All four couples bring new babies home from the hospital, each with very different experiences -- while a new arrival signals more surprises in the future.
It's been a little while since "This Is Us" teased us with a glimpse into that future a dozen or so years ahead with everyone converging at Kevin's house by the family cabin to see Rebecca, struggling in her dementia.
This week, we got a couple of new arrivals from the family, while still others remain conspicuously absent. But a last-second arrival could spell even more surprises ahead as future Randall certainly seemed surprised at who it was.
The bulk of the hour, though, was spent catapulting through three timelines as four different families brought babies home from the hospital. It's a rite of passage shared by almost all new parents, and despite seeing it go down across decades, it all looks very familiar.
Here's both Jack and Kevin struggling to make heads or tails of multiple car seats while the new moms wait patiently inside, hoping that their strong-willed men will take the time to get it right.
All brand new parents, Jack, Rebecca, Kevin and Madison all shared similar apprehensions about taking on all the tasks of rearing and caring for these babies on their own. Meanwhile, Kate, Toby, Randall and Beth were old hat by this point, so it was a much smoother journey for them.
So they could get in on the fun, the writers took us back to Randall and Beth bringing Annie home from the hospital. It wasn't an arbitrary choice, as the youngest daughter's arrival came with a very pivotal revelation for Randall that helped him feel more connected in his new family than perhaps he ever fully did in his old one.
Oh, and that flash-forward wasn't the only big moment on the night. Kevin and Madison's household was rocked by a new development, as was Kate and Toby's. But only one of those developments could be considered a good thing.
Or perhaps time will tell.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
We'd been waiting for weeks for the other shoe to drop regarding Ellie as everything was just going too smoothly. But we kept expecting her to yank the rug out from under Kate and Toby by deciding she wanted to keep her baby. Instead, she went the other way.
After agreeing to an open adoption where she would remain a part of Hailey's life over the years, it was all getting to be a bit much for her. We've seen her in her head, and clearly there is a lot of pain in walking away from her baby.
So at this point, she decided she can't have any relationship with Hailey, or even necessarily Kate and Toby. It's evident she's processing her own emotions and feelings of loss and this is a protective measure. But it's one that's painful to watch.
"Knowing You Have My Eyes"
Why Annie's birth for this episode? Because a nurse in the hospital told Randall and Beth that the baby had her father's eyes. No one had ever shared Randall's features before, so much as he knew, giving him a connection to this human he's never had before.
It's indicative of the quiet loneliness Randall has felt, that Kate knows about now, as an adopted child with no knowledge of his parents or his own story. Now, though, he is not just the beginning of a new chapter, but a new book.
His children are the branches of his family tree and they are a part of him, as he is a part of them. While Annie isn't his first child, that seemingly innocuous comment meant so much to him because it solidified for him his connection to this family he was creating.
That's why he was so eager to expand on it, to continue building his tree, his legacy and his story with Beth. Just maybe don't bring it up on the way home from the hospital after your significant other has just birthed life into the world. That's kind of a lot.
Kate pushed back against Ellie's decision to sever ties for her own reasons, while Toby tried to respect Ellie's current headspace. Kate, though, knows how much Randall still struggles with his identity having not known anything of where he came from.
But in her immediate concern for her daughter, her instinct was to push and prod and poke until she could get Ellie where she felt she needed Hailey's birth mother to be. But that just isn't realistic.
Look how William struggled after having given up his baby, as did Shauna and Laurel. Toby's right, adoption is a journey. Parenthood is a journey. Life is a journey and it always offers new twists and turns.
Ellie can't have Hailey a part of her story right now, but that doesn't mean that will always be the case. And unlike Rebecca, Kate and Toby are determined to keep that door open should she ever want to step through. And there's no stopping them telling Hailey whatever she might want to know as she grows up.
"We Both Wasted a Lot of Time Being Quietly Terrified"
We've spoken a lot about how much Kevin lives in the shadow of Jack as this mythical father figure. In one of the night's most poignant scenes, adult Kevin came face-to-face with his father in a beautiful dream sequence about fatherhood.
Appropriately, this was Jack as Kevin last remembered him, the perfect and devoted father who would give anything for his family. The unrealistic, impossible, unattainable superhero of a man that Jack never was.
Knowing that this was Kevin's own inner voice offering him a reality check did nothing to lessen its impact. Jack spent his whole adulthood afraid of becoming the father his was, while Kevin is already fretting not being the father his was.
Both men needed to realize -- and for Kevin it's not too late -- that they are enough just as they are. We are ever in the shadow of our parents, but there's nothing saying we can't just take one step forward and find ourselves in the light.
We've seen both Randall and Kate have these types of revelatory moments that helped them get out of their own heads a bit, settle into their lives and become, as Toby told Kate tonight, far more "unflappable." This conversation may yet prove that pivotal turning point for Kevin.
When Kevin came into the house after the drive home from the hospital, he saw before him everything he'd ever dreamed. He also saw a woman as lost and confused and overwhelmed as he is stepping up ... again.
It was Madison who properly (maybe?) took care of the gross paparazzi that was following them home (seriously, this dude wants shirtless Kevin in tight shorts so he can see his package -- gutter trash!), it was Madison who took over driving and it was Madison who was so calm in the face of a crying baby even as she admitted she had no idea what it wants.
They are nearly as overwhelmed as Jack and Rebecca were after their first drive home, but you'd almost never guess it upon seeing Madison in action. They're just getting started, but she's not nearly the bundle of nerves and fear and anxiety Kevin is -- or she's doing a better job of hiding it.
It's a strange line for Kevin to have an "a-ha" moment after hearing, but it's also perfect. Here's a crying baby and Mama has no idea what baby wants. Rather than freak out or get stressed out, she cracked a joke. She's in this and ready. We kind of fell for her in that moment, too.
"You Are the Air"
You never think about the importance of pep talks in relationships. Successful partnerships are as much about support as anything else, and that often leads to being there with the right words at the right moment to lift someone up.
It helps if you believe what you're saying, because if you are truly their person they will open up to you their deepest fears and insecurities. This is what happened with Jack after he confessed he saw glimmers of his father in himself even on the drive home.
We'd have been furious at getting cut off by that guy, too, but Jack was so rattled by his own behavior and disregard for the three infants in the car that he downed a mini bottle of whiskey. Later, he confessed all of it to Rebecca, admitting his deepest fears.
He shared the sense of dread that would come on Nicky and him when their father would arrive home, slamming the door and slamming down booze so he could bear to deal with his family. Jack doesn't want to be that, but he fears he won't be able to avoid it.
This was the literal manifestation of his pep talk to Kevin, as well as a sobering reminder for viewers that Jack never was the perfect father his kids think he was (and Rebecca let them think). He was just as insecure as all of them, but he never stopped trying to be his best.
And Rebecca never fully lost her own faith in his light, or air, even through their rough patches. That's what makes the couples on this show "relationship goals." None of them are without flaw, but all of them are built in a foundation of love, mutual admiration, belief in the other and unwavering support.
Case in point, Toby has been Kate's rock and support system through so many things. And she's been there for him. On the day they were bringing their baby home, and dealing with unexpected bumps in the road, they continued to support one another.
Toby talked to her about how incredible and unflappable she is in the face of whatever life has to throw at her ... and then he threw something new at her. Ripped from the headlines, such as it is, Toby was laid off from his job along with 40 percent of its staff.
That's the kind of thing that can devastate a day, and we all know how many domestic arguments tend to be over money and financial concerns. But Kate, despite her own misgivings about Ellie, never wavered in her love and support and belief in her husband.
Today is an amazing day for their family, as their daughter came home. Toby's job situation is just another challenge, but it's one that doesn't have to be met today. That's a further testament to growth, realizing that sometimes you can't fix it right now and so it's okay to just set it aside and enjoy your life anyway. It'll still be there when it's time to pick it back up.
Keven has been chasing this vision of what he thinks he wants his life to be, from football star to actor to family man. He even thought he was ready to conceive it when Madison revealed she was pregnant, proposing then.
Now, though, he says he wants to marry her for real. It is just getting swept up in another moment? We don't think so, because the scene came after his vision with Jack where he learned he could step outside of Jack's shadow and be enough.
Feeling that freedom, he was able to see everything that Madison had done that day and was doing in that moment and saw that she was enough. This right here, in front of him, is everything he's been wanting all along.
Sorry Sophie 'shippers, but the relationship with Madison is already more healthy than it ever was with Sophie because Kevin is finally getting his head on right. He'll probably always hold a torch for his first love, but that was always a bit of a mess.
It's even appropriate that in lieu of expensive gifts or lavish dates (like he gave Madison before when he was trying too hard), he proposes with his own hospital band. It's significance as a symbol of the start of their family comes full circle, and the fact it's so ridiculously lame couldn't be more perfect.
We're going to break the rankings a bit, because we wanted to save the flash-forward for the end. It was absolutely beautiful watching Randall look at the adult representation of that family tree he was so happy to grow.
And we have to give credit to the casting department because all three of these ladies are dead ringers for their junior counterparts. In particular, La Trice Harper is adult Deja in every way to the point it's almost frightening.
With the completion of Randall's family on the scene, a new white car arrived at Kevin's in the future, leaving fans to speculate who might be in there. Still missing from this timeline are several key figures, including Miguel and Kate.
We've also not yet seen Kate and Toby's two kids (though we've seen them further in the future), nor have we seen Malik. Is it possible that he's the father of Deja's child in this future timeline? Or was he just a high school crush?
What could be powerfully moving for this family of so much adoption is if Kate arrives with her children, and Ellie in tow. It's possible that she reconnected with Kate and Toby and is now involved in Hailey's life.
In a previous flash-forward, Toby told Randall that he'd talked to his son Jack and that "they" were on their way. Who all could this include? Is this car them?
We've no idea when we'll get back to this future, so until then -- time will tell!