Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not read on if you haven’t watched This Is Us’ Thanksgiving episode. Everyone else, you may proceed.
Thanksgiving means a time for awkward family gatherings — and This Is Us is no different.
On Tuesday’s Turkey Day episode, titled “Pilgrim Rick,” a long-kept Pearson family secret came out in the most heartbreaking way, with devastating ramifications for the entire clan: Randall (Sterling K. Brown) discovered that his mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), had known his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), his entire life and kept it a secret.
How did Randall learn the shattering truth (on his favorite holiday, no less)? It came on an impromptu trip to William’s apartment.
In the spirit of giving back, Randall decided to pick up cassette tapes of William playing music with his friends for him to listen to — a Thanksgiving tradition he wanted to make sure William was able to uphold this year. “I think this may be his last Thanksgiving, Beth,” Randall solemnly tells his wife. After locating the tapes, however, an envelope with his mother’s familiar handwriting caught Randall’s eye. What was this doing here?, he must’ve wondered.
At the dinner table, Randall confronted Rebecca about why there was a photo of him as an 8-year-old addressed to William’s apartment. He really didn’t need to hear his mother’s explanation because he already knew the truth — the letter inside said it all.
“Dear William, I’m sorry I had to leave in such a hurry, but it was wonderful to see you looking so well after all these years. After all these years,” Randall read the offending sentence from Rebecca’s note that turned his world upside down.
“You knew my father?” he reiterated, questioning his mother as tears rolled down his cheek. “You kept him from me my entire life?”
When Rebecca attempted to explain herself, Randall was having none of it, yelling with a mix of anger, sadness and betrayal, “I can’t even look at you. All those times I asked you about my family and if I hadn’t found him on my own, I…I gotta go.” Learning the truth on his own was enough of a heartbreak, but Randall’s realization that he may have never met William was too much for him to bear — and the only way for him to make some sense of his mother’s decades-long secret was to leave the party early.
To make matters more uncomfortable, Kate (Chrissy Metz) — who was enroute to the east coast from Los Angeles for the bulk of the episode — chose that exact moment to declare that she was going to have gastric bypass surgery. Maybe not the best time to make that proclamation. Insert shrug emoji here.
It’s pretty easy to assume that Randall knowing about Rebecca and William’s secret relationship has done irreparable harm to his relationship with his mom. How can Randall trust her ever again? How can he look at her the same way? What is less certain is whether he’ll find out that Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) had known for several days, though not by choice (William accidentally let it slip to Beth). Could that have a damaging effect on his marriage?
While we’ll have to see how it all plays out in next week’s episode, Brown told ET of Randall and Beth’s strong partnership: “I don’t think their marriage, well, no marriage is beyond being strainable, but they have been together for 17 years. Their marriage is as solid as any one that I’ve seen, I think they’re going to be OK.”
The flashbacks to when The Big Three were 8 years old answered why Thanksgiving became Randall’s favorite day of the year. It had to do with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca starting a new family tradition that he’s upheld since. The tradition included a 3.4-mile hike, a screening of Police Academy 3 and a Thanksgiving play starring “Pilgrim Rick,” a role Jack took on before he died, and one Kevin held for years before he handed it off to Rebecca’s husband, Miguel (Jon Huertas) — a symbolic gesture of sorts.
What did you think of This Is Us’ dramatic Thanksgiving episode? What do you think will happen next between Rebecca and Randall? Hit us up in the comments below or tweet us at @etnow!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Watch a scene from the episode below.