If you didn’t know Randall Pearson was hustling those councilmen on the golf course from the very beginning, you don’t know Randall Pearson. There was no way our anxiety-prone Hot Dad would ever willingly place himself in a situation — especially one as important as trying to win over his fellow city councilmembers — in which he’s not in control. Randall’s a planner, people. So when Randall tells the councilmen he’s ditched on multiple occasions that he has an in at an exclusive golf course and then goes on about how bad he is at golf before accepting the invitation to be their fourth (they want to make some money off of him), you know something’s up.
Randall is an excellent actor. He’s shanking balls (I don’t play golf, insert shrug emoji here), he doesn’t even yell “fore!” when he almost hits some innocent bystanders. He takes the heat from his competitors, remaining charming and hapless, until one of the councilmen takes pity on him and begins giving him some tips. Take it slow, change your grip, follow through. And magically, Randall’s not so bad anymore. Who knows how Randall knew the councilman would want to help him out on the golf course, but he played all of those guys perfectly and in the end, they’re talking about helping each other out on votes and becoming the best of friends. Of course, by the end of “The Club,” This Is Us makes the big reveal — the show cannot help itself — that Randall is actually great at golf by having him stay behind and crush some balls at the driving range. Randall is a tricky bitch and I am very much here for it.
The reveal is directly connected to a visit back to 1992 in which Jack sees just how close Randall’s getting to his English teacher Mr. Lawrence and gets his back up about it. We’ve seen Jack feel threatened by Randall’s desire to have black male role models before (remember crying over pushups at a dojo?), but Randall’s never been old enough to really understand what’s going on, and certainly not old enough to call Jack out. But he’s old enough now.
Jack sees how close Randall and Mr. Lawrence are getting when he drops Randall off at school early and watches the two chat about James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son. Okay, can we first talk about how Randall makes his parents take him to school at 6 a.m.? Of all the ridiculous things Randall does on this show — at any age — this one cuts me deepest. No wonder Little Kevin makes fun of him so much.
Anyway, Jack has nothing to contribute to Book Club, but when he sees Randall taking an interest in a young up-and-coming golfer named Tiger Woods, Jack pounces. He’ll take Randall golfing. He wants to bond with his son! But Jack ends up being so Jack on this outing that things take a turn. Randall tells his dad about everything Mr. Lawrence has said about Tiger Woods breaking barriers and how Randall is breaking barriers by being the first black student on the debate team at school, and he even opens up about how he knows things won’t be so easy for him in life. Jack misses the point completely, and eventually when he tells his young son that he “just doesn’t see color,” Randall has to explain to his father that this means he doesn’t actually see him.
That one hits Jack hard. He tells his son that he’s sorry and would like to be a better listener and less of a lecturer … and then follows that up with another Jack Lecture, so, like, did he learn anything today out on the golf course? This lecture, though, is about how Randall is going to be important and important relationships happen on the golf course. I mean, I don’t see Jack taking his daughter out on the golf course to learn how to play, but I guess that’s a conversation for another time. But it’s here, from Jack, where Randall learned that he might have to “play down” to the competition in order to really “win,” if you know what I mean. And we see Jack making Randall practice over and over and over until Randall becomes an excellent golfer. Excellent enough to scam all of the Philadelphia city council. Jack’s dreams for his son really do come true!
In the end, Jack does at least a little introspection and ends up inviting Mr. Lawrence and his wife over for dinner. Fingers crossed we see this dinner because it will be so awkward and I’ve decided that an awkward meal is what This Is Us does best.
We learn about Jack’s relationship to golf, too, because yes, what everyone wants in their primetime melodrama is more golfing storylines! Jack’s aversion to golf comes from the time he was forced to go play a round with Rebecca’s father and his friends. We head back to Jack and Rebecca’s courtship, not long after their big dinner in which Dave Malone flat out tells Jack that there’s no way in hell he’ll be marrying his daughter. But good ol’ Jack can never say no to Rebecca, and so when she encourages him to take her father up on his offer to go to the country club, he begrudgingly agrees.
It’s a disaster, obviously. Dave is condescending and spends most of the time trying to get Jack a job interview with one of his buddies, something that Jack refuses to do out of principle. Meanwhile, Jack’s coping with this awkward situation by swallowing full gin-and-tonics. That snack cart girl has never made so many drinks in one day! Just kidding, you know all those country clubbers are fully buzzed 90 percent of the time.
Jack continues to drink and also to refuse help from Dave’s friends. As they’re leaving, Dave gives Jack a big dressing down about how his daughter will be married in a big church wedding and the reception will be at this country club and like, who knew Dave was so into wedding planning? It’s a big signal to Jack that once again, Dave doesn’t see this relationship with Rebecca working out. He’ll never be good enough. Jack, super drunk on G-and-Ts (which Dave knows), dishes it back once they arrive at the Malone’s. He tells Dave he’ll definitely be marrying his daughter, and they’re going to have a happy home with lots of kids running around — does Dave see himself in that future? It’s a great mic drop moment … until a drunk Jack gets in Dave’s face and then trips on the lawn.
It’s not a great look for Jack, but we know who wins this battle in the end.
This Is the Rest:
• KaToby’s trying to keep the fire going in their relationship, which has been nonexistent since Baby Jack was born. After some hurdles that include Kate worrying that Toby 2.0 is not attracted to her anymore and Toby feeling hurt that Kate might not totally support his weight loss, that fire burns brightly. It in no way fixes the problems in their relationship and I fear this isn’t the end of their marital strife, but hey, it’s nice that they’re getting some.
• Toby’s latest nickname for Miguel is “Miggy Stardust” and it is perfect.
• Speaking of! Kevin’s getting bored in Bradford (he’s staying until Nicky’s court hearing). When a hike with Nicky doesn’t work out, he heads to the gym, where he quickly lands a date with an employee. But in the end, it’s Cassidy who provides some much needed distraction: When Kevin brings his date home, he finds Cassidy waiting there, upset after a fight with Ryan, and it’s those two — you know, the ones with the simmering sexual tension — who end up in bed together.
• The Kevin/Nicky buddy comedy continues: When Kevin informs his uncle that he was “just creeping on his ex” after a little Instagram stalking, Nicky’s pitch-perfect response is “What’s that even mean?”
• I so badly wanted the camera to zoom out in that final scene to show someone watching Randall as he turned around and hit a golf ball directly into a water hazard and said “That’s for you, pop” and be like “WTF is going on here?” Because that was… a lot.