This Is Us is at its strongest when it focuses on one character and weaves a story around that person. This week that honour falls to Randall whom we return to during the dramatic cliffhanger that gripped the last episode. Randall has always had a tendency to bottle stress up until it implodes and this week sees that threaten to consume him again as he reaches breaking point.
Episode 11 of This Is Us begins in the past, with Jack and Rebecca putting the kids to bed while Rebecca takes some medicine and falls asleep, letting Jack deal with the Big Three alone. Randall awakens and tells Jack he’s scared which is the beginning of his past issues with anxiety.
This brings us back to the present day where Randall confronts the thief and offers him money. He promises the intruder that he won’t be able to get past him and after some deliberation, he snatches up the money and bolts. In the morning, the police inform Randall that the thief may well come back the next night. Rattled, he heads upstairs and talks to Beth alone and tells her to take the girls and stay in a hotel while he stays behind to install the security system.
That evening he phones Kevin and tells him what happened before brushing it aside and heading back to work. Once there, Malik’s father arrives and talks about the housing bill but a distracted Randall fails to hear his concerns and keeps checking the security footage back home.
In the past, Kate has issues on the phone with her boyfriend while Kevin returns home with Sophie. Unfortunately, given how much is going on Randall doesn’t get a chance to vent to Rebecca. These bottled emotions spill over during a night with Beth too, as he sees visions of his family having dinner without him.
The next morning, Randall and Beth notice that his cuff-links and her earrings are missing from their room. The thief was in their room. Cracking under the pressure, Beth tells Randall they need to manage this issue together. Before they can get a chance to breathe, things go from bad to worse during the town hall meeting as a distracted Randall fails to address the people and starts to spiral while his phone blinks with notifications from the security system. As the people murmur, Randall asks them to trust him.
Darnell meets Randall the next day and speaks to him about the break-in. Malik told him what happened and he tells Randall that he’s here to talk if he ever needs to. Randall smiles and brushes it aside his concerns aside and heads out for a run. As he does, we see flashes of his past where pressure was put on him, which explodes into rage in the present when he sees a woman being mugged. He hits the man but in doing so, breaks his arm in the process.
Back home he tells Beth he’s tired and lies down. However, the council workers have pegged him as a hero and applaud him as he arrives at the office. It’s all too much though and he phones Kevin at home, sobbing, and they talk about the situation. It turns out Kevin has also had a pretty wild week but we don’t get a chance to see what happened as the camera pans across to a woman beside him and we end the episode.
Given this is part 1 of a three-parter, I’d imagine next episode we’ll follow Kevin and see what he’s been up to during the time of Randall’s issues at home. For now though, This Is Us delivers another really strong episode here, one that does a fantastic job building up Randall’s character and offering up a platform for Sterling K. Brown to show once again what a great actor he is.
The ending scenes involving the phone call to Kevin are arguably the strongest and most poignant moments of the entire episode and Sterling does a wonderful job capturing the character in his most raw and emotional form. It’s great stuff and only further illustrates how well this show does at capturing individual characters alongside the overarching plot.
Quite what will happen next though remains to be seen but if this week is any indication, we should be in for quite the bumpy ride.