I can’t stop crying, can you? Honestly, that episode had me ugly crying both times I watched it. It felt like a finale, a meaningful and poignant tying up of a major story arc.
In the words of my beloved Miss Mary, my 93-year-old “church mother,” How you doin’ today?
As we dry our tears, let’s take a look at this astonishing and deeply touching episode, one of the all-time best:
1963: In New Mexico, a young Indian college student is reading a page-turner outside a mixer for international students: Advanced Computer Programming, when a lovely Argentine coed approaches him. But who are Nasir and Esther? I wondered nearly the whole episode until I knew, and my heart was warm!
1994: The Pearsons are packing for a weekend at the cabin, but not everyone is thrilled. “the cabin is lame,” Randall declares, and every parent of every teen everywhere collectively feels that knife to the chest. Yup, the Big Three just want to be with their friends, not their family. Rebecca suggests a getaway for just the two of them, and they are off for some teen-free cabin canoodling.
2020: Rebecca and Miguel sit at the cabin and wait as Rebecca fights guilt for not being physically there for her kids on this momentous day. But of course, Covid. Randall and Beth stay on a video call with Madison for hours, keeping her company as she enters labor. Meanwhile, in another hospital room, the birth mother of Kate’s child is in labor, too, though only 2 cm dilated.
2020: Toby has camped out in the parking lot, waiting for news of the baby. Will Ellie actually relinquish her to them? That’s a huge question and Toby is worried, even as he writes down a list of middle names. Inside, Ellie tells the nurse that Kate is Mom, not her, and to hand the baby to Kate when she comes.
1994: Rebecca lets out some steam regarding her fractious, moody teenaged children. She needs a break! But Jack seems to be stewing.
2020: Toby is confronted in the parking lot by an irate older man, who insists spot 157 is his spot, where he comes every day and hopes his Covid-stricken wife, Rose, can one day get off the ventilator. You see, 157 was an old house number and Rose’s favorite number, kind of like 542 for me. Toby moves immediately.
1960’s: Nasir and Esther have a gorgeous baby boy, just one of four who will be born on this episode.
2020: Miguel, upon having his hastily prepared cocktail rejected by Rebecca, who calls it “gasoline,” cheekily refers to their honeymoon in Puerto Rico, where a loose Rebecca had drunk some shots. Oh, you know that backstory will be coming down the pipe, hopefully soon!
1994: Jack is weirdly irritated with Rebecca for her less than glowing remarks about their kids and their “crappy” artwork. But yet his mood made sense in a Jack kind of way. “It’s moving really fast,” he said of their family’s life together. “We only have a few more years.” Fraught, because we know his time is even more limited than he thinks. A picture with their handprints and those of their little ones have all bled together due to the water damage in the cabin. “We are still there,” Rebecca says about the painting. “All together, even if it doesn’t look like it used to.” Sigh.
2020: The parking lot guy warms up to Toby (who wouldn’t?), explaining his pig collection displayed on his dashboard. It’s Rose’s collection; she felt they brought good luck. Rose needs all the luck she can get, which is why he brings the entire lot every night. When Toby confesses that he is worried that Ellie won’t relinquish the baby to them, Rose’s husband gives him one of her pigs for good luck. A melter, to be sure.
2020: Randall is trying to distract dear Madison from the size of her epidural needle and launches into a story about teenage Kevin, coming home drunk and nakedly jumping up and down on a bed singing “Mm-Bop” by Hanson. He also wants he and Randall to do their own bro band: Pearson. Ha! And then Randall hears Kevin’s voice. He made it!
And it’s showtime as both Madison and Ellie go into active labor. It looks like one of the twins is born first, but then Ellie delivers a little girl. That moment, when the nurse tries to hand the baby to Kate and Kate awkwardly tells her to give the baby to Ellie? Yeah, I don’t think I breathed for a minute there. And then Ellie asks to be alone with the baby, and we all wonder what will happen next.
2020: Back at the cabin, Grandma Rebecca has seen the twins but she is anxiously awaiting news from Kate. She explains the blurry hand print painting, hung on the wall of the cabin, and how it reminds her to always be close to her family and “never miss a thing.”
Dear, tender Miguel! He is one of my favorite characters and Jon Huertas was especially wonderful on this episode. His face, when Rebecca thanks him for bearing Jack’s death “differently,” for her, for their marriage. “I know I’m a lot,” she says. “Hey,” he replies, “you’re just the right amount.” Which is the perfect thing to say.
It was around this time that I began to lose it–you?
Ellie talks to her little girl, whom she will soon hand over to her forever mama. “I knew I needed to take care of you, even if you were never meant to be mine.” I thought of those moments when my birth mother said goodbye to me, and my daughter’s birth mother in Korea said goodbye to her, and I was wrecked. God bless them both forever.
And then Kate gets to meet her daughter, and it’s all over but the national tissue shortage. Have mercy! There’s whole lot of water in my head, turns out. “I’m your mom,” Kate tells wee Haley Rose Damon. Because of course, Toby chose Rose as the middle name. I fell in love with Toby again when he meets his daughter, and marvels at her bushy head of hair.
Back with Kevin, he introduces his twins to Uncle Randall and Aunt Beth: Nicholas and Frances Pearson, after Uncle Nick (Helloooo, Uncle Nick!) and Madison’s grandmother (we will surely learn about her, too).
“I said some pretty horrible things to you,” Kevin tries to finally reconcile fully with Randall. “But you’re the finest person I know.” Randall also apologizes, and the two resolve to talk about all the things Kevin missed about Randall’s racial identity early on. Let the healing commence! I hated that these two brothers were at odds, even though it was pretty realistic.
1970’s? It’s part 3 of the story of Nasir and Esther, who don’t, as it turns out, have anything to do directly with the Pearsons. However, Nasir Ahmed, we learn, is a real person whose technological advances led to our present-day ability to video chat and see photos of our loved ones almost instantly. His work is the reason Rebecca is able to “be there” with her children and grandchildren on this day of days. As she meets the darling Haley, the watercolor handprints of Jack and her children decorate the space and remind her that everyone is still together and always will be.
Well. I think we can all agree this episode was gorgeous and astonishing and satisfying in every way! What were your thoughts? What scene made you cry (the most)? What were your favorite lines? Performances? Justin Hartley was superb, and so was Chrissy Metz. What do you think will happen next? I don’t think we’re done with Ellie yet. And what’s this with Jack drinking next week? Oh, heck no.