Randall unpacked a lot about his residual resentment on This Is Us.
“After the Fire” was his way of imagining what would have happened if he could save his father from the fire. Initially, it seemed like a great way to insert Milo Ventimiglia into the present-day storyline and have him interact with the adult Big Three, but it quickly became evident that Randall had a lot to work through in his personal life and this wasn’t going to be a peachy episode in the slightest.
The episode explored the best-case and worst-case scenarios of Randall’s survival while arriving at the idea that so many little things could have been different had Jack survived.
In the best-case scenario, Jack doesn’t go back into the burning house. A fireman still saves the dog, Louis, which irritated me because it made it seem like Jack’s sacrifice was for naught.
Rebecca immediately tells Jack that she lied about knowing Randall’s birth father, so Jack takes Randall to meet William Hill prior to going to college. The two hit it off despite Jack wanting Randall to err on the side of caution since William is still an addict. “So are you,” Randall tells Jack, which forces him to come to terms with reality. The commonality bonds William and Jack as they attend AA meetings together and William becomes engrained in the family.
Despite Jack’s survival and William’s existence in his life earlier in time, nothing much changes in Randall’s life. He still attends Howard, he meets and marries Beth, he has three girls, he catches William’s cancer early on and saves his life, he becomes councilman (since Thanksgiving is in their new home), and he and Jack team up to help Rebecca navigate her early-onset Alzheimer’s.
There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming about what could have been with rose-colored glasses, but when you come to a therapist to work through your issues, you’re kind of asking (and paying) to be pushed out of your comfort zone.
Chances are that if Jack survived, Randall’s life would have been totally different.
Meeting William at a younger age prior to college would have affected their relationship and how they connected, and it had the capacity to destroy the family that made him one of their own.
So, the therapist asks Randall to think about his worst-case scenario with Jack’s survival — the thing he’s most afraid of.
In both cases, Rebecca tells Jack the truth about William, but this time, Jack isn’t so forgiving. He’s absolutely repulsed by Rebecca’s actions and it drives him to drink for much of his life, though, he never falls off the wagon and his relationship with Randall is never threatened, so it does seem like that’s still erring on the side of caution.
However, as we learn, this was never about Jack, so it doesn’t really matter what his relationship with Randall is.
The two visit William, who denies having a son and basically closes the door on Randall and Jack, which triggers Randall and sets a precedent for his life.
He goes to Howard earlier and joins a frat and changes up his style instead of becoming the bookworm we know and love. This means he never meets Beth, he doesn’t have his own family, he becomes the unreliable “Kevin” of the family, and he teaches English while sleeping with his students (okay, TA’s, but still, it’s weird).
The resentment he harbors for Rebecca and her decision to keep his birth father from him shapes his whole life and forces him to lose touch with his family. The Big Three is a big pile of nothing at this point and it’s sad to watch.
Instead of his rehearsal dinner, Jack gives a toast at Kevin’s wedding to Sophie. Jack’s survival even influences the siblings as Kevin doesn’t pursue acting but stays behind to run the family business with his dad. Meanwhile, Kate gets married to some guy named Ethan and has two daughters.
It’s different that’s for sure, but it’s not better.
Randall’s therapist then brings up a good point — despite the emphasis being on both of his father’s and their survival, the therapy session was actually rooted in his feelings towards his mother, Rebecca.
As I mentioned previously, both times, Jack’s survival leads to Rebecca’s coming clean about keeping William a secret from Randall.
His whole life, he’s been defined by her betrayal and keeping him away from his birth father. Randall argues that he’s forgiven Rebecca as the therapist asks, “have you.”
Randall’s motivations for constantly wondering “what if” seems to be hinged on the idea that if he tried hard enough, he could’ve changed the outcome of both Jack and William’s fate, regardless of how that would have changed his life.
It boils down to him not willing to accept that he cannot try to save his mother, and he can’t afford to lose yet another parent.
He’s not willing to open up the wound about William with Rebecca, but he thinks that emotional blackmail is the better option.
It gets tricky for me here because I’ve never had anything against Randall yet, I felt so triggered by his phone call to Rebecca that I almost wish he did just bring up how much her lie hurt him over the years and how he’s held onto it despite pretending that he was fine.
“I was a good son,” Randall tells his mother over the phone, which is true. He has been a great son, one who has sacrificed a lot to take care of her, but being a good son doesn’t allow you to make impossible asks of your mother or guilt her into doing something she doesn’t want to do.
It’s also a selfish ask. Randall approaches it as “losing another parent would break me,” which yes, of course, it would Randall. Losing a parent isn’t easy and regardless, if you’ve lost one or three, it never gets easier.
Randall thinks the world has it out against him because he’s on track to lose a third parent instead of realizing how blessed he is that he had three parents.
Some people don’t even get to have one parent let alone three who have molded him into the man he is today. Randall needs to be reminded of his blessings rather than seeing them as a curse.
Randall loves his mother and wants the best for her, that’s clear, it’s also clear that his heart is in the right place, but he needs to let her make her own decisions even if it hurts him. He needs to allow Rebecca, a grown woman who only ever sacrificed for the happiness of her family and children, to make this one decision for herself. Doesn’t she at least deserve that?
Her whole life has been about giving things up, making sacrifices, and picking up the pieces, which Randall helped with, but he also got to live this whole life because of it.
He learned absolutely nothing from his therapy session because, in the end, he still needed to control the situation.
His fear of failure is clouding his judgment, but what happens when the trial doesn’t work? His mother will eventually die and then the breakdown he’s been postponing ensues. It would be better if he worked through his inability to let go ahead of time while making some good, more-aware memories with his mom without the guilt of not being able to save his dad’s.
Randall could gear so much of his resentment towards his other two parents, yet it’s always Rebecca that gets the brunt of it from all of her children. I feel for her, but I hope she gets to make the choice she thinks is best here.
If it means that Kevin needs to interfere and strain relations with Randall than so be it. Kevin may not have always been by his mother’s side, but it seems silly and selfish to fault him for being a young adult, pursuing his dreams, and living his own life. He never abandoned Rebecca or stopped loving her, he simply lived his own life.
Kevin also hasn’t been perfect, but when it comes to learning life lessons, and I really mean learning them, he’s been the most advanced character who has grown and matured into a really great and reliable man who is able to put his needs aside and respect his mother’s wishes. It was so beautiful to just watch him give Rebecca the time to figure out what she wants and acknowledge that she just wants to be happy in her final moments. Kevin’s not plagued by his past because he’s lived the life he always wanted and regretted none of it. Even when his decisions were less-than, he owned them because they were his.
Seeing this session pan out, it’s clear why Kate and Kevin have distanced themselves from Randall come their 40th birthday. He loves to lift himself up while putting them down and at some point, it just isn’t fair.
From the flash-forward scenes, we know that Randall either doesn’t get his way or the trial doesn’t work for Rebecca, but it does drive a wedge between the family, and that’s unfortunate but understandable.
Could it be the reason his relationship with Beth is strained in the future also?
The season finale is next week and we’ll likely get all the answers we’ve been searching for. The teaser shows the birth of Jack Damon’s child, an explosive fight between Kevin and Randall, and you know we’ll find out who Kevin’s baby momma is!
This Is Us Review – Adding to the Family Tree (5×09)
This Is Us Season 5 Episode 9 tackled the hardships and joys of parenting while painting it as a rewarding yet terrifying and difficult journey, no matter where you are in life.
Regardless of how many books you read or how many shows you watch about parenting, absolutely no one is prepared to be a parent, especially not a first-time parent. The series makes that very clear as it tackles three different timelines over the span of an hour.
And surprisingly, all the action happens during the car drives from the hospital.
Who knew they could be so illuminating?
Given the car setting, it would be understandable if the episode was boring and uneventful, but it was the exact opposite; it gave audiences a glimpse into the lives of the characters as they started a new chapter in their lives with their respective families.
We’ve seen the magic that is the Pearson clan, but now we’re seeing the magic from the families of the Big Three.
It’s the first day of the rest of their lives, and This Is Us captured every feeling and emotion brilliantly.
The series has a knack for making profound television, and it doesn’t even require the characters to exit the vehicle.
During Jack and Rebecca’s drive home from the hospital, the new parents felt overwhelmed with the idea of taking home three newborn babies.
A road rage incident triggered Jack, which led him to down a bit of a spiral as he secretly purchased and chugged a small bottle of whiskey at the gas station. While the scene was initially concerning, he eventually confessed what he did to Rebecca. What a relief.
And he explained his concerns that he was going to be an alcohol father just like his dad was.
Rebecca reminded him that he’s nothing like his dad because he doesn’t suck up the air in the room — he is the air.
Instead of focusing on the negatives and what-ifs, the duo just embraced the moment for what it was: the moment they became a family.
When you look at it as a moment of celebration, your whole mindset changes.
Parents have a huge impact on the kind of people we become, for better or worse.
In Jack’s case, he didn’t want to be like his old man, but in Kevin’s case, he wanted to live up to his father.
The Big Three have a tendency to put Jack on a pedestal and view him as this perfect father, but it was nice to see that notion grounded a bit.
Jack and Kevin both struggled with the idea of becoming fathers.
The car seat scene was a nice touch showing just how similar their experiences were — neither of them read the dang manual and decided to wing it on the spot.
However, Kevin couldn’t exactly get any advice from his dad, which is where the dream sequence came into play.
Kevin was worried that he would fail, and Jack let him know that he’s capable and he’ll figure it out.
The dream also provided fans with a rare look at Justin Hartley and Milo Ventimiglia in a scene together.
While they may be father and son to all of us, they rarely get to share scenes since Jack is long gone by the time Kevin is an adult.
Their dynamic is so effortless that it’s hard to look away.
However, you always need your dad, and Jack’s “visit” gives him perspective and guidance.
Kevin realizes that he’s going to be fine because he sees just how strong Madison is. She’s a boss who is handling this whole “new mom” thing without any stress.
Not only does she birth twins, but she offers to drive them all home after several sleepless nights and even handles his paparazzi situation.
She’s a super mom.
All of this puts makes Kevin realize that what he wants most at this point in his life is a family.
So, he proposes to Madison in a heartwarming moment using the hospital band as a ring. Could it be any more perfect?
The series has been slowly inching towards the idea that Kevin is no longer enchanted by the entertainment industry as prioritized the birth of his twins over the movie, picked a fight with a fan, and even confronted the paparazzi.
So much of Kevin’s self-worth has been tied up in his career that I’m really interested in seeing him in this new chapter in his life.
We also see Randall and Beth’s post-delivery ride home with Annie, who is described as an angel on Earth.
It’s clear that taking home the second child is much less stressful than the first child. They even make time for a DQ run!
However, Randall makes the mistake of broaching the topic of a third child. Of course, he wants a boy, but Beth’s not interested in any of it because well, she just destroyed her insides and pushed out a child.
I love how real Beth is about every damn thing in life. She’s my spirit animal.
Of course, it’s fun to watch knowing how life unfolds for Randall, who eventually adds a third child to see his family that isn’t a boy!
The whole scene comes full-circle when Randall has a heart-to-heart with infant Annie and explains that his desire to have more children is because Beth and the girls are the start of his family tree. At that point in time, Randall didn’t know anything about his birth parents, so his comments make sense, but in the present, we know that he’s added quite a lot of branches to that tree.
Regardless, it’s a sweet moment that’s only made sweeter with the flash-forward that shows Deja and Annie arriving at Kevin’s house to say goodbye to a frail Rebecca.
Prior to that moment, we find out that Deja is working at a hospital. When Annie picks her up, she gifts her a teething giraffe and informs her that she can’t keep this pregnancy a secret for long.
More babies — more branches! So many generations in one short hour!
And how incredible is the casting for all three of Randall’s adult daughters?
The flash-forward is yet another tease, and we’ll hopefully see everyone in the same room in the near future.
Wouldn’t it be great to see Randall’s kids interacting with Kevin and Kate’s kids?
In the present-day, we also see Kate and Toby make their way home from the hospital after welcoming Hailey.
However, their car ride is a bit different as they drive Hailey’s birth mother, Ellie, home from the hospital.
Kate was really excited about making plans with Ellie in the future considering their open adoption agreement, but you could tell the whole ordeal was very difficult for Ellie.
Eventually, she made the conscious decision not to be in Hailey’s life for the time being, and it was valid. She thought she could handle it but upon welcoming her daughter, she realized it wouldn’t be as easy as she thought to let go and watch from a distance.
Kate’s sadness was also valid as she truly wanted Hailey to have a bond with her birth mom after seeing how difficult it was for Randall to grow up without knowing his birth parents.
My guess is that Ellie will eventually come around to the idea once she has enough time to process it all and isn’t hurting as much.
Maybe that’s who Randall is referring to in the flash-forward when he says “they’re here” as we see a car pulling up?
Toby also informs Kate that he was laid off, which seems like terrible timing but for the first time ever, Kate doesn’t spiral.
She’s hopeful as she holds her new baby, a baby that she didn’t think was possible based on her earlier diagnosis.
It’s a moment where she believes they will be okay because they are together. And I hope that’s also the case.
However, it does worry me that maybe this is the beginning of the end for Kate and Toby? What if money and career woes lead to a divorce? It’s been a popular theory as to why they aren’t together in the flash-forward.
Could Kate and Jack be in the car? Are they with Hailey and Ellie? What’s the deal here?
I can’t wait till we get an episode that gives us just a bit more about the flash-forward scene!
Until then, I’m content knowing that the Pearson family tree continues to flourish.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments!
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This Is Us Review – Meet the New Big Three (5×08)
The new Big Three have arrived.
This Is Us pulling at your heartstrings and making you weep isn’t anything new, but these tears were different because we celebrated the newest members of the Pearson clan – Kevin and Madison’s twins and Toby and Kate’s adopted daughter.
The episode detailed giving birth during a pretty crazy time in the world: the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized the importance of staying connected through cellphones and the Internet.
Initially, the scenes of Nasir from India and Esther from Argentina were confusing. I thought they were flashbacks of Miguel’s parents and that we were finally getting some more backstory about the often-overlooked character, but instead, This Is Us paid tribute to a real-life computer researcher responsible for the algorithm that allows all of us, even the Pearsons, to remain connected.
It’s about time this man got the recognition he deserves during a time where staying connected is so imperative and crucial to our society’s ability to function.
This man is singlehandedly responsible for giving us the opportunity to be part of important and milestone moments in our loved ones’ lives; he paved the way for a future that you and I take for granted daily. Even now as we watch our favorite show on a Tuesday night!
And while Miguel doesn’t get his time in the sun, Rebecca did thank him for being there for her and the family, which was the most acknowledgment he’s gotten in quite some time. He deserves so much more recognition, but this is a good start.
With Kate and Madison both welcoming babies at the same time in different hospitals and the family not being able to be there – including Toby who had an elaborate tailgating set-up in the hospital parking lot – connecting with them via video chat after the births was imperative.
Randall and Beth were on the phone with Madison for hours while Kevin did his best to make it to her. And he did! We never saw how he managed to pull off traveling without an I.D. or how the hospital let him in after he just traveled through an airport, but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is, he made it for the birth of his twins, and while he was gone, Randall filled in by virtually holding Madison’s hand and telling her drunk Kevin stories.
Despite everything that happened with these two, Randall remains the best brother who always puts his family first.
After all the emotions settled a bit, Kevin broached the topic of their big fight, and while it wasn’t the right time to get into detail, at least they’re back on track and have acknowledged that the conversation must be had and apologies must be made.
Kate’s adoption process made me nervous for a bit because it seemed as though Ellie wasn’t going to hand over the baby. I got worried when she changed her mind and asked to hold her and then asked to be alone with the baby.
Based on Kate’s surprised reaction, she also didn’t know what it meant and was trying to be understanding.
Ellie’s emotional goodbye to her daughter hit me in the feels. One can imagine that giving up your baby is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, but it’s also so brave of her to acknowledge that she needs to do what’s best for her.
And Kate meeting baby Hailey was pure bliss. Again, in a time when the world is upside-down and downright scary, there’s nothing more reassuring than looking down at an innocent baby.
The waterworks also began flowing when Toby decided to give the baby the middle name “Rose” after the ill wife of the man in the parking lot.
When he mentioned her name and gave Toby a “lucky pig,” it was obvious that Toby would find inspiration for the middle name from their abrupt meeting, but it was still such a genuine moment of human connection — this one in person yet still distanced.
Also, can we celebrate the fact that Rose got some good news after being diagnosed with COVID? Hospitals are a place where you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it was a good night for everyone.
The flashbacks of Jack and Rebecca at the cabin mulling over how their children no longer wanted to hang out with them fit in perfectly. Sometimes, flashbacks don’t jive with what’s happening in other timelines, but that painting was a reminder to always remain present and never miss a thing even if life gets in the way.
Rebecca stayed true to that promise. The montage of them making the painting juxtaposed with the current bundles of joy being boy really hit right in the feels.
And lastly, Kevin paid tribute to Uncle Nicky (and Nic Cage) when he named one of the twins Nicholas. And honestly, good on them for bringing back the Frances. How cute is Franny?
Franny, Nicholas, and Hailey – the new Big Three that will carry on the Pearson legacy. You just know Jack is up there in heaven beaming with pride.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!
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