Warning: this story contains spoilers from Tuesday night’s episode of This Is Us, “Number Three.”
Randall wasn’t kidding when he said that Thanksgiving for the Pearsons is kind of a big deal. Except, for the second year in a row, even he probably couldn’t have guessed just how out-of-hand things for himself and his siblings were going to get.
Tuesday night’s midseason finale of This Is Us (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., CTV) wasn’t necessarily cliffhanger-crazy the way the first season’s midseason finale—in which Toby crashed through a coffee table and flat-lined at the hospital—was. But if your heart wasn’t in your throat through all of that Deja stuff and then that huge scare with Tess at the end, then I don’t know what to say. You probably hate puppies, too?
Regardless, the episode wrapped the special three-part standalone episodes featuring each of the Pearson children, this time by focusing on Randall and the struggles he and Beth have been facing with the foster system. Meanwhile, in the past storyline we saw the other side of Kevin’s fateful football game, as Randall and Jack visited Howard University and the teen got a taste of black culture for the first real time in his life. It was kind of the perfect father-son road trip to Washington, which culminated in Randall finally making Jack understand what it’s like to have grown up in a white family, and Jack finally opening up to his son a little more about his experiences in Vietnam.
(Side note: did anyone else get the feeling we’re about to see more of those Vietnam days in the back half of the season?)
Okay, so compared to Kate’s awful miscarriage last week and Kevin’s terrible downward spiral the week before, Randall’s storyline didn’t pack quite the same emotional punch, but that didn’t make it any less heavy or impactful as a whole. Although it was impossible to predict what would happen with the Deja situation, deep down it was hard not to feel as though the girl’s residence at the Pearson abode was temporary given how deeply her biological mother wanted her back. In the end, Randall would never be the person to keep a girl from her mother, and a beautiful monologue and flashback scene featuring William pretty much solidified that.
Still, it was hard to see Deja finally starting to come around with school and the family only to be bounced back to her house. And it was even harder to watch Randall have to let her go. Sure, the 12-year-old wanted to return and be reunited with her mother, but how long-lasting will the Pearsons’ influence actually be on her? Will her hair start falling out again from the stress? Can she get over the abuse she’d suffered in other homes? Can her mother stay on the straight and narrow this time? I’d like to think the “work hard for the big house” philosophy that Randall instilled in her could become Deja’s “lemons into lemonade” speech the way Dr. K’s words of wisdom were for Jack in the pilot, but who knows. It would be great to see Deja again, but not because her mother failed. And really, isn’t that the only way we’d see her again in the future? That much was made pretty clear during the final tearful goodbye.
Besides, thanks to the sneak peek towards the end of the episode, it seems as though another little boy may be getting ready to come and live with Randall and Beth in the near future. And this one might be a more permanent situation. Of course Beth and Randall, the flawless parents, will have to take a good, hard look at their own home thanks to Tess’s stunt that also went down towards the end of the episode, when she snuck into the back of Kevin’s car in order to get away from the house she apparently hates so much.
Looking back, we all should have seen that coming. It’s no secret how much the girls love their uncle, but This Is Us hasn’t yet really stopped to explore what it must be like for Beth and Randall’s kids to grow up in the house they call home. Sure, it seems perfect on the outside looking in, but everyone has their stuff. And it sounds like we’re finally getting ready to dig into that stuff when the show returns in the New Year.
That and it will finally be time for Kevin to get some help. The Manny and star of an upcoming Ron Howard film can’t just get arrested for a DUI and not have a huge deal made of it. That moment will be his make-or-break point when we return, and I choose to believe in the power of positivity here. Because if this show has taught us one thing so far in the first season-and-a-half, it’s that we all stumble. What makes life interesting and fulfilling, however, is how we pick ourselves back up.