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"This Is Us" Wants You to Cry Harder Than You've Ever Cried

Are you ready to see what would've happened if Jack Pearson had lived?

As America's favorite family, the Pearsons don't have many flaws.

Sure, the patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) struggled with alcoholism, and he and his wife, Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) weren't equipped to address the subject of racial inequality in America despite adopting a black son, but the mythology that This Is Us has crafted around Jack and Rebecca Pearson is untouchable: They were the perfect love story.

Except Jack Pearson died tragically in a house fire when his three kids were just teenagers, his widow ended up marrying his best friend who has the personality of plain toast, and now, in her old age, Rebecca is showing signs of Alzheimer's disease, meaning that she'll one day forget all about her epic love story with Jack.

Only two more episodes remain until the season 4 finale (titled "Strangers: Part 2," which suggests the return of Cassidy Sharp, played by Jennifer Morrison), and the time-jumping series has been teasing more dramatic reveals than ever: Who is Kevin's fiancee and mother of his child? Will Randall experience another nervous breakdown? Will Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) and her husband, Toby (Chris Sullivan), break up over the conflict of raising a child with special needs?

Of course, there have been signs of hope for the Pearsons, like dangling ropes to hang ourselves with while we wait for the Pearsons to figure their sh*t out and become the well-adjusted people we ourselves will never be. By the end of "Clouds," we saw that Toby seems to be adjusting to fatherhood with a blind son, Randall has continued his much-needed therapy despite his pride, and Kevin–well, who knows what Kevin will do next, as that boy has a twisted sense of love and relationships.

But tonight's episode, "After the Fire," will attempt to wrench the the still-beating heart out of America's chests by showing us what life would have been like if Jack had lived. At the end of last week's episode, "New York, New York," Randall (Sterling K. Brown) told his brother, Kevin (Justin Hartley), that he often thinks about what would have happened if their father had survived. Promo materials show the return of elderly Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who has made brief appearances in his children's dreams.

Following his first appearance as 73-year-old Jack in the season two finale, Ventimiglia shared with CNN that the show's makeup artists based his aged look on photos of his own late father. The process took three hours and involved a wig, but the impressive realism matches that of Mandy Moore's time-jumping transformations. Ventimiglia added, "Looking at the history of Jack and how he had lived his life in a very simple way, I feel like a broken record saying he loves his wife and he loves his kids, but I feel like that is expanded when you get to your 70s." He added, "He felt like a man that was probably interested in slowing things down as best as he could, just to hang on to the moments."

With Randall beginning regular therapy for his anxiety disorder, is his preoccupation with his father's death a driving source of his anxiety? Would Jack have taken Randall to meet his biological father, William, when he was a teenager (giving him decades of time to spend with William before he succumbed to cancer)? Would Randall have been happier if he hadn't felt the responsibility of looking out for his mother throughout his life? Would Rebecca have been happier? Would she still have become sick?

This Is Us will come for your soul Tuesday, March 17, and the finale will air on March 24, on NBC.

This Is Us 4x17 Promo "After the Fire" (HD) youtu.be

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What Finally Drives Kevin and Randall Apart on "This Is Us"?

Honestly, it's been coming for four seasons.

The fourth season of This Is Us has introduced perhaps the highest stakes the show has seen since the death of Jack Pearson.

[Spoilers]

Kate's (Chrissy Metz) psychologically abusive ex-boyfriend endangered her life after fat-shaming her, Rebecca's memory is showing early signs of dementia or possibly Alzheimer's disease, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) are careening towards a fallout. Last season's finale revealed that Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) memory loss doesn't improve and that Kevin and Randall are no longer on speaking terms by the siblings' 40th birthday. With four episodes remaining this season, attentive fans have conjured theories that their division is possibly caused by Randall experiencing another nervous breakdown or disagreements over their mother's healthcare. But despite showing closeness in their adult lives, the two brothers have always been in conflict.

Most fans seem to believe that the gravity of Rebecca's health crisis will force the brothers' disparate personalities to collide: Kevin, self-centered but well-meaning, takes a laid back approach to life, while Randall, empathetic but controlling, is compelled to solve every problem with a hands-on approach–to the point of perfectionism. During childhood, young Kevin often showed resentment for Randall. In one flashback, Jack sternly asked him why he was unkind to his brother, but Kevin grew upset, yelled, "I don't know!" and ran off in tears. As adults, Kevin has vented his frustration that Randall seems to be their mother's favorite child; and, when Kate was pregnant, he made an offhand comment that he and Kate were the only ones capable of carrying on their father's legacy. As their adopted brother, Randall questioned how Kevin could exclude him from their family legacy so easily.

Still, the brothers have continued to share a close bond this season, as they continually reach out to each other for support during times of strife, such as Randall's panic attacks or when Kevin struggled to get back on his feet after rehab. The episode "The Cabin" ended with a telling flash forward far into the Pearson's future as the entire family gathered around an ailing Rebecca. As executive producers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger have oh-so-slowly fleshed out this compelling scene over multiple seasons, we've discovered that Kevin's future not only includes a fiancee (and assumedly a wife) and a son but that he's built his late father's dream house on land overlooking the Pearson family's cabin. In the present day, the siblings met at the cabin after a highly stressful week of confronting past trauma, and Kevin and Randall shared a tense moment when Kevin discovers that his siblings have kept their mother's condition from him.

In last week's episode, "Clouds," Rebecca finally received the results of her MRI, which indicated that her "mild cognitive impairment" was likely a sign of the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. The news ended an otherwise relaxing day spent with Kevin, who fulfilled Rebecca's wish to see Joni Mitchell's house in person. Meanwhile, Randall finally attended his first therapy session, thereby missing the revealing doctor appointment that's bound to change the entire Pearson family.

Hartley has teased the cause of their rift to Entertainment Tonight, stating, "It's more than a misunderstanding. I think it's a philosophy. It's like, 'This is how you handle your life and this is how you deal with things and this is what you think. I go about my business in a different way.'"

On the brother's relationship, Berger said, "The thing about Kevin and Randall's relationship, like many sibling relationships, is that you can move on from issues and you can be there for each other in the moment. But the past never really goes away. It kind of just lives underneath the surface."

This Is Us airs on Tuesdays, on NBC at 9 PM

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Either you're already sucked into this multi-timeline emotional roller coaster or someone you know is tearfully telling you how much you're missing–there's really no in between.

NBC's This Is Us takes viewers on a journey through the decades with love and drama stringing it all together.

While watching, it's easy to attempt to pinpoint which characters you most resemble. Over on Spiritual Twitter, the best way to do this is to guess and assign Zodiac signs to the characters, which makes watching the heart-wrenching drama a bit more fun.

Everyone can access their full birth chart, which lays out the positioning of the planets at the time of your birth. Think of it as a blueprint to your personality, past, present, and future. Your sun sign is your base nature, the personality you show to the world, no matter internal or external variances. Your moon sign indicates how you emote and how you process your emotions. If you're interested in knowing your own moon sign (and other planetary signs), you can download your birth chart and jump down that rabbit hole of information. (For the more advanced astro people, houses and degrees will not be considered here because seriously, who has that kind of time?).

Based on the show's canon, not only do we know characters' sun signs (the main astrological sign that most people know), but we can guess moon signs as well.

Jack

RIP to the man that made everyone, men and women alike, jealous of Rebecca Pearson. Like a Virgo, Jack is calculated, precise and makes things happen. His downfall, in true Virgo fashion, was his aim for perfection and his feeling of defeat when he fell short. We know "The Big Three" and their father's birthday is August 31, making all of them Virgos, but this doesn't necessarily mean they all have the same moon sign. For Jack, a Scorpio moon is fitting because of the passion that people with this sign are able to display. The other aspect of a Scorpio moon is that their hearts are very deep, open seas; while beautiful and majestic, there are depths they will never share and no one can ever begin to find.

Rebecca

Rebecca's birthday is never revealed, but we can assume she is an emotional Cancer. Rebecca Pearson lives in her feelings in almost every scene. She involves herself in her children's and grandchildren's (hey, Tess) lives even when she's not invited, but it's all done with the best of intentions. She is passionate and loyal, which makes her perfect for Jack, who desires someone who's going to be by his side no matter what. Because of her many emotional outbursts and occasional inability to hold back, Rebecca aligns with an Aries moon. With the typical "I have to be out front always" energy of Aries moon people, Rebecca shows off her fiery nature by being bold and courageous, whether standing up to her helicopter of a mother or going out for a new job. While intense and explosive in their feelings, Aries moons can also be insecure or overly aggressive and emotional without realizing it, which could definitely be said of Rebecca.

Kevin

Along with his father and siblings, Kevin is a Virgo, but there's a strong argument for a Leo sun sign, and his moon sign could easily be Sagittarius. Sagittarius energy is never settled and always on the move. Kevin's Hollywood lifestyle takes him across the country in the blink of an eye, and that's exactly how these moons want it. The only tricky thing is getting them to sit in one place for a relationship. Unless you're looking to jet set alongside Kev, it's going to be a bit difficult to build a solid connection. As we already know, Kevin struggles to keep a healthy relationship repeatedly on the show.

Kate

Kate has Pisces energy, but alas, she is a Virgo. For her moon, she seems like more of a fiery Leo woman. Leo moons tend to do anything to keep the attention on them and will react negatively when it isn't. Often creative, which speaks to Kate's singing talents, they dream of being center stage and enjoying that limelight. Leo moons are fun to be around and are always ready to be out having a good time (because who wants to stay indoors when you look that good?). Kate also displays some of the negative traits surrounding this fire sign: She can be extremely dramatic, overly sensitive, petty, and emotionally demanding.

Randall

Now, Randall Pearson is easily the most Virgo of his siblings with his perfectionism and organized ways. However, with a Capricorn moon, his Virgo sun is practically in hyper-drive. The double Earth sign man can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. Very much a career-driven leader, he has a solid foundation of family, friends, and loved ones. While Capricorn moons are the sort of people that you want to go into business with, these moons are also prone to anxiety and depression from the amount of pressure they put on themselves. We see this for the first time in episode 15 of season 1 when Randall has a panic attack in his office at work. While they're loyal and dedicated partners, Capricorn moons can easily drive themselves insane trying to be perfect in everyone's eyes as well as their own (which is inherently impossible).

Beth

The human balance beam that is Beth Pearson never ends, and she just screams Libra woman. She's diplomatic and fair in her decision-making and makes an effort to ensure everyone in her household is happy and at peace. Whether that's by making sure all the girls get to their extracurriculars, helping Randall launch his many projects, starting a new career path, or making sure additional house guests feel at home, she does it all while keeping her own life and dreams alive. Whew! With this level of balance, only a Virgo moon would provide the superpowers to make it all happen. With planner in hand, Beth keeps it all together. However, similar to Cap moons, Virgos aim for perfection, which leads them to suppress negative emotions and deny personal dilemmas. Virgo moons will swallow their woes to make sure everyone else is okay before themselves, and they will only explode when they've had absolutely enough

Toby

Similar to Beth, Toby displays diplomatic and zen Libra vibes. He does what he can, but his Pisces moon makes him a little more emotional than Beth. With that strong Pisces intuition, Toby is great at noticing when his wife, Kate, is hiding her true feelings and can pick up on those emotions easily. He's also creative and dreamy-eyed about life at times, but we love this about the huge teddy bear (or buff bear) that is Toby. With this in mind, his emotions ebb and wane more than he'd like, so he keeps them balanced with prescription medication for his depression.

Don't miss new episodes of This Is Us every Tuesday at 9/8c on NBC.

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Fight Your Mom: A "This Is Us" Thanksgiving

The only tradition more American than Thanksgiving is treating TV as group therapy.

Family members don't like each other, Thanksgiving is a nightmare, and life is a fleeting state of being that we inevitably forget–even for America's favorite adoptive family, the Pearsons, on NBC's This Is Us.

Season 4's midseason finale, "So Long, Marianne," saw Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) struggling to enjoy his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, while the Big Three's estranged Uncle Nicky felt uncomfortable sharing a family holiday with the Pearsons, and Kate finds a message from another woman on her husband, Toby's, phone. In other words, they had a typical American Thanksgiving.

So far, season 4 has masterfully tackled the nuances and discomforts of interracial adoption (thanks to a diverse writing team with people of color taking the lead on racial issues), and the show defers to the real experiences of servicemembers and veterans who've suffered PTSD to depict Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) and Cassidy Sharp's (Jennifer Morrision) respective traumas. Now This Is Us is producing one of TV's most humane and empathetic depictions of dementia–or so we hope.

At the center of the season's trifold dramas, Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) is clearly experiencing symptoms of dementia. Thanksgiving Day finds Randall and Rebecca already in the midst of a disagreement over the seriousness of her forgetful "senior moments." Tension piques as Rebecca leaves the house, loses her phone, and becomes lost in Philadelphia while suffering memory lapses that necessitate the police escorting her home. Later, she shamefully confesses to Randall, "I was halfway through the trailer of Cats when I couldn't remember what movie I was going to see. I think I need to see a doctor."'

Shortly after the episode aired, Moore took to Instagram to post a screenshot of the poignant moment between mother and son: "Though he's been aching for her to admit it, hearing her say the words was absolutely devastating. And while the road ahead is unknown, she has the very best family by her side. #ThisIsUs"

But the exact cause of Rebecca's cognitive deterioration isn't clear. The show's executive producer, Isaac Aptaker, confirmed to Entertainment that they wanted to tell a "story about Alzheimer's or dementia." But, mirroring the drawn-out frustrations and uncertainty that accompany medical treatment in reality, they're not giving away answers on the show. "We're not giving an exact medical diagnosis just yet," Aptaker said, adding that "so many people in the writers' room have dealt with parents with various forms of, call it dementia, Alzheimer's, what you will, and we felt like it's a story that we haven't seen a ton on network television."

Moore, aside from continuously impressing viewers with her ability to age-slide her character from her 20s all the way up her 80s, has been more forthcoming. While fan theories insist that Rebecca is experiencing the onset of Alzheimer's disease, Moore has outright denied the claim. "I love how people are sleuths," she told Glamour earlier this year. "I love that! That's a good theory. Not true, but I like it."

Even if the Pearson matriarch isn't suffering from Alzheimer's, many fans identified with the sympathetic and all-too-real confusion, frustration, and mood swings of the beloved mother figure. Many praised Moore's portrayal of Rebecca's memory lapses, with many citing their own loved ones' struggles: "This episode hit me hard," one comment reads."...dealing with my father having Alzheimer's. Still bawling my eyes out." Another commenter replies, "same! My dad has vascular dementia! This disease is so horrible. I haven't watched the episode yet but just from the preview where rebecca is just standing there confused and not knowing where she was just broke my heart. I've see[n] my dad do this so many times. Now he can barely walk and is losing weight. He doesn't know any of us kids."

The Future Is Changing for the Pearsons - This Is Us youtu.be

Above all, Rebecca's fate cements the show's ability to depict the heartbreak and decline of loved ones and even family bonds, as the midseason finale ended with a signature twist: Rebecca's struggles were actually taking place nine months into the future, on the Pearson triplet's 40th birthday. The writers filled the last few minutes of the episode with scintillating teasers, from foreboding to joyful: Kevin seems to have fulfilled his goal of settling down, alluding to his "pregnant fiance's" morning sickness; but he reminds Rebecca that he and Randall are no longer speaking; and Toby is suspiciously absent from his wife's birthday party, suggesting that he and Kate have parted ways.

According to the show's producers, we won't have to wait too long to find out what's happening to Rebecca. "So much of this show is about memory and about looking back," Aptaker said. "So the idea that one of our characters would be faced with this incredibly scary illness where you begin to lose that and that begins to fade away felt very in keeping with the themes of the show." Another one of the show's themes is its ability to make 12 million viewers cry, in sync, every Tuesday at 9 p.m EST. The only tradition more American than Thanksgiving is treating TV as group therapy, and This Is Us will resume sessions with us on January 14, 2020.

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What Are Kate's Relationship Demons on "This Is Us"?

That feeling when your older boss looks up your address and appears on your doorstep, uninvited: RUN

What do you do when the co-worker you've started making out with at work suddenly shows up at your door to have dinner with your family?

Don't worry, he just knows that you're dreading it, so he looked through your job application to find your address and decided to show up uninvited. You're also a teenager, he's in his twenties, and he's also your boss. What do you do? Slam the f*cking door.

Kate and Marc This Is Us TV Insider


Unfortunately, it's truly not that simple when a charming individual starts pushing personal boundaries—especially if you're a young woman ages 18 to 24, especially when it's your first relationship, and especially when it's not long after your father just died (from a janky crock-pot, no less). That's what we know about Kate Pearson's teen years so far on season 4 of This Is Us. Among the most tear-jerking moments from last week's episode were Randall's realization that he's passed his anxiety on to his daughter and Uncle Nicky's bonding moment with Kevin. But then Kate and Rebecca shared an ominous moment while reminiscing on Kate's first boyfriend, Marc. After Kate discovers an old Polaroid of herself and Marc, her mother reflects solemnly, "I was trying so hard to hold it together that year after your father died, and I wanted to believe so badly that you kids were happy, I didn't see what was happening." Kate responded, "I didn't see it either."

Based on executive producers' and young Kate actress' (Hannah Zeile) thinly veiled hints and the show's typically dramatic build-up, signs point to Kate's first love turning into an abusive relationship. The twenty-something-year old has recently hired the teenager to work at the record store, and we see Kate and Marc spending most of her shift kissing in the back room. While Kate introduces Marc as her "friend from work," he ignores that to introduce himself as her boyfriend. While Marc seems charming and affable (not to mention his 90s grunge, laid back vibe), his charisma is paired with a slightly possessive hold on Kate's arm throughout his visit.


Co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker hasn't been coy about the show's exploration of this dark time in young Kate's life. He's confirmed that fans "should have a healthy amount of concern" over what occurred in Kate's first relationship. "I mean, there's something ominous looming there, the way that Rebecca and Kate are speaking about that relationship in present day," he explained. "And although he seems like a sweet guy now, it certainly seems like that did not end well for Kate." Fellow showrunner Elizabeth Berger has been more to the point, highlighting red flags in Marc's brief appearance on the show. He arrives, uninvited, at the Pearson home for a tense family dinner, passing it off as a seemingly charming gesture so Kate wouldn't have to "deal with this alone." But Berger notes that the act is particularly "telling" about his character. "That will definitely prove to be symbolic of Mark's larger personality," she revealed. "He's obviously somebody that goes for what he wants and feels entitled to show up to a place even when he's not invited."

Dan Fogelman's NBC family drama has managed to address a litany of delicate issues without exploiting trauma for higher ratings. From addiction and miscarriages to mental illness and HIV/AIDS, what's jokingly referred to as the show that makes America cry is a well-crafted tableau of a flawed family that doesn't always handle its demons well. As Aptaker notes about Kate's teen years, "I think Kate's at an incredibly sensitive, potentially vulnerable time in her life, a little bit aimless, searching for meaning and searching for a plan in the wake of her father's death." Compounded with the fact that the highest rates of partner violence occur among females ages 18 to 24, Kate's long-standing struggles with body image, self-confidence, and food could easily be influenced by an early abusive relationship.


It's also sadly reflective of society, as nearly 1 in 3 (35.6%) of women in the U.S. "have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime," according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Nearly half of all women (48.4%) have experienced "psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime." And while there are many forms of partner abuse (all varied, but all valid), whether emotional, physical, verbal, sexual, or even economic, anyone can fall into an abusive relationship if preyed upon during a vulnerable time. Furthermore, teens who experience abuse become alarmingly more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and harmful behaviors like substance abuse. After working with One Love Foundation's #ThatsNotLove campaign, 20-year-old Mattis Collier reflected, "It's not just bruises that are giveaways for an abusive relationship… It's how someone talks to you. It's how someone treats you. It's how someone talks about you to others."

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Who Is Cassidy Sharp on “This Is Us”?

Maybe it's Jennifer Morrison's stoic face or her impeccably plucked eyebrows, but we're dying to know who Cassidy Sharp is.

Warning for SPOILERS

In the first two episodes of This Is Us season 4, we see Randall's family adjusting to Philadelphia, Kevin's career taking off while he focuses on his sobriety, and Kate and Toby taking their newborn son home after learning that he's permanently blind.

But what's driven over 7 million viewers crazy is that season 4 introduces a bevy of new characters and barely a hint of how their lives connect to the Pearson family. In particular, Cassidy Sharp (played by prime time darling Jennifer Morrison, Once Upon a Time, House) is a military officer whose return home is complicated by symptoms of PTSD, struggles to find employment, and a drinking habit that grows steadily out of control. Who is she and how is her life entwined with the Pearsons?

This Is Us Season 4 Trailer (HD) youtu.be

One of the show's greatest strengths is its diverse team of writers (spanning races, genders, and body types) who have perfected a formula of curveballs and high drama twists that practically begs for out-there, elaborate fan theories. In eschewing the campy drama of soap operas, This Is Us also manages (for the most part) to avoid exploiting trauma for the sake of high stakes plotlines. Showrunner Isaac Aptaker says the production has "really, really tried to make the writers room a place where we can have those kinds of conversations—the kinds you don't have permission to have in your daily life." Combined with their time-warping twists, dry wit, and ability to script a chaotic family argument that spans from childhood slights to not being worthy of a dead father's memory, anything could happen on season 4. But we'll bet these Cassidy Sharp fan theories are onto something.

She's the Mother of Kevin's Son's

Struggling with PTSD, she's separated from her husband and has inadvertently lashed out at her son. After sharing her growing drinking problem at a VA meeting, Uncle Nicky suddenly appears by drunkenly throwing a steel chair through the window.

Season 4, Episode 3: Truth Comes Out - This Is Us (Promo) youtu.be

The season finale of season 3 revealed that perpetual bachelor Kevin ends up having a son, prompting fans to comb through every female character to appear on the show to sleuth out who the mother is. One theory postulated that Kate's best friend, Madison, bore a striking resemblance to the boy—in so far that she was blond(e) and attractive. But so is Kevin, himself. But the promos for the next episode tease Cassidy's introduction to Kevin, and odds are strong that they form a bond through Kevin's Uncle Nicky and their struggles with sobriety. Cassidy and Kevin forever?

OR Cassidy Sharp Is...a Pearson?

Days before season 4 premiered, showrunners took to Instagram to call for fan theories. For some reason, one popular one is that Cassidy Sharp, rather than being a love interest for Kevin, is his long lost relative, namely his cousin or even his sister. While fans have readily placed Jack Pearson on a pedestal in TV's hall of fame of greatest dads, part of the show's appeal is its realistic depictions of people's flaws, from perfect Randall's mental breakdown to Rebecca Pearson admitting that she plays favorites with Randall.

So, the theory goes, maybe Jack had a child out of wedlock before he met his soulmate, Rebecca? Or, maybe he even had an affair? There's not much evidence to support this theory other than the fact that Cassidy is a strong soldier who struggles to discuss what she saw on duty when she returns home, which is similar to Jack after Vietnam. But another iteration of this theory is that she's actually the estranged daughter of Kevin's Uncle Nicky, which, sure, is perfectly plausible since we know next to nothing about Nicky's life. We have yet to see Cassidy or Nicky interact beyond Cassidy's long, shocked look out the broken window Nicky's just smashed.

Maybe it's Jennifer Morrison's stoic face or her impeccably plucked eyebrows, but we're dying to know who Cassidy Sharp is. You can find plenty more theories on the This Is Us Instagram. Let us know if you're onto something.

Cassidy sharp this is us NBC