Poor Malik. He does all this research on Randall Pearson ahead of meeting Deja’s parents for the first time, yet there are so many things about Randall for which Malik could never be properly prepared. Unless there’s some article out there warning Malik about the longest, most awkward handshake that has ever transpired between a grown man and the 16-year-old interested in dating his daughter. I mean, if there is, that’s some really thorough coverage of the Philadelphia City Council, so good for them. Otherwise, Malik went into the handshake blind, and for that I am sorry.
Malik’s meeting with Randall goes pretty well at first. Randall remains the hottest nerd who ever lived, so of course he’s equal parts intimidating and awkward, but he’s genuinely impressed with Malik’s even coming to meet the Pearsons. It’s all going smoothly, especially considering this is a 16-year-old looking to date a 14-year-old. Then Malik casually drops the fact that he has a daughter into the conversation and you can see Randall’s brain exploding inside his head.
Listen, I get it. I’d be alarmed that my 14-year-old was dating at all, let alone dating someone who, as Beth astutely notes, “puts babies in people.” Still, you’d think Randall would give Malik some benefit of the doubt since, as we learn in “Flip a Coin,” Beth’s mom, Carol, misjudged Randall from the moment they met. Actually, just kidding, Randall and Beth are acting appropriately terrified.
But the other part is true: When Randall and Rebecca cozy up to Beth and Carol’s cafeteria table during Parents Weekend, Carol very much enjoys her conversation with Rebecca, but she very much does not enjoy the thought of her Bethany even considering Randall as a viable romantic partner. Later, she tells teen Beth that Randall and his family are broken (Oh, Carol, you don’t know the half of it) and Beth needs someone who can provide strength at this time, someone who sees her and her needs completely.
It is the exact wrong thing to say. Teen Beth realizes that Randall, whom she was ready to cut out of her life, does see her. Well, he sees her enough that he gives her a lemon at lunch without her needing to ask, because he remembers from their one date that Beth drinks Coke with lemon. A lot of lemon imagery on this show, you guys. So R&B Productions is a go, yet it still takes Carol up until this very moment to see Randall for who he really is.
In the present-day time line, Carol has come to Philadelphia for the grand opening of Clarke’s School of Dance, which is a disaster thanks to a dead possum in the walls. The smell is horrific, and Carol thinks they should postpone but Randall wants to fix it (shocking!). Carol watches her son-in-law go to great lengths to make this day happen for Beth, and only then is she willing to admit she was wrong about him. I mean, obviously not about the broken part, because that is dead-on, but about being right for Beth. Then Randall dances by himself while Beth does a demo for the neighborhood, and it is a true gift to us all.
Carol may have walked away from Parents Weekend with doubts about the Pearsons, but Rebecca returns home feeling inspired. It wasn’t supposed to be funny, but, reader, I laughed so hard at Rebecca’s reaction when, after going on and on about the loss of Jack and her family’s barely holding on, Carol casually mentions that her husband also died last year. Rebecca is aghast and mystified as to how Carol can, like, grieve in a way that doesn’t completely put her life and her children’s lives on hold.
The good news is that hearing about how Carol started living her life again after wondering what her husband would think if he knew she’d stopped doing things she loved after he died has Rebecca wondering the same thing. I mean, Jack would be pissed. And so the Saddest Rebecca in our Pearson Time Line decides it’s time to stop being so sad. They’re going to move out of their temporary apartment and let some light in, literally and figuratively. It’s a new day for the Pearsons!
But in true Pearson fashion, any joyous occasion must be followed by something at least mildly concerning, so just as Rebecca is determined to get her life back on track, she gets a message from Kevin letting her know that New York is cool, he’s auditioning for a Sunny D commercial, and, oh yeah, he and Sophie just got married. That seems like a really sound decision that we’ll be exploring more this season!
It’s actually perfect timing to finally delve into Kevin and Sophie’s ill-fated marriage, since, over in the present day, Kevin has vowed to help Cassidy reunite with her estranged husband. I mean, not that it’ll backfire and Kevin and Cassidy will end up falling for each other or anything, but yeah, sure, help her win her husband back.
Against all odds, by the end of “Flip a Coin,” Kevin and Cassidy are kind of friends? Along with Uncle Nicky, they end up spending the whole day together and wasting time until a 3 p.m. AA meeting they thought had been scheduled for 10 a.m. Cassidy is sad because her husband just asked her to move forward with the divorce. Kevin is sad because The Manny got canceled and he’s “reflecting on his life” or something. (The lengths to which This Is Us goes to get us to care about a show called The Manny is truly breathtaking.) And Nicky is sad because … well, because he’s Nicky.
The three spend the day looking at RVs for Kevin to buy for Nicky (“I’m an actor. I’m great at filling up free time”), even though Nicky absolutely does not want one. Cassidy watches all day long as random people come up to Kevin and act as if they know him, and he’s charming and wonderful to each of them regardless of how terrible he feels. She’s definitely not cool with his comparing the sadness he feels for the end of a TV show he isn’t even on anymore with what she’s going through, but she learns to appreciate him. And when he tells her he’s been through his own divorce, she doesn’t immediately laugh at him, which is something. She tells him about how she got engaged and even asks him a little bit about The Manny, so there’s real progress in this relationship. There’s also a ton of chemistry (does Justin Hartley just have great chemistry with everyone or … ?), which I hope those two dummies realize sooner rather than later. For now, they end the day resolved to fix Cassidy’s marriage, and Kevin buys an RV to park right next to Uncle Nicky. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon is what they’re saying.
This Is the Rest
• As Kevin “grapples” with the “loss” of The Manny, we get a flashback to the day they filmed the pilot — then titled “Untitled Hot Babysitter Pilot,” which is perfect — and learn that Kevin wasn’t even sure he wanted this pilot to work. Right before they film the final scene, in which Kevin turns his character from dumb and one-note to so lovable that he saves a truly terrible TV show and changes the course of his entire life, he admits to Kate that he doesn’t want the pilot to work out. What a life he would’ve had, huh?
• As if Uncle Nicky couldn’t get any sadder, in a surprising moment, he opens up to Kevin and Cassidy about why he can’t give up his trailer. Before he went to Vietnam, he was dating a girl named Sally and they’d promised to drive cross-country in a trailer when he got back. Once over there, he stopped writing to her, but upon his return as a broken man with nothing left to lose, he bought the trailer and drove over to Sally’s as a grand gesture. Only she wasn’t home and he took it as a sign, gave up, and left. What a life he would’ve had, huh?
• Jack asking a girl out for Nicky? Kind of like Kevin helping Randall ask Beth out? I get it, show!
• Kate and Toby decide to take Baby Jack to a music class (actually, Kate decides, and Toby goes along with it, per usual), and it is a complete disaster. They spend the rest of the episode snapping at each other in the car, so watching this marriage fall apart should be a super-fun time for all of us.
• In much better Kate news: While mom is off at Parents Weekend, teen Kate has a flirty encounter with the guy who works at the mall record store, and she ends up getting both a job and a new love interest. To think, she was going to just stay inside and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer all weekend!
• Did I tear up watching Kate ask her mom to dance to a Carole King album with her? Yes, I did! They have a very complicated relationship, and both are so sad so this was nice.
• “My meat is always well done.”