'This Is Us': Ranking All the Emotional Twists Through Season 1

Throughout the first season of NBC's emotional family drama, THR keeps track of all the biggest, and most heartbreaking, revelations.
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.

18. Miguel and Shelly Announce Their Divorce

From the show's second episode it was obvious things didn't work out with Miguel's (Jon Huertas) first marriage, given that he's with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in the present-day storyline. But in "I Call Marriage" the show finally delved a little deeper into Miguel's past, when it was revealed that he and Shelly (Wynn Everett) simply grew apart and decided to split amicably. 

17. 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.”

16. 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 “Pilgrim 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.

15. 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 actions and try to understand everything she did to protect the family — left nary a dry eye in the house.    

14. 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.

13. Jack Turns to the Drink 

Early on it became obvious that Jack had a bit of a drinking problem; given his history with his own father it's easy to see how something like that gets to be an issue. But when Rebecca called him on it in a past-storyline he gave it up for nearly a decade. Then in "Jack Pearson's Son" when Jack learned that Rebecca and Ben (Sam Trammell) used to date, he and Rebecca had a huge blowout. The episode culminated in Jack taking his first drink in seven years, unbeknownst to his wife and family. 

12. 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.

11. 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.

10. Kevin Rushes to Randall's Side

Kevin and Randall have never had the tightest of relationships, but it's one that both brothers have been working on over the course of the first season. So when Kevin began to witness Randall's breakdown on "Jack Pearson's Son," he ignored the early symptoms. But when Randall called Kevin on the night of his play's opening to say he could no longer make it, Kevin could no longer ignore his brother. And so he did what his father would do, and ditched the play in order to go make sure his brother was okay. 

9. 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.

8. Kevin Has an Ex-Wife

Ever since Kevin came onscreen he was something of a bored womanizer. It was obvious he wanted more than these mindless flings allowed him, but it wasn't so obvious that he once actually had more. In "Three Sentences" it all came to light when the episode's big twist revealed that Sophie — Kate's childhood best friend — was also Kevin's first wife. After some nudging from Toby, Kevin turned up on Sophie's doorstep asking for another chance ... an ask that she seemed willing enough to at least consider.

7. Jack and Rebecca’s Epic Fight

 

Savvy viewers knew a blowout between Jack and Rebecca was inevitable given how much had been left unsaid between the couple for so long of the season. With Jack drinking again and Rebecca desperate to reclaim some of herself, the pair really dug in during the first season finale in a fight that left everyone cold. The season ended as Jack left the house to go and stay at Miguel’s for an undetermined amount of time.

6. 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.

5. Jack is Robbed

 

Jack lived by the mantra that good guys don’t always finish last, but he proved himself wrong during a shady game of poker that resulted in a beating and robbery during the first season finale flashback. Perhaps he should have known better given the history of the fellows he was sitting down with, but the night almost set Jack on a much different path. Luckily he met Rebecca just as he was about to do something stupid (rob those guys back) and potentially get himself killed. 

4. 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.

3. Kate Confides in Toby

After months of refusing to talk about her father's death, Kate finally let Toby in on the reason why she's so affected by Jack's passing: she sees his death as her fault. In the same episode ("What Now?") viewers learn that a teenaged Kate convinced her father to go and make things right with her mother after she went on tour with the band. It was a scene that led everyone to believe Kate felt responsible for Jack getting in the car drunk to go see Rebecca on the night he was potentially killed. 

2. William Dies

Even though viewers knew Williams death was imminent, the series played with everyone's emotions with a truly heart-wrenching standalone episode that delved deep into the character's past. There it was revealed that William's life was indeed a life wasted, as his gift for music was squandered away on drugs following his own mother's death.  

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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