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There are several ways to keep track of the various storylines on This Is Us; namely, the length of Milo Ventimiglia’s facial hair and hairstyle during any given year. Through the NBC drama’s first 10 episodes, the storyline has jumped from the early 1980s, the late ‘80s, the early ‘90s and all the way to the present day to showcase the trials and tribulations of the Pearson family and all the characters they encounter along the way.
Heading into Tuesday’s midseason premiere, THR compiled a handy timeline of all the major story points so far and when they have taken place in a bid to serve as a mini refresher for the Dan Fogelman drama’s return.
Early 1940s: William is born
William’s life began just as tragically as it ended, in the early 1940s during the war. His father was killed in service before William surfaced from his mother’s womb, meaning that William not only never got a chance to really be a father, but he grew up without a dad, too.
Although the exact date isn’t clear, Jack (Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) made their relationship official at a small City Hall ceremony in front of family and friends. Miguel, whom Rebecca would later go on to marry, is the best man.
January 1980: The triplets are conceived
The Super Bowl will never be the same, at least not to Jack and Rebecca. Since the Steelers’ big win that year clearly wasn’t enough of a celebration for the young lovebirds, they also happened to conceive the triplets that night…in the bar bathroom, of all places.
Aug. 31, 1980: The Big Three are born
The end of the summer officially marks a big birthday for Jack, Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown). As viewers first saw in the twisty pilot, that’s the day the Big Three were born, which coincidentally also happened to be Jack’s birthday.
Early 1981: Rebecca meets William
Life with one newborn is tough; life with three newborns is pretty much impossible…especially if one of those babies is adopted and isn’t adjusting as well as the other two. It took just a few months for Rebecca to finally seek out William (Ron Cephas Jones) after glimpsing him outside of the hospital, but once she did, Randall’s life went down a whole new path.
Spring 1989: Jack stops drinking
The couple that viewers fell in love with during the pilot wasn’t as picture perfect as they first appeared to be. Eight years or so after the Big Three arrived Jack had some personal demons haunting him. His drinking drove a huge wedge in his marriage, forcing him to sober up in order to make things work and get back on track.
Fall 1989: Randall goes to a gifted school
Poor Randall never wanted anything more than to fit in with his family, but it was obvious that he was different from his brother and sister from the beginning. After trying to hide his smarts from everyone, including his parents, Randall finally owned up to them when he was sent to a gifted school.
November 1989: The Pearson Thanksgiving tradition is born
Nine years from the time Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) advised Jack to make lemonade from lemons, the Pearson family turned the most horrible Thanksgiving experience into a tradition for the ages. Many hot dogs, cheese slices and bad movies later, and it continues to be a cherished time for this family.
December 1989: Kate’s appendix is taken out
It seems like the Pearsons have a history of turning bad holidays around; Christmas eve 1989 could have easily fallen apart when Kate was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Instead, the visit not only spawned magic mistletoe and the saying that “Nothing bad happens on Christmas Eve,” but it also marked another great Pearson family-Dr. K reunion.
1996: Kevin and Sophie hook up
Turns out that Kevin was just 15 years old when he began having sex with his childhood sweetheart. Thanks to a quip by Kate that Rebecca just so happened to overhear, Jack and Rebecca were privy to this information as well.
Feb. 14, 1996: Jack breaks his sobriety
After giving up the drink in order to be a better father, Jack gave into a Maker’s Mark following a big fight with Rebecca, in which he learned that Ben and Rebecca used to date.
1996-1999: Jack dies
Thanks to Kate’s breakthrough at fat camp in “Three Sentences,” viewers learned via a flashback sequence that Jack died at some point while the kids were teenagers. The quick scene involved the remaining Pearsons holding hands at a memorial service, with a photo of a moustached-Jack featured prominently.
Although the timeline grows a little fuzzy here, it would appear that Kevin and Sophie have been separated for about a decade when viewers meet Kevin in 2016. Whoever said that childhood sweethearts weren’t a thing anyhow?
They say 35 is a big birthday, but for the Big Three their 36th year — which also happens to be how old Jack was when they were born — was a turning point in some pretty unique ways. Kate decided to lose the weight, Kevin faced an existential crisis and Randall found his birth father. (To that point, 36 was at one point an unofficial title for This Is Us.)
September 2016: Kevin quits The Manny, moves to New York
Speaking of existential crisis, Kevin’s Manny meltdown wasn’t a one-time thing. Despite urging from his agent (Katey Sagal) to suck it up and apologize, Kevin decided enough was enough. And so he bid farewell to L.A. and the small screen, and headed to New York to try his hand at theater instead.
November 2016: Kate dumps Toby
Nothing was going to distract Kate from her mission to lose weight, including the awesome new guy she was dating. When Toby (Chris Sullivan) decided he was done with the weight loss it was a negative turning point for the new couple’s relationship, as it forced Kate to finally put herself first.
November 2016: Randall learns his mother’s secret
It was obvious the truth behind Rebecca’s and William’s first encounters all those years ago would surface at some point. Unfortunately for Rebecca, Randall happened to stumble across the truth over the Thanksgiving holiday, before she could tell him the reality of the situation first.
November 2016: One last trip to the cabin
While the history of the Pearson family cabin and how it came to be is still something of a mystery, thanks to a present-day storyline viewers do know that Rebecca is selling the property. And so it was with sadness that the siblings headed to the cabin one final time, with Randall taking a psychedelic trip to the past after accidentally drinking a ‘shroom shake.
December 2016: Toby has an attack
So much for nothing bad ever happening on Christmas Eve. Just when Kate and Toby reunited and Toby vowed to get back on the diet train, Toby collapsed in front of the family and was rushed to the hospital. The episode ended on a cliff-hanger with the character flat-lining, a storyline that showrunner Fogelman promises will be resolved early on in the show’s midseason return.
February 2017: William dies
After visiting fancy doctors and waiting for experimental procedures, William ran out of time in the standalone episode, “Memphis.” The character took his last breaths in a Memphis hospital following a road trip with his son, Randall, in which he was able to visit all of the key places from his past.
March 2017: Kevin’s play opens/Kevin and Sophie get back together
Kevin finally got his play off the ground during his second premiere night; unfortunately he couldn’t convince the New York Times critic to return a second time around though. The good news was that Ron Howard happened to be in the audience instead, and he offered Kevin a role in his next big screen film… right after Kevin and Sophie finally got back together with the understanding that Kevin would stay in New York for a while.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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