[Spoiler alert: This story contains plot details from Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, titled “I Call Marriage.”]
The last episode of This Is Us ended with Jack and Rebecca at a somber Pearson ceremony: A funeral. (Rebecca was merely attending, of course, while Jack was the one eternal-resting in an urn.) This week’s episode began with another pivotal Pearson ceremony, albeit one that was much more upbeat: Jack and Rebecca’s wedding. They celebrated their nuptials with a kiss on the courthouse steps and then listened to a lovely speech by everyone’s (some people’s? anyone’s?) favorite spouse of Rebecca, Miguel (Jon Huertas).
Soon after, we saw the Pearsons transition from reckless bathroom sex (R.I.P., soap dish) to feckless teeth brushing (R.I.P., passion), their marriage washed out by years of, well, marriage and kids and responsibilities and the etceteras of life. And then came a bomb: Miguel and Shelly (Wynn Everett) announced they were getting divorced. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) wondered: Were he and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) next? He was swamped at work and she was busy trying to recapture musical glory (with old bandmate, Ben, who clearly is a big Rebecca fan). But Rebecca reassured Jack that they were not Miguel and Shelly, and Jack sparked with an idea to turn up their pilot light by renting out their first apartment, string up some lights, and re-read their vows. (Sorry, husbands of the world, this dude’s really making you step up your game.) And then came another bomb, albeit one that was much more delicate: In his arms, basking in the afterglow of bathroom sex, Rebecca told Jack she wanted to head out with Ben on a five-state tour with the band.
Before we talk tours, we’ll also really need to check up on Randall (Sterling K. Brown), as things literally turned shaky with him at the end of the episode. He’s been felled before by his drive for perfection, as his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) told William earlier this season. Here, overwhelmed with responsibilities to his memory box-making wife and chess whiz daughter and terminally ill father (who will require palliative care now that he’s cut the chemo), not to mention that work competition he was losing to Sanjay (Hari Dhillon), Randall reached for the water glass by his bedside table at the end of the night and his hand trembled. Cause for concern, at the very least. Meanwhile, Kate (Chrissy Metz) is juggling a lot too, including two overbearing guys: Toby (Chris Sullivan) said, “No, thanks” to boundaries and inserted himself into her weight-loss immersion camp, especially after his parking lot run-in with Duke (Adam Bartley). And our blunt horse stable employee sought to appeal to Kate’s less aspirational side by telling her to embrace herself for who she really was and drop by his cabin, an invitation she was pondering when the episode ended. And then we’ve got Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge), who, after one dinner chat that segued into some subway silence, appeared to begin the process of working through a dozen years of lost baggage, and Kevin’s past infidelity.
Let’s check that whiteboard, grab our Punky Brewster backpack, cook up some lava fries, break up with that nice x-ray technician, pour five ounces of white wine, pray that this chess tournament ends soon, pick up the phone and speak with the man responsible for all of these sticky, tricky situations: This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We could start with Jack and Rebecca — or Kate and Toby and Duke — or Kevin and Sophie — but it feels like maybe we should deal with a pressing health issue. It doesn’t involve William, but rather Randall and his shaking hand. He told William he could handle the pressures of taking care of him in his final stages of life, but what is going on here? Is the anxiety of dealing with his dying father and trying to be a good dad and husband while remaining top dog at work taking its toll?
DAN FOGELMAN: I think so. In our second episode of the show, it was one of the things I liked best early on that we locked into — Beth telling the story of Randall’s breakdown and how his vice is his goodness and his desire to be perfect. Suddenly this man is beset on all sides by various stresses, at his work and especially at his home. And this is the episode we start seeing the effect of it, and as we head into next week and the future weeks, we start seeing it in full.
What kind of role, if any, does Jack’s death play into this situation?
I think [there is] a lot of that in there, and we’ll dive into that a little bit in the subsequent episode. But when you look at Randall, he is a guy who is driven to be perfect. And when you’re looking at somebody’s fears or anxieties or stressors, you have to look at the whole person, and he’s a guy who has handled the narrative of his life with aplomb, as you can see, but also has channeled a lot of stuff, a lot of angst about his adopted father. He’s clearly lost his adopted father, who was his father-father. He’s clearly been haunted by the backdrop of his abandonment and now he has reconnected with a man whom he’s on the cusp of losing — losing a father for the second time. Finding a father who’s ill would be stressful for anyone, but particularly it’s a stress for Randall.
How serious is this situation? People might freak out a little bit when they see his trembling hand.
Yeah, I think people are going to freak out a little bit, and then people are going to learn a little bit more in the subsequent episode and episodes. Anxieties manifest themselves in many different ways for different people. For anybody who’s ever had even the simplest of panic attacks — which are never really simple — it can be a really devastating thing. You can feel and experience physiological symptoms that are so real that they show themselves with tics. And it’s a very serious thing. People build their lives based on avoiding them or dealing with them, and he’s had some form of a breakdown in the past, which we’ll explore a little further. And if it’s rearing its head, it can be a very dangerous thing.
NEXT: Fogelman on the last scene of the episode: “The final moment is critical for where we’re going”