This Is Us
After last week’s blowout between Randall and Beth, I saw quite a few people lamenting the demise of This Is Us’s stalwart couple. There was just no way they could come back from that. Divorce is the only option. Oh ye of little faith! Did you really think Randall and Beth — our Randall and Beth — would not find a way back to each other? Of course they did! I mean, they probably should have a much longer sit-down to go through some of the issues that repeatedly pop up in their relationship because it seems to be a real pattern, but for now, there is some healing.
It doesn’t come immediately: Things are very tense at home and even Deja and Tess are picking up on it. At the very least, Beth and Randall apologize for hurling the meanest possible insults at each other, but still, Beth doesn’t see a way out of this one. More than anything, the two of them look terrified as they come to the realization that this problem might be unfixable.
But of course this problem is fixable! It takes a two-pronged approach. Prong one: Randall must get his head out of his ass. That takes a speech from Deja, who in a sort of “the student becomes the master” deal, tricks Randall into going on a drive to one of her old foster homes so she can talk to him the way he did to her when she was unsure of being adopted. She’s very convincing, and tells Randall that he won the lottery twice — being adopted and marrying Beth — and he needs to show his gratitude by getting his house in order, but also: Do seventh graders talk this way? If so, I’m terrified.
Deja’s speech works, and although Jae-won warns Randall that resigning would be awful, Randall tells Beth that he’s going to do it. This City Council thing wasn’t realistic and it is only a job. But before Randall can give Jae-won a heart attack, Beth stops her husband. She has a solution to their problem. Possibly one that a certain recapper suggested earlier but, like, what does she know? They’re moving to Philadelphia. Beth looks around her dance classes and realizes there was a little truth to what Randall said about bored housewives twirling. This is not her dream. Instead, she goes to Philly (you guys, these people do so much driving it is insane) and meets with a realtor, not to show her homes for her family, but to show her dance studio space. She’s going to open her own studio and run it the way she wants to. That is her dream. They’ll have to scale back and get a much smaller home than the one they have now, but even Randall knows that moving the Pearson clan to Philly will be much better in the long run. And thanks to our future timeline, we finally get some confirmation that Beth and Randall make it work for good. So rest easy, kids. Mom and dad are okay!
Alas, as one of the Big Three is rebuilding his relationship, another one is seeing his crumble to pieces. It was clear that one conversation about never having kids wasn’t going to be enough. That’s a huge decision to make! Of course it comes up again as Kevin and Zoe babysit Tess and Annie for the day. Kevin has a heartfelt chat with Tess about her worries over figuring out who she really is now that she’s come out, a chat which he nails, by the way. (Kevin telling Tess that becoming closer with Randall helped him find a piece of himself? Be still, my Kevin-and-Randall-loving heart.) Then Kevin watches Zoe with their nieces and he can’t help but tell her that his own mom didn’t want kids at first, but eventually changed her mind and was kind of an all-star at the job. Friends, I am so glad This Is Us lets Zoe stand her ground here. Once they’re home, they have a hard conversation. Zoe knows that Kevin wants to be a dad and he should be a dad, but she is never going to change her mind. So while Randall and Beth pack up their family and head to the City of Brotherly Love, Zoe moves out of Kevin’s apartment. Unlike Beth and Randall, this is a problem that cannot be fixed.
But, as it turns out, Kevin does one day achieve his dream of becoming a father. We don’t have any details, we don’t even get to see Future Kevin, but we do briefly meet his son, who looks to be around 12 or 13 and loves his phone more than human interaction. So, the future is basically the same.
Before we fully dive into that flash-forward, which in true This Is Us fashion gives us more questions than answers, we need to discuss the past storyline. The promos for this episode really played up the fact that Rebecca is in a bad car accident when the Big Three are in their “Little” iteration, which is silly because we know she’s alive and well in the present. There’s very little in the way of dramatic stakes there. But that’s just promos. In the actual episode, Rebecca’s car accident is used to set up the flash-forward, emotionally speaking. Sometimes This Is Us can really stretch that idea of thematically connecting timelines, but it’s effective here.
Back in the ’90s, Rebecca is a horrible driver. I get that that’s not the point, but it needs to be said. She’s driving around with basically a Big Gulp of coffee in one hand and then bends down to pick up spilled peaches from the floor of the passenger side. When Jack comes to her bedside and finds her with a broken arm and a bruised face, she’s like, “I only looked away for a second!” Um, no you didn’t, you dummy. You were driving a car and you bent over! I know she hasn’t seen Grey’s Anatomy because it doesn’t exist yet, but people die from bending over in cars to pick things up. Anyway, Rebecca doesn’t want the kids around because they’re scared to see their mom laid up like that, so Jack is left to tend to his kids at home alone for the evening. Apparently, he stinks at it. He makes them something called “corn sandwiches,” which look horrible, and also, didn’t we just have an entire storyline about the invention of Pearson Pizza? If any occasion warrants some takeout, it’s when mom is in the hospital after deciding she didn’t need her eyes to drive a car.
Things go downhill from there and the kids are truly freaked out about their mom, so in the middle of the night, Jack and the Big Three head back to the hospital. I love the precious gift This Is Us has bestowed on us by poking fun at its long-winded speeches. Jack tries to explain to the nurse just why he and his kids are there outside of visiting hours. He compares his wife to the engine of a car (first, no) and tells the nurse that they are all useless without Rebecca. The nurse, bless her, is like, “Hi, I’m a human with a life and have been working for 24 hours so no, I didn’t listen to that ridiculous speech, please go see your wife and get out of my sight, also, never compare a woman to a car part, thank you and good day.” I mean, that’s me paraphrasing, but you get it.
The point of this flashback is not to get me riled up about a dad not being able to make one phone call and order pizza as I initially expected, but rather to show us the first time the Big Three really had to consider life without their mother. To show us how scared they were without Rebecca.
This also neatly ties in with Kate and Rebecca in the present, as Kate deals with her insecurities of feeling like she’ll never live up to her mother, the woman who always made them feel safe, the woman who always knows exactly how to take care of them. Don’t worry, the ladies sort it all out by the time Baby Jack comes home from the hospital (and Kevin joins them indefinitely in LA), but it is important to remember just how much the Big Three rely on Rebecca.
Knowing this makes the flash-forward all the more devastating, because in the future, Rebecca is dying. More than that, it seems she has some sort of dementia. In the past, Little Randall is joking about his mother having brain trauma and not being able to understand the plot of Hook, but in the future, Randall is having to introduce himself as “Randall, your son” to his own mother. Just like he was scared as a little boy, walking into his mother’s hospital room after her car accident, he’s scared in the flash-forward because he’s really losing his mother. This is happening. He also might be scared because Future Rebecca legit looks like the Queen from Snow White when she disguises herself as an old lady. You can’t unsee it.
Aside from showing us Rebecca on her deathbed, this new flash-forward offers some details for us to ponder over hiatus. That fancy house we find Future Beth in at the beginning of the episode, where everyone is gathering to see Rebecca? It belongs to Kevin. Future Kevin is out getting takeout, his son informs us, but there’s no word of the kid’s mother, if he even has one. No-Wedding-Ring Future Toby shows up, with sidewalk chalk, and informs Randall that he “just talked to Jack and they’re on their way.” It’s very mysterious! Is “they” Jack and Kate? Is Kate even alive? If she is, what happened to KaToby? But the most interesting reveal of the flash-forward is that when Future Randall goes to see his mother in her hospice bed, sitting there next to her is Nicky. And it seems like a very normal thing for everyone involved. As to the how and why and when of Nicky returning to the Pearson fold — add it to the growing list of mysteries season four will need to answer.