Kate and Toby fear their birth mother is having second thoughts, while Kevin pushes himself toward greatness.
The Big Three again took center stage in a lighter episode to wrap up the 2020 run of "This Is Us."
The hour was filled with moments that were telegraphed so plainly in advance we could practically write the beats of them before they happened, but others that came as a complete and pleasant surprise.
Of the former, we'd have to say that the handling of Randall's unexpected viral moment was about as ham-fisted as we've seen this show be. From the jump, it was clear that Malik was going to blow the task of ending Randall's daily video chat with Philadelphia.
So we knew that was coming, though it made the awkwardness no less painful to endure. What we didn't know was how poorly they were going to handle the exit from that.
We get that Randall could get over the embarrassment of being seen dancing shirtless throughout the city -- lord knows it could have been much worse -- but the conversation he had with Malik just didn't read true at all.
Malik barely apologized before he started justifying his screw-up, or attempting to, by saying how early he gets up and that he puts his daughter first. But that was no excuse for turning his back on the camera to take that phone call. It's called multitasking, hon, and parents have to learn that skill!
And then Randall not only just moved past it almost instantaneously, he turned around and offered Malik an internship. We get that he sees some of his own overachieving self in Malik's discipline as a student, but the truth is, he botched the whole day.
Now, if we're to believe Randall went with it to drive daughter Deja crazy, that's a theory we can get on board with. Can we just say, we continue to love all the relationships in that house. Randall and Beth are so amazing together, and their bond with their daughters. It's almost fantasy-like, but certainly family goals!
Of course, there was plenty more happening in the episode than the Randall Pearson Experience. Kate hit up an ultrasound with their would-be baby mama, raising second thoughts fears, while Kevin found himself challenged in the past and present.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
If there were any tears, they were from the same contained laughter Beth was struggling with. She is so read to rib her husband for his impromptu strip tease, and we were right there with her.
Even better, the exchange was just another example of their incredibly chemistry. Playful banter, even at the other's expense, is a hallmark of a confident relationship. These are two strong, independent people who choose one another again every day, and it's beautiful to see.
We're also still cracking up over Beth refusing to let youngest daughter Annie see the footage of Randall dancing. "There’s some things you can’t unsee, baby, and this is one of them," she tells her. How can there be writing this good here, and so bad elsewhere?
"Honestly, It's Nothing"
Kate was not ready to open up to her brother Kevin with her big secret, more on that later, but her use of this line informed him in a way that clearly had an impact. He just wasn't resonating for the acclaimed director on his new film until this moment.
Now, we didn't see the fallout of this conversation, but we could see the look on Kevin's face as he realized Kate was holding something back, using that line. Suddenly, he had a real-life connection to that scene. Perhaps he was realizing that channeling his truth was how to take it to that next level.
The next moment we see is him getting a literal "Atta Boy" package from his director Foster which is a testament that maybe Kevin is going to move from being that "good actor" Foster saw on Day 1 to the "great" actor her suspected he could be. It's just about putting in the work.
There is so much more to unpack about Randall's experiences both as a Black child in this white family, but also as a Black man in 2020. This line from his childhood didn't connect with Kevin then, but perhaps in hindsight he'll realize the weight of it.
At the moment, Kevin was feeling broken and ready to quit, until he heard Jack say Rebecca coddling him throughout his life had made him soft. And so, young Kevin starts to put in the work, with some help from Randall on how to do it.
So we know he's got it in him, as we've see how far he took football. Jack's death set him down a spiral of self-pity, but he nevertheless achieved success again on the screen. His is a pattern of putting in the work followed by self-sabotage.
But throughout it all, there's Randall, putting in the work because he has to. Because he's different and so he has no choice but to excel and be the best. No one will be there to hold him because he's already being held to a different standard and expectation, just based on the color of his skin.
He understood that even then, while Kevin missed it entirely. It's encouraging to see that Kate is starting to see that this is something that deserves to be addressed and acknowledged with Randall, and that she's got Kevin opening his eyes, too. As their eyes open, perhaps ours will, too.
Such a small moment, but perfectly presented in teenage-ese. Randall is giving Malik a huge opportunity by offering to help him secure an internship at his office, but Deja can't possibly just come out and say that.
Instead, she has to do what teenagers do and tell him how much she hates it. She also know that this playful banter over Malik delights Randall, so playing into that is also a way to show how much she loves her dad. Theirs is a relationship earned, and we love getting these little moments to remind us why it's so special.
"About That I Am Sure"
Look, we were getting as nervous as Kate that their birth mother, Ellie, was having second thoughts when Kate name-dropped Chloe while looking at their baby on the ultrasound monitor. Blame manipulative teaser editors.
Turns out, Ellie was just in her feelings about her late husband because a girl named Chloe had been filling his head with crazy lies about her. That, and the fact that she's even in this position has her questioning many things about her life lately.
She even admitted she'd considered abortion, which hit Kate particularly hard, before settling on the adoption process. But through all of it, the only certainty she has right now in her life is Kate and Toby, which is about the sweetest thing we've ever heard.
We're not gonna lie, but this relationship has evolved into one of the best in the show as well, with Toby bringing the laughs over and over and over. We love that it's just a part of his persona, and he brings out that silliness in Kate, too.
Our flashbackiest of flashback sequences went back to when the triplets were infants and Rebecca kept wanting to coddle a crying Kevin every night. Jack, however, worried that this might not be for the best. He wanted Kevin to work through it on his own.
Now, we could write essays about Jack's flaws as a parent, and we're sure there's a strong contingency who would disagree with his choices here, but what's undeniable is that he is trying, doing the best that he can in the shadow of his own upbringing.
The self-awareness it took for Jack to tell Rebecca that he was proud of the "ordinary man" he emerged as from his father's shadow is a testament to his sense of self and value. We applaud him applauding himself for being "ordinary," because so many people feel they're nothing if they're not exceptional.
There's nothing wrong with being "ordinary," so long as you never stop trying to be the best version of yourself that you can be. It's a powerful message, and one that Jack struggled with over many years of his life.
It's moments like this that help humanize him and inform that drive we see for him to be seen as that father who sees greatness in his own kids -- unlike what his father saw in him, the "Jack of all trades ... master of none."
Why did we fear we weren't done with Marc after he was booted from the family cabin? And yet, for all of our fears of sexual assault, it looks like the reality was far more complicated. Based on previews from the 2021 premiere, we don't think assault is still on the table, but we're not ruling it out completely.
We do know, however, that Kate not only had a pregnancy scare as a teenager after they'd broken up, she had a pregnancy. And we know that she's never told anyone about it, including her parents or her brothers.
So was she triggered by Ellie considering an abortion because she'd had one? There's no way she could have had a full pregnancy without telling her family about it, unless-- Okay, this is a ridiculously wild theory, but did Kate start to put on the weight to hide a pregnancy?
Or was an abortion one of the leading causes she started to gain weight. Neither of our young Kate's are particularly heavy at this point, so we know that turning point is still ahead for her. Could the pain of whatever happens with this pregnancy be the catalyst?
On top of that, to learn that she dealt with it entirely separated from her family, either alone or with March (not much better), just adds to the heartbreak. And then to carry that secret in her heart for more than two decades.
We weren't sure where the storyline of Randall going viral with his dance video was going, so kudos to the writers for a pleasant surprise here. We knew that somehow his position on the city council would create that connection to his mother, but this was a pleasant twist.
The moment the Vietnamese grandfather we saw earlier this season was watching the video and heard William Hill's name was powerful. That he looked up at the picture of Laurel broke our hearts in so many unexpected ways.
We still don't know if this man and Laurel are still in touch, or even if Laurel is still alive. But no matter, he clearly knew the name William Hill and that there was a baby, which means Laurel opened up to him intimately about her life before.
And that look said that no matter their current status, he cares enough about her (or her memory) to not only make the connection that this dancing man is her son, but that he's going to do something about it.
Seeing him with his granddaughter spoke volumes about his character and the size of his heart, but this silent moment only added to it. Maybe it's self-serving, as if Laurel is gone he might see Randall as a strange connection to her for him.
Whatever the reason, though, it was a beautifully shot moment and left us hopeful and excited about the back half of this season next year.
And on a related but unrelated note, we can't help but wonder if this viral moment might open new doors and opportunities for Randall on the national stage.
His brother is already a nationally-known star, so it's only a matter of time before that connection is made, as well. This could change things in more ways than one for the sexy councilman.
Maybe then he'll allow Beth to let out all that laughter she's so politely holding in.