Warning: This recap for the “The Trip” episode of This Is Us contains spoilers.
In the aftermath of Randall’s discovering that Rebecca has known about William his entire life, the Big Three head to the family cabin for a last hurrah upon learning their mom’s plan to sell it in this episode of This Is Us. They get way more than a breath of fresh air, especially Randall, who unknowingly ingests some magic mushrooms.
Jack and Rebecca and Randall
Randall is handling the reveal the audience has known was coming for weeks in a typical Randall way — by pacing back and forth for hours and by making a list of all the reasons he is mad at his mother. There are 22 so far, and he still has some reserve rage left over for William and Beth.
“Don’t think I am ignoring that you lied to me about remembering you abandoned me,” he snaps. When William reminds him that he was simply respecting his mother’s wishes and Beth says she was pushing Rebecca to come clean ever since she found out, he adds, “Which is why I am second maddest at you. You [Beth] are third. My mother is the one who betrayed me.”
To further explain just why he is so angry that Rebecca kept his bio dad from him his whole life, there were various flashbacks pertaining to longing to know his birth parents and his background. When he was 9, the search kicked into high gear with him asking random black people in the grocery store if they could roll their tongues after learning about inherited traits at school. Later that night, Jack brought it up to Rebecca and she continued her deception to him as well. But Jack persisted, “I don’t want him sticking his tongue out at strangers when he’s 80. It kills me that he won’t know who his parents are.”
Rebecca dug in and added that she can do the tongue trick. “We’re his parents. We love him and give him absolutely everything.”
At his playdate, Jack brings it up with Yvette, who informs him that he’s been telling her boys stories about what his father might do for a living, like a cook, a basketball player, or a mailman. Their wise friend guesses, “It sounds like he is picking jobs he’s seen black men do. I think he may need black male role models, men who can show him what he might be when he grows up.” She sends Jack to a predominantly black dojo for karate lessons. At first, it makes Jack feel even more strongly about tracking down his birth parents and suggests they hire a PI. “I’m hoping he gets a better understanding of who he is. He can see these black men that he can look up to [an hour a week, but] those boys get to go home with those men. They get to grow up with the inherent understanding of who they are. He is our all-star knockout boy who deserves everything we can give him, even if it means sucking up our own feelings that he has birth parents out there that might fill this void he is feeling. Why are you against even trying?”
Rebecca has a flashback within the flashback. She apparently tracked down William, the visit after which she wrote the letter Randall found in William’s apartment. William was five years sober and working in a music shop and wondering how Randall is doing and if he did the right thing. When Rebecca admits that he has been inquiring about his bio parents, William suggests that she could bring him by the store and maybe he could give him some lessons or that he could sleep over. While he is digging for something for his son, she makes her escape and snaps back to Jack’s question. “Because what if they’re great? What if they regret abandoning him? There is not some sort of fire station paper trail. I can’t lose my son. We need to be enough for him.”
A karate initiation ritual, in which Randall climbs on Jack’s back to represent that Jack agrees to be his foundation, carry him through life, and push him to be the best man he can be, illustrates that Jack plans to rise to that occasion, and that is proof enough for Rebecca to keep the secret. Hence the letter she sends to William asking him to take comfort in knowing how loved Randall is.
Meanwhile in the present day, Randall accidentally drinks a smoothie full of shrooms and starts tripping hard and actually sees his dad Jack mending the gutter on the cabin. Randall immediately asks if his dad knew about William. He says no. Ever the peacekeeper, he immediately defends Rebecca. “Your mom and I went through a lot with you, and to keep that secret would have killed her. We gave you everything we could — the most loving family, private school, black influences to understand your background.”
But Randall has a comeback prepared. “And I was just supposed to be grateful. I was just supposed to shut up and be thankful that I had these great parents who wanted me when my birth parents didn’t. But the truth is, you never wanted me. I was a replacement for your dead baby. That’s all I have ever been. I spent my life striving for perfection because I live in fear that if I let up for a moment, I will remember that I am unwanted.”
But Jack denies that there is truth to that accusation. “The moment I saw you, I knew you were my boy. You are not a choice; you are a fact.”
Randall continues: “If I had known that the man who abandoned me regretted it and wanted me back, that would have made all the difference in the world.” He has a vision of them playing board games as a family and he yells various grievances at her through the window, like how William could have performed at his wedding or been at the hospital when his girls were born and how ultimately she robbed him of the feeling of trust through her actions. “I want her to hurt as much as I do.”
Jack points out that maybe she already does. “You are a parent, [so] you know things are not that simple. Our marriage wasn’t always perfect. I wasn’t always perfect. She had her own things too. She kept things out and made sure we were all safe.”
He then sees his mom late at night, freaked out and crying in a vision and locking the three locks on the cabin door, and that vision makes him snap out of his pity party a little.
Kate and Kevin
Kate, who had burst into Thanksgiving dinner and declared that she’d made a decision to get gastric bypass, explains that she made the decision after her near-death plane experience. “It was a real seize-the-day kind of awakening,” she says, adding that when she ran the numbers, she’d be 106 by the time she reached her goal weight at her current rate of loss.
Kate is hoping for some quality time with her brothers and plenty of nostalgic reminiscing, but Kevin’s too busy texting Olivia after their big kiss, and Randall is wrapped up in being angry at their mom. His verbal assaults often have unintended victims, like when he says, “It was never real; just like everything else in my childhood.”
Kate barks, “Me and Kev are real. What mom did was messed up, but it doesn’t erase everything else. This is the last time the three of us will be here, so can we enjoy today.”
As if on cue, Olivia shows up with the playwright and an unidentified manbun-sporting male wearing suspenders over a thermal, who immediately starts knocking the cabin for being so “quaint” and the board game stash as being “absurd.” When Kate remarks on the dude’s quirky ensemble, Kevin defends him. “These are my people now. He’s an artist. He’s authentic. Can you just give her a chance? I really want you to like Olivia.”
Kevin tries very hard to be the picture of cool in front of Olivia and manbun. While playing Girl Talk, she scoffs, “I bet Gertrude Stein had one of these in her salon.” Kevin acts like he hates the game too, but Kate calls him out and says that he always liked playing it more than she did when they were kids.
When manbun draws a question about the best kiss he’s ever had, he easily says it was Olivia. “I leave an impression on people I date.” Kate speaks up again, “Whoa, you brought your ex to our family cabin?”
Kevin brushes that off as well, so Kate takes it upon herself to confront Olivia. “I know women like you. Pretentious pretty girls who use guys like Kev to feel interesting [by] dating someone uncomplicated. My brother is earnest and sweet, and you will not take that away from him.”
But Olivia is not one to back away from a fight. “He’s not uncomplicated, but it is fascinating that you all make him play that role in the family. You are holding him back.”
The actress accuses her of being jealous of her brother as he is changing and worried that even if she loses all the weight, nothing will have changed. “You’ll discover all the dreams of the kind of life you’re gonna lead one day are nothing but lies you have told yourself. If I were you, I would be terrified. And trust me, you don’t know women like me.”
Kevin makes the mistake of telling his sister that Olivia might have had a point, and she responds, “Who are you? You are trying so hard to be real that you can’t see how fake you are. You are doing a super job in your new role in full metal jackass.”
Before she can storm off, Kevin accuses her of faking it too — by acting like she is not afraid of the surgery and that she is OK with the Toby breakup. Kevin finds the playwright on the phone in the bedroom and he asks about her relationship with Olivia. He finds out that she actually hates her and that she had rented a car to go see her sister who had gone into labor upstate. But when Olivia asked her to drive her to the cabin so she could have an “authentic cabin experience,” she agreed for the sake of the play.
He returns to the living room to find manbun and Olivia cozied up, feeding each other and watching a home video of Kate, and finally Kevin loses it. “Do not ‘ah’ [at] my sister. I know you are making fun of her, and that’s not cool. And it is quaint here. It is American. So are we. What’s wrong with being normal? Olivia, you are always talking about being real, and that kiss yesterday was real, [but] you are scared and horrified and you are trying to sabotage it. What might be worse is that I’m not sure you have ever experienced anything real in your entire life. I’m starting to feel like you attaching yourself to something that is not a calculated act is too much for your empty human shell to handle. I feel sorry for you.”
At this accusation, she and manbun storm out and take the rental car that wasn’t theirs. Meanwhile, out in the woods, Kate calls Toby to vent, but he shuts her down pretty quickly after she confirms they are still broken up. “I can’t be this person for you anymore.”
Kevin finds her moping on a stump and asks, “On a scale of ripping off your Barbie dolls’ heads and forgetting where I hid them and spilling marinara on your junior prom dress, how mad are we?”
“More than prom,” she says.
He takes the rating, apologizes, and admits she was right about Olivia. But Kate admits that Ms. Hardcore B***h was also right about her being scared that being thinner will not change anything. But when she says she is more scared of not trying, Kevin makes it about him again and begs her to do it in New York because he’s dying without her around.”
When they realize they are sitting near the family tree where all their names were carved and their dad’s pocketknife is still hanging from the tree, they laugh and all is right in the twin world again.
The Big Three
Kate awakes the next morning to drilling sounds. She rushes into Kevin’s room to ask if he hears anything, and he’s gone and slept with the playwright. They wander outside to find Randall fixing the gutter.
Kate inquires, “You can’t still be mad at mom if you are fixing stuff for her?”
He explains that he is doing it for their dad. Then they drive to their mom’s house, and when she answers the door, he says, “You kept that secret for 36 years. That must have been incredibly lonely.” She tries to hug him, and he retreats: “No, not yet. I’ll see you at Christmas.”
Wonder if Christmas will be as explosive as the Pearson Thanksgiving?
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