This Is Us recap: Randall's hero complex revisited
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Tonight's episode of This is Us delivered Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) spotlight story — the last installment of the final season's Big Three trilogy. We return to the aftermath of Rebecca's Thanksgiving speech declaring Miguel (Jon Huertas) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) as her executors and urging her children to not let her condition keep them from their dreams. We also return to the six-year-old-era pool day and college-era pool night featured in Kevin's and Kate's episodes. This time, it's all from Randall's perspective.
The episode takes a deeper dive into Randall's notorious family hero complex — how it manifested in childhood, and what it means in the present. During the pool day, Randall takes a swimming test with the lifeguard for deep end privileges. In the college era, Randall magics the siblings out of a bad situation when their empty pool bonding session is interrupted by a police officer. And in the present, the Pearson adoption trend comes full circle as Rebecca (Mandy Moore) helps Randall handle a situation with Déjà (Lyric Ross). Let's dive into every era of Randall, in the episode titled "Every Version of You."
Randall and the Pool Test
When the young Pearsons visit the pool, Randall is left to his own devices while Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) deal with Kate and Kevin (Justin Hartley). Already swim-capable, on Randall's agenda for the day is passing the pool deep end test.
Randall excitedly bounds over to the lifeguard in charge, who calls Randall his star pupil. Randall indeed aces each task, but keeps glancing at his family as if wishing they were watching, hurt when they're not. Still, he completes the test and passes. He rejoins the family and shares the news excitedly, then asks if they want to swim with him. He's dejected when Rebecca says no, but seemingly flips a switch and playfully manages to get them all involved in a game that leads to everyone laughing together in the pool, the happiest they'd all been all day.
This flashback arguably implies Randall's family hero complex isn't his fault — even at that young age he was isolated by his unique intellect and maturity. Sometimes, Jack and Rebecca paid him less mind because they didn't think he needed it, and sometimes, Randall brushed off how he felt and focused on how his family felt. If that tendency started then, it only grew stronger over time.
Randall and the Pool Police
Before the Big Three escape the closed pool, an officer arrives. He frees Kate, and, upon noticing Kevin holding beer and then chucking the beer in panic, declares he plans to book them all for trespassing, underage drinking, and littering. But Randall (Niles Fitch) privately pleads with the officer for clemency. Miraculously, he succeeds, and the officer lets them all go. In gleeful disbelief, Kate (Hannah Zeile) and Kevin (Logan Shroyer) celebrate Randall. They then head to the diner where Kate works.
Once there, Randall calls Rebecca to check in. He asks how she's doing, noting Kate told him about Miguel moving away. Without thinking twice about leaning on Randall, Rebecca wonders aloud why she's taking the news so hard. Ever wise beyond his years, Randall says Miguel has been such a big part of her life, so it's natural she's feeling so much. He then informs her that in his backpack at home, he has a bag of their favorite smiley-faced cookies from a local park. Like Kate gave Rebecca what she needed right after the Miguel news, by just laying with her, Randall gave her what she needed in the aftermath — his words, and the cookies.
Randall rejoins his siblings and Kevin urges him to share what he said to the cop. Randall only makes a joke, but we the audience see what really happened. He told the officer that he and his siblings have been struggling with the loss of their father two years prior. Randall's been trying to carry the family through it all but if his mother has to get all her children from jail that night, they might break. With that, Randall's knack for Jack-like inspiring speeches saved the day. If Randall felt after Jack's death that he had to be a hero, that incident proved him right, since Kate and Kevin might have otherwise been arrested. So, it's unsurprising the family hero complex persisted into Randall's adulthood.
Randall … and Rebecca and Déjà
In the present, Randall seems to take Rebecca's Kate-as-executor decision well. But his processing is disrupted when Déjà angrily announces Malik (Asante Blackk) broke up with her and told her Randall urged him to do so. Soon Déjà cries out "you're not my father" and says she's just a girl he took from her mom. This crushes Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) into temporary surrender.
Déjà (somehow) leaves in the middle of the night to visit Malik. When Randall and Beth learn this in the morning, Randall hurriedly sets off in pursuit. Upon Rebecca's attempt to slow him down, Randall reveals how he really feels about her executor decision, coldly suggesting they consult Kate. I wish the writers didn't put this petty, cruel kind of reaction onto Randall so often.
Despite Randall's cruelty, Rebecca insists on joining him. Along the way, during a lunch stop, Rebecca joyfully reminisces about one summer when Randall was around six years old. To achieve Randall's Scholastic Summer Book Club goal, she and Randall read together every night while the rest of the family watched TV, and spent Saturdays at the library, getting smiley-faced cookies at a park afterward — the cookies college-era Randall brought her that Thanksgiving day.
Rebecca convinces Randall to give Déjà space to process for herself. So, instead of rushing back on the road, Randall and Rebecca visit a bar. Rebecca orders wine she'd read Randall liked in a news article about him. She has the article with her and the book he'd mentioned in the interview. Soon mother and son play a game of darts.
This Randall and Rebecca bonding day clearly parallels the Déjà and Randall, as a portrait of life coming full circle. Adoptive mother-son Rebecca and Randall had a great relationship in his youth but a rocky adulthood from long overdue reflection. Yet, things are good again now. Meanwhile, things are tense between adoptive father-daughter Randall and Déjà now, but if history repeats, their dynamic will be better than ever later.
However, that night, Déjà isn't the conversation topic between Rebecca and Randall. Instead, Rebecca learns Randall is being considered for a coming Pennsylvania senator election. But Randall is hesitant to pursue the opportunity since Beth just got settled in her new job and the whole Pearson family is experiencing so much uncertainty. Again, Randall is putting his feelings aside for others.
In the morning, Rebecca gets reflective again — about watching her kids become better humans over time, about she and Randall's special bond and how she saw him as her rock after Jack died. But she asked too much of him then, and that's why she couldn't make him her executor: he would stop everything for her, because that is the incredible person and hero he is, but she doesn't want to keep holding him back.
This is a precious moment, but also somewhat diminishes Rebecca's previous moment with Kate, and her then-apparent reason for choosing her as executor. Would Kate not fight for her mother the same as Randall? Didn't she imply she chose Kate because Kate knows her best?
Regardless, the mother-son moment continues. Randall says if he becomes a senator, he sees things continuing on. The implication: he might be president one day. That's also the last thing Randall told the cop that day at the empty pool. It seems we've solved the mystery of the Randall news clipping in last season's finale – Randall will become a "rising star" in politics, after all. But what's that mean for his family?
In other news, the next day, Randall and Rebecca arrive at Malik's. However, there's no fight. Déjà and Malik have finalized their break up. Malik is doing right by Déjà but struggling because he loves her so much. To comfort him, Randall notes love tends to come back around if it's meant to be. In the car, Déjà acknowledges her acceptance of the breakup and apologizes to Randall, assuring him she considers him her father.
Once home, Randall makes a move for his potential Senator run future, while Rebecca puts the Randall article in her Randall memorabilia box, then looks lovingly at Kevin's and Kate's, as if to convey the (very cheesy but loveable) message that each of her children are equally special.
Bonus Bit: Kate and the set-up
Though this episode belonged to Randall, we get a teaser of what's coming with a final scene featuring Kate. She returns to Toby's apartment from her hill climb and Toby (Chris Sullivan) says the smoker he ordered has arrived in time for Rebecca and Miguel's anniversary party. That is, the smoker we learned early this season is involved in a baby Jack accident that ruins Kate and Toby's marriage. Adding to the foreshadow, Kate says she's not ready to move to San Francisco given the state of their relationship. Toss your used tissues and get some more in time for next week, as it's clearly going to be a doozy.
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