After two of the Big Three had their turns, Tuesday night marked Randall's big trilogy-wrapping episode. And considering how dramatic Kate and Kevin's hours were – Kate realizing her own strength as her marriage unravels to its final fragile threads, Kevin realizing what it truly means to be a good person after Cassidy's suicide attempt – you might've been worried about getting put through the wringer with Randall, certainly no stranger to heartwrenching drama over the past six seasons.
But – twist! – with the help of behind-the-scenes regular Kay Oyegun as writer and Kevin himself Justin Hartley directing, we got an hour of television that was just really, really ... nice. And I don't mean "nice" in that backhanded compliment way; I mean "nice" as in it was a really lovely and heartfelt way to spend 60 minutes. And – double twist! – it wasn't really a solo episode. Instead "Every Version of You" evolved into a two-hander with Randall and Rebecca hitting the road – and hitting the audience's heartstrings.
But what were the big takeaways from this final piece of the final "This Is Us" solo trilogy? Let's dive into some of the most noteworthy elements of Randall's episode ... just after I take yet another selfie.
1. No, Randall wasn't a huge fan of the Kate decision after all
Things didn't exactly start looking like it was going to be a charming, low-stakes episode as, after the requisite flashbacks and re-re-replay of Rebecca's big Thanksgiving speech, a furiously heartbroken Deja comes storming down the cabin steps to break the news that Malik broke up with her – in potentially no small part due to Randall's, uh, pep talk back at dinner a few episodes back. She tells Randall and Beth that she hates them – and when Randall tries to explain that they have a say in her life choices because she's their daughter, she slaps back that actually she's not. She's just some girl they took from her mom. Man, that's so vicious, you'd think there was a meal going on!
To make matters worse, when they wake up the next morning, Deja's gone – but luckily Tess can't keep a secret and reveals that her sister scampered off to Boston to try and win Malik back.
So Randall's headed off to the East Coast to get Deja back home – but before he does, he drops one little bitter bomb off at the cabin. When Rebecca tries to settle everyone down and get Randall to take a breath, he instead responds that maybe they should just let Kate handle it since she's apparently in charge of the big decisions now. So yeah, as expected, Randall – often the self-appointed family guardian – didn't take well to what he clearly saw as a kind of demotion, seeing Kate take on the role he thought he had. It didn't help matters that Randall, even before the announcement, was feeling far from his mother between last season's self-discoveries and this season's literal distance.
Rebecca handles the verbal jab well – in fact, the look on her face afterward is less hurt and more "welp, knew that was coming." But instead of letting the angst sit there and fester, Rebecca says she's coming with Randall on his Deja recovery mission. Welp, this shouldn't be uncomfortable and testy at all ...
2. Hitting the road – and hitting the Kleenex box – with mom
Huh, as it turns out, it wasn't! How nice! Yes, instead of a ride filled with tension and anxiety, we get a wonderful trip as the two bond along the way while making me want to call my mother once again.
Things start to thaw out quickly on the road as Rebecca helps Randall remember that teens will be teens – especially when they're in love for the first time – with a story about her first crush, some James Dean look-alike named Chris Bellows with a cute butt that makes Randall VERY uncomfortable. But we'll take that kind of discomfort as opposed to what we were expecting – which, on that note, a still somewhat nervy Randall does apologize somewhat for the Kate barb, calling it a dumb joke. Both of them look like they have more to say on the topic, but at least that tense balloon is somewhat deflated already.
The warm feelings only continue along the trip as the two stop at a diner for a meal. OH DEAR GOD NO, NOT A MEAL! But no, in a rarity for this season, the dinner is a treat as the two finagle a photo from their waitress, tell the origin story of Randall's sugar pocket house-building hobby and reminisce about Randall's childhood Scholastic Book Club obsession. (Oh man, the nostalgia; it hit me HARD right here.) Beth eventually calls to let Randall know Deja reached out and told them she's fine, getting Randall's nerves back up, but Rebecca manages to talk him into letting everyone settle down and simmer out for a night – most importantly him.
And what better place to settle down than a nearby Connecticut dive bar. There, Randall and Rebecca don't find a nice chianti – some Two-Buck Chuck will have to do – but do find some more lovely conversation, talking about a recent fluff piece about Ald. Pearson, one that's inspired some of Rebecca's free reading, another sign that they're not as far apart as Randall may have feared. They then hit the dive's dart board before heading to the town's fanciest shabby motel to talk some more and call it a night.
The scenes are all delightful – but somehow the most touching parts of the trip are the episode's smallest moments. During all these travels, we see brief, soundless flashes to Rebecca and Randall's memories of the past, almost subliminally sparked by the most mundane moments: a glance in the rearview mirror, a brief struggle with a pill bottle, brushing your teeth. They don't mean anything – but somehow mean everything, those small memories that you didn't even know you remember, pulled from the deepest files of your brain, the small ways that those closest to you impacted and imprinted on your life. It's a lovely grace note from Oyegun and Hartley that never got old.
Those are far from the only flashbacks, though, this episode – which come into play in Randall and Rebecca's big final talk of the night. Before taking off once more for Boston, the two sit by the motel's shuttered pool as Rebecca reflects on watching him grow up and explains why she chose Kate. She knew that, if she chose him as her emergency executor, Randall would push everything and anything in his life aside for her. After all, she saw Randall do that before and after Jack died, with him being there when she needed a rock – reading with her and even choosing a closer college rather than his dream school in order to be there.
The audience sees it throughout in the episode's pool flashbacks as well. Instead of swimming in the deep end – a privilege he earned through his stellar swim class work – Little Randall chooses to be closer to his family and get them to swim in the shallow end with him. Later on, Teen Randall talks them out of getting arrested after a cop (who somehow wasn't Matthew Modine; guy looked just like him I swear) catches them in the locked-up pool with beer. He explains to the cop that, still haunted by their dad's death, this family is at the breaking point – one that might officially snap with a trip to jail. When the other two ask Randall what he said to get them off the hook, he knows that his real reasoning will hurt to hear – so he comes up with some line about how he asked if Kate and Kevin looked like people who could last a night in jail.
Basically, Randall was always the glue guy in the family, the Mr. Fix-It – and, in the process, he could let himself and his own aspirations and needs slip away. And if there's one thing we've heard over and over and over (literally three overs in these three episodes), it's that Rebecca doesn't want anyone letting themselves become smaller because of her illness. And so the two move forward, Randall feeling closer to his mom and not only understanding but appreciating why his mother didn't choose him as family executor: She wants him to finally live for himself, not feel indebted to saving his family at the drop of a hat.
Gosh, if only there was some significant work developments going on in Randall's life that could make these revelations even more valuable!
3. Mr. Pearson goes to Washington?
Oh, would you look at that!
The call last week from the senator on the way to Thanksgiving wasn't just a friendly holiday greeting, according to Randall. As he tells Rebecca before bed at the motel, the senator is retiring – and he's really leaning toward putting his support behind Randall as his successor. That's why he did that puff peace that Rebecca pulled out of her purse at the bar: Sure, it's nothing serious, but it gets his name out there – key for a state-wide election. He knows that, if he accepts the senator's support and runs, he'll win – but he's been kicking the can down the road because of all the uncertainty in the family. Silly Randall: There will always be uncertainties. Once these concerns go away, new ones will replace them; that's life. And Rebecca's certainly having none of this – so after their poolside pep talk, by the end of the episode, Randall calls Jae-won to finally set up the meeting.
Yay ... ? On one hand, Randall's political career has regularly been one of the show's lesser plotlines. On the other hand, we're this close to the end so it probably can't lead to too much overheated political drama. One can hope, at least ...
4. Is this goodbye to Malik?
Oh, that's right: There was a reason for this road trip besides mother-son bonding!
So finally Randall and Rebecca reach Boston, and instead of finding a fight waiting for them from the lovestruck teens, they find a surprisingly mellow Deja and a wet-eyed Malik. As it turns out, it wasn't Randall's (understandable but still misguided) speech that really ended things. Malik ended up somewhat agreeing with the points made that night – that the distance, the schoolwork, the parenting situation and the cumbersome and risky nature of their romantic plan wasn't fair to either of them – and decided to end things on his own volition, no matter how much they both still love each other.
They end up warmly handshaking things away – and so do a crestfallen Deja and Randall in the car, with Deja apologizing about her words the other night and reiterating to Randall that he is indeed her dad, the only true one she's ever had. And for maybe the first time for Randall on this entire show, he has no words – nor does he need any, the knowing silence communicating everything just fine.
So ... is that the end for Malik on "This Is Us"?
Honestly I doubt it. For one, it's an awfully sudden and subdued way for an enjoyable character to fade out of the picture. But most of all, considering the way everyone talks about the future and keeping the door open – yeah, he's coming back. In the car, Deja talks about how things were always so intense for them in their present-day relationship, but maybe the future will offer them a better time to be together. Even Randall, instead of taking a victory lap for being right and getting his way, assures Malik that these things have a way of coming back around, that doors can reopen over time if they're meant to be. And this show's way too romantic and sentimental about love for that not to be true in Malik and Deja's case.
Plus, last we saw Deja in the future, we was expecting – so there's reason to believe that wasn't the last goodbye between these two. Hopefully Randall doesn't help muck it up this time ...
5. Prepare yourself for a not-so-special delivery coming up ...
It couldn't all be warm and comforting this episode.
Indeed, at the very end, the show pulls away from Randall and shows how everyone's solo episodes came to an end. In Kevin's case, he arrives at Madison's home with the twins ... and that's about it. Not much to report there, unless I guess if you were concerned his episode cut away before a sudden plane crash or something – which, if that was the case, you might just have a dark mind. (Then again, this was the show with JackDeathWatch.) Kate's conclusion, however, moved her story a little forward, with the Pearson sister ending her triumphant walk up the hill by coming back to Toby and proclaiming that she's not ready to move to San Francisco right now and that he's just gonna have to deal. So that's ominous for them – not as ominous, though, as Toby's news that the Big Green Egg should be delivered just in time for a big anniversary party.
Yes, it appears the Smoker of Damacles is finally going to fall on KaToby. Hopefully they at least get some good barbecue ribs out of it before everything gets ruined.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.