Tonight, This Is Us season 3 episode 17 took you on a journey — we just can’t say that we’re all too pleased with the final destination.
Because of the road that got us there, though, much of what transpired tonight made perfect sense. “R & B” was the story of Randall and Beth, the loving couple and also the people with problems. In this world, you can be both. There are some extreme highs, but at the same time also low lows. For Randall, so much of his life and love are based on ambition. He wants to be that guy with the perfect first date, with the vows that go down in the history books, and also be the politician and perfect man to every single person in the world. All of this is admirable, but it’s hard to maintain this happiness when staring in the distance makes you miss what is directly in front of you.
For Randall during this episode, his biggest flaw became all the more clear: He doesn’t know how to just live in the moment. He can’t just chill out, grab a ginger beer and some nachos, and just enjoy the day. Everything has to be elevated, which is why Beth almost didn’t want to date him and almost why he didn’t get that “Yes” to his proposal. He had to find a way to get on his level and do things on her terms in addition to his own. This is why he never saw her for what she wanted in terms of his own pursuits — he wasn’t being a jerk intentionally, but they just formed a cycle that went around and around throughout the marriage.
This cycle goes a little something like this: Randall and Beth hit a snag, and then Randall extracts himself from said snag through his charm. It’s not manipulative, but it just happens and it happens every time. That’s how they end up with Kevin and William at their home or how they end up with him running for office and her doing whatever she can to support him. The rubber band just broke with her starting of her career as a dance teacher. We’ve hit the snap and there’s no snapping it back now. We genuinely don’t think Randall is setting out to be malicious, but for the first time in ages, we’re at this point where Beth isn’t giving in. He’s short-circuiting, malfunctioning, and falling into jerk mode as an escape. Beth isn’t being selfish; she’s actually just trying to course-correct from being selfless. Can you argue that she could’ve been more appreciative at times of some of his notable pursuits early on her relationship? Sure, but she’s not perfect — listen to every single second of her vows and you’ll know about how she feels about this man. How she loves him and how she is going to love him until the ends of the earth. Then, remember where the two are now and realize that this love can’t just repair where they are. Time can, realizations can, and understanding that the world is changing can.
Randall and Beth aren’t for-sure getting a divorce as of yet, at least not in this episode. However, that is still that destination beyond the current one. They’ve gotta find a way to swerve, or at least try to stop, appreciate what they’ve got, and realize that they can turn around and find a happy medium.
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In terms of substance, this was obviously not the most jam-packed This Is Us episode ever. Instead of it being a story of events, it was a story of one event, a fight that led to Randall deciding to leave to Philadelphia where Beth made a dig that was too personal. Everything else was context explaining who these people are, why they love each other, and the reality that they are falling apart because of a foundation that was shaky from many years of wear and tear. There’s still hope for the future — but it’s not going to be easy to repair the damage that has been done. Much praise is needed to the This Is Us writing staff for a story that is so real and so painful, plus also the performances of Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson.
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