overnights

This Is Us Recap: Bend and Snap

This Is Us

R&B
Season 3 Episode 17
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

R&B
Season 3 Episode 17
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Randall and Beth are not in a good place. Yes, we know this from last week when Beth was late to an important dinner and Randall left her a scathing voice mail belittling her dreams only to have her show up after all — cue the closed-door late-night fight we ended on. But, as both Randall and Beth admit, these two haven’t been in a good place for a while. Certainly not since Beth asked Randall to drop out of the City Council race and he refused, but the tension that comes to a head in “R&B” had been slowly chipping away at their marriage for a long time. Since the beginning, really. Beth says it best: They’ve been having this exact same fight since the day they met. And now we get to see that fight play out over and over and over again in this episode dedicated to the couple. Truly, a super fun time.

It’s not that Beth and Randall are arguing in every flashback, but a pattern does emerge. The true problem in their marriage — that Randall takes up all the space in the marriage and Beth feels like if she doesn’t “bend” things will fall apart; that she has lost herself in Randall and he has allowed it — is one that has been there all along. Even on their first terrible date in college, it’s there. I mean, the thing is truly a disaster. But the problem isn’t that Randall’s trying too hard to impress with his suit and tie and the stuffy, upscale restaurant. The problem isn’t even that they face some blatant discrimination by the waitstaff and Beth cuts the whole thing short because no way, not today, Satan. The problem is that within the first ten minutes of meeting, Randall has already laid on her his entire adoption story and the fact that he once walked in on his parents having a major fight. Beth, a normal, knows this is all too much. Beth sees it from day one: Randall is The Most.

But he charms her with his nerdiness and his unwavering belief that they belong together. Who wouldn’t be charmed? Yet still, as we see when we jump seven years in the future, his passion and intensity still scare Beth.

Randall has been proposing and proposing, but not even body-rolls to Jagged Edge are enough to change her mind. On the saddest of mini-golf trips with RANDALL’S MOTHER, Beth finally lets it out: She’s not ready to get married because she doesn’t want to be consumed by Randall. She’s scared she’ll lose who she is within him because of how he is. One chat with Rebecca about how much Randall loves her and would never let her lose herself later, Beth has Randall propose to her once again while she’s eating her favorite meal, nachos and ginger beer. I wish she had at least faked him out with a “no” first, but alas.

Things are going great, Beth does not feel like she’s been consumed, and their wedding day is as beautiful and as moving as you would expect. Randall calls Beth his “steady place” and I audibly swoon. Beth promises to always choose Randall. Randall promises that Beth is the only thing he’ll ever need. They do not remember their vows in the present day.

The nagging feeling that Beth has given up too much in order for Randall to have what he wants comes back as Little Tess turns 3 months old. When they start talking about how hard it will be for Beth to go back to work, Beth makes a comment about how she’s the one who always makes it work. She goes on a long-winded speech comparing Randall to nachos, but not in a complimentary way like you’d expect. It doesn’t make much sense, but basically she’s saying that he takes what he wants and leaves her the crumbs. They put a pin in it because ultimately that’s a healthy thing to do.

Things really start boiling when both William and Kevin are living in the house. Remember those days? Randall and William catch Beth in a lie — she said she was going to a conference for the evening, but they find her in a grocery store outside of town (the guys were going to pick up Annie at a friend’s house) buying accoutrements for An Evening of Beth at a nearby hotel, featuring wine, Swedish Fish, and reruns of Living Single. She just needed 24 hours away from the crazy, to feel like an actual human woman. Apparently the last time she brought up needing some alone time Randall immediately went into a speech about how much he needs her, so she stayed. But Randall gets it, and he wants her to enjoy her evening. Only, when she and Randall start talking about their favorite Living Single episodes, Beth changes her mind — she wants to hang out with him. He’s charmed her again.

It’s no wonder we’re back here in their bedroom fighting about this. Beth goes on and on about how she’s been the one to change everything for him, to make his dreams her dreams, to give up things she loves for him. But she’s “not bending this time,” and deep down they both know that their “lives don’t work unless [she’s] doing the bending.” It reminds Randall of Jack and Rebecca’s fight, referred heretofore as The Friggin’ Ghost Fight, when Jack completely belittled Rebecca’s dream of being a singer. Randall heard his father say awful things, and he doesn’t want to go there. It’s an interesting parallel that I honestly hadn’t thought about before.

It wasn’t the only one that finally connected for me, either. Before Randall can get a word out she tells him that she doesn’t want another speech from him. He’s charming and he always says the right things to win her over in the moment. That was Jack’s superhero power too, wasn’t it? Whatever he did, he made a heartfelt speech to Rebecca to win her back. And just last week in therapy, Zoe called Kevin out for a similar thing. The Pearson men are charming and sometimes it’s hard to see past that in order to hold them accountable for their actions. It even works on us, the audience! They are very good at it, you know.

Well, Randall’s not ready to make a big sweeping speech to win over Beth just yet anyway. Randall’s angry. He’s not willing accept Beth’s “revisionist history.” At no point did he completely steamroll over his wife and tell her she couldn’t do what she wanted. And furthermore, he says, Beth isn’t some “wallflower” to be pushed over. You guys, Beth has a point, but Randall isn’t wrong. The grocery store scene is a perfect example: He tells her to go, but she decides to give up her night alone. It’s true, Randall never offered to give up his own dreams or desires and he’s completely oblivious to that, which is wrong and not how a good partner should be. But Beth is the one who decided to give things up without a fight. From the outside, it seems like a lot of her anger is coming from a realization that what she feared has come to pass: She let herself get lost in her husband.

It seems crazy to think that This Is Us would ever permanently break up Randall and Beth — dear lord, can you imagine this show dealing with divorce? — but they do have a long road toward healing. Especially since this current argument ends with them both getting mean: Randall sarcastically apologizes for Beth finding her calling 20 years too late, and Beth asks when she was supposed to find it between all of Randall’s anxiety attacks. That one is a low blow and she regrets it immediately. It turns out that Randall will be sleeping in Philadelphia, but this time by choice.

This Is the Rest

• We finally get to see the infamous phone call in which Kevin coaches Randall into securing a first date with Beth. It is so awkward and terrible, but also so Kevin and Randall. I know I’ve said it before, but the teen versions of our characters, including Beth, are just so, so good.

• Kevin and Kate show up for Randall’s gorgeous backyard wedding and Kevin’s sporting a hideous new friend on his face. And so continues the saga of Pearson men’s facial hair. I am beyond grateful that Kate called him out on how terrible it is.

• They don’t go too deep into Rebecca and Randall’s co-dependency around the time he and Beth are getting engaged, but it is clearly an issue since he can’t even fathom the thought of spending one Sunday dinner without his mom and so they all end up at mini-golf together. You guys, Rebecca brought a camera to mini-golf and I did a spit-take. I hope she treasures the memory of each of the 18 holes.

• Is it just me or have we been Jack-lite in this back half of the season? I miss the mustache.

This Is Us Recap: Bend and Snap