How The 'This Is Us' Pilot Ties In To The Season 6 Premiere

- This Is Us -
How The 'This Is Us' Pilot Ties In To The Season 6 Premiere

This Is Us is bowing out after six seasons, so it's only appropriate that the premiere episode of the show's final installment is referencing the family drama's very first episode.

Season 6's "The Challenger" opens with the Pearson kids as small children in 1986. Rebecca says it's a big day — and they're going to celebrate it with a breakfast of Tang. For the uninitiated, Tang is an orange drink that garnered an association with early space travel after it was selected by NASA in 1962 as the official drink of space missions. All this space talk eventually leads to the big reveal: This is the day the kids will watch the Challenger take off into space.

Unfortunately, the audience knows full well that the initial excitement over the Challenger will give way to tragedy: The Challenger exploded while its liftoff was broadcast on national television, as it does later in the episode, with the Pearson kids watching from their classrooms.

In the very first episode of This Is Us, Kevin talks about the Challenger disaster at his birthday party. A distraught Kevin, in the middle of an existential crisis, rants about how everything changed the day the Challenger exploded — even though the women he's entertaining are barely paying attention. (One assumes Kevin is referring to a Sandra Bullock movie.)

"The Challenger" reveals how each of the Pearson kids had a different reaction to the situation, which hints at their personality (and problems) later on in life. Randall immediately goes into problem solving mode, which makes sense, given how he wants to fix the many people who have come into his life with issues, from the man struggling with addiction who broke into his home to his father William when he was dying of cancer. Young Randall asks his mom Rebecca who will be making dinner for the kids of teacher Christa McAuliffe, who died on the shuttle — and asks if they can send the family some macaroni and cheese.

Kevin, however, initially seems unfazed by the situation, which worries his parents. He's not visibly upset like Kate and Randall, and seems more preoccupied with his dinner than he is with the American tragedy that he just witnessed. However, later that night, Kevin sneaks into Kate's bed and tells her, "Mom and dad are going to die one day." Kevin had absorbed the darkness of the day, and it's clear that something inside him changed upon witnessing the horror — even if he wasn't able to express it to everyone outwardly.

Kevin has come a long way on This Is Us. He's battled substance issues, become a father, and reevaluated the importance of his career. If anything, referencing the Challenger reminds fans of how far Kevin has come — at 41, he's not the Pearson sibling who wants to hide away emotionally when things get hard. How that will affect him in his new role as a parent to twins, and eventual husband to a mysterious wife, remains to be seen.

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