Sunday, December 4, 2016

This Is Us 1x09 Recap: "The Trip" (It Takes A Village)

"The Trip"
Original Airdate: November 29, 2016

It's funny how places can hold special memories for us. There are some places we step into that feel like time has stood still, no matter how long it has been since we've last visited. Houses have wall-to-wall memories sometimes — be them good or bad ones — that are impossible to shake. For the Pearson kids, it's their family cabin. On this week's This Is Us, we finally get some sibling bonding time as the entirety of the present-day story takes place at the family cabin. The kids want to make one more trip there before their mother puts it on the market. Unfortunately, no one is really in the best mood to sift through the cabin for memories. Randall, fresh from his mother's betrayal last week, is bitter and filters everything at the cabin through that lens. Kate is still trying to navigate a relationship with Toby, even though they've broken up. And Kevin invites some of his theatre friends to the cabin — including British Girlfriend (yup, I'm still refusing to call her by her real name) — much to Kate's dismay.

This episode is about all of the siblings and their relationship with the cabin (and their parents), but a majority of the episode is given to Randall as he process his anger in the present-day and we learn about his search for his birth parents in the past. Sterling K. Brown is, as usual, the shining star of this episode but Mandy Moore really brought her A-game and allowed us to see a different side of Rebecca.



Randall has always felt different within his own family, and that's understandable. He's adopted, so in the flashbacks in "The Trip," we find a young Randall curious about his birth family. As we know from previous episodes, he's drawn to black families and constantly wonders whether or not they could be his real parents. After talking with their friend, Jack and Rebecca decide it's time for Randall to have more black male role models in his life in order to help him.

But there's a deeper conversation that Jack and Rebecca have, and that's one involving whether or not they should truly look for Randall's birth parents. Rebecca, of course, already knows William. And so it hurts extra hard for us, the audience, watching her tip-toe around the subject and refuse to search for Randall's family. What if the parents are drug addicts or deadbeats? But then Rebecca asks something that's painful: what if they're great? What if they're so great that Randall doesn't want to be a part of the Pearson family anymore? What if they don't have any legal recourse (since Randall was left at a fire station) for keeping him and Randall will eventually return to his birth family?

Rebecca's been a difficult character to understand in this show. On the one hand, she's a fierce mom who will do whatever it takes to protect her children. But on the other hand, she's blatantly lying to her son and her husband in the flashbacks. And she's forced to carry the weight of that lie (something I'll talk about in a minute).

Transitioning back to the present-day for a moment, Randall continues to deal with his anger over his mother's lies. When he accidentally drinks a smoothie with shrooms in it (something one of Kevin's theatre buddies brought to the cabin), he begins to hallucinate. And who does he specifically hallucinate? His father. I've always thought the relationship between Jack and Randall is really interesting and complex. It's something we see in the flashbacks in this episode, where Jack is trying to be the kind of father and role model Randall needs. And it's evident in the present-day, where Jack tries to teach Randall the depths of Rebecca's pain.

Most important of all though, Jack tells Randall that he was never a replacement for the baby the couple lost. He wasn't a choice to make — he was a fact. He was their son, plain and simple. It's an incredibly powerful moment because that's what Randall has most needed to hear for so long. It was amazing to watch This Is Us spin adoption into something different than a choice that the couple made. Randall was theirs, and he's as much of a son to Jack and Rebecca as Kevin is. Randall isn't this abstract concept; he's a real human being and I think that's pretty amazing for the show to depict adoption in this way.

In the flashbacks, Randall begins taking karate lessons and this is where one of the most powerful scenes of the episode comes in: Jack is instructed by the sensei to get down on the ground in a push-up position. Little Randall climbs onto his back and Jack is instructed to do push-ups while promising to take care of his child. It's a touching moment, made even more touching by the fact that when he's permitted to stop doing the push-ups, Jack refuses. He says he won't stop, and it's this tear-inducing moment where you realize that Jack is always going to fight for his children, even if it exhausts him and even if it takes all of the energy he has in his body.

He will be the rock for his family, and they'll never fall as long as he's around.

(Aaaaaaaaaaand cue sobs.)

Bu the most important lesson that Jack and Rebcca learn in the flashbacks is that when they tire, they will have a community of people who will support Randall. After Jack is too tired to keep holding up Randall, the sensei tells Randall to climb onto the backs of the other black fathers in the class. He does, and they each support him like they would their own child. It's a really beautiful example of the power of community. You know the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"? Well, this was This Is Us' version of that.



One of the best scenes in this series thus far is the scene Jack reveals to Randall what it was like for Rebecca to hold the secret of Randall's parentage in for 36 years. Randall first sees the cabin as a place where the memories are tainted because of what his mother did. He can only see her lies when he looks upon memories of them playing games and sharing laughter at the cabin. But that's an optical illusion, just like the painting hanging in the cabin itself. Jack tells Randall to relax his eyes and to look through the memories and through the lies.

When he does, Randall sees the loneliness of Rebecca. He sees her desperation to protect her children, to protect herself. It's not clear what all Rebecca struggled with, but her childhood and adulthood weren't perfect. She has her own demons to battle and secrets to keep away. But she battled them every day in order to keep her family safe. Rebecca carrying the secret around for years wasn't pleasant or enjoyable — it was one more burden she had to bear every single day, and it was as isolating and terrifying as being alone in a cabin.

Mandy Moore did an amazing job conveying all of Rebecca's emotions in that scene, wordlessly. And as Randall sees his mother for the person she was — a lonely woman trying to protect her family while fighting battles every single day — he begins to soften ever-so-slightly. The episode ends with Randall, Kevin, and Kate driving up to their mother's house. Randall tells Rebecca that he is not ready to reconcile with her just yet. But he does tell her that he understands the loneliness she felt, the pain she endured, and is willing to at least see her at Christmas. It's a really subtle but incredible moment of character growth for Randall, and I'm so excited to see this relationship evolve as they work toward reconciliation. 

Other stuff:
  • I didn't discuss it above because it wasn't as important as the main plot, but Kate and Kevin fought because he brought friends to the cabin. "Friends" is a loose term — they're just people who believe they're too cool and he's trying to impress. Kate doesn't understand why Kevin is being someone he's not, and why these people are infringing on their family time. Eventually, BG proves that she's a terrible person (she brought her ex-boyfriend to the cabin, and failed to tell Kevin who he was), and Kevin kicks the group out (minus the one nice girl who he — of course — ends up sleeping with). Kate, meanwhile, is the one person really excited to be at the cabin and is sharing her adventures with Toby. Unfortunately, they're not at a place where they can be friends since she broke up with him. OH, TOO BAD. (I don't like Toby.)
  • "What are you writing, babe?" "A list of reasons I'm mad at my mother."
  • "She's BRITISH. She speaks ENGLISH."
  • "I'm sorry. I love you, but I want to punch you."
  • Have I mentioned how happy it makes me that The Big Three were finally all together again?
  • "I'm not sure you've ever experienced anything real your entire life." DRAG HER, KEVIN. 
What did you all think of this week's This Is Us? Sound off in the comments below!


Post a Comment