2020: Ooh … I do love a mysterious new character, don’t you? Of course, I am talking about that darling little Vietnamese girl, Lin, and her grandpa, catching and cooking fish. Who are they? Somehow, they have a connection to Randall, and specifically, a close biological relative of his!
1993: The Big Three are going through puberty, and it ain’t pretty. Kate invites a couple of kids over for a study group working on a diorama of a desert. This group includes her ex, Stewart, who doesn’t seem to be giving her much attention, and the would-be temptress Tonya, who seems to be angling for a kiss with a visibly anxious Randall (Lonnie Chavez, doing his thing!)
2020: It’s also Teenagerland in current day for Randall and Beth as they navigate mood swings and bad attitudes from their crew, especially Tess. “That girl is killing me three times a day,” Beth says, gritting her teeth and sighing. Yup. Teenagers. When they’re good, they’re very good, but when they are bad …Lord, help us all!
2020: Over with Kevin and Madison in another kind of land, Lala Land, Madison seems awkward and pensive, while Kevin babbles about how his new acting part–as a lawyer–is going to require his “signature” shirtlessness. On a walk in the neighborhood, a fan spots Kevin and goes gaga while also noticing Madison’s twin-sized belly. Basically, she makes Madison feel fat. Uh oh.
2020: Toby and Kate meet up with Ellie, who is considering relinquishing her baby to them for adoption. A few years back, she lost her husband to cancer and then later got pregnant from a one night stand. Toby and Kate listen empathetically. Who are they to judge? Besides, she loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as they do. Just as everything seems to be going swimmingly, Toby and Kate have a tiff about Toby forgetting to bring the diapers in from the car. Fighting in front of a potential birth mother of your child? Seems like a bad idea but Ellie likes the way they resolve their fight. You know, in seconds, as fights are usually resolved.
2020: Tessana, Tessana! what are we going to do with you, girl? The middle Pearson daughter gets in some hot water when her school finds a video from last year, featuring Tess and her friend mocking their teachers for various insensitive behaviors. Her principal was not amused, nor were Randall and Beth, who have a little sit-down with Tess. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to get your point across,” Randall says, in another example of TV writers knowing exactly what to say. Tess gets her phone taken away and is grounded for six weeks. She calls her dad a fascist because clearly, indignant teenagers know the difference between fair consequences and far-right, authoritarian, ultra-nationalist dictatorial power.
2020: “We’re basically strangers,” Madison tells her fiance and the father of her two babies. So I guess we’re not quite at the happily ever after stage yet, are we? She stalks off, telling him not to follow her home but to take a different way, which was kind of funny. But the kerfuffle leads to a breakthrough when Madison tells Kevin about her Bulimia, and Kevin tells Madison how he struggles with addictions to drink and now working out too much. And then he said something interesting: “My parents were the most connected ever, but they missed so much.” Like Kevin’s budding workout obsession, and the racism that Randall faced.
Tonya, you little lip-glossed ninny, you! She flirts up a storm, building to a moment when she says, “I always wondered what it was like to kiss someone like you.” Someone Black. Nice. Actually, not at all. Poor Randall is so uncomfortable, yet can’t bring himself to tell even his mother what happened. He just stuffs it down in the vault, along with all the other moments where he was made to feel “other” and less than. Fast forward 27 years and Randall has not forgotten. He can’t help but admire Tess’s saying how she feels and calling people like her hair-touching teacher (another ninny) out on it. “If something bothered me at that age, I just swallowed it,” he tells Beth. Good thing his new therapist is on it!
Madison and Kevin come to a new understanding as they air their own secrets and shames. “I’m obsessed with Outlander,” Madison confessed. “I’ve been to conventions.” Hey, nothing wrong with that. I myself would attend a This Is Us convention in a heartbeat. Who’s with me? Road trip!
Finally, Lin drags it out of her grandpa that the women he tried to impress with his cooking is the woman in “all the pictures.” That woman would be young Laurel, Randall’s very much alive birth mother, cuddled up with young Vietnamese grandfather! So where is the show going with this hint about Laurel’s life after she gasped for air on the floor? I can only rub my hands in glee because I know it will be good.
What do you think? How do you think Laurel will resurface? Why is she just in the grandfather’s pictures, and not there in person? Will the birth mother really give her baby to Toby and Kate? We know there’s drama coming down the pike on that front. And I am here for every second of it!