Fans looking to tune into the fifth season premiere of “This is Us” to get an escape from the real world instead got a heavy dose of it, as the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests played integral parts in Tuesday night’s episode, which also featured a twist fans probably didn't see coming.
The first 15 minutes alone featured multiple references to the virus, Zoom calls, PPE, characters wearing masks and the news that George Floyd had died. Here’s how the rest of the premiere went down for the Pearson family.
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Crushed over how the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on his new home city of Philadelphia and financially devastated Beth’s dance studio, a shaken Randall and his family watched TV coverage of the protests and he became introspective when talking to Deja’s boyfriend Malik about a similar incident to George Floyd when he was a child and how he never addressed how he felt about it. After driving up to the family cabin where his siblings were celebrating their 40th birthdays with Rebecca and Miguel, he told Kate he’s tired of making her feel better and that he just wanted to be with his wife and daughters when she apologized to him for all that's going on in the world.
Randall’s rift with Kevin may have softened, too, as they exchanged texts when Randall learned Kevin is going to have twins. They had a short, cordial conversation at the cabin when Kevin asked for advice on how to raise a girl after he revealed he’s having a boy and a girl.
As he drove home, Randall called his therapist, who is white, and said he needs to stop seeing her and find a Black therapist because there are things he’s not comfortable talking about with her.
They may not have planned to have a baby (or two!), but Kevin and Madison seem to have grown to genuinely like one another as they get ready to become parents. They trekked to the Pearson family cabin for the Big Three’s birthdays, but wound up at a walk-in clinic after Madison fell on her stomach and panicked because she didn’t feel the babies moving.
The babies were fine, and, as they prepared to leave the clinic, Kevin said they should get married, while Madison said she doesn’t see the flaws he claims to have.
“I think you are pretty fantastic, Kevin,” she said.
It’s never confirmed they will tie the knot, but Kevin does later refer to her as “my fiancée,” which caught Kate by surprise.
“I feel like magic,” Rebecca declared while at the cabin, where she and Miguel went to quarantine. She had been feeling great, but got lost while going out for a birthday cake (this incident was referenced in an episode last season). Police brought her back to the cabin and Randall made the drive up there after learning she had gone missing.
He soon realized medicine she was taking for poison ivy had mixed badly with medicine she’s taking for her cognitive impairment.
With her health looming large, Rebecca later admitted to Miguel she isn’t worried about losing her memories about the big moments of her life, but rather the little ones.
Kate, Toby and baby Jack headed to the cabin and soon Kate freaked out after Rebecca went missing. After she was tracked down, a bit of good news emerged when Toby told Kate that they have gotten a match from the adoption agency, meaning a new baby may be in their future, something that's not that huge of a surprise since it had been teased last season.
This multi-layered flashback ended with the bombshell that Randall’s birth mother, Laurel, may actually be alive. The episode featured a young William and pregnant Laurel discussing Black rights and Laurel opening up about her hopes of getting a better job and apartment to give their baby a good life.
EMTs later arrived after Laurel suffered an overdose and implied that she had died. When one of them said they need to contact police about the matter as well as what to do with Randall, William — who watched the scene unfold in horror while he held Randall in his arms — quickly fled the apartment and dropped his son at the firehouse.
William later went to the hospital where, in a strange twist of fate, he encountered Jack not once, but twice, as he and Rebecca awaited the birth of their children. They initially passed each other in a hallway and then William cried while praying or forgiveness in the chapel. As he walked out, Jack walked in and prayed that Rebecca would be OK before he called his own father, who admitted that when they went to church as a family he would pray his own children turned out better than he did.
The episode ended with a real curveball when the EMTs working on Laurel tried once more to revive her only for her to take a breath, a development that would appear to go against Randall’s telling Beth he doesn’t want any surprises in the coming year and whetting viewers’ appetites for even more drama.
Interestingly, the premiere made no mention of Uncle Nicky, who was a central figure last season and wore a wedding ring in a flash-forward during the season finale. His status, as well as the fate of Laurel, will no doubt play out the rest of this season, although viewers will have to wait for answers, since "This Is Us" will return in two weeks.