This Is Us
If you thought Randall’s breakthrough in therapy, in which he admitted aloud that he thinks he is the only one keeping his family from falling apart, might be the start of a change in attitude for our City Councilman, woweeeee are you so wrong. In fact, based on his actions in “New York, New York, New York,” it seems like Randall is doubling down on that belief.
Things start out with a Big Three video chat that does not go well, like, at all. Randall calls a “code red” — which is just another item to add to my mental checklist, Why Randall Pearson Is The Drama Queen of The Pearsons And Not Kevin (working title) — and gets his sibs on the phone to talk about their mom. Randall has been doing extensive research and has found an Alzheimer’s trial that Rebecca fits all the criteria for. But it is for nine months. And it is in St. Louis. He reiterates how important early intervention can be. He doesn’t want to hear about how much fun they’re all having out in Los Angeles — this trial is what’s best for her and they just need to trust him. He’ll be meeting Kevin and Rebecca in New York the next day for Kevin’s movie premiere and he wants to present this idea as a united front. Kate sort of agrees because, I mean, who even knows what Kate’s purpose is at this point? Kevin begrudgingly says fine. Anyway, welcome to the beginning of that thing that definitely causes the dire rift between Kevin and Randall that we’ve all been waiting for. EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY COOL AND FINE HERE.
Off to New York City Kevin and Rebecca go. But this is not Rebecca’s first time in the city. No, this entire episode is dedicated to Rebecca-in-New-York storylines. We see her as a little girl, standing in the Met staring at a woman staring at John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X,” wondering what it must be like to have all that time to spend staring at a painting and vowing to come back and try it.
We follow Rebecca and Jack as they try to give the middle school Big Three a family fun day in the city. It ends up mostly being Kevin and Randall fighting, Rebecca missing her chance to go to the Met again, and Jack trying to be King of New York but it all blowing up in his face until he saves it last minute with a cheesy, way-less-romantic-than-he-thinks-it-is horse and carriage ride through Central Park.
We follow Rebecca in the late ’90s (we’re a month post-Marc, if you’re wondering), when she, Randall, and Beth head up to NYC for Kevin’s acting showcase. We watch as Kevin tries to set his mother up with his acting teacher Kirby (Dave Annable, you silver-haired stud), and guys, it almost happens until, while on a stroll through Central Park (toward the Met so that Rebecca can finally see “Madame X” again), Kirby rags on horse and carriage rides and Rebecca is taken out of the moment, thinking of Jack, and heads home. Mostly, though, we’re there to watch as Randall makes light of Kevin’s acting “career” and then yells at him for trying to set their mom up a year after their dad’s death and Kevin yelling back that their mom is a grown woman, that she can’t spend the rest of her life being sad about their dad, and asks if Randall is just going to worry about their mother for the rest of their life. Did anyone else yell “you have no idea!” at their screen? Cool.
Which, hey, brings us right on back to the situation in present-day New York, where Randall and Kevin are basically having the same fight they’ve been having for their entire lives. Randall meets up with his mother and brother at the Plaza — Kevin is treating Rebecca to first-class plane tickets, fancy hotels, and premiere-ready gowns that he thinks would make Helen Mirren jealous. Rebecca is radiant! Kevin is just being the bestest boy. So when Kevin gets Randall alone, he asks if they can hold off on bringing up the trial. He wants Rebecca to have one great day. He agrees, but have you met Randall? There is no way in hell he’s going to keep that promise.
They head to Kevin’s premiere and he and Rebecca walk the red carpet and he treats his mother like a queen, while Randall stands around like a sad sack. At the afterparty, Kevin leaves his family for two minutes. In that time his agent asks Rebecca where they’re staying and she can’t remember the name of the Plaza, which completely devastates her, and so to comfort her, Randall… tells her about the trial. When Kevin comes over to bust that conversation up, Randall says he was trying to give her some hope. Rebecca leaves to get some air and those two have it out again.
Kevin thinks this is all about Randall not being able to handle that Kevin might know what’s good for their mother, too. Randall tells him he’s been taking care of her for 20 years and one doctor’s appointment and some fun playtime doesn’t change that. Kevin yells about how Randall won’t let anyone help him take care of their mom because he thinks he knows best. Randall yells about Kevin being unreliable because of his acting “career.” And then things get REAL. Kevin reminds Randall that his acting career is what’s paying for their mother’s treatment, and not a city councilman’s salary!!! No one flips a table, but, like, there’s still time.
When Randall and Kevin finally go outside to check on their mom, she’s gone. She texts them: She’s at the Met to go see about a painting. I guess Randall and/or Kevin are big museum-goers because man do they find “Madame X” quickly. And there, in front of that painting she’s been waiting to get back to, standing next to her sons, Rebecca gets to monologue a little bit. She talks about how she’s always wanted to come back and see this painting, but never made it. Each time, telling herself that next time, next time she’d make it to the Met. And now she’s realizing that she’s out of “next times.” She wants to spend what time she has left with her family, trying new things, feeling some joy. She does not want to participate in that trial, and that’s that. Randall looks like he’s going to fight her on it, but Kevin swoops in: “Whatever you want to do, that’s what we’ll do,” he tells her. Randall seethes.
And then, outside the museum, Randall reveals an underlying motivation to literally everything he has ever done on this show that truly shocked me, guys. Still so angry, Randall tells Kevin that this trial could have saved their mother (a big leap, dude!). He’s spent 20 years wondering if he could’ve done something differently and saved their dad, and now he had the chance to save their mother and Kevin blew it. YOU GUYS. I never pegged Randall for harboring guilt from that night. Kate? LOL, that’s cute. Kevin, for not being there? Definitely. But Randall? I never once thought he felt guilty for his dad’s death, but now I feel like a dummy because it completely tracks with how overprotective he is of his mother, how badly he wanted a relationship with William, his need to fix all the things, including the City of Philadelphia. Of course he is driven by guilt. He tells his brother that he thinks about how different their lives might’ve been if Jack never went back into that house. And then we see exactly that: We go back to the night of the fire, because This Is Us is trying to murder me, and Jack is about to go back inside to get the dog. This time, however, Randall screams that if Jack goes back in, he’s running back inside, too. And so Jack comes down off the roof, and doesn’t take that fateful return trip inside the burning house. Everything would’ve been different.
Randall is obviously haunted by that thought, but Kevin never thinks about it. And that might be a difference they’ll never be able to overcome.
This Is The Rest
• More and more, I just cannot shake the feeling that Kate’s going to die. This suspicion is apropos of almost nothing in this specific episode, but “New York, New York, New York” highlights that This Is Us is really becoming a show about two things: Rebecca’s story from start to finish, and the relationship between Randall and Kevin. Their development as brothers has been one of the most dynamic throughlines since the beginning, and the focus on that is only getting stronger. Plus, what better way for two brothers to put aside a long-held grudge than by losing the third member of their trio? JUST SAYING. Also, if Kate and Toby were just divorced in the future, why on earth would Randall be the one to invite him to see a dying Rebecca? I’m just having feelings, okay?
• Ugh, what a waste of Dave Annable! The man knows family dramas with a fierce matriarch at the center. We got him in a turtleneck and we got the image of him in an REO Speedwagon cover band, but we deserved more. Hi, hello, it’s me, the woman who misses Brothers & Sisters every day.
• All this Rebecca flirting with another man stuff has me really craving a storyline about the courtship of Rebecca and Miguel. Let’s see it, show!
• OMG, the last time Randall called a “code red” video chat, it was to discuss if he should get an earring. “It was a short conversation,” Kate says. Oh, to see it!
• Rebecca’s beret is back! And she wears it while she lets Jack be an unmitigated ass while getting them lost in New York City! A power move all around!