Once again, Kevin finds himself torn between the family life he wants and the career he’s been chasing for 20 years.
Unlike in seasons past, “This Is Us” wasted no time in telling us exactly what happened with Randall’s mother — and this seemingly just after we’d discovered that she survived that drug overdose after he was born.
In fact, this episode was filled with so many more answers than questions, we found ourselves oddly satisfied and a little confused if we were still watching “This Is Us.” That’s not what this show does. It peels back one layer of the onion to uncover half a dozen more.
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This week, though, we got clarity as to just what the unspoken tension is between Kevin and Madison as he continues to dig into the most challenging role of his career and she continues to make two babies inside her body.
We quickly got confirmation as to what happened with Kate and that pregnancy test, including not one but two reunions with Marc to offer closure on that storyline as well. And then there’s Randall, who moved quickly past his topless dance scene — kudos to Jae-Won for the beautiful tribute — to getting answers about his mother, Laurel.
It was all just so warm and beautiful and fulfilling, we found ourselves with far less anxiety than usual by the end of it. Instead, we were left feeling oddly satisfied even as there are still lingering questions.
As we do every week, we’re going to single out the show’s most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
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"You Were Broken in All the Right Places"
We weren’t so sure it was a good idea for Kate to try and confront Marc after all these years, but then we remembered that this isn’t the same broken and weak Kate we first met four seasons ago. This is a strong, driven woman who’s really come into her confidence and her own. We also saw evidence that it was always there.
We saw it when Kate went to see Marc after having decided to get an abortion at 18 years old, only to quickly learn that he hadn’t changed at all. He wasn’t ready for this responsibility or really any responsibility.
And the confronting him as an adult, she was right to say he looked small. He looked pathetic and weak. He still hasn’t changed, still the short-tempered loser with no real ambitions. His is a dead-end life she was right to escape and right to free herself from (both back then and now).
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"I Have Gone and Fallen in Love with the Idea of Our Family"
With each passing episode, are falling more and more in love with this couple, even as they are facing an incredibly difficult speed bump on their own road toward happiness. Can they navigate it? Honestly, we’re not completely sure.
We know the cabin is in Kevin’s future, and the kids, but is Madison? Is his career? Because that’s what became crystal clear this week. Madison’s vision of the family they want to build together is a family with a stable home for the kids to grow up in.
Meanwhile, Kevin just kind of figured it would be that superstar actor’s lifestyle where they travel to film sets as needed and just bring the kids and their nannies along with them. Both are viable paths, but they are not the same path. And it looks like Madison is not going to budge.
Kevin has been chasing this opportunity in his career for two decades and he’s on the cusp of really taking it to the next level. And yet, we could see him walking away from it all for the sake of family, as that’s also been his dream. Can he find a compromise? Walk away without him resenting Madison or her feeling bad?
Who knew that Kevin would carry the most compelling and uncertain storyline on the show, but it’s all his right now. We know where Kate and Toby are, and we’re pretty clear on Randall and Beth at this point. Kevin’s path, though we know somewhat where it goes, remains cloudy — and we’re absolutely invested in it.
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"I'm Not Carrying It a Moment Longer"
As if we needed any more proof of the badass, strong woman Kate has become, we loved that she just called adult Marc out for what a loser he is. It was a cathartic and brutally honest moment, as she shed years of baggage with that single line.
She showed that same strength in the past when she walked out on him mid-visit after he also revealed his true colors then, as well. He is a sad, pathetic little man who manipulates and takes advantage of broken people.
The fact that Marc, as an adult, told Kate that she was broken in all the right places really put his world-view into perspective. He knew exactly what he was doing when he toyed with her emotions, using and abusing her because he’s too weak to even try to take on a mentally healthy woman.
Seeing that he’s not grown at all in the intervening decades was all Kate needed to lose that baggage for good. Seeing her laughing with Toby at the end while watching “Airplane,” takes her full circle to seeing her parents laughing at the film. Always theirs was that impossible fairy tale romance, and now that is her story.
But even better, she doesn’t need a knight in shining armor to save her all the time because she’s strong enough to do it herself. That said, it’s still nice to know that said knight is armored up and on standby as needed.
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"I'm So Pleased to Hear From You"
We knew that there was more to the story of Laurel’s life that we needed to learn, but it was still painful to hear Randall admit he was afraid to unpack any of it because it would mean (he suspected) that William had lied to him.
In evidence of his continued growth, after first rebuffing talking to his therapist about receiving Hai Lang’s letter about his mother, Randall did open up about it. And it was there that he came to realize that he has been chasing clarity on who he is his whole life, so he can’t stop now.
And he certainly can’t stop because of assumptions he’s making based on partial information. Thankfully, he made the decision to call the man who knew his mother until her death from breast cancer in 2015. Here he can fill in those gaps, good and bad, to find out what happened and maybe why she never sought him out.
What we didn’t expect was to be moved by Hai’s response when Randall called, nor that he’d wanted for years to reach out to him. This means so much, in that it shows how big Hai’s heart is, but also that Laurel knew about her son and talked about him.
There are so many more questions to be answered here (and it looks like next week will go all the way there and answer them), but it was heartwarming to see that there will be nothing but kindness and love on this journey for Randall.
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"What Would Randall Do?"
There remains a lot of existing damage between Randall and Kevin, but as siblings do, they are starting to work through it. Kevin telling Randall that he goes through life asking himself what his brother would do was touching.
It also, unfortunately, was just the beginning of a difficult conversation Randall was clearly not ready to have, as he cut Kevin off to instead call Hai and begin that journey. We get it, Randall has a lot on his mind right now, but he’s not the only one.
Kevin failed totally to articulate the real reason he was calling, which was his uncertainty about what to do at this crossroads in his life. A flashback to an earlier phone call from Randall gave us a hint as to how it might go.
That call came shortly after Kevin and Sophie had married and Kevin was being invited to LA to audition for pilot season, leaving Sophie behind in New York for school. Young Randall was worried that choosing his career over Sophie could ruin their relationship.
Sounds pretty solidly like Kevin is thinking about that decision, and the fact that he and Sophie did not work out, so he was wanting to again feel out Randall’s instinct about this similar situation.
We think we know what Randall would do, but this is the guy who became a city councilman and moved his whole family to Philadelphia for his career, so maybe the water’s not as clear at 40 as it was at 20.
Still, we loved seeing those tender moments and baby steps as the men came closer and closer to actually having the real unspoken conversation about their long and complicated relationship. Those baby steps, regrets and slight apologies are a huge move in that direction.
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"He Was Telling You What He Thought Was the Truth"
With one hard question and one quick answer, Hai Lang was able to put Randall’s mind at ease, maintaining the purity and sanctity of his relationship with his birth father, William. With one answer, William remains a decent man in Randall’s mind.
Hai may never realize just how important it was, but everything about that moment resonated so beautifully, we were as breathless as Randall. Thank goodness Beth was there to pick up the torch and continue the conversation.
Thanks to that clarity about his relationship with William, Randall was in a place to make Hai’s very sweet wish that he could share the places Laurel loved to go and the things she loved to do become reality.
We can already tell we’re going to have to stock up all over again on tissues before next week’s deep dive into the life of Laurel. As beautiful as William’s story wound up being, it looks like Laurel also was able to get clean and carry on to live a beautiful life of her own.
We are just as curious as Randall as to why she never sought him out, or William for that matter. William never moved, and she obviously knew that her son existed. But how much did she know about either of them?
Will the answers Hai is able to provide give Randall the same sense of closure about his identity that Kate’s been able to gain about hers? Could he at last find some peace with where he comes from on his way to reconciling his place in the world and his adopted family?
Laurel’s story unfolds on “This Is Us” next Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
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