Debuting in the fall of 2016, NBC's This Is Us quickly gained a devoted following for its heartfelt portrayal of the joys and pains of an American family over multiple generations. With touches of humor, romance, drama, and tragedy, it has endeared its well-rounded characters in the hearts and minds of its viewers and has developed quite the knack for tugging at their heartstrings. In fact, rare is the episode during which the average fan doesn't get at least a little teary-eyed watching the highs and lows of the Pearsons and their extended family. And if you're a truly devoted fan, chances are you've found yourself a lip-quivering, shoulder-shivering, snot-dripping mess as you bawled your eyes out like a child who just dropped their ice cream cone on the sidewalk.
Whether it be happy tears or sad tears, here are 15 of the This Is Us moments that probably got you sobbing the ugliest of cries. It should go without saying that there is a massive SPOILER ALERT necessary for those who haven't seen season one of the show.
15 Birthday Tragedy
Episode 1: "Series Premiere"It doesn't take long for This Is Us to trigger the waterworks. In the very first episode, after we've gotten to know loving couple Jack and Rebecca, who's very pregnant with triplets, she goes into labor. They rush to the hospital, and as Jack sits anxiously in the waiting room, we see the delivery take a turn for the worse. Rebecca's doctor, "Dr. K," emerges from the delivery room to break the bad news to Jack: one of the three babies didn't make it. As the stunning turn of events sinks into Jack's skull, Dr. K comforts him, telling him that his own first child (with his wife who died just this past year) was also stillborn and that it helped shape his life. His sage wisdom somehow makes us all feel like stepping away from the ledge. Later, in a musical montage - a tool the show will come to rely on heavily - we relive heartbreak as Jack tells a recently awakened Rebecca what happened.
14 Birthday Triumph
Episode 1: "Series Premiere"Part of the brilliance of This Is Us - and of this episode in particular - is how it maneuvers so seamlessly between sad and happy moments; turning sad tears into tears of joy. After Dr. K tells Jack to make lemonade out of lemons, Jack takes the advice to heart perhaps more than even the doctor envisioned. As Jack is ogling his newborn son and daughter through the glass in the nursery, a fireman is there looking at the baby he turned over to the hospital that had been abandoned on the steps of his fire station. Just a few seconds of screen time after we see Jack break the gut-wrenching news of their baby's death to Rebecca, we cut to a scene of them in their home beaming at their three babies - their two birth children and the abandoned child - the trio sporting matching sweaters reading "The Big Three." THE FEELS.
13 The Visit
Episode 3: "Kyle"In this episode, Rebecca is struggling to connect with Kyle, the abandoned baby they decided to adopt - including the frustration that many new moms feel while trying to initiate breastfeeding with a baby who won't latch on. She ends up tracking down the birth father, William, in an effort to get more of his story so she can feel more attached. When William asks if he can see the child some time, she tells him no, that she needs him to stay away because she needs to know he won't be coming back to take the baby away. It's a subtly heart-wrenching moment, as we simultaneously feel her desperation to hold on to the baby and his desperation to occupy a small piece of its life. In a way, he gets his wish, because she ends up renaming Kyle (the name they were going to give the baby that died) to Randall, after the poet whose book William gives Rebecca to give his son one day.
12 Are You Ready For Some Football?
Episode 5: "The Game Plan"Kate's new boyfriend Toby is a happy-go-lucky time (at least, on the surface) who wants to do everything with her. Although she insists that her weekly football-watching routine is to watch her hometown Steelers alone from the comfort of her own home, he coerces her into coming over to his place to watch the game. When she shows up, she's dismayed to find Toby has invited yet another person, his buddy Shooter. The two guys proceed to talk through the game, annoying Kate to no end. She makes a flimsy excuse to leave so she can go back home and watch the game in peace. When Toby confronts her later, she reveals the reason for her resistance to watching the game with him. It turns out she always used to watch the Steelers play with her dad and she continues to do so to this day. When Toby says he'd like to meet her dad, she walks over and pulls an urn off the shelf with his ashes inside. It's a sudden, sad confirmation to us viewers that Jack, whom we've grown to love over the first five episodes of the show, is dead.
11 Funeral For A Stranger
Episode 6: "Career Days"When Kevin struggles to connect with his emotions during rehearsals for the big play, in which he portrays a man whose wife dies, co-star Olivia invites him to a "party" that turns out to be the memorial service for a man (Frank) neither of them know. Her hope is to get him in touch with his sense of grief (ironic, since she herself has the empathy of a robot). Surprisingly, it actually works, as Kevin ends up chatting with the widow, Grace, reliving his love for building model planes and boats with his dad. After Grace tearfully says her 15-year-old son doesn't want anything of Frank's, Kevin recounts to her how he threw all his models away because he hated his dad for dying. However, he kept the necklace he's wearing - Jack's - and he breaks down explaining it's all he has left of his dad. The two strangers embrace in their mutual grief, a great moment topped off by a button of humor, as Grace asks, "Who are you again?"
10 Ignorance Is Bliss
Episode 6: "Career Days"In one of many touching father-son moments in This Is Us, we flash back to nine-year-old Randall accompanying Jack to his workplace. When Jack tests him on some math problems related to his job, he catches Randall intentionally playing ignorant. Upset, he asks Randall why he does that (his grades are below where they should be), and the boy tearfully confesses that he doesn't want to be different from his siblings: "If I get an A, I'll get ice cream, and Kevin and Kate won't, and then they'll hate me." Jack has a man-to-man conversation with him, telling him bluntly that he IS different, but that that's not a bad thing. He wants him to be himself, affirming that although he's adopted, "You are every part my son." Tissues, stat!
9 The Breakup
Episode 8: "Pilgrim Rick"Although Kate is in the best romantic relationship she's ever had, she tells boyfriend Toby over dinner that they should take a break. You see, he's fallen off the dieting bandwagon, and he's okay with it. As he's stuffing his face full of whatever he wants, she's emotionally alone with her dry salad. The waterworks start as she tells him the situation has made her feel weak, recounting how she recently broke down and ate a box of powdered donuts before crying herself to sleep. She feels particularly conflicted, she says, because he's otherwise been a perfect boyfriend, like a character from a Hollywood romantic comedy, but she needs to take care of herself. She reminds him that when they met, she said she couldn't "fall for a fat person," because she knows her weaknesses. It's a raw moment of introspection as she reveals that she's not happy, and it's not just about her weight. She has deep-seeded issues she needs to deal with.
8 As I Lay Dying
Episode 8: "Pilgrim Rick"Kevin, mistaking Olivia for someone with human emotions, invites her to his family's Thanksgiving at Randall's house. Predictably, she displays her cold fish nature, causing awkwardness that prompts her to bail. She goes outside to wait for an Uber, sitting on the front step next to William. In a typical display of insensitivity, she asks him how it feels to be dying. He explains it with painfully beautiful eloquence: "It feels like all these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me and I'm trying to catch them. When my granddaughter falls asleep in my lap, I try to catch the feeling of her breathing against me. And when I make my son laugh, I try to catch the sound of him laughing, how it rolls up from his chest. But the pieces are moving faster now, and I can't catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing, there will be nothing." He ends by advising Olivia to get in touch with her humanity: "Catch the moments of your life while you're young and quick, because sooner than you know it, you'll be old and slow, and there'll be no more of them to catch."
7 Secrets And Lies
Episode: 8 "Pilgrim Rick"As a capper to perhaps the weepiest episode of This Is Us to date, Randall travels to William's apartment to retrieve some cassette tapes he thinks will help him get in the Thanksgiving spirit. While there, he finds a letter from Rebecca to William and realizes to his shock that she knew his birth father all along. Feeling betrayed, he confronts her at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that she kept William from him all his life. She tries to explain, but he storms out tearfully, saying he can't even look at her. As painful a moment as that was, we then flash back to nine-year-old Randall telling Rebecca that the Thanksgiving they just had has made him love the holiday and that he wants every Thanksgiving to be like that, with the family all together and happy.
Episode 9: "The Trip"In an effort to help Randall repair the gaping wound in his heart from Thanksgiving, Kate and Kevin take him on a road trip to the family's old vacation cabin in the woods. Accidentally drinking a "magic mushroom" shake while there, Randall then embarks on a hallucinatory journey of his own. He envisions a conversation with Jack, telling his adoptive dad that Rebecca knew about his birth father all along, revealing in cathartic fashion that if he'd known as a child that William regretted giving him up, he would've felt more wanted. He relates the pressure he felt to strive for perfection, because he was just the "replacement" for the baby Kate and Rebecca lost. Jack (or rather, his vision of Jack) comforts him, saying that he isn't a choice; he's his son. Jack helps him see past the veneer of happiness that Rebecca showed on the surface, revealing the desperate protectiveness and paranoia she felt, fearing that William would someday return to claim his son. With a clearer mind, Randall visits her and delivers as much comfort as he can muster, stating, "You kept a secret for 36 years. It must have been incredibly lonely." She breaks down crying and tries to hug him, but he moves away, telling her he'll see her at Christmas.
Episode 10: "Last Christmas"Although Kate ditched Toby back in Los Angeles so she can focus on herself, Toby goes out on a limb and shows up at Randall's house on Christmas Eve with the entire Pearson clan gathered for the holiday. He introduces himself to everyone, then surprises Kate with a pitch-perfect rendition of one of those climactic romantic comedy speeches that usually occurs after a guy makes a mad dash through an airport trying to stop the love of his life from flying away forever. He tells Kate he's back on his diet - not for her, but for him, but actually, for her too, because "I can live without pizza and cookies and potato chips and whatever that brownie thing was they were serving on the plane. The one thing I cannot live without is you." Awwwww... They kiss - appropriately enough, under the mistletoe.
4 Call 911
Episode 10: "Last Christmas"At the end of this Christmas episode, we get one of those touchy-feely This Is Us montages, with everyone gathered at Randall's house singing, dancing, eating, playing games, reading books, and looking at embarrassing childhood photos. Then, those images become interspersed with shots of a hospital, which we'd seen throughout the episode in flashbacks to 1989 when Dr. K was set to go under the knife after being injured in a car accident. We start to see pictures of a surgical operation, assuming Dr. K is the patient, but when we see the doctor awake in his bed in 1989 and Toby keels over with a heart attack in the present, we realize that it's Toby being operated on. The episode ends on some menacing-sounding beeps coming from the heart monitor. So much for Rebecca's theory that "nothing bad happens at Christmas."
3 What's Up, Doc?
Episode 12: "The Big Day"This episode returns to where the premiere episode began - the birth of the "Big Three" - this time providing background information that adds further depth to the event and to those involved. We even get a peek into the life of Dr. K, whose son, Peter and daughter-in-law, Alli have been trying to get him to move on from his wife's death 14 months prior and to jump back into the dating pool rather than throwing himself into long hours at the hospital. After Peter's latest nudge, the doctor explodes, his voice quivering as he says he'll never move on from his wife's death. Later, Dr. K visits her grave and confesses to her that he's having trouble living without her; he's even contemplated suicide. When he's called to deliver the triplets, we learn that their births (and the death) help inspire him to push on with life. He has another imaginary conversation with his late wife, telling her he plans to move forward, and he hopes that’s what she would've wanted.
2 My Brother's Keeper
Episode 15: "Jack Pearson's Son"On the opening night of Kevin’s play, all of the pressures that have been weighing on Randall come to a head - William's illness, Rebecca's secrets, losing face at work - and he has a nervous breakdown, similar to the one he had years earlier that caused temporary blindness. He makes a weird rambling phone call to Kevin just before the start of the play, and Kevin, displaying the sort of sensitivity and understanding of nuanced emotion he doesn't normally show, is able to read through the words. Recalling Randall's manic bouts of anxiety during their youth, Kevin sprints through the streets of New York to Randall's office, finding him curled up on the floor crying. He embraces his brother in the most touching and personal interaction they've had so far on the show.
Episode 16: "Memphis"We all knew this day would come, but that doesn't make it any easier. William's battle with stage 4 stomach cancer comes to an end, and it feels like we're losing a member of our own family. His impending death looms throughout this episode, as he and Randall head off on a road trip to William's hometown of Memphis, bonding like never before. When William's body starts to shut down, however, it's time for the inevitable goodbyes that leave us a blubbering mess. On his deathbed, he gifts Randall with a notebook of poems he wrote entitled Poems for My Son, along with words of wisdom to help Randall loosen up and deal with his anxiety: "Roll all the windows down; crank up the music." Then, he really gets the tears flowing with these parting words: "You deserved the beautiful life you made...my beautiful boy...my son. The two best things in my life were the person at the beginning and the person at the end." When William confesses he's scared, Randall cups his head like Jack had done to him so many times to calm him down. In that loving embrace, William passes away.