Sterling K. Brown as Randall in This Is Us
We Need To Talk About What The Latest 'This Is Us' Flash-Forward Could Mean

by Ani Bundel

This Is Us has been stingy in rolling out the flash-forwards — and for good reason. Even before 2020 reminded viewers no one knows what the future will bring, attempting to portray this on TV was difficult. Plus, old-age makeup is no small feat and expensive to do correctly. (Never forget, Netflix's The Crown recast its stars *twice* rather than attempt it.) But with Season 5, Episode 9, fans were once again treated to a trip to 2034. However, the short scene left a big cliffhanger. So: Who's in the car in the This Is Us flash-forward? Let's run down the possibilities.

One somewhat far-fetched idea is the father Deja's unborn child is in the car. (This is based on Randall's saying, "Look who it is," as it pulls in.) That's a nice sentiment, but the truth is the show gave fans almost nothing to go on when it comes to Deja's future. She's a med student, she's pregnant, and she's not telling people yet. (It's not even clear if Randall knows.) There's a male student she's friends with who covers for her when Annie picks her up, but that's not much of a hint.

As much as it would be nice to have a romantic situation in which the Pearsons all learn Deja's baby (the first member of the next Pearson generation) is on its way, that probably isn't it. The last car to pull up likely isn't going to be part of Deja's story. It's almost definitely the final piece of the Pearson clan that hasn't arrived yet: Kate's section of the family.

But who exactly is in the car? The show ended before fans could see who got out. Here are a few candidates:

Jack Got Picked Up

Fans know Jack grows up to be a celebrity pop star by 2050. But in 2034, he is 15 or 16 years and an aspiring musician working in the garage. We also know Toby received a text from Jack in this flash-forward saying "they" are on their way.

But Jack isn't behind the wheel. His vision impairment is such that driving isn't a possibility. Moreover, the chances of self-driving cars being good enough to overcome that in 14 to 15 years is too big a stretch for a non-sci-fi series like This Is Us.

So, who would be behind the wheel with Jack?

Hailey's Learning To Drive

Part of Toby's argument for adopting Hailey was that Jack would need a sibling to help him get through life. It was a fair point; Toby and Kate will one day die, and having a direct family support system was a gift they could help create.

But 2034 is a bit on the early side for Hailey to be taking over looking after her big brother. At this point in the timeline, she's the same age as Nicky and Franny, around 13 or 14. (Fans already saw the twins in this point in the timeline at the end of Season 4.) Hailey might be behind the wheel, but not without an adult in the car. Moreover, it's dark, the road to the cabin is rough, and everyone is stressed about these being Rebecca's final days. This is not the time for driving lessons.

Chances are, Hailey is sitting in the backseat next to her brother, playing 2034's version of Animal Crossing on her Nintendo Switch 4.0. Which once again leaves the question: Who is behind the wheel?

Kate Is Alive & Well... & Divorced

The most straightforward answer: Kate, their mom, is driving.

That follows the general assumption fans have made since This Is Us introduced the 2034 era, that Kate and Toby are divorced, she got custody of the kids, and she's driving up with them to the house. No fuss, no muss, no mystery, other than why she and Toby ended their marriage. Kate is, after all, She Who Will Not Be Flapped. Becoming a single mom of Hailey and Jack after using a whole man disposal service on Toby for reasons as yet undisclosed is a legit ending.

But there's a lot of evidence against this. Season 3 showed Toby still lives in their house in the future. Season 4 montaged Jack growing up using the garage as his studio. It's hard to imagine Kate would let Toby have the house (or custody!) in the event of separation. And then there was Randall's famous line, "She would want you here." Past tense.

As much as everyone wants to see Kate get out of that car, chances are she won't. So who else could be in it?

Madison Has Finally Arrived

Here's what fans know about 2034:

  • Kevin has built his dream house out where the cabin once stood.
  • Kevin's twin tween kids, Nicky and Franny, live there with him.
  • Kevin was in charge of ordering food for the whole family.

So, where's Madison? Like Kate and Toby, that marriage could have gone south. That would explain Beth's concern about Kevin's abilities to provide for guests.

But there's a second explanation: Madison is Kate's BFF. If Kate died, Madison and Kevin would step up. They'd help Toby with Jack and Hailey, especially if Toby was overcome with grief. It would also explain what spurred Kevin to build this large house. If he and Madison regularly host their niece and nephew and have four kids in the house, they'd need the room.

Beth's concern could come from having seen Kevin regularly functioning solo because Madison is off ferrying Jack and Hailey around. And it would explain where she is.

Ellie Came Back

Season 5, Episode 9's big twist was Ellie deciding she doesn't want to see her newborn daughter raised by others. At least, not yet. After giving birth, her emotional state was such that she was not ready to handle it, despite the open adoption plans.

Kate fretted this meant Hailey would grow up like Randall, not knowing where she came from But she forgot that Rebecca actively lied about knowing Randall's father, while she, Kate, would never do that. Moreover, what more significant crisis is there that would bring Ellie back than Kate getting sick and dying?

Not that anyone would assume Toby and Ellie end up together. (Toby seems thoroughly single in the future.) But forming a friendship/partnership in which Ellie becomes a significant part of the family she chose to raise Hailey? That would make sense, and explain who is driving the car.

This Is Us continues Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.