Warning: This recap contains spoilers from the “Number Three” episode of This Is Us.
Say it isn’t so. This Is Us is giving fans yet another reason to reach for the Kleenex. With tonight’s “Number Three” episode, we have reached both the end of the heartbreaking and riveting Pearson sibling-themed trilogy as well as the end of the first half of Season 2. Sadly, that means there will be no new chapters of This Is Us until the new year.
At least Randall’s installment left us with a lot to contemplate over the holidays including that cliffhanger ending involving the cops, Kevin, and Tess, and a glimpse of who might potentially be the next foster kid. As we did with the other parts of the trio, here’s a list of the standout moments.
1. Turns out Randall has always been the overachiever in this family. On the day of the video shoot showcased at the beginning of each sibling episode, Randall started walking just like his brother and sister, but he also threw talking into the mix.
2. Randall’s pre-holiday house is the picture of domestic bliss. Randall is stocking the fridge for Thanksgiving, which fans know is a big deal around those parts, soaked in family history and more recently filled with shocking reveals and big fights, the younger kids are playing retro video games on the iPad (Pac-Man: this will be important later) while the same Sunday Night Football broadcast his brother and sister are watching in L.A. plays in the background, and even Deja is hard at work in her room studying a science presentation her foster dad helped her make. She has even started to smirk at his corny jokes about Beyoncé. Of course, this is This Is Us so when things start going too smoothly, like Kate, we start waiting for the other shoe to drop.
3. And it did… spectacularly. Turns out Deja won’t get to learn all about Pilgrim Rick or Police Academy 4 because her mom’s gun charges were dropped. When she gets out of the clink but can’t get a hold of the social worker, she drives over to the Pearsons and starts demanding that her daughter leaves with her. She makes such a commotion that the white neighbors come outside to check on Randall and Beth. Deja has to come outside to talk her mom off the ledge, promising that Mrs. Linda is a nice lady who will call her back and that they have to do things by the book. The youngest Pearsons are noticeably shaken and scared that Deja will be taken away. Beth and Randall meet with Linda the next morning and start making some threats of their own when they hear that she is going to recommend that Deja be given back to her mother. They plan to meet with the lawyer and fight it, but Linda reminds them that it is exactly what they signed up for and that they would be making a mistake. Later Beth jokes that she thought last year was going to be their craziest Thanksgiving ever.
4. Back in the late ‘90s, teenage Randall is applying to basically all the schools — Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern, Stanford (a nod to Sterling K. Brown’s IRL alma mater), Dartmouth, and so on — in between rounds of Pac-Man on his computer when the lights went out. And as we predicted, the kid who has always struggled with his place in his whitewashed world is also contemplating the historically black Howard University. He uses the blackout opportunity to ask his dad to take him to D.C. on Friday for a tour. At first, Jack balks saying Kevin has a game. Randall counters, “He has a game every Friday.” Jack, always trying to be the fair father giving equal time to each kid, says he will take him.
When Friday comes and they are about to head out, Rebecca says she thinks it is “great that [he] is figuring out who [he] is and what works for [him].” Randall is impatient and giddy about the road trip. Which harkened back to adult Randall’s attitude as he set out for the road trip to Memphis with his bio dad last season.
5. Once at Howard, Jack and Randall meet up with Keith, Randall’s childhood playmate from the pool who is enrolled there, and Randall asks if he can tour campus with Keith instead for an insider’s perspective. Jack agrees as long as Keith shows him buildings and answers real questions. “I don’t want him to major in Pac-Man,” Jack pleads. Randall obviously feels at home and finally works up enough courage to ask about the elephant in the room. “So there are no white people? My entire high school is white.” The other kids mention some math and international students as well as the soccer team. Two of them also had the all-white high school experience. Randall finally feels like he’s not alone.
6. After dropping the kids off at school and withholding information from them about what is going to happen to Deja, Randall drives to her mom’s apartment to do some spying and sees that her mom has bought a bunch of purple clothes for Deja and is showing them off around the neighborhood. It sparks a flashback to a conversation he had with William after he returned from his mushroom trip at the cabin after finding out that his mom kept Randall from William even though she knew where he was all those years. William recounted how he’d followed Rebecca back to her house when she’d showed up the second time when Randall was around 9 and wondering about where he came from. He walked up to the door, determined to knock, and demand to be a part of Randall’s big life moments — birthdays, Christmas morning, graduation. (Enjoyed seeing the “what if?” scenes play out.)
But then he saw three bikes with nameplates reading Number 1, Number 2, and Number 3 and he realized that no matter which one was his he had a “nickname from a life I had nothing to do with. Just like that, It was over. How many rides had you taken on that bike? How many adventures had you had with your brother and sister? Who was I to interject myself into your life against your mother’s wishes?” Later Beth would point out that, similarly, Deja had cool nicknames they did not know either.
7. On the drive home from Howard, Randall flip-flops between how much he enjoyed the vibe there and the significance of going to an Ivy. Jack says. “You are going to make the right decision. You always do.” (Foreshadowing!) But the conversation quickly turns more serious when Jack, who swears he is not mad, wonders why Randall hesitated before introducing him as his father to the other students. Randall denies it and then claims it was because he was old, not white. And adds, “You know how you felt at Howard when you thought I hesitated because you’re white? How you were mad but couldn’t exactly say why? I feel like that all the time. Not from you guys, but from everyone else. It’s been like that since I was little. Not mad, just off balance. Like everything is going to be just a little more complicated for me.” To show him that he actually can relate, they take a detour to the Vietnam Memorial and Jack explains how he was drafted on TV at 25 and how even Rebecca doesn’t know the entirety of what he saw and did over there. “When I got back, I was off-balance, out of place in every place I went. You are going to find your balance and then you’re going to lose it and then find it again. That’s the ride. You’re going to make a lot of choices. I’m probably not going to be around for all of them. (Damn gut-punch foreshadowing because we’re guessing he doesn’t even get to see him pick a college!) But the choices you make are going to be spectacular because you are spectacular. Own it. Run with it.” (Gulp! Tears! Swoon!) Unfortunately, the moment is killed when the page comes in from Kate about Kevin’s accident.
8. Back in the present, Randall has to make one of those tough choices. When he meets up with Beth at the high school before Deja’s presentation, he tells her about his day and the purple clothes and why he thinks they can’t keep Deja from her mom. “She had this whole world spinning before us and I saw that and just like that…” (He even used the same verbiage to describe the “aha” moment as William did.) He also explains his new life theory based on Pac-Man. “Life feels like Pac-Man sometimes — same game, same board, same ghosts. Sometimes you get cherries, but inevitably those ghosts catch up with you.” (This sure applies to Kevin’s situation that Randall has no clue about at this point.”)
9. After the presentation in which Deja proudly admitted that Randall helped her, her mother came to pick her up and there was not a dry eye in the house especially after Deja lets her foster dad give her a big hug and reiterates that she doesn’t want him to think that “just because I want to go home that I don’t like living with you.” He offers to help anytime she needs it on math and science homework and reminds her that she has to work hard to get the big house and fancy car.
10. Kevin showed up and immediately started drinking. When Randall questioned it as well as Kevin’s hot-mess state, he blamed the long drive and being tired. When Randall asks if he wants to call Kate with him to download about the miscarriage, Kevin makes up an excuse. “I want to make sure my head is straight when I talk to her.” He is still with it enough to say sorry about Deja. Randall sighs, “When it rains,” and Kevin finishes the sentence. “It feels like it’s pouring.” (And yet we still haven’t even seen the worst of it yet.) The kids come in and their sadness rattles Kevin. He tells them to tell their dad that he’s going to take off.
11. Randall tells Beth that Kate wants to try again and he says he wants to try fostering again. She agrees that they have too good a home not to even if it means losing them all over again. Randall suggests they should try a boy next time and to further that speculation, the action cuts to the world’s most adorable child sitting sadly with a social worker in Essex County longing for a home. Could this be the next placement?
12. Scenes of Kevin driving recklessly as an adult, not knowing that Tess is hiding in the backseat because she “hates [her] house” at the moment, are spliced together with a scene from the hospital after the football injury. Randall asks his dad if he really thinks his brother is going to be ok. Jack honestly reveals, “Yeah, but things are going to be different for your brother now. That’s the thing about the three of you. There’s always a blind spot. I’ll be with one of you having a great time and then, bam, something happens to the other one and I realize that I should have been looking in that direction.”
13. Randall realized Tess was gone and searches the block only to find out that she is safe and with Kevin. Relief is shortlived though as he hears that Kevin has just been arrested for a DUI. Randall and Beth both vow to kill him while Tess is traumatized watching her uncle in handcuffs. Is this the rock bottom that Justin Hartley warned us about?
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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