you. Grab a tissue and let’s get to it!
The episode opens with an elderly couple named George and Sally arguing over all of their saved possessions that take up the entire garage, making it very unappealing for potential buyers visiting their home. After unearthing the old jukebox that first brought them together, George starts singing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” which is the title of the episode, and just in case you aren’t familiar with the lyrics they go like this:
Well, that’ll be the day, when you say goodbye
Yes, that’ll be the day, when you make me cry
You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie
‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die.
So, within literally one minute the This Is Us air is ominously heavy and that pause button is looking oh so nice. However, it’s Superbowl Sunday in the 1998 Pearson house so we can’t say goodbye just yet, in fact, we are kicking things off the Pearson way- with a shot…of orange juice.
While Jack and Rebecca’s whiskey shot tradition may be permanently sidelined, Big Three Homes is only being temporarily sidelined. After giving it some thought, Jack realized that jumping right into a new company is a huge undertaking he may not be prepared for, so he’s decided that he’s going to flip a few homes, get his feet wet again, and revisit Big Three later.
Since we were told that this would be a huge episode in revealing Jack’s death, every word that the man speaks and every conversation that he has is met with a giant pit in your stomach. We know that Jack will never get to flip even one house, let alone start Big Three Homes. And when he says “Last Pearson Super Bowl”, meaning with the kids before they go to college, the weight of the statement is almost too much to bear. Throughout the episode there were moments when Jack was interacting with one of the kids or Rebecca and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking “is this the last conversation they will ever have?” Despite them being fictional characters, it was an extremely unnerving feeling to know that you could be watching final interactions between people who don’t even know it.
Kevin, who is still staying with Rebecca and Miguel, has a list of people on his apology tour and I guess he’s checking it twice because instead of reaching out to Sophie he texts Randall instead…triple texts him actually. Even though the two know he could probably use the company (he just got out of rehab after all), Kevin is not on Randall and Beth’s to-do list today. What is? Well R&B Properties are starting their first official day as landlords of William’s old apartment.
Now, the thought of Randall and Beth working together seems like it could be kind of a disaster seeing as he is a head in the sky, decisions of grandeur kind of human and she is the sharpshooting let’s make a plan kind, but the two of them partnering up to take on this project is so much more than just personalities bumping heads. It turns out that back in the day Jack asked Rebecca to be his business partner, an exciting union that never came to fruition. Now, Randall and Beth are getting that chance and while I’m not sure if Randall knows this about his parents, I wouldn’t be surprised if the revelation came out at some point down the line.
We then meet up with Kate and Toby in the midst of a huge relationship decision – to get a dog or to not get a dog? Turns out that Toby is a huge dog guy, but he hasn’t really been vocal with Kate about it because he knows that dogs are a sensitive issue for her. We all know that the raggedy dog Jack and Rebecca found earlier this season essentially became Kate’s dog and judging by Toby’s voiced concerns and Kate’s reaction, it’s becoming more clear that the dog will be playing a pivotal role in the fire.
Kate can’t say no to Toby though and she finds herself in the local adoption agency where she meets the worlds most precious dog named Audio. Now, he may be named Audio because he loves music, but audio is also playing a big role in young Kate’s pursuit of college. She’s moved on to the final application stage but needs to submit an original song before they make their final decision. Jack wants to videotape her singing to send in, but Kate says she’s just going to send in an audio tape instead. She’s also in bed listening to her audio tape on headphones when the fire starts as well. Just a quick detail that I picked up on.
Meanwhile, Jack is building a new entertainment unit that will be perfect for watching the big game on, but Kevin and his attitude about having to apply to community college while Sophie plans to go to NYU sprinkle sour all over Jack’s mood. Jack vulnerably admits that he chooses to do something with his hands and a hammer whenever he wants a drink, and while Kevin basically brushes the statement off as whatever, when he crashes Beth and Randall’s landlord meeting he is all too quick to help Randall tackle the insanely long list of demands the tenants provided. Like father, like son.
Also, I would be doing everyone a disservice if I did not include this brilliant gif:
So, things are pretty tense between Kevin and Jack, but that has been a constant throughout a majority of the season. However, when Jack can’t resist videotaping Kate recording her song she lashes out at him too about how she told him that she doesn’t want to be on camera. “Oh come on! You can’t be mad at me today, it’s Super Bowl Sunday” he says as she runs off and again you just want, no – need, them to resolve it before the episode is up.
Not one to let a conflict fester, Jack goes out to find Kate and apologize for not respecting her wishes. It breaks his heart that she may not want to be on camera because she doesn’t recognize just how beautiful she is. Hannah Zeile then delivers one of her most beautifully acted monologues as Kate of the series when she tells Jack that he has to stop telling her how perfect she is. It may have made her feel better when she was younger but now that she’s older it just hurts.
The root of the problem is that Kate thinks Jack just tells her these things to make her feel better about herself, but later that day when she decides to watch the video he recorded, she sees the completely pure adoration, pride and love on his face in the reflection of the mirror. She realizes that when he says affirmations, he means them and she goes downstairs and takes back what she said…he should never stop saying them. I know I’m just in denial, but I hope Kate somehow still has that video because it was such a beautiful moment that would break my heart if she lost.
When the game finally rolls around, The Last Pearson Super Bowl has dwindled down to just Jack and Rebecca as the kids have all gone out. The two start to think about their future as they let this fleeting sample of an empty nest sink in. Rebecca reveals that she found Jack the perfect house for his first flip and it’s almost as if the answer to their questions just clicks. Jack wants to partner with Rebecca, who was instrumental in their remodel, and Rebecca is ready to start her next chapter now that the kids are leaving the house.
The two go upstairs and make love for what will be the last time and it really struck out to me just how pivotal this moment was for Rebecca. I was so relieved that she was able to have that intimacy as one of her last memories, especially after everything that they had been going through with his addiction.
Unfortunately, while Kate and Rebecca are all good with Jack, I can’t say the same for Kevin. He kind of erupts on Jack and Rebecca when they try to get him to open up about his feelings regarding Sophie going to NYU and him having to stay home. “Don’t you guys get it, I was supposed to end up in the Super Bowl not watch it like you guys.” He barges out and goes to Sophie’s, but later calls the house and apologizes to Rebecca. When she asks if he wants to talk to Jack he says he will just do it the next day, except there isn’t going to be a next day.
Present Day Kevin finally makes his way to Sophie’s to apologize, but things aren’t looking too good. She tells him that she’s ready to just move on and just wants him to leave her with the past. She wants to remember them when they were young and in love, and not keep trying to force a future together. It certainly seems like an ending, but I can’t help but think that Sophie will be back someday. Later that night, Kevin gets a package and it’s his Dad’s necklace that he lost during his trilogy episode. As his emotions begin to surface he is able to check Sophie’s name on his list, but when he turns it over we see DAD written on the other side- a name that he will never be able to check off.
Kevin’s story continues to be the most layered and complex and it feels as if we have only scratched the surface with him. I can’t wait to dig deeper into his character because I feel like he will eventually become the most important Big Three story.
That leaves one final Pearson – Randall. Randall had a pretty normal day at the house and eventually leaves to go take his new girlfriend to see Titanic, but since present-day Randall doesn’t seem to have any underlying guilt, it wasn’t a surprise when he showed back up at the house later that night. Jack hears him in the kitchen and comes down and the two have a perfect father-son talk. He tells Jack that he had his first kiss and Jack once again beams with pride and reminds him to “always be a gentleman”, a sentiment we know Randall embodies.
We’ve now hit the final few minutes of the episode, which is basically the equivalent of code red, so we all knew to brace ourselves. I actually paused the show for a whole two minutes before I could actually watch it.
Jack starts cleaning up the rest of the kitchen and when the camera pans out you can see a little red light on in the background…the crockpot! Of course, Jack then turns off the crockpot, pets the dog and heads upstairs to bed. Enter huge sigh of relief.
It was just a classic This Is Us fake out. We circle back to George and Sally as Sally shares that they got a call and someone wants to come and see their house…”a really nice couple.” Since Rebecca already called the house she had found in the paper it’s a safe assumption that the Pearson’s are who she is talking about, but when the camera quickly cuts to George walking across the street holding a box, things seem a little off. He knocks on the door and who opens it? A young Jack and a pregnant Rebecca who are in the midst of remodeling their fixer-upper.
“I thought I’d bring this over. Only two years old, but there’s a lot of great family meals to be cooked in that.” Oh George, what have you done?
Cut back to the 17-year-old crockpot, which shorts and catches on fire, sending the entire Pearson home up in flames. And as if that isn’t traumatizing enough to watch, as the fire engulfs more and more of the house we are treated to flashbacks of the precious moments and memories that took place in those spaces. Jack giving Rebecca a beautiful bracelet. Jack and Rebecca measuring their growing kids on the wall. The cake fight after their birthday parties. Family photos. A note that Jack had just left for Kevin saying that he loved him. And Jack and Rebecca’s final moments in the heart of it all. All of their memories and the life they built in that home are burning to the ground.
We also need to talk about the absolutely chill-inducing song that plays during the montage – “To Build a Home” by the Cinematic Orchestra. Just look at the lyrics and try not to become covered in goosebumps.
And, I built a home
Until it disappeared
And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust.
This Is…The Rest:
Earlier on in the episode, Kevin goes to get something out of Rebecca’s fridge and there’s a note on the door telling him that she and Miguel went out to run errands. It’s a bit of foreshadowing to the note that Jack writes him but he never gets to read.
Can This Is Us not troll us by having Randall going to see Titanic, a movie in which an iconic character named Jack dies, on the same night that his iconic father named Jack will most likely die? RUDE.
Kate does end up adopting Audio, so it will be very interesting to see how that plays out, but I for one am thankful to get to look at that precious Jacob Tremblay in dog form on a weekly basis.
Randall gets really candid with Kevin at the apartment complex about why he is biting off more than he can chew. He says that he feels like he is running out of time because no matter how hard he tries he can’t picture himself as an old man. He can’t picture himself outliving his father. Kevin tells him that he needs to try harder because his other father lived to be a remarkable old man. More William, please.
Beth and Randall continued to be #relationshipgoals but boy, do they have their work cut out for them. Especially if there’s a foster child on the way.
I wasn’t one of those people who was consumed by knowing how Jack died. My enjoyment of the show didn’t hinge on solving that mystery and now that we’ve arrived I am just not ready. I can’t imagine that anyone, even the people who wanted to know are ready, because just knowing what happened and watching what happened are two drastically different things.
We haven’t spent that much time with the Pearson’s, just a season and a half, but still, that house burning down was one of the saddest moments I’ve ever watched and that wasn’t even the start of it. This Is Us has the post-Super Bowl time slot so expect this gutwrenching chapter to end next Sunday. It makes sense too – the fire occurs after the Super Bowl so in some cruel way it makes sense that we should have to watch it happen after the actual Super Bowl as well.
The preview shows Jack desperately trying to save Rebecca, Kate, and Randall from a raging fire that has already overwhelmed the upstairs, which is another notch in the theory that Jack will somehow make it out but run back in for Kate’s dog. I for one already know that I am not going to be able to watch the episode without becoming physically ill, but I know I will because I love the Pearsons despite the emotional turmoil they put me through on a weekly basis and the fact that I now no longer have a crockpot.
We’ve been promised by creator Dan Fogelman that next week we will get the answer to how Jack dies, so at least we will be relieved of that mystery moving forward and can start digging into a new timeline and stories – After Jack.
Check out the episodes’s aftershow below!
What did you think of the episode? Do you have any predictions about what will happen next week?
This Is Us returns on Sunday, February 4th after the Super Bowl. Be sure to set your DVR to record after just in case it starts late!
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.