'This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown & Susan Kelechi-Watson Tease a 'Turning Point' for Randall & Beth
J.R. and Sue Ellen on Dallas. Tony and Carmela on The Sopranos. There have been many couples on television who’ve had knock-down, drag out battles and tonight, Randall and Beth Pearson (Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson) are going to join the list of troubled TV spouses as their marital angst plays out on the newest installment of This Is Us.
The episode, titled "R & B," picks up from where last week’s program left off — Beth (rightfully so!) furious over the ugly voicemail Randall left her after he convinced himself that she was blowing off his business dinner to go out for drinks with her new bosses.
There will be other dinners and powwows over drinks with the boss, but Randall and Beth have a much, much bigger problem. She feels she’s been sacrificing her own dreams for his and it’s all coming to a head now. Through a series of flashbacks, viewers will learn how the issues between them have been there throughout the couple’s entire relationship. And now, Beth’s finally going to speak her mind — and Randall’s going to respond right back.
“We always knew that this season’s back half would focus heavily on Beth and Randall,” series creator Dan Fogelman tells TV Insider. “We’re looking at their relationship, which is a ‘goal’ relationship and marriage, and we put it through the biggest test it’s ever had.
“This episode is like six one-act plays in an hour. The focus is on pinnacle events in their marriage and also small moments in their relationship that were actually very meaningful at the time. You’ll hop between multiple time periods.”
Randall and Beth have been struggling over how to manage their changing careers and raise three daughters. Beth is firm in not wanting to give up her identity and dreams, something she feels she’s done in the past. Since both parties haven’t always communicated properly, they’re in a bit of a mess now.
“When you don’t communicate and you let things fester, you make mistakes,” adds Fogelman, who says he and his writers are fully aware that the audience won’t like that Randall and Beth are having very big problems in their marriage. But why invest in the war if there aren’t going to be some challenging battles along the way?
“You can’t tell the story of a great man unless you show him at his worst moment or the story of a marriage unless you show it when it had trials and errors. God knows, I’m in a beautiful marriage and my wife and I are going the distance, but I would hate for someone to broadcast on TV our worst moments and fights because it wouldn’t be pleasing.”
Viewers will get to see in flashback Randall and Beth’s marriage. Family members will be present for the ceremony, but don’t expect to see Beth’s mom Carol (Phylicia Rashad) among the guests. However, next season may be a different story.
“We wrote ['Our Little Island Girl'] before we got Phylicia, always hoping we would get her,” Fogelman says. “It was written with her in mind. My hope is that she’ll want to come back and be part of our ensemble.”
“We better [get her back next season],” Susan Kelechi Watson enthuses to us. “I hope so!”
While it’ll be interesting to see Carol’s reaction to trouble in her daughter’s marriage in future episodes, the strife will also cause the couple’s daughters to respond. Might Déjà (Lyric Ross) be the most affected since she spent a good deal of her life thinking she might never have a stable family environment?
“Yes,” Fogelman concurs. “You won’t see that in this episode but it’s a big part of where we’re heading in our finale [next week].”
Both Kelechi Watson and Sterling K. Brown were thrilled to dive into the material into tonight’s episode.
“We’re trying to reflect on a real marriage and the things that can happen even in the best of relationships,” Kelechi Watson says. “These episodes are a turning point for Randall and Beth. It’s exciting doing this show, especially with Sterling, who brings his all to everything he does.”
“You’ll see why while things were in a better place between them in the past, what happened back then informs how they are today,” Brown says.
Viewers will discover that Randall’s not the only one capable of speaking in haste out of frustration and emotion.
“This episode is going to go there,” Kelechi-Watson says. “I hope everybody trusts us and comes along with us but we’re going to go there and we’re going to go pretty hard.”
For the rest of their lives, Beth will always be able to say Randall that he left her that awful voice mail message. “She will,” acknowledges Brown, adding, “deservedly so, but to Randall’s credit, I believe he’s the kind of person who tries not to make the same mistake twice.”
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC