The end is near. The penultimate episode of “This Is Us” brought back fans’ favorite characters as Rebecca’s family prepared for her death.
Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is riding on a vintage train, reflecting on train rides with her father. She looks great in a red dress, and she’s already over 30. “I’m waiting for someone,” she says, looking out the window.
She talks to William (Ron Sephas Jones), Randall’s biological father, who offers Rebecca an escort to the bar. She insists she’s waiting for someone, but William says she can go for a drink.
At the house, Philip (Chris Geer) brings Jack and Hayley, who are still minors, and Kate (Chrissy Metz) boards a plane from London. It is still 12 hours away when Rebecca’s assistant informs that the family matriarchy will soon pass, probably before the end of the night.
Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) decides to enter first to say goodbye. She talks about how motherhood is a lot like pretending to know all the answers. “All these years, so many times when I pretended, I made the best impression on you, Rebecca,” she says. “I’ll walk him the rest of the way, Mom. Thank you for helping me with this complicated, incredible, beautiful boy that you raised. But now I got it.
Rebecca hears Beth on the train through the speakerphone system. She sees Randall’s wife as a young mom reading “The Red Galley” before the scene briefly shifts to 18-year-old Beth.
William tells her that they need to go to the car-bar. Dr. K. (Gerald McRaney), who gave birth to twins, works as a bartender. The car is decorated with the Pearson family memorabilia, from the Big Three’s growth tables to Jack’s coffee mugs.
Rebecca knows Kate isn’t here. She looks at Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and sees a child, a teenager and an adult version sitting at a table in one corner of the bar. She also sees three versions of Kevin (Justin Hartley), but not her daughter.
Rebecca says that she made mistakes in raising children, and Dr. K. says that everyone does it. He reveals that he thought Rebecca would die in childbirth. “You survived only to lose your child, and then your husband—and yet, what did you make of all this. What a big dirty, gigantic, exciting thing,” says Dr. K. “You’re as strong as you look, Rebecca Pearson, and you, my dear, deserve a rest.”
Rebecca thanks him for being her doctor—even if once it was just a hat—and goes to the next car.
At home, Kevin plays a Joni Mitchell record. The family talks about how Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) went on a cross-country trip on their third date, and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) stopped by to say goodbye.
“You two really had a once—in-a-lifetime love story, like Kevin and me,” Sophie says. “Of course, minus all the turbulence and psychotherapy.”
Meanwhile, Toby (Chris Sullivan) says he hopes he has lived up to Rebecca’s expectations as a father. Annie says goodbye to her grandmother, remembering that Rebecca told her, “It was okay to be quiet, as long as I wasn’t afraid to be loud.” In the end, everyone goes to bed after saying their last words, and only Kevin and Randall are left. They decide not to leave their mother until she dies.
The Big Three and Rebecca
They remember their childhood, from Kate’s appendicitis surgery at Christmas to their father’s trips to the dojo with Randall. They joke that in the 90s Jack was “strangely adapted for a father,” and Randall wonders if anything they say reaches their unconscious mother.
While in the locomotive, Rebecca passes on their memories of baseball cards and Jack’s push-ups at the dojo while the men discuss them, but she heads to Miguel (John Huertas). She sees her recently departed husband, who says that she is still his “beloved person”. However, their reunion is short-lived. William takes Rebecca to the galley, but the singer assures that she is waiting for someone.
At the house, Rebecca survives the night, and Kate appears. “Hi, Mom, it’s me, Bug. I’m here. I’m here. Mom, I love you. I love you so much,” says Kate.
On the train, Rebecca hears Kate’s voice and tells Randall that she is ready to get into the last car. Inside is young Kate’s bedroom with a jar of fireflies.
“I want to tell you a beautiful thing, Mom, but I’m not sure what it is,” Randall says. “I don’t even know if you can hear me, but I love you, Mom. We are doing well now. You have made us good. So, thanks for all the dishes. Thank you for always making us feel loved. Thank you for the time you beat up David Adams for hitting me over the head with a baseball bat.”
Kevin adds: “I love you, Mom.”
On the train, Rebecca turns to William and asks, “It’s very sad, isn’t it? The end?”
The poet does not think so. “In my opinion, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been fine while it was happening,” he says.