Disney and Marvel’s latest small-screen venture is a superhero series that feels more like Dick Van Dyke than Avengers: Endgame.
We’re all about family here at Plugged In. As part of Focus on the Family, we indeed have a focus on family: We believe that family is a precious, beautiful, God-ordained thing—a wonderful vehicle for fulfillment and love, a reflection of God’s love for us.
But when we truly focus on our families—not the idealized family we sometimes like to imagine, but the real family, the family we live with and live for—it’s not always beautiful. Not always wonderful. Sometimes it can be pretty ugly. Hurtful. Yes, it’s precious. But it’s not perfect. We see those imperfections in our parents. Our children. In ourselves. We tear each other down only to build each other up again. And those dynamics don’t necessarily stop when the parents get old and the kids are grown.
Popular culture’s family stories have often reflected that duality, typically emphasizing one side of the coin or the other. In the 1950s and ’60s, we were given practically perfect families with wise fathers, loving mothers and inoffensively precocious children. Now we’re more apt to see the dysfunctional opposite—the loving-but-seriously-screwed-up families of The Middle or Speechless, or the truly terrible familial dynamics on shows like Game of Thrones or Empire. * And then there’s *This Is Us.
NBC’s time-shifting dramedy is the story of Jack and Rebecca and their unusual set of triplets: Kevin, Kate and Randall.
We see Rebecca and Jack in the past, when their kids were still young and they were still struggling to make it. We also see them years later, when the kids are teenagers and Jack is pursuing his dreams while Rebecca attempts to chase her own. Jack and Rebecca love each other. They love their children. But no relationship sails through life without hitting a storm or two. And time and the stresses of family life have taken a toll on them both. The final fate of the couple is doled out an episode at a time.
But the lion’s share of the show concentrates on the present day and the now-adult triplets.
Kevin, the “oldest,” is a handsome, successful actor. Though blessed with movie-star looks and stop-you-in-your-tracks charisma, he can’t shake the feeling that he should be doing more with his life. So, he begins to pursue what “more” really looks like. (In Season 5, that involves Kevin learning that he’s going to be a father.)
He has a tight relationship with sister Kate, who has her own issues to conquer. Seriously obese, Kate struggles mightily with her weight and all the pragmatic and psychological issues that go along with those extra pounds and her tragic childhood. Her husband, Toby, can help her laugh away some of that angst … but sometimes his buoyant flippancy can also make things worse. And now in Season 5, Kate and Toby work through their own issues, as well as those with their blind son, Jack.
While Kate and Kevin are Jack and Rebecca’s biological kids, Randall’s own heritage is much different. His birth mother supposedly died when Randall was born, and his drug-addled father abandoned him at a fire station. When Rebecca and Jack’s third biological triplet died at birth, the couple decided to adopt Randall on the spot. But though they loved Randall dearly, being a black child in a white family wasn’t all that easy—and big brother Kevin didn’t always smooth the way.
Now Randall is arguably the most successful of them all: a loving husband, a dedicated father, a successful businessman and, now, Philadelphia’s newest councilman. He and wife, Beth, are raising their three daughters, one of whom is adopted and another who is questioning her sexuality.
And in Season 5, new characters continue to be introduced and woven into the Pearson family fabric.
In tone and texture, This Is Us feels a lot like Parenthood, another NBC show that concluded its five-year run in 2015. Strong acting, poignant writing and frequent twists have made it one of 2017’s highest-rated dramas programs.
“This Is Us … methodically weaves four seemingly disparate stories into a believable and emotional whole through tiny telling details, relatable moments, and conversations and confrontations that are funny, tender or painful, or all three at once,” wrote Vicki Hyman for New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger.
And indeed, the characters are so likable, their stories so strangely relatable and their interactions so believable that it’s easy to get invested in their onscreen stories. We see an imperfect family that still is loving and supporting amid all those flaws. And even in its most fractious moments, there’s hope for reconciliation.
But like many families themselves, This Is Us also contains lots of content you wish just wasn’t there.
Sex and even some partial nudity has been part of NBC’s game plan for the show, with Kevin often getting in-between the sheets with his current fling and Jack and Rebecca experiencing moments of sultry, on-camera intimacy. Language is occasionally profane. And while the characters almost always mean well, that doesn’t mean that all their decisions are ones that we would make ourselves—or encourage our children to make.
In the present, Kate confesses to Toby that she had an abortion as a teenager (which we see in a flashback to the past). Kevin and Madison struggle to figure out what their family dynamics will look like in the future. Randall learns that his mother did not die when he was a baby.
Kate’s ex-boyfriend verbally degrades her and dismisses her feelings. Later, we see him drink a beer out of stress. Toby jokes about wanting to kill Kate’s ex-boyfriend.
Randall accidentally takes off his shirt while on camera and the video goes viral. A couple kisses. Beth sports a crop top.
We see young Kate talking to a doctor and the two discussing an abortion, which she eventually gets (although we do not see anything else).
Words such as “a–” and “d–k” are heard a few times each.
In the two-hour Season 5 premiere, Kevin finds out that his girlfriend, Madison, is pregnant with twins. In counseling sessions, Randall wrestles with the death of George Floyd, racism, citywide riots and how vulnerable he feels. Kate and Toby talk about possibly adopting a baby. Rebecca suffers from memory loss. In the past, Randall’s birth parents find out they’re going to have a baby.
Randall and Beth discuss the murder of George Floyd. A woman is found dead in bed and the paramedics try to resuscitate her. Madison trips over a suitcase and lands on her pregnant stomach. Randall talks with a young man about the killings of innocent black men. Randall grapples with what might have happened on the day of his birth. In the past, Jack and Randall’s birth father pray to God. Jack prayed that his father would become a better man and admits to God that he gave up on religion when his abusive father never changed.
Two different women give birth. Kevin moves in with Madison, in her guest room. Madison and Kevin lie in bed together, both topless (we see her bare back). Beth and Randall talk about having sex. Kevin walks out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top. Kevin proposes to Madison.
Used needles lie on a table. A group of friends smoke cigarettes and drink beer. God’s name is misused a few times. Other profanities include “h—,” “d–n” and “b–ch.”
In the past, Rebecca throws a dinner party that goes awry. In the present, Randall worries about how his family is adjusting to life in Philadelphia. Kate waits for a surprise from Kevin and Randall. Kevin tries to help some new friends.
Young Kate flirts and makes out with a guy. Young Randall and Kevin both flirt with their signifcant others. Jack kisses Rebecca. Déja gets mad at Randall when she’s not allowed to date a boy who’s older than her. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top.
Randall’s daughter has a panic attack at school. Rebecca and her children grieve the loss of a loved one. Siblings argue.
People drink beer at a hockey game and wine at a dinner party. A former alcoholic mentions that he’d like whiskey. The words “a–,” “d–n,” “h—” and “p-ssed” are each used once.
In the past, Jack meets Rebecca’s parents for the first time. In the present, a new female character is introduced as a war veteran suffering from PTSD. We also meet an adolescent named Malik; he’s already a father (though only a junior in high school) who meets Randall’s adopted daughter, Deja. In the future, Jack, Kate and Toby’s son, gets married and pursues a music career.
A woman suffers from PTSD, and flashbacks of her time in the Middle East flood her mind. Military troops surround a village with heavy weaponry. There are references to shootings, bombings, villages being destroyed, dead bodies and extortion. Elsewhere, a frustrated mother accidentally hits her son in the nose when she aggressively pulls her hand away.
A man sleeps naked in bed, and his bare backside is completely exposed. Couples make out, kiss and flirt. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top. A wife tells her husband that she’s pregnant.
A young man asks a friend about the financial opportunities in drug dealing. A few people drink hard liquor, beer and wine. An inebriated, elderly man throws a chair through a window and is later arrested. God’s name is misused twice. Other profanity includes multiple uses each of “h—,” “d–n” and “a–.”
This episode is the Season 3 finale. In the past, Rebecca’s husband and children visit her while she’s in the hospital following an accident. In the present, Kate finds herself frustrated as her mother oversteps boundaries with Kate’s newborn, premature baby, Jack. Meanwhile, Beth and Randall work to solve their marital issues. Kevin and Zoe help care for Randall and Beth’s children, and Kevin realizes he still wants kids.
Rebecca gets into a car accident. Later, she lies in a hospital bed, sedated by pain medication as she suffers from a broken arm and bruises on her face. A young boy worries that his mother might have brain damage, and he has a nightmare.
A couple works through difficult marital issues, and their children feel the tension. A mother and daughter work to balance the new facets of their relationship. A young girl talks about her foster-care experience, relating that her foster parents starved her and wasted money on lottery tickets. She also mentions that other foster children she knew were raised in abusive homes with alcoholic parents.
A young girl asks questions about her sexuality. A man talks about a time he had to kiss another man in a movie. Couples kiss, flirt and hold hands. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top. Jesus’ and God’s names are both misused once. Other profanity includes one use of “h—” and “p-ssed off.”
In the past, Randall and Beth work through issues as they date, get married and have their first child. In the present, Beth feels unsupported and bulldozed by Randall, while Randall feels unjustly accused.
Tensions run high as Beth and Randall try to resolve their personal feelings. The two argue, raise their voices and exchange hurtful words.
A couple kisses and make out (once in bed), as well as flirt and get intimate. A woman wears a nightgown. A teen tells his friend that he may “die a virgin.” A song references sex.
Two teens talk about their parents passing away. Parents play a game of “worse-case scenario” regarding their infant daughter. A couple jokes about being drunk (they’re not).
God and Jesus’ name are both misused once. Other profanities include multiple uses of “h—” and one or two uses of “d–mit” and “crap.”
In the present, the entire Pearson family (and their significant others) sit in the hospital, awaiting the arrival of Kate and Toby’s premature baby boy. Kevin lies to his girlfriend, Zoe, and family about relapsing. Randall and wife, Beth, argue about familial responsibilities. Rebecca tries to distract herself from her fears while Miguel attempts to lighten the mood with a game.
Siblings, spouses, significant others and friends yell and argue in the hospital over personal matters. Characters exchange rude comments. A mother makes a joke about killing someone to protect her baby. A woman jokingly threatens to harm an annoying stranger.
Family members imagine worst-case-scenarios for a premature baby. A drunk man hides vodka in a water bottle while assuring his family that he hasn’t relapsed on alcohol or pills. A woman tells her friend she needs to “show the universe” that she’s capable of motherhood.
Profanities such as “h—,” “a–” and “d–n” are heard once or twice. God’s name is misused once.
In the present, Randall’s wife Beth and cousin Zoe visit Beth’s mom Beth confronts her mother..In the past, Beth’s parents work tirelessly to send their daughter to the best ballet school in town.
Beth’s mother set high standards for each of her children. She was strict, rigid and practical, often quenching the dreams of her children in favor of logic. Her driving force was her own mother, who put her through school, even though the rest of her family believed women didn’t need education. Eventually, Beth and her mother tearfully resolve past hurts and regrets.
A woman is accidentally pushed by a high school boy and bruises her hip. A man is diagnosed with lung cancer, undergoes chemotherapy and eventually dies. A woman briefly discusses surviving sexual abuse as a child.
Couples kiss and flirt. A girl wears a slightly revealing top. A woman jokingly says “I hate you” to her cousin. Two women smoke marijuana. Pain medicaiton sits on a table. God’s name is misused once and “d—n” and “h—” are heard a few times.
In Vietnam, Nicky, Jack’s brother, reels from the death of a child that he caused. In the not-so-distant past, Jack lies to Rebecca, telling her he’s going on a work trip when he’s really going to visit Nicky.
In the present, Kevin, Randall and Kate take a road trip to confront their estranged uncle, Nicky, and uncover details about their father’s time at war.
Lies are uncovered. A man says confesses that he doesn’t like himself as he recounts horror stories from war and suffers from PTSD. A young boy is accidentally killed by a grenade and his mother collapses from grief. A man demands to know how his brother died and, later, sits with a gun close by as he contemplates suicide.
A man drinks beer and hard liquor, smokes cigarettes and takes pills to get high. Insulin needles are strewn on a table. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top. Couples kiss. Jesus’ name is misused once and we hear two uses of “a–” and one of “d–n.”
In this fall finale, Beth and Randall prepare in the present for Randall’s debate against a city councilman. Tess (Beth and Randall’s adolescent daughter) struggles with her same-sex attraction. The couple’s adoptive daughter, Deja, seeks to spend time with her biological mother. Kate must find a new job that better accomodates her pregnancy. Kevin and Zoe attempt to uncover more details about Jack’s time in Vietnam. In the past, Jack tries to help his younger brother, Nicky, reach sobriety in Vietnam.
A man punches his brother in the mouth (we see blood) and tells him that in war “the mission is to kill.” A boat explodes near an Army base camp. A woman tells the story of a man who was hit by a bus. We also hear a woman who shares that she lost a baby at birth.
Tess talks to Kate about her first period and her same sex attraction. Male soldiers walk around shirtless. A man promises to take a shirtless selfie for a female fan. A few comments are made about attractive women. A woman wears a slightly revealing outfit. Couples kiss and hug.
A woman makes a reference to the “clarity” that drunks supposedly have. A couple drinks red wine. A male soldier takes pills and gets high to forget about his past experiences. Soldiers smoke cigarettes as well. A woman says she takes Ibuprofen to make it through her daily pain. Young girls have poor attitudes toward their parents. A man is publicly embarassed by his political opponent and, later, a fight ensues with his wife as he decides to break a promise. A man talks about urine and feces.
God’s name is miused twice. Other profanity includes one or two uses each of “h—” and “d–n.”
In the past, Jack and Rebecca take a road trip to Los Angeles; Rebecca hopes for a record deal and Jack wrestles with PTSD. In the present, Kevin and Zoe go to Vietnam to try and uncover more of Jack’s mysterious past—and they learn some things about one another along the way.
An unmarried Jack and Rebecca sleep together a few times on their way to L.A. We see Jack shirtless and Rebecca’s bare back. Other men go shirtless and women wear revealing outfits and bikinis. Couples kiss, make out, flirt and slow dance. A woman admits to her boyfriend that her father sexually abused her as a child.
Dead bodies lie on the ground. Men share horror stories from Vietnam (including people dying, fear of the enemy and the mental terrors caused by war). A man dies from a homemade explosive device. It’s assumed that a soldier is on drugs. A man pushes his brother in anger and believes he will die at war.
People drink beer, champagne and wine. There’s a reference to partying and Woodstock. A man smokes a cigarette. A woman vomits and a man is forced to clean up feces while in the military. Jesus’ name is misused once and “h—” is uttered twice.
In the present, pregnant Kate tries to to encourage Toby in his depressed state. Kevin makes a plan to uncover his father’s war-filled past. Randall reaches out to the Korean community during his run as a mayoral candidate. Beth struggles to express her grief after losing her job. In the past, Jack comes home with a black eye, worrying Rebecca and prompting Randall to ask for boxing lessons.
A husband is concerned his wife might leave him, calling himself a “pathetic burden,” but she reassures him that she will stay “for better or for worse.” A couple discusses the difficulties of parenting. A young boy lies to his parents about being bullied. A family watches a boxing match together and discusses it afterward. A man makes a comment about sharing a bathroom with his girlfriend, sans air freshener.
A woman drinks a glass of wine. Another woman wears a slightly revealing dress and nightgown. Couples kiss and a husband briefly tells his wife about a sexual fantasy. God’s name is misued once and other profanity includes one or two uses of “h—” and “a–.” A young boy calls his brother a “sucker.” A mom tells her girls to “shut up” after they tell her that she “sucks.”
Flashbacks and the present show Toby, Kate’s husband, struggling with depression as his parents divorce, his and his then-wife leaves. Slowly, he learns how to practice self-care. In the past, Randall wrestles with his own identity as he encounters people who express blatant racism and Kate struggles to find joy in music after her father’s passing.
In the present, Kate and Toby wait to learn if Kate is pregnant. Randall runs for a city councilman position and his wife, Beth, interviews for new jobs after being fired. Kevin and his girlfriend, Zoe, track down a former war veteran who knew Kevin’s father, Jack.
Depression and its side effects, without medication, are discussed and seen. A young boy, a grown man and an adult woman struggle with depression and anxiety. A new mother feels overwhelmed with her baby and lack of sleep. A couple argues constantly and, eventually, divorce. Parents look to a young child for support and comic relief amidst difficult life circumstances.
There are a few conversations about fertilization, sperm and pregnancy. A husband smacks his wife’s rear, unbuttons his shirt and casually mentions sex. A woman’s earrings are playfully called “hoochie.” A teenager talks about “friends with benefits” and discusses a teen who is sexually inexperienced.
Multiple racist looks are cast and offensive comments are made. A black woman wonders if she should discuss her ethnic differences with her white boyfriend. An elderly man recounts the loss of his foot in war. A teenager drinks hard liquor and, as an adult, refuses a drink after years of sobriety. Two men drink beer. Language includes multiple uses of words like “h—,” “d–n” and “frickin.” God’s name is misused once.
In the past, Rebecca must choose between an ex-boyfriend and Jack. Jack helps his mother leave his abusive father. In the present, Kate prepares for a risky surgery and Toby suffers anti-depressant withdrawls. Randall has trouble apologizing to Kate and tries to be a hero to multiple people. Beth, Randall’s wife, works hard to make people aware of her own needs. Kevin realizes that he knows very little about his father’s time in Vietnam.
A young Rebecca reads a magazine that tells her a husband’s ideas are more important than a wife’s. Young men make fun of a woman in their woodshop class. A man yells at his wife and treats her poorly (it’s insinuated that he’s done so for years) and blames his son for a family death. A father yells at his son after his PTSD is triggered. A couple discuss eggs and sperm and a woman talks about her miscarriage and the possibilty of dying during surgery. A woman is fired from her longtime job. A young girl lies in a hospital bed with a broken arm and bruises after being attacked (we don’t see her getting hurt).
Multiple couples kiss, make out, suggest having sex and flirt. A woman wears a slightly revealing outfit. People drink beer, hard liquor, wine and champagne. A pack of cigarettes lies on a table and someone asks if they’re “still high.” A woman has hormones injected into her leg. A well-known radio host is called “a goddess” and a woman is referred to as a “future train wreck.” Two men discuss anxiety disorders and mental breakdowns. A young girl battles an eating disorder. A Hindu god is briefly shown in a picture. Someone mouths “oh my God” and later misuses God’s name twice. Other words include “freakin,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “d–n.”
In the Season 3 premiere, Jack takes Rebecca out on their first date, but $9 might not be enough money to convince the girl of his dreams that he’s worth her time. Déjà, Randall and Beth’s foster child, struggles to find her worth after her biological mother and father relinquish full parental rights. Beth suspects that Kevin and her cousin, Zoe, are sleeping together. Kate and Toby have difficulty getting Kate pregnant.
Toby and Kate go to various doctors and have discussions about sperm count, invetrofertilization, ovarian issues and the process of getting prognant. Toby takes pornographic magazines into the bathroom at the doctor’s office to produce a sperm sample. A young girl receives counseling and struggles with her identity and rejection. She later sneaks out of her home. Various people cry and others lie about their relationships.
A man and woman take off their shirts and kiss (we see her in a bra but don’t see things go any farther, although we do hear about the couple having sex multiple times). Other couples kiss, hug and flirt. A mother tells her daughter, “don’t get pregnant” before she goes on a date. There are other references to sex. People drink beer, hard liquor and wine. A man flushes his anti-depressants down the toilet without telling his wife about his decision. His wife asks him to “shoot” her up with hormones.
Jesus’ name is misused once and God’s name is misused three times. Other profanities include multiple uses of “h—” and “d–n” and the phrase “screw it.” A man holds a dead body in his hands and blood runs down his arm. A woman threatens “before I kill you in the face” and later swears “on Oprah.” Another woman wonders when “the universe will intervene.” Someone yells to their friend “you crap where you eat.”
Kate and Toby prepare for their wedding day at the family cabin. Randall, Kevin and Rebecca work to make Kate’s day perfect. Toby’s parents argue with him over their doubts about Kate. Kate dreams that her parents renew their vows and wrestles with the idea of emotionally letting go of her father to make room in her heart for Toby. Beth’s cousin, Zoe, the wedding photographer, tries to help Deja adjust to living with the Pearsons once again.
Beth and Randall play a game of “worst case scenario” where they express their fears—worrying that Deja could end up in prison, become a prostitute or negatively influence their daughter. At the wedding, a woman tells Deja she looks like Randall’s daughter. In her anger, she destroys Randall’s car with a baseball bat.
Someone misuses Jesus’ name and god’s name once. We hear the word “a–” four times, “d–mit” twice and the words”b–ches” and “b–tard” once. Someone says “freaking” and makes a sexual joke. Multiple couples kiss and drink champagne. They also reference drinking and being in a bar. Characters fight with one another and at times are belligerent. Someone says, “don’t let me sleep with her.”
We learn about Déjà’s life story, from her birth up to the present moment, after Randall and Beth find her and her mother, Shauna, evicted and sleeping in their car.
As Déjà and her family work through a variety of emotions and experiences, Jack and Rebecca, Randall and Beth, Randall’s deceased parents and Kevin are all shown walking through their own turmoil. A montage shows each family giving birth to their first child (though we only see women’s thighs), working through pain and adjusting to difficulty. Each scene seems designed to show how the entire human race holds unifying similarities.
Déjà’s mother, Shauna, had her when she was just 16. With the help of her grandmother, Shauna navigates her own downfalls (the attention of men) until her grandmother passes. From that moment on, Shauna depends on Déjà in an unhealthy way, which forces the little girl to grow up much faster than normal. Déjà’s mother dates dangerous men who smoke, drink, carry guns and are involved in shady business. These men distract her from being the kind of mother Déjà needs.
One night, Déjà cuts her hand and walks alone to the hospital. Children’s Services is called and Déjà is placed in a foster home with an abusive foster father who hits both Déjà and her foster sister, Raven. Raven and Déjà steal and are eventually separated into different foster homes. When Déjà is returned to her mother, who has recently left “treatment,” it isn’t long before the woman is sent to prison.
We hear “a–” four times, “d—” twice and “h—” once.
Rebecca discreetly breastfeeds Randall. Shauna wears a short, tight dress that reveals some cleavage. Characters fight, and children are hit. Others drink beer and hard liquor and smoke cigarettes. Someone says, “You’re good for nothing.” Déjà loses hair due to stress.
In the past, Jack and Rebecca celebrate their fourth anniversary. They decide to eschew the elaborate gift-giving that Jack has engaged in in the past, but the kids still plan a romantic evening for their parents. Kevin, at one point, thinks his parents are getting a divorce like his friend’s parents, though they assure him they aren’t.
In the present, Kevin, Beth and Randall fly to Vegas for Toby and Kate’s bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Once there, Kevin abstains from drinking, even when he learns disheartening information about his recent movie. Randall is distracted by the thought of Daeja’s safety and well-being. He tells Beth she is heartless and disinterested in Daeja. Beth, upset, drinks to excess and dances with a male stripper.
Kate, Beth and her friends go to a “Magic Mike” male strip show where men are shirtless and women throw money their way. Beth and Kate later bond when Kate tells her she has difficulty making friends and is intimidated by strong women. Beth admits that her life has been harder than she lets on.
We hear the words “d—,” “a–” and “h—.” Also, the phrases “for god’s sake,” “holy crap” and “I hate you so much.” Someone wears a crass and suggestive T-shirt. People consume beer and hard liquor heavily. Characters mention getting and being drunk. Jack and Rebecca kiss often and the two lie in bed together (Jack without a shirt). Toby and Kate mention lying in bed together (they’re still not married) and the two share sexual banter.
Beth makes a careless joke about doing drugs and some characters are rudely ignored. A violent statement is made. Kate gives both her dog and fiancé and belly rub. Characters gamble. Male dancers are referred to as “greased-up man meat” and we see women with short dresses and cleavage. Kate and Randall binge watch Sex and the City when they’re teenagers.
This entire episode takes place at various moments in the past.
Rebecca, Kevin, Randall and Kate all head to their father’s funeral. Kevin is frustrated, and he exclaims “d–mit” and “screw it.” At the funeral, he is aggressive with Randall, telling him to “go to h—” when he sees Randall wearing his father’s watch, in a well-intended attempt to be the “man of the house.” Kate breaks apart their fight and asks, “What the h—?”
Rebecca is approached by the same doctor who delivered their babies, and who has given them life advice ever since. He assures her that she is a strong woman, capable of handling these “lemons” life has brought: “You made one of the sweetest d–n pitchers of lemonade.” Rebecca, in turn, confidently assures each of her children that they will be “OK,” and she also tells Kate that her father’s death was not her fault. They scatter Jack’s ashes outside, near his favorite tree.
In the earlier past, Jack buys a Wagoneer for his family (the car), telling the dealer that his only wish is that his family will be “OK.” The importance of the car¬—and the strength of the family—plays out throughout the rest of the episode as Rebecca receives clear MRI results. Later, Jack intercepts Kate at a bus stop, foiling her attempt to skip school to meet Alanis Morissette; Jack decides to take her anyway, and they bond over their shared love for music.
In the past, Jack and Rebecca wake in the middle of the night to find that their house is on fire. Jack saves each family member (minus Kevin, who snuck out to a party with his girlfriend, Sophie). The Pearsons’ home is engulfed in flames, and Jack sustains visible injuries (second degree burns, we learn later).
Later, the parents drop the kids off at Miguel’s, and Jack and Rebecca head to the ER. Once there, Jack learns that he has inhaled massive amounts of smoke and then unexpectedly dies from a heart attack. Rebecca tells Kate and Randall about his passing; each of them grieves in their own way. Kate finds Kevin (asleep in a car with Sophie) and tells him of Jack’s death.
In the present, each character celebrates Super Bowl Sunday (the anniversary of Jack’s passing), in his or her own way as well. Randall celebrates by throwing a party, but must tackle some issues in the process, such as his daughter’s lizard dying, or the arrival of a new foster child. Kate, meanwhile, blames herself for her dad’s death, because Jack ran back into the house to save her dog from the fire. She repeatedly watches a video he recorded, reliving their special moments together. For his part, Kevin decides that he doesn’t want to forget his father’s passing and instead goes to “Dad’s tree” to have a much needed conversation with him.
Miguel steps away on Super Bowl Sunday to allow Rebecca to grieve her former husband. She makes his favorite lasagna, watches the game and waits for him to “send” her a fond memory or a sign of his love. (The year after he died, for example, she says she turned on the radio, and their song was playing.)
Jack kisses Rebeca’s head. Beth tells Randall that his outfit isn’t sexy while he sings, “Hot d–n.” Teenage Kevin sneaks away to a party and falls asleep in a car with Sophie. We hear “d–n” once more and “oh my God” twice.
Kate playfully accuses Toby of looking at porn online, when he is actually looking for a dog. Although dogs are a sensitive subject for Kate, she buys Toby a loving pooch named Audio. Beth and Randall start their apartment renovations on the side. Later, Randall has to evacuate the building due to a cockroach infestation¬—after which, Beth takes the lead on the project. And Kevin keeps himself sober by helping Randall with home repairs. He also makes amends with various people, including Sophie. Charlotte mails him his father’s necklace.
In the past, Kevin is upset that others are pursuing future plans while he feels left behind. He is rude to his parents and goes to Sophie’s house, where he says he’ll stay the night but “sleep on the couch.” Randall goes on a date (to see the movie Titanic) with his very first girlfriend. He kisses her and shares this information with his father, who gives him instructions on how to be “a gentleman.” Kate has to submit another audition tape, and her father tries to record her while singing. She tells him she doesn’t find herself to be beautiful, as he does. But Kate still wants him to keep trying to change her mind.
Elsewhere in the past, we also see an older couple cleaning out the nostalgic “junk” from their home. The same couple gives newlyweds Jack and Rebecca a Crock-Pot that sets their home on fire at the end of the episode. Viewers are left wondering what will happen to the family.
Rebecca and Jack share “wake up shots” of orange juice instead of whiskey. Women in the apartment building leer at Kevin, who’s wearing a tank top. A female worker at the Humane Society refers to her wife. We hear the words “p-ssed” and “d–mit,” as well as the phrase “kick a–.” Rebecca and Jack kiss, leading, it’s suggested, to sex (although nothing is seen).
Kevin is released from rehab but directed to find structure in his life. He chooses to stay with his mother, hoping to build their relationship. The only problem: Miguel, Rebecca’s second husband, lives there too.
After telling Miguel that he disapproves of him, Kevin asks him if he was in love with their mother while their father was still living. Miguel says no. Kevin later apologizes and tells his mom that her happiness is all that matters to him.
Kate returns to her food addiction support group, and Madison offers to help her find a dress for her wedding. Kate learns that Madison suffers with Bulimia.
Beth worries that Randall is “in outer space” and not present with them. He returns to his biological father’s old apartment and finds a love poem amongst his father’s belongings. The “lover” turns out to be nothing more than a muse.
Rebecca and Jack kiss in various scenes. God’s name is misused once and we hear “suck,” “h–,” “pain in my a–,” and someone call themselves “fat and pathetic.” Champagne is served.
In the present, Randall and Beth have qualified to be foster parents. They’re soon given responsibility for a girl named Deja after her mother is sent to prison, and they learn that fostering is much harder than anticipated. Randall is told not to “try to predict how a single day will pan out.” Deja doesn’t immediately warm to the family’s girls and is scared of Randall, flinching when he enters the room. Beth finds cigarettes in her bag. Randall and Beth must tell the girl that her mother won’t be coming back “like normal,” and Deja leaves the room in a fury. Back in the past, meanwhile, Randall also struggles to adjust to his adoptive family and tries to find his biological parents. He says he feels “split inside.
Kevin and Kate are on-set for Kevin’s newest gig: filming with Sylvester Stallone. Kate tells Mr. Stallone how much their father loved him. Mr. Stallone uses this information to initiate a conversation with Kevin. But that unexpectedly throws Kevin into an emotional funk. Kevin struggles to film various scenes, he realizes he’s never dealt with his grief about their father.
In the past, Jack attends AA meetings and realizes he’s never dealt with his own past, creating a physical and emotional barrier between him and Rebecca. She attempts to initiate sex in the car, but Jack stops her. He says he wants to talk first and recognizes that there’s still significant work to be done to begin to process “all the horrible, ugly years.” After they talk, it’s implied that they have intercourse in the car. In a separate, earlier conversation, a friend asks Rebecca to recall the last time she and Jack were physically intimate.
Profanities include “h—” and “b–ch” (the latter spoken by young Deja). Name-calling includes the put-downs “idiot” and “stupid.”
As Season 2 opens, Randall’s deceased father, William, poetically narrates problems that Jack, Rebecca, Kevin, Kate and Randall must all tackle.
In the past, Jack and Rebecca tell the kids that they need “space,” assuring them that they’re not getting a divorce. Rebecca is angry at Jack for causing a scene (he punched her music producer—who’s also an ex-boyfriend—in the face for kissing her) and for bluntly telling her, “You’re a 40-year-old woman singing covers in pumps. That is not a career.”
Jack stays with Miguel during their separation, and everyone in the family is struggling. Eventually, Rebecca asks him to come back. He refuses, saying he needs to get his alcoholism under control. She responds, “You are my husband, and I am your wife. And if you have a problem, we will fix it together.”
In the present, each of the triplets (Kevin, Kate and Randall) wants to do something different on their shared birthday. Kevin is in California missing his girlfriend (and ex-wife), Sophie; he’s celebrating instead with Kate and her fiancé, Toby. Their dinner is ruined when Kate confides in her brother—instead of Toby—that she left a singing audition that afternoon because she was self-conscious about other, thinner women there. After dinner, she returns to try again.
In New York, Randall wants to celebrate his birthday by discussing the possibility of adopting another child with his wife, Beth. She’s hesitant. But after much debate, Beth eventually tells him that she would rather risk their “perfectly imperfect life and adopt a child that is older—one that no one else would want.” And so they begin looking through profiles of foster children.
The episode concludes in the past with a flashback to Kate and Randall’s grief over their father’s death. We still do not know the exact cause of his death, but we are left with one more clue.
Sexual content includes a scene that shows Kevin (as a teen) with a hickey. In the present, Kate and Toby are interrupted while kissing. Language includes “h—,” d–n” and “b–ches,” as well as “crap” and the f-word stand-in “frickin’.” Characters drink wine. One person smokes, and another pretends to do so.
In the past, Jack is spending more time at the bar than at home, and Rebecca has had enough. She says that on a sliding scale, they’re only operating at a level 6 as a parental unit. Seven, tops. She feels like she’s keeping up her end, but thinks Jack is failing. “When you’re home and you’re you, you’re way better than I am,” she tells him. “You’re a 10 when you’re you, Jack.” Meanwhile, in the present Kevin struggles with the consequences of quitting The Manny, while Beth (Randall’s wife) worries about what Randall’s dying, biological father, William, does all day. Is he back on drugs?
Thankfully, no. He just has a cat. But he does talk about drugs to his 6- and 8-year-old grandkids. “My vice is asthma,” the 6-year-old sagely tells her mother. “His,” pointing to William, “is cocaine.” He’s called an ex-crackhead by Randall. Elsewhere, Kate and Toby get drunk at a Hollywood party: Kate apparently had 10 shots of tequila and admits she’s just a couple of hours from getting violently sick. Back in the past, Jack’s reprimanded by his friend for downing bourbon after bourbon at a bar. And Rebecca tells him that the drinking has to stop. “You have to rein it in, baby, because I won’t have it in my house,” she says.
Toby reminds Kate that they’ve made out several times, including two instances of “heavy petting,” and suggests they sleep together soon. Rebecca and Jack make out in the hallway before their children interrupt. Kevin refers to himself as a “whore.” Randall tells him that their parents didn’t raise any whores, “except briefly during Kate’s eyeliner phase.” We hear references to being on morphine. The word “d–n” is used about a half-dozen times. We also hear “b–ch,” “a–” and “h—.” Schoolkids dub Randall “Webster” (after the show of the same name that was popular at the time). Kevin calls him that, too, and certainly doesn’t defend him.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).
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