What could have been … I don’t know about you, but this episode had me on the edge of my seat, especially during the sequence where Randall imagined his worst fears if Jack had lived.
In this Randall-focused episode, we do a deep dive into his soul and discover something of his long-buried hurts, motivations, and fears. At first, we don’t know we are in the middle of a therapy session with Randall. (And whatever he is paying her is not enough, “expensive” or not. Holy Head Shrinker, Batman–she is good!)
At first, we are imagining a world in which Jack didn’t go back into the house to save the dog. Randall talked him out of it! And the dog survived anyway, because this is Randall’s perfect outcome fantasy.
In this fantasy, Rebecca immediately feels guilty about not telling Randall she had met his birth father years ago. Oh hey, William! Love me some William. Randall is hurt and leans on Jack, who is perfectly calm and perfectly supportive. Together they go to the last known address for William and knock on the door. William answers, is welcoming, and proud of his son for his grades and just being a wonderful boy. Randall is, above all things, a good son. Jack only objects, mildly, when Randall refers to his mom as his “adoptive mom.” (As an adoptive mom, OUCH.)
But Jack is not comfortable with young Randall spending time with William, who may still be an addict. “You’re an addict, too,” Randall points out. Later, the two fathers of Randall bond at an AA meeting.
In this version of events, Rebecca is being punished for her omission, but only mildly. She is soon forgiven. Jack remains the perfect father, loving Beth and her hot sauce at her first visit, toasting the couple at their wedding and cooing over Tess, his first “perfect” grandchild. Really, everything is perfect, and all of Randall’s parts are integrating perfectly! Randall even saves William from both his addictions and spots the signs of his stomach cancer in time to save him from that, too. He is also able to intervene, with Jack’s help, to save Rebecca from her Alzheimer’s, or at least that’s the gist I got. Oh, dear Randall.
The therapist breaks in here, thankfully, and challenges Randall to dream up another outcome, an outcome that would include things he is afraid of had Jack lived. In the negative “fantasy,” Jack was livid at Rebecca for keeping William’s existence from him and Randall. Randall is beyond livid, and so angry his resentment burns for decades. William is drug-addled and slams the door in his face, refusing to even acknowledge he ever had a son, much less the one standing before him, heart in hand. Jack also starts to drink, and the happy Pearsons are transformed into tense, worried, unkind people. Jack is drinking, and the groom he toasts is Kevin, who appears to be working with Jack in Big Three Builders. In that angry and painful version, there is ice between Randall and his mother (so hard to watch!).
Randall and Kevin are barely speaking (which happened anyway), and their roles seem to be flipped. In this version, Randall is the commitment phobic player and Kevin is the “good son.”
(Since the therapist keeps breaking in, I too will break in and wonder, why is it so hard for Randall to forgive his mom for something any adoptive mother of the era would have done? She was keeping information from him, yes, but William was an addict and you wouldn’t want your child to know that their birth parent was an addict until they were old enough to understand and process that information! Of course, she should have told him and never did, not even when he was old enough, but we know so much more now about how, as adoptive parents, to give our children such information.)
Anyhoo, the point, according to the therapist, is this: “Even if your father had lived your life could have gone a million different ways…”
And: “You’re aware that you don’t control the outcomes of every single event?”
Uh, no. My lovely TV brother Randall is unaware, and this ferocious, innate desire for control has now run amok like, well, an emotional pandemic. In some ways, I get it. I see that need for control sometimes in myself and my child. As adoptees, we had no control over losing our original families and being adopted. Even if we are “better off,” which of course, we are, that doesn’t mitigate the loss at the beginning of our lives or the loss of control.
And then Randall plays the “good son” card in a heavy, heavy way. He begs Rebecca to go to the clinical trial in St Louis, and be apart from her family for 9 months. And surprisingly, unsurprisingly, she says yes. But her yes is wrenched from her soul, at great cost.
The cost will also be great for the siblings, as we can guess how this escalates into total estrangement.
Oh, sweet molasses!
Looking ahead to next week’s season finale (ALREADY???), the preview features some intriguing items, such as grown-up Jack (Kate and Toby’s son, standing by the bedside of someone in labor, and Dr. K, the doctor who brought the Big Three into this world (basically), singing!
I can’t imagine how all these big issues will be tied together, including Dr. K and Jack’s wife in labor, but I am ready for it!
What are your thoughts? Do you understand Randall better now? How do you think the season will end? And who in the Sam Hill is Kevin’s pregnant fiance?????