This Is Us Season 6, Episode 10
“Every Version of You”
Posted by Shannon
I gotta say, I was nervous going into this one. The first two installments of our final Big Three trilogy were so strong, so all-inclusive, and the trailer for this one was so… meh. Add that to the fact that the show has historically prioritized Randall storylines, and that his entries this season have mostly concerned things happening around him, and I thought maybe this would be the time the ball got dropped. I was so pleased to be wrong. What we get this hour isn’t a revolutionary character move like we got with Kate, or a deep dive of self reflection like we got with Kevin. No. This is a quiet, nearly-bottle episode that heals some old wounds and sets Randall – and us – up for the back half of our final season.
There have been two lingering questions I’ve asked myself at the top of each of these episodes. First: who the hell was watching young Randall in the pool? (Turns out, it was a very sweet teenage YMCA instructor. Bless.) And second: what was the context for Randall’s comment to Kevin as they all get ready to leave the cabin about life with teenagers?
The answer to that second question is the kickoff for the mechanism of the episode, but thankfully, it’s not much more than logistics. I just was never going to have a lot of patience for a storyline in which Randall got all out of whack from a fight with Deja over Malik. I do feel for her heartbreak and fury at the discovery that Randall had told Malik to “stay away” from her. Their young love affair breaking down right after the announcement of their plan to move to Boston is strangely paced, yet also extremely teenager-ie, so fine. Deja acting out at Randall was cruel, but also rote-as-hell storytelling wise. I’ll forgive all of that because of what it allows within the plot: Deja takes off in the middle of the night for Boston, Randall follows the next morning, and Rebecca insists on accompanying him.
I’ve been trying to think of the last time Rebecca and Randall got this much time alone. It’s been at least since he spent most of Kevin and Madison’s almost-wedding avoiding her. And while that ended in a sequence of genuine connection, Randall and Rebecca’s relationship has been a bit out of sorts for quite some time now – even before her announcement about Kate taking the executor reins the night before. Which leaves Randall to navigate an interesting emotional balancing act as he heads off for this impromptu road trip with his mother. He’s been clear that he misses the connection he’s had with Rebecca, that he misses spending time with her without it being a whole family event. Hell, he almost spent all of Thanksgiving chasing her around with a cell phone to record every possible moment for posterity. But he’s also genuinely hurt right now. Because Sterling K. Brown is Sterling K. Brown, he’s able to juggle that in every single reaction shot, while also effectively distracting his character with half-baked ideas about what he’d do or say to Malik if he actually answered the phone.
Because Rebecca has spent so much time over on the west coast with Kate, Kevin, and their small army of children under four, we haven’t gotten to see a lot of her as grandmother to the teens. We hear a lot about how strong their relationship is, but there’s not been space for much outside of quick shots of TikTok dances. There’s still not a lot in terms of actual connection between Rebecca and the girls here, but we ARE reminded that Rebecca knows how to navigate teen agita – arguably better than Randall does right now. He’s all fire and brimstone and “I swear when I get to Boston I’m gonna…” without an ounce of forethought. (“What? Do you even know what you’re gonna do when you get there?”) Frankly, without Rebecca along for this ride, Randall would have made his relationship with Deja a whole lot worse than he needed to. Rebecca’s knowledge and guidance of the situation is magnificent, and half the time she’s influencing the situation without Randall even noticing.
If there’s one theme for this ride, it’s that Rebecca Pearson knows precisely when to pick a battle and when it’ll be more effective to wait in the wings and choose a different moment. She doesn’t insist that Randall talk about it when he brushes aside his own cruel joke about Kate making all the big decisions. And she doesn’t lead with her suggestion that they let Deja be for the night even after implying that Randall may not be much help at this juncture. She waits until after they stop for lunch, slows the pace by reminiscing about Scholastic book club reading lists, and only makes that suggestion after Deja has made contact to confirm that she’s safe and sound in Boston. (“Give her a little bit of space to figure this out. Just for a night. She said we shouldn’t worry about her, so try to trust that.”)
It’s easy, historically, to underestimate Rebecca. And lord knows she’s had her flaws, with Randall especially. But that woman has been carrying around “Five Fun Facts about Controversial Councilman Pearson” and a copy of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing for at least a full weekend and it is only now – when she’s found herself alone with her son, in a bar with a sticky floor and time to kill – that she brings them out to remind Randall that she’s always on his side, whether he sees her there or not. Because, and I’ll say it again, she knows exactly when to pick her moment. She knows her family better than anyone will ever understand, and Randall is at the top of that list. Which means she knows not to push about the can being kicked by Randall and Jae-Won, because she knows he’ll tell her when he’s ready. Which he does. Immediately.
Rebecca knows the impact she’s had on Randall throughout his life, for better or worse. She knows the beauty of them sitting together when he was little, reading every Friday. She knows how special it is that her teenage son would call her just before 11pm to check in after a very different Thanksgiving, to tell her he bought her their favorite smiley face cookies without even really saying anything. She knows he didn’t go to the college he wanted because of their family’s tragedy, and his sense of responsibility to her. She knows that he stepped up far too soon to act as her caretaker through the trauma of that tragedy. And she knows that while he means it with every fiber of his being when he responds that she never held him back, that she actually has. Not maliciously. But honestly. So of course she couldn’t ask him to be in charge in the case of Miguel’s death. She watched her son carry her and his siblings through the unimaginable once. She couldn’t – wouldn’t – do it again.
Because the fact is, Randall had been doing that work his whole life. He was doing it as a kiddo, knowing that his parents wouldn’t play with him in the pool until and unless he managed to tag his brother in for a game. He was certainly doing it as a teen, getting the three of them out of a night in jail by telling the cop, flat-out, that “I’ve been trying to carry this family on my back for the past two years and I don’t know if I’m doing it well, but if we break tonight, if my mom has to get a call that her three children are in trouble, there’s a very real chance we won’t make it.” He did it in a million other ways, large and small. And he’d keep doing it for the rest of his life, until and unless Rebecca drew a line in the sand. Because it would HAVE to be Rebecca. No one else could free him up for that fundamental shift.
And with that shift, combined with all the rest of all he’s learned and struggled through and discovered, comes a distinct freedom. To be himself, unfettered. To take a call from the retiring Senator, knowing that it will likely end in a race for that same Senator’s seat. One that he knows in his bones he’d win. And while that’s highly dramatic and moving and somehow a completely perfect endgame for one Randall Pearson, it also frees him up with his own family. Rebecca settles Randall right before getting out of the car to pick up Deja, who called to ask him to come of her own volition the next morning. Without that reminder to take a breath, Randall may not have been able to approach these two heartbroken teens in the right headspace. But WITH Rebecca’s quiet guiding hand, he’s able to be exactly what both of them need.
Deja and Malik’s relationship ending right now does feel more like a plot device than I’d like it to; but there’s enough seeded here to sell it. And more than anything else, the thing that makes it work is that Malik has been doing this thinking on his own. And that we know he’s the kind of kid who WOULD do that thinking on his own. Who would come back to Boston after their grand plan went awry, take a beat, and realize that it’s not right. That they’re not right. So no, he doesn’t do this “because” of Randall, and yes, Randall’s suggestion was out of line in the first place. But regardless of all that, Malik and Randall deserved the opportunity to honor the unique relationship that they formed and I’m really grateful they got it.
And as for Deja? She’s the kind of kid who’d come to it on her own, too, the moment she was given enough space to see it through for herself and no one else. Deja has always needed Randall to trust her, first and foremost, and that need is never stronger than in this transition into adulthood. By leaving her to her own devices, trusting that she’d be okay, and showing up the moment she asked him to, Randall proved once again that he’s got her back in the way SHE needs. These are both good kids, and it’s a perfect parting, whether they come back together or not.
Once everyone’s safely back in Philly, Rebecca and Miguel head back out west, and the stage is nearly set for their big anniversary party. (Which will, we know, end badly thanks to yet another cooking appliance related incident.) Before we all close out, there’s one last check in with each of our Big Three: Kevin, who’s secure in his newly forming mission. Randall, who gives Jae-Won the all clear to meet with the Senator Monday morning. And Kate – who returns to Toby’s apartment to clearly state that no, she will not be moving to San Francisco. “Not with where we are right now. I’m sorry.”
Colors of the Painting
- This final installment was directed beautifully by Justin Hartley. And not to take away from Justin himself, but I have got to celebrate all three of these cast members for coming together so skillfully. There have been many overlapping plots in This Is Us over the years, and some have been directed better than others. This was a high water mark with a significant degree of difficulty, and that’s before you account for how much Justin, Mandy and Milo all brought to the table as people who have lived with these characters for six years. Bravo to all three of them.
- Every damn time we saw Rebecca in that pool, her look slayed. The earrings! Can you even!
- “And it’s Thanksgiving, we knew there was gonna be drama.”
- I was tense the whole time Randall was talking to that cop, but once they’re safely in the diner, Niles Fitch absolutely laid me out with his delivery of “I just asked him to look at you two, to really look at you, and tell me if he thought you guys would last one night in jail. He did NOT!”
- Listen, I have just got to ask… that cabin is in the MIDDLE of the WOODS. A location that has been well established plot wise. So where exactly did Deja GO in the middle of the night, and how exactly did she manage it alone? I’m imagining some sort of elaborate car ordering situation but it really does bend plausibility even in the age of lyft and uber.
- Our musical selection this week is extremely on the nose in every possible way, and still, I love it. Take a moment to enjoy Yusuf/Cat Stevens and “Where Do The Children Play.”
What did you think of “Every Version of You”? Let us know in the comments.