This Is Us Recap: Introducing Randall

This Is Us

Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth.

This Is Us

Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth. Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Rest easy, This Is Us fans. Tonight’s episode doesn’t have a revelatory cliffhanger twist that makes us question everything we just watched or yell out for a certain mustachioed husband with increasing panic. (But seriously, where is Jack in the present? I’m losing sleep over this.) Instead of using the past timeline to simply build up to a Big Twist or present some on-the-nose themes that carry over into the present timeline, “Kyle” gives us two timelines that easily stand on their own while also informing the other. If this is what future episodes of This Is Us will look like, we’re in for a treat.

The episode starts with a lovely turned tragic montage about how Randall’s biological parents met on a bus, fell in love, got deep into drugs, and William ended up alone with a baby on that same bus. It’s short but effective, and reminds us that there’s much more to all of these characters’ stories than we know. It wasn’t an easy decision for William to leave Randall at that fire station, but he was out of options.

Back at the hospital, the Pearsons and their three babies named Kevin, Kate, and Kyle (after Dr. K) are packing up to set off on their new adventure. Jack seems excited; Rebecca seems nauseous. Dr. K can tell something is off because as we’ve discovered, he has the ability to both deliver babies and see into a human’s soul. I’m so glad he’s back. While Jack gets the car, Rebecca sits outside the hospital with her babies and spots a man watching her from across the street. She knows it’s her adopted son’s father.

In the present timeline, we pick up exactly where we left off, with Old Mandy Moore standing at Randall’s door next to her husband who is very much not Jack, but his BFF Miguel. Randall has to scramble to come up with a way to delicately tell his mother about his super-secret biological father hanging out upstairs. He sits her down, explains that it wasn’t about Jack and Rebecca, and he knows they would’ve found him if they could’ve. Rebecca takes it surprisingly well, and wants to go meet him immediately.

When Randall takes Rebecca upstairs to William’s room, she pretty much pushes Randall out of the way to shake William’s hand. Randall leaves them alone to talk about “whatever biological fathers and adoptive mothers talk about.” Little does he know that upstairs, William is telling Rebecca that she “looks well” because … William and Rebecca have met before. Surprise!

Let’s talk about that first meeting, shall we? Rebecca and Jack get the Big Three home and they’re having a tough time. I mean, it’s three versus two. It seems terrible. To make matters worse, Rebecca is having a tough time bonding with Kyle. Breastfeeding him isn’t going smoothly, and she’s convinced the little guy hates her.

Rebecca’s sad and confused and still feeling unsettled by the man at the hospital. So she dons her most fabulous beret and goes on her own adventure. Thanks to the help of a friendly and observant bus driver, Rebecca learns that she’s looking for Shakespeare, a public transportation and poetry aficionado.

She tracks him down at his apartment — not unlike Randall and William’s first meeting in the premiere episode — and she has some questions. William tells Rebecca about her son’s mother, how much he loved her, how he wooed her with his favorite poet, how the baby was born out of love. Rebecca tells William how his son came to her as if it were destined, how she wanted to know his story, how she needs William to promise her that he won’t come around looking for her son. He promises. When she tells him that she’s having trouble loving Kyle like one of her own, William suggests she give the baby his own name. She asks for the name of his favorite poet and he hands her a book of poetry by Dudley Randall.

It’s the same book of poetry that sits on Randall’s bookshelf today. Back in the present, Rebecca’s worried that if Randall finds out that she knew who William was, he’ll never forgive her. She also warns William that her son is a good man who will upend his own life for him — so he better be worth it. Old Mandy Moore is very scary, and also very correct about her son. William recognizes both of those things, so he heads out the door before Randall can force him to stay.

William’s Irish exit is a failure. Randall finds his biological father walking down the street, gives an impassioned speech, and gets William in the car to go to his doctor’s appointment. Of course, the doctor offers no good news — the cancer is bad and there’s no treatment options.

We find Randall back at home, taking out his feelings on a Paw Patrol puzzle (and I thought I couldn’t love him any more). He tells Beth he’s angry that he spent all this time searching for his father, only to find a dying man. Beth is understanding, but also reminds her husband that he’s barely taken time to get to know William, and he’s running out of time to do so. Oof, you guys. I could watch this scene on a loop. Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson have chemistry out the wazoo. In a mere three episodes, Randall and Beth are already becoming one of the best marriages on TV. Adopt me!

Randall takes Beth’s advice to heart, and goes upstairs to finally get to know William. This story line is going to end with all of us turning into puddles on the floor, isn’t it? Of course it is. We’re watching This Is Us.

Young Mandy Moore also gets a healing heart-to-heart. After she comes home from her time with Shakespeare, she admits to her husband that she’s still grieving over the baby they lost. She can’t stop thinking about him. She seems surprised when Jack admits the same. She needed to know that she wasn’t alone in her guilt. Man, do these two have the best floor talks or what?

Finally feeling more connected to her son, Rebecca tries breastfeeding again and it works! She looks down and greets her son as Randall for the first time. See? No twist necessary, we’re all choked up just the same.

This Is the Rest:

  • When Kevin realizes that his neediness is holding his sister back from having a real relationship, he fires her and hops on a red-eye to New York before either one of them can talk the other into sticking together. Their codependency is made even sweeter when we learn in the flashbacks that as newborns, Kevin and Kate couldn’t sleep unless they were next to each other. They have a super-special twin connection, and when Kevin deals with a bumpy landing in NYC, Kate feels it all the way back in Los Angeles. I’m excited to explore the Kevin-Randall relationship, but I sure will miss our twins being together.
  • Kevin has special mannequins in his closet for his ski caps. Do NOT tell Laney.
  • BFF Miguel must be angling for Most Hated Character of All Time. Not only has he somehow replaced our beloved Jack, but he makes a disparaging remark about Hamilton. How dare you, sir.
  • Toby Swoon Watch: Toby doesn’t like watching Kate give up her life for Kevin, so he surprises her with a day of fun in which she’s the star. It mainly consists of Toby wearing a chauffeur’s hat and then forcing Kate to get over her fears and sing “Time After Time” at his Aunt Dolly’s nursing home. His plan works: Kate stays in L.A. and they finally do the deed. Chauffeur hats, who knew?
  • I would like to know more about Insane Elaine and Aunt Dolly.
  • I’m an easy target, but that montage of Rebecca tracking down William cut with Old William and Randall at the doctor’s office set to Kate singing “Time After Time” moved me.
  • Speaking of being moved: We were treated to another knockout of a scene between Milo Ventimiglia and Gerald McRaney. When Jack asks Dr. K to tell him how to fix his broken wife, I’m pretty sure my heart shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
  • Sterling K. Brown calling Mandy Moore “mommy” forever and always.

This Is Us Recap: Introducing Randall