'This Is Us': Randall's Identity Crisis, Kate's Revelation & Jack's Legacy (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 2 of This Is Us, "A Philadelphia Story"]
Two weeks into Season 3 and This Is Us continues to play with viewers’ emotions. From the individual struggles “The Big 3” face to past timelines where the Pearsons deal with life after Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), there’s plenty to consider.
Picking up mostly where last week left off, the Pearson clan is gearing up for a big day in Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) career as they attend his movie premiere in New York City. Of course, the past timeline involved includes another big milestone – teen Randall’s (Niles Fitch) acceptance to Howard University. Meanwhile, a more recent timeline sees fan favorite William (Ron Cephas Jones) return and reveal his connection to people in Randall’s present.
All of these moments and more are further explored throughout the episode, for the full rundown, read on!
Beginning the episode is Jack’s voice in Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) head, “C’mon Bec, what’s the harm in looking?” he says. The question applies to the thick envelope on the kitchen counter of their temporary residence. Randall joins her, and it’s clear that the envelope is actually a college acceptance letter, a small moment of positivity in the Pearsons’ presently bleak life. The mother and son share a heartwarming embrace, but Rebecca’s a shell of what she’s been and when Kate (Hannah Zeile) enters the kitchen — her appearance alarmingly different than it was in Season 2 — it’s clear she’s found unhealthy coping habits.
Though teenage Randall is dealing with this chaos at home, he remains somewhat optimistic when he calls Yvette (Ryan Michelle Bathe) about his acceptance. Later, the family looks at a prospective new house and the underlying tensions flare as Kevin (Logan Shroyer) rejects the idea of a new home and Kate reveals she never sent her audition tape to Berklee College of Music.
Later on, Randall calls out Rebecca for not paying attention to Kate’s eating or Kevin’s drinking, and he scolds her for saying she’d take care of the family when Jack died. Ultimately, Randall apologizes for his behavior but Rebecca acknowledges she’s been distant, revealing that she and Jack had been looking at a new home before theirs burnt down and since his passing, she’s wondered what would have been if they had moved – would he have lived?
At Yvette’s house, Randall sees his neighbor and her husband share a kiss, and it reminds him of his parents. It's enough for Randall to call Howard University and withhold his enrollment while he helps his family cope, speaking to the kind of selfless person he is in the present timeline.
Meanwhile, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) are in the midst of IVF treatments and Toby's experiencing withdrawal from his anti-depressants. Agreeing to keep their situation a secret on their way to NYC for Kevin’s premiere, the couple is found out when Miguel (Jon Huertas) pulls out some pudding packs in the fridge, causing Kate’s hidden needles to fall. Of course, Rebecca is against the risky treatment and the mother-daughter duo butt heads over the decision.
That’s when Toby reaches a breaking point, lashing out at Rebecca and telling her it should be Kate’s decision. All the while, Kevin’s dealing with his own relationship dama with Zoe (Melanie Liburd). She’s looking for something casual, and after she turns down his premiere invite, he endures the family bickering alone. That includes a harsh remark from Kate that she’s the only one that can pass on their father’s biological legacy, implying Kevin won’t have kids.
Needless to say, things are tense when the remaining Pearsons — Toby left after his outburst — head over to the premiere. Luckily, things take a turn for the positive when Rebecca assists Kate with her IVF shot, making it clear she’s only worried to lose her daughter after a loss like Jack’s. Then, Toby shows up and apologizes to Kate and her family all of which accept.
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) join the family eventually, but their storyline ahead of Kevin’s premiere deals some interesting cards — including Randall’s connection to William via one of his neighbors. Randall's story begins when he picks up Annie (Faithe Herman), Tess (Eris Baker), and Déjà (Lyric Ross) from school. Randall’s younger daughters have clubs to attend but Déjà is open and missing the drill club at her old school, so he works to remedy that.
The solution includes visiting the rec center near William’s old apartment where he introduces Déjà to Sky (Drew Olivia Tillman), the daughter of Chi Chi (Yetide Badaki), a friend of William’s. In conjunction with Randall’s sudden quest to improve the center, we learn about William and Chi Chi’s story — the former young mother became part of a community thanks to William’s encouragement.
It’s all going well until Randall approaches series newcomer Councilman Brown (played by Stranger Things’ Rob Morgan). Despite a seemingly genuine conversation, the help Brown promises to deliver never arrives and Randall takes it upon himself to help fix up the rec center alone. Later, when he’s heading out to join his family at the premiere, he talks to Chi Chi about his mission to fix the center. Though she notes how he reminds her of William, she also informs him that “we are a not a we.” She points out that Randall’s fixation on the center’s problems proves his inability to see that the community is not summed up by problems it faces.
That truth bomb rattles Randall. When Kevin asks him what’s up, Randall admits he’s always trying to find where he fits in, but it always seems he’s either trying too hard or not hard enough. But its Kevin’s final words to Randall about Jack’s legacy that really shifts the sibling dynamic. Is Randall going to be angry at Kate? Sure, he’s not blood to Jack, but he was raised by him. Shouldn’t that be enough? Hopefully fans will have some updates on that situation in next week’s episode.
A few other key moments to remember for next week:
- The introduction of Councilman Brown seems like it will play a key role in Randall's storyline this season, and based on their exchange, Brown clearly didn't think enough to follow through on his promise. Could this frustration with the system inspire a career shift for Randall?
- Toby off his meds isn't a great thing, and what we know from his Season 2 flash-forward means fans should expect a rough road ahead for the beloved character.
- Kate's relationship with her mother has been evolving a lot lately. While this episode seemed like a backslide, it does appear things could be on the upswing.
- Kevin's relationship is supposedly "casual," but then we see Zoe making plans to visit via a text during his movie premiere. Kevin may have found some real relationship material.
Hopefully, all of these plots will be explored soon, but based on next week's preview, viewers should be gearing up for some Vietnam-era Jack Pearson.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC