'This Is Us': Ranking All the Emotional Twists So Far

How the big reveals stack up heading into Tuesday's midseaon finale.
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Ever since the pilot episode of This Is Us, in which viewers learned how the NBC drama's sprawling cast of characters are related, the series has doled out impacting, emotional punches with each subsequent episode.

Below, THR ranks all of the big emotional twists to date.

10. Kevin and Randall "Brawl"

Watching the brothers and their fractured relationship week after week has been tough; the past and present came to a head in “The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World,” though, when Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) finally confronted each other following a brawl in Times Square (the actors and crew traveled to New York for the scene). Kevin learned that Randall had never bothered to watch an episode of The Manny, while Randall finally told Kevin that all he ever wanted was to hang out with his brother. By the end of the episode, the storyline came full circle and the pair decided to hang out in Randall’s basement together, watching old episodes of Kevin’s former show. Cue the “awwws.”

9. Toby’s Big Secret Comes Out

To be fair, Toby (Chris Sullivan) has had two big secrets over the course of the show so far. The first, that he used to be married to a skinny person, was revealed in “Career Days” when Kate (Chrissy Metz) went into super cyber stalker mode. The second and much bigger secret, that Toby had ditched his diet, came up more recently in “Pilgram Rick.” Although this wouldn’t be a big deal to a normal couple, his decision crippled Kate’s own resolve and drove a huge wedge between the couple. By the end of the episode, Kate decided she needed a break from the relationship in order to focus on herself, effectively breaking up the show’s cutest couple.

8. Randall Hallucinates Seeing His Dad

When the series revealed that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) had passed away (more on that below), it seemed impossible for the patriarch to ever appear in a scene with his adult children. Fogelman and Co. turned the tables on that assumption, however, when Randall accidentally drinks a mushroom shake in “The Trip” and begins hallucinating his grown adoptive father. Jack’s subsequent advice  to look further into Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) actions and try to understand everything she did to protect the family  left nary a dry eye in the house.    

7. Randall Finds the Letter

As soon as the audience learned that Rebecca and William (Ron Cephas Jones) knew each other before Randall tracked down his birth father, it was only a matter of time before Randall found out the truth too. But the audience was further shocked when Randall was enlightened via a letter Rebecca wrote to William after that initial meet-and-greet which proved that she actually kept in contact with William and knew he had gotten himself clean. Randall’s reaction to the news in “Pilgrim Rick” was not only heartbreaking, but it featured some of Brown’s best scenes on the series to date.

6. Learning Jack’s Whereabouts

Critics who watched the original This Is Us pilot knew that Jack wasn’t long for this world, but when Fogelman re-jigged the script so that the reveal didn’t come until “The Game Plan,” it carried a little more weight. When Chrissy introduced her father to Toby via his urn and the three of them settled in to watch a Steelers game together, it was a heavy moment loaded with truth and sadness. People come and go, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t always somehow present.

5. Rebecca and William’s Past Surfaces

Randall may have grown up not knowing who his biological parents were, but Rebecca certainly knew. That much was revealed early on in the third episode, “Kyle,” when Randall’s name origins were revealed. A chilling montage of a young William (Jermel Nakia) riding the bus and slowly succumbing to the drugs said plenty without any actual words, leading audiences to understand why Rebecca may not have wanted her son to know William in the first place. That didn’t make the secret any less loaded when Rebecca and William reconnected in the present day.

4. Rebecca and Miguel Get Together

One of the elements that drew viewers in during the pilot episode was the strong relationship between Rebecca and Jack. So when Rebecca showed up to Randall’s house with “grandpa” Miguel (Jon Huertas) at the end of “The Big Three,” plenty of jaws dropped to the floor. How did Rebecca end up with Jack’s best friend, and what happened to Jack? Obviously that mystery was eventually (somewhat) solved, but that didn’t make the new relationship any easier to take.

3. Meeting Jack’s Father

Despite Jack’s large role within the family, his death in the present day storyline means he isn’t always as fleshed out as the other characters. That changed in the winter premiere when audiences learned that Jack’s father was emotionally and potentially physically abusive toward his family. So when Jack learned he and Rebecca were having triplets and had no place to live, it was with trepidation that he slipped off his wedding ring, told his father he’d amounted to nothing — as predicted — and begged for money to pay off a “gambling” debt.

2. Toby’s Big Heart Attack
Just when the show’s budding couple decided to reconcile it all came crashing down in the final moments of the winter finale. As Dr. K woke up from his surgery in the past storyline Toby collapsed in the present one, and the episode ended with him flat-lining on the operating room table. Viewers had to wait five full weeks to learn Toby’s fate. Thankfully for fans, all he needed was a little old surgery to repair a hole in his heart.

1. The Big Three's Connection Revealed

Of all the twists so far, the one that still holds the most clout is the pilot reveal that Randall was adopted, and that he, Kate and Kevin were the three babies that Jack and Rebecca brought home from the hospital in the pilot episode. It was a massive twist that some may have seen coming, but it set the tone for further installments and gave many viewers that kind of feel-good cry so rarely experience since NBC's other family drama, Parenthood, went off the air.

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