A surprise performance from Taylor Swift made Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show return much more emotional than expected.
The late night host started the show by acknowledging his absence being due to his mother's passing, honoring her with a quick memory before getting the show started.
"As some of you know, my mother Gloria passed away recently and I canceled our shows last week to be with my family and make arrangements. She was the best audience. She was the one I was always trying to make laugh, and she was such a fan of the show and everything I did," Jimmy said, clearly struggling to get the words out.
"When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store—me and my sister—and we would hold hands. And she would squeeze my hand three times and say, 'I love you,' and I would squeeze back, 'I love you, too.' Last week I was in the hospital, at her side. I grabbed her hand and I squeezed, 'I love you,' and I just knew we were in trouble."
Though clearly distraught, Jimmy carried on, thanking everyone who reached out during such a difficult time. Being back with his Tonight Show family is the best distraction he could have.
"I feel so grateful to be able to do this every single night, and I'm very appreciative of all the support from all of you that my family received over the past week. We are going to continue to work hard to bring life and laughter into the world," he added.
"Thank you for watching. Thank you for helping me and my family recover from this loss. Mom, I'll never stop trying to make you laugh. I love you."
Later on in the episode, Taylor Swift debuted "New Year's Day," a new song off the newly released Reputation.
It just so happened that the lyrics featured in the performance ("You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi / I can tell that it's gonna be a long road / I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe / Or if you strike out and you're crawling home.") couldn't have lined up any better with the story Jimmy told during his opening tribute.
"The narrative literally applies to the words Jimmy spoke of his mother. Wow. You can't plan these things @taylorswift13 @FallonTonight," Questlove, The Roots' drummer, tweeted out later that night.
Tonight Show producer Mike DiCenzo also took to social media following Taylor's appearance, explaining how they managed to land the 27-year-old on such short notice.
"She was not scheduled to do our show today. But we wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation," he wrote on Twitter.
"She sang 'New Year's Day.' No one had heard it. Suddenly she sings the line, 'Squeeze my hand 3 times in the back of the taxi.' I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing."
Mike went on to explain that upon hearing the full lyrics to 'New Year's Day,' just about everyone "lost it."
Basically, there wasn't a dry eye in the studio, with fans at home even tweeting about their tears.
It couldn't have been a more perfect way to welcome Jimmy back.
"It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance. 'Hold on to your memories, they will hold on to you,' Taylor sang. That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we're forever grateful," Mike continued.
"Thank you to Taylor, the Roots, [Steve Higgins], our whole staff and crew, and to all the FalPals, fans, and everyone who reached out to and supported Jimmy and his family. I can tell you it meant everything to him."
Watch Taylor's emotionally charged performance below: