With another week(s) did not come another episode of This Is Us or my “refresher” and/or retrospective review articles for a while, but now both are back and this time it is for the fall finale. It is here to refresh you before the show returns December 9th. Obviously SPOILERS for this episode and the entire series so far follow. These last three “refreshers” have been a little different as each episode focuses on a different member of the “Big Three” that is being highlighted. The title of the fall finale episode is referring to Randall as he is “number three”. To check out my review of the previous episode, click here. If you want to see other previous articles, click here.
“It’s your turn!” The episode, once again begins with the same videotape that they filmed “The Big Three” as babies on as each of these three episodes have. Now, the emphasis is on baby Randall and he speaks his first word, which is apparently “table”. In the present, “Thanksgiving Dad” Randall is sporting a goatee similar to his father’s now infamous goatee and begins to talk about their fun family traditions such as watching “Police Academy 4” (1987).
This is a reference to Jack from a previous episode where he instilled these traditions during a hard time when they were stranded on Thanksgiving that Randall has previously replicated for his wife and kids in another earlier episode. I personally thought that this was a great episode, which I was glad that I did not have to rush to write about it. Not only do we get great character development for Randall, but the very depressed and in the bottom of multiple bottles Kevin shows up at the end to continue the story-line from the first of this “trilogy” of episodes. Let’s get into the details!
Randall and Deja have formed a close relationship.
Deja’s science project that is focused on plants and photosynthesis is a big focus on her character development from trouble kid to responsible student. It is shown that she is working extra hard on the project and practicing presentation. Randall makes way too many dad jokes that Deja finds “corny”, he tells her that “if she thinks that’s corny”, before telling her how proud of her he is and how much fun he had working on her project with her. She thinks that the kids at her school will make fun of her for working so hard on the project, but Randall tells her that “the joke is on them, because working hard is what gets you the big house and the fancy car”.
Deja’s mother shows up as all of her charges have been dropped and she says, once again, that she’s innocent. She is there to find her daughter Deja and take her with her. Things get heated very quickly and the shout brings out an old white neighbor, Pat, check in on their arguing before going back behind his house’s gate after Randall assures him that everything is fine. Deja comes out and tells her to wait for their social worker, Linda, until she comes back to go and live with her.
You may recognize Linda (Debra Jo Rupp) as Kitty from “That ’70s Show” (1998-2006).
Linda later says that she thinks Deja should be with her mother and is going to recommend during the hearing that she should get custody of her daughter. Randall and Beth do not accept this at all and get very hostile towards Linda because of the mother’s past with guns and illicit dealings. They also talk about possibly pressing charges against Deja’s mom after her random appearance at their house. After everything seems hopeless, Randall “calmly” and passive aggressively leaves because he is upset about the impossible situation.
The main question that seems to be boggling his mind is “does Deja truly want to go home?”, but in the end, Randall does not want to take Deja away from her mom, because he sees it as a violation of the parent-child bond. Her presentation goes very well and she even gives a shout-out to Randall as her “foster dad” (a term that she had previously describe as “stupid”) for helping her on the project. Eventually, Deja does end up leaving with her mom, but it is amicable between everyone involved. However, they are all very upset to see her go and each character has some form of emotional goodbye. I hope this is not the last of Deja that we see in the series, but it was a good exit if that does happen to be the case.
William may be dead, but his memory and presence continues to linger on.
A flashback after another older Thanksgiving shows a talk between Randall and William that we had not previously seen. Randall, still pretty angry that his mother knew about him, ask how many times they had met and William replies “only twice”. We had already seen both of these meetings, but there is a new context through William telling the stories to Randall through his different point-of-view. It is revealed in a separate flashback that William followed Rebecca after she randomly disappeared from his apartment by taking a cab with “only 20 dollars cash”. He tells him how he hoped it would be enough and it was he follows her all the way to the Pearson house (yes, the one that burned down).
We see him walk up to the Pearson’s house’s door and knock, but it slowly becomes obvious that he had left at that moment instead. Randall and/or William are just envisioning a life where he did knock and became “part of the big stuff” with the rest of his family, but the audience knows that this is impossible. His reason for leaving is that after seeing “the Big Three’s” bikes with “Number One”, “Number Two” and “Number Three” license plates and he realizes that not only did he not know which number Randall was, but it was a life he “had nothing to do with”. William not wanting to insert himself in Randall’s life against his mother’s wishes is a mirrors the one that this memory will help him make with the choice to not fight Deja’s mother for custody.
Teen Randall wants to be around more people “like” him.
We see the blackout from his perspective this time, just like the previous episodes were from Kate and Kevin’s point-of-view. Jack affectionately refers to Randall as “Ivy League” and “Harvard” because he is so proud of him possibly getting into the infamously prestigious school. However, Randall wants to visit “Howard”, a primarily black college, on Friday, Jack initially reminds him that “your brother has a game”, which Randall replies to with “he has a game every Friday”. This shows us that Jack did not want to miss Kevin’s game, even though we were led to believe that he placed Randall’s college tour as a higher or more important focus over his game.
Randall’s college tour with Jack begins well-enough and then he introduces his father to his friend, who already attends the college, Keith and his group of fellow students. He goes on the “real tour” with Keith and his “boys” without Jack, who I assume just went on a tour by himself or walked around. A montage of the college tour shows Randall, Keith and their friends having a great time going around campus. It is “weird” for Randall that there is not many white people, but it makes him feel more welcomed than ever before.
Jack and Randall have always had a special connection.
The Jack and Randall car conversation on their way home starts out very awkward with Jack insinuating to Randall that they did not want him to come with them because he is white. He points out that he “hesitated” before introducing him to his friends as his father. Randall picks up on this without him truly saying that and admits that he did hesitate, but “not because your white… because you’re old.” They share a laugh with Jack insisting that he’s not that old. Randall then compares Jack’s feeling about this and “how he is was kinda mad about, but couldn’t exactly say why” to his every day experience as being a black man.
An understanding and mildly emotional Jack takes this opportunity to make one last stop to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located in D.C. just like Howard and begins to tell him about his history with this historical event. This moment is intercut with present-day Randall looking in on Deja’s mom at her apartment, who has just gotten her daughter new clothes and looking generally happy and well-adjusted. Back in the past and after they visit the giant wall of names, Jack explains to the young Randall that he was “not much older than you” at 25 when he was drafted into the war in Vietnam. He tells him that he does not talk about it much because “it’s just… too hard” and tells them when he got back that he was “off-balance” and “out-of-place in any place that” he “went”.
He looks at him and tells him: “You’re going to find your balance, Randall, and then you’re going to lose it, and then you’re going to find it again. That’s the ride.” Jack tells him that he may not be around for all of his choices, but he knows that they will be “spectacular” because he is “spectacular”. This great moment is cut short by Jack’s beeper (they still had those back then) goes off from Kate, which is obviously about Kevin’s injury connecting us once again to the previous two episodes. The most important thing is that memories of both of Randall’s fathers are what ultimately help him to make the right decision with allowing Deja to return to living with her birth mother.
There are multiple references to “Pac-Man” in this episode.
You may be wondering why there is a picture of the classic video game known as “Pac-Man” above this paragraph and that is understandable. Randall’s early obsession with “Pac-Man” is not just a character trait, but also a metaphorical theme for him in this episode. I am also pretty positive that it impossible to be familiar with the game no matter how old you are, so I will skip explaining how the game works or that he was originally called “Puck-Man”. So, on to the references in the episode!
Randall’s daughters are playing it on a tablet at the beginning, so he obviously passed on the love of the game to his children. During the blackout scene, we see that Randall was playing “Pac-Man” and filling out his Harvard application before the power went out and he is forced to quit both. Randall playing “Pac-Man” as a child, while Jack looks on is a great moment that shows that he respects his son. During the tour, Jack even jokingly tells Keith that “I don’t want him to major in Pac-Man”. When coming up with the decision to let Deja go with her mother, Randall tells Beth about his old obsession and how he got the girls into it. He is using it is as a metaphor for life and I will not deprive you have his monologue:
“It’s strange. Like, all these years later, the game really hasn’t changed. Just different people playing it. In the middle of it all, there’s Pac-Man. Bright yellow little dude doing his thing. Homie’s like Sisyphus, decade after decade just eating those circles and trying different routes, trying his best to avoid all those ghosts.” (Beth is confused at this point and asks him what he’s talking about and he responds) “Life feels like Pac-Man sometimes, I guess. It’s the same game over and over again, same board, same ghosts. Sometimes you get a bunch of cherries, but eventually, inevitably, those ghosts catch up with you.”
The last frame of the episode is a “game over” screen, while young Randall is playing “Pac-Man” as Jack looks on at him and the rest of his family. The use of “Pac-Man” in this episode feels like something out of “Stranger Things” (2016 – 2017, 2019?) in that it takes a nostalgic idea and applies it to the situation that the characters are dealing with.
Kevin made a huge mistake by not asking for help.
I really like Kevin’s character, so I saved his sort-of epilogue of these three episodes for last and because, you know, it is the end of the episode. Jack is proud of young Kevin’s “attitude adjustment” from the talk we saw in the previous episode after he understands them missing the game because of Randall’s college tour at Howard. This is the game that would lead to his injury and forever change his life unbeknownst to Jack and Randall. This finally shows the connection of all of the events during this time period through the past few episodes and enriches the characters in a myriad of ways. Jack loves both Randall and Kevin and they do not hate each other, but they also have an intense sibling rivalry that has continued on into adulthood.
In the final act of the episode in the present time frame, Kevin is visiting Randall and is having a screwdriver (just in case, it’s a mixture of vodka and orange juice). He has just found out about Kate’s miscarriage and was coming to him for support in recovering from his addictions. Randall gives him shit about drinking really early, but Kevin tries to play it off. Kevin decides to bail and tells the girls to tell their father as he hastily leaves. While, Randall and Beth ponder adopting again after the situation with Deja and Randall suggests a boy, we are shown a shot of young male black child, who could potentially be their future adopted son.
Kevin is not just a danger to himself.
However, they soon realize that their older daughter, Tess, is missing and it is later revealed that she has stowed-away in Kevin’s car, which causes him to drive more safely before he is pulled over by a police officer. He is arrested for a D.U.I. with her in the car, which makes Randall and Beth extremely angry at him as he has put their daughter in danger.
Now that we have seen all the events from each member of “the Big Three’s” perspective, we have a much clearer picture of what has happened to each of them. Looking ahead, there is a lot to consider in how events in the past, the present and future are going unfolding in the show. What will this arrest mean for Kevin? I can think of multiple charges he could be found guilty of. Is Deja gone forever and to be replaced by this young boy character that we only see in an ominous shot?
Although a small teaser was shown last night along with, Randall himself, Sterling K. Brown’s Best Actor in a TV Drama win during the Golden Globes, it has not seemed to be released online aside from the show’s Facebook page where you can check it out. So , here’s a cool poster for the next half of the season:
This Is Us will return on January 9th or as it is as better known as: this Tuesday or tomorrow.
What did you think of the episode and the series so far? Sound off in the comments!