I am pretty sure Season 5’s Season Premiere twist blew last year’s Season 4 premiere’s twist out of the water–that woman is ALIVE! But we will get to who and what and HOW in the HOLLA in a bit.
So glad to see my Pearson people again after a way, way too long of a hiatus. I get that Covid pushed it up and all, but BOY was I thrilled to soak in some good old fashioned This Is Us storytelling. As my friend Janine said on Facebook, the Season Premiere did not disappoint!
Here’s my RECAP of Season 5, Episode 1:
- Randall ( my TV brother from another mother) has some heavy burdens. Not only is he dealing with a fractured relationship with his brother, but he is also trying to do right by his constituents as they get sick and lose their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Heartsick by the news of George Floyd’s murder, Randall realizes afresh that his white family will never truly understand what it is like to be a Black man in America. As we adoptees do in such a time, he thought again about what could have been with his original parents, William and Laurel (yeah, her.) “I’ll never really know what happened that day,” he said, a harbinger of that twisty twisting twister to come.
- Ah, some levity in the form of Kevin announcing he has impregnated Madison with not one but two Pearsons, and Toby and Kate’s reaction. Toby: “Why is Madison getting out of the car?” Ha–she’s Kevin’s baby mama! I loved how they all hugged themselves in celebration, because, well, Corona.
- To be honest, things between Kevin and Randall were actually a tad better than I feared. Oh, they have a long way to go before that Grand Canyon-sized rift is healed, but they are both trying. Sort of. How they erased potentially conciliatory texts to each other and sent banal civilities instead? Ugh. But real.
- Kevin and Madison are, erm, bonding, shall we say, as they begin to get used to the idea that they have made two human beings together. I love how movie star Kevin readily agreed to park himself indefinitely in Madison’s Japanese-themed guest room. I join Kevin in saying “hmmmm.”
- On the Big Three’s 40th, we flashback to 1980, and their births. We learn that Laurel, Randall’s beautiful birth mother, was fighting drug addiction and also that she was an activist for Civil Rights. Young William is right by her side as she kicks the drugs when she learns she is pregnant, and the two nest in preparation for their child’s birth. They dream and plan as they listen to Mahalia Jackson sing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and the moment pierces our hearts because we know that tragedy is right around the corner.
- 40 years later, their baby boy is grieving because a Black man has been killed by police. “When stuff like that happened it stayed outside our house,” Randall tells Malik of other racial tragedies. Ooh, wincing here as the mother of a transracially adopted daughter. I vowed again to make our home a safe space for all the hard things, especially race.
- More levity on the “Kevin and Madison Are Cute Show”: Kevin impulsively asks Madison to marry him, and she says yes. Later, realizing his proposal may not have been the most thought out and prudently planned process, Madison invites him to walk it back. But no! “Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to take it back,” Kevin says, smiling. I do not judge Madison for being unable to resist.
- Later, at the cabin, Kate, Toby, Kevin, Madison and Miguel are gathered to celebrate the Big Three’s Birthday. Randall’s absence feels massive and sad, and Rebecca decides to go for an outing to get a birthday cake for her middle aged babies. But somewhere on her outing, she forgets where she is and thinks she sees William, who is dead. Panic ignites as she doesn’t return home in a timely fashion, and no one can reach her by phone.
- Randall, who is summoned by his terrified sister upon the disappearance of their mom, shows up at the cabin, even though Rebecca has been located and brought home safely by the police. Everyone is full of relief and dread, because this is not a good sign for Rebecca’s failing memory. Miguel is especially crestfallen; Rebecca had been doing so well! Was this just a bad day, or more? Once again, it is Randall who is able to cut to the chase and get to the bottom of the issues with his mother. But first, a heartbreaking little exchange: “We don’t have to talk about it now, Mom,” Randall says, gently. “If not now, when?” Rebecca replies, sadness infusing her words. Oh, my heart! Then Randall figures out that Rebecca mixed her poison ivy meds with her Alzheimer’s meds, resulting in her memory lapse. Pfew! We are limp with relief. But of course, there’s no stopping this train. Rebecca will slowly lose her memories.
- Back in 1980, a crushed young William takes off with his baby in his arms after Laurel dies on the floor before him of an overdose. Her pain in giving birth had been too much, and she begged him for some drugs to help her pain. Tragically, she appeared to OD and die, leaving her baby without a mother. William, sizing up the situation and realizing the paramedics were planning on calling Child and Family Services, flees to the fire station and leaves his baby on their doorstep. Later, he makes his way to the closest hospital and helplessly. hopelessly, watches his tiny son screaming in the nursery. A harrowing scene.
- One of my favorite scenes? When Jack and William pass each other coming and going through the hospital chapel doors, each one begging for God to take care of the ones they love.
- Chrissy Metz wins the performance of the night for me. When Kate tries–and fails–to reach out to her Black brother in his deep distress, she is gutted, knowing she cannot understand his pain no matter how hard she tries, her flushed face a mix of despair and love. And this time, Randall does not try and smooth things over with her. “If I made things better for you, where would that leave me?” So much hard-won truth in that statement.
- But Kate has something wondrous to fill her heart. Toby excitedly shares the news that they have been matched with a birth mother and that they will soon be the parents of children, plural. (Already? Earlier in the show, when Rebecca asked about the adoption, Kate said, “Gee, Mom, it’s not Amazon.” Haha. Except, in their case, it sort of is Amazon.)
- And then! In the waning seconds of the show, our favorite TV writers managed to pull the rug out from under all of us with that wackadoodle doo, Bungee-jumping-off-a-cliff, lurching, swerving, yawing TWIST: Laurel lived! We don’t know how–Lord, have mercy, we do not–-but somehow she gasped for air and came back to life (although, the paramedic never called the time of death, did he?)
When Randall said “We need a year with no surprises” I was like, well, that ain’t happening, man. And now we know just what that surprise will be, and it will be a doozy.
Well, what did you guys think? Favorite performance? Best line of the night?
Alright, talk to me? Did you love it? Do you have any ideas about how on earth William never found out about Laurel? Or did he know? And where has she been for forty years???