Let’s lead with the good news: Randall does not suffer any physical harm from the confrontation with the intruder he encountered in his kitchen at the end of last week’s This Is Us.
But the incident kicks his already heightened anxiety into overdrive, and if you’ve been watching the show from the beginning, you know exactly how rough life becomes for him. This week’s Randall-centric episode follows the city councilman as he tries to pretend that everything is back to normal, even though the combination of the break-in and Rebecca’s illness have him spinning out on the inside.
He goes running. He paces the house in the middle of the night, brandishing a golf club. He rebuffs offers of help. All the while, the pressure builds, culminating in an uncharacteristic show of physical violence and then a very familiar coping mechanism.
Though the hour focuses on Randall, we also get hints at Kate’s troubling past with Marc and Kevin’s intriguing future (?) with an unseen (and likely unclothed) woman. Read on for the highlights of “Hell of a Week: Part One” — and then make sure to check out our post mortem with Sterling K. Brown and our preview with co-showrunners Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker.
‘I NEED YOU TO BE BRAVE’ | This week’s flashbacks kick off on The Big Three’s first night in their big-kid beds. Rebecca, who has a cold, conks out shortly after the trio’s bedtime. So that means Jack is left to handle things when a scared Randall can’t sleep. Papa Pearson dutifully walks his son back to his room and lies on the floor next to his bed for a while. But when Randall reappears in the living room a while later, Jack levels with him: “I need you to be brave,” he says, explaining that Kevin and Kate are more high-maintenance, and he needs at least one of his kids to be easy. (I mean, he doesn’t say it like that, but you get the gist.) Randall, who even at this early age plays by the rules and does what he’s asked, toddles back to bed and stares, terrified, at the ceiling.
Randall’s sleep problems have a resurgence in college, where he is plagued by nightmares about Rebecca in trouble and Jack still alive. Beth, who is now spending some of her nights in his room, gently prods him to talk. “I just feel so helpless, like I have no control over anything,” he admits. She can understand: She had bad dreams after her father passed away, but talking to a therapist helped her feel better. He agrees to attend an on-campus grief group with her, but that plan is dashed — and Randall’s emotional well-being suppressed for the good of the family once more — when Kevin calls. Rebecca has cancelled the birthday dinner she’d planned because “something’s wrong with Kate,” and they’re on their way to pick him up. (Important to note: Earlier in the episode, we’d seen Kate and Marc having a pretty intense fight over the phone.)
A CLOSE CALL | “YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SCARY GUY WHO WAS IN RANDALL’S KITCHEN IN THE LAST EPISODE?” you ask? I’m getting to it! Randall slowly tosses his money clip on the counter and tells the guy to take it and go, because he’s already triggered a silent alarm. (Side note: He hasn’t.) Randall also says that he’s a city councilman, and when he notices the man’s knife, he vows, “If you stay, you will not get past me.” They face off for a few tense moments, then the man grabs the money and runs out the back door while Randall just tries to breathe in shock and relief.
After the police have checked out the home and nothing seems to be missing, they advise Randall to install a security system. The cops also add that home invaders often come back the next night — fun! — so Randall sends Beth and the girls to a hotel. She wants him to come with them, but he reels off a laundry list of things he has to do around the house and then makes jokes about defending their place with Tess’ T-ball bat and “these guns.” It would be a lot funnier if we didn’t know he’s actually crumbling inside. (But it’s still kinda funny.)
As Randall prowls the house a little after 2 that morning, he winds up watching The Great British Baking Show and talking to Kevin. The former Manny is in Pittsburgh for a funeral: Apparently, that call from Sophie in the previous episode was to tell him that her mom died. Randall tells him about the break-in but starts to pull back when Kevin asks a bunch of follow-up questions that force Randall to lie about where he was coming home from the night of the crime.
TOWN HALL HELL | Even after Beth and the girls return, Randall’s sleeplessness doesn’t go away. Jae-won knows something is up with his boss and suggests delaying a potentially contentious town hall meeting with constituents. But Randall is adamant that things continue as scheduled: “I’m not going to let this affect my work.”
The thing is, though, that it does affect his work, starting that morning when Malik’s dad Darnell stops by to discuss the housing bill Randall is supporting. He wants Randall to know that if condos go up in his neighborhood, rents will increase “and that’s going to hurt a lot of hard-working people.” But Randall is so preoccupied with his phone, which is pinging away with notifications from the movement sensors he’s installed at home, that he’s barely listening. And that ticks off Darnell. “We’ll talk at the town hall,” he says, getting up to leave. “Maybe you’ll listen then.”
Randall’s disquiet only grows as the days pass; when he and Beth realize that her topaz earrings and his cufflinks are missing, meaning the robber was in the bedroom while Beth slept (SHUDDER), Randall goes into overdrive. Beth is no less skeeved, but she realizes there’s something more pressing to deal with: She makes her husband stop and acknowledge that everything they’ve got going on “is a lot, for anyone.” She wants both of them to clear their schedules for the next day and have a real conversation about how to manage what’s going on. He agrees.
At the event that night, Randall is scattered and even more distracted by his phone’s notifications. He gets yelled at a lot by his constituents, who aren’t swayed by his vague assertion that they should just trust him. Strangely, though, Darnell doesn’t say much.
BROKEN HAND AND A BREAKDOWN | We find out why the next morning: Malik told his dad about the break-in, and Darnell realizes that Randall is Going Through Some Stuff. He stops by just as Randall’s about to take off on his morning run and gently suggests talking to someone; after all, it helped him. “Us men of a certain shade, we’re not used to talking,” he says. “But that’s therapy, right? Talking.” Randall politely but firmly cuts him off, saying, “Running suits me just fine.”
Does it, though? Because while Randall is out on his run, he sees a man and a woman struggling in a parking lot and barely blinks twice before he’s pulling the guy off her and beating the stuffing out of him. Randall hits the dude so hard, in fact, he breaks his hand. Everyone thinks he’s a hero, but Randall seems dazed, and the enthusiastic welcome he gets at work the next morning sends him running for home ASAP. When he gets there, he shuts himself in his upstairs bathroom, locks the door and falls apart.
Crying, Randall calls Kevin. “I lied, man. I need a catch. I’m not OK,” he sobs, telling his brother that the robber was in the bedroom. “He could’ve done something to Beth,” he says. “He could’ve done something to my girls.” Kev understands immediately, coaching his brother through some slow breathing to try and help him calm down.
Randall begs Kevin just to talk, to distract him. “I’m the guy that’s gonna get you through this,” Kev says, dutifully nattering on about how he’s “kind of in the middle of a whole thing.” When the camera pulls back, we see that he’s in bed… and there’s a woman next to him (though we can’t see who it is). “It’s been a hell of a week,” Kevin says.
Your turn! What did you think of the episode? Who do you think is under the covers next to Kevin? Hit the comments with your thoughts!