Sibling rivalries are a natural part of any family unit. In This Is Us, there’s always been tensions between Randall and Kevin. Throughout the seasons we’ve seen these two go through hell and back, presumably coming out stronger the other side. With Rebecca’s mental health acting as a volatile catalyst for their problems, all the issues from the past rise up to the surface as we see this splintered relationship take a turn for the worst.
We begin episode 16 with Randall skyping through to Kevin and Kate, telling them he’s heading up to the premiere in New York because he’s found a clinical trial that will take Rebecca on and he wants to talk to her about it. It’s situated in St. Louis but it would mean 9 months worth of treatment. Reluctantly, Kevin agrees to be united on this front, as long as the final decision is their Mother’s to make.
In the past, Rebecca and Jack pack their stuff up and prepare to head off to New York, with Jack allowing them to do one activity each while there. They ride the subway but unfortunately their stop is closed so they end up going one too far and subsequently wind up lost in the middle of Queens.
Listening to Rebecca’s instructions, the group finally make it to the Natural History museum and after wandering around a little, they head off to eat food in the hotel. Jack encourages Rebecca to go it alone to her museum but unfortunately she doesn’t make it in time as it’s closed when she gets there.
As she heads home, Jack has an idea and decides to take the family out on a horse-drawn carriage – an idea from Home Alone 2 which Kevin loves.
In the second timeline with the kids as teenagers, Randall and Kevin head up to New York to see the latter performing a monologue. Kate however, stays behind at home. After the show, Randall has issues giving Kevin praise and tells him he was “okay”.
At the restaurant, Kevin and Randall start to fall out as Kevin sets Rebecca up with a date. Outside, she decides that having the kids is enough but agrees to head up through the park with Kirby nonetheless. In the restaurant meanwhile, tempers flare as Randall and Kevin fall out over what’s best for Rebecca.
In the present, Kevin gifts Rebecca a sparkly dress to wear for the red carpet and allows her to walk up with her. Randall arrives and Kevin tells him they should hold off talking about the clinical trial until the following day, given how happy Rebecca is.
The red carpet event begins and Kevin shows off Rebecca to the world. After the movie, Kevin heads off to speak to his co-star as Rebecca’s Alzheimer’s flares up without him near. It’s just the opportunity Randall was waiting for and he interjects, taking the opportunity to mention the clinical trial in St Louis.
Kevin notices from afar and with a concerned look, confronts Randall as the two brothers clash again. Given their history, this has been a long time coming. They fight over Kevin’s career and he bites back at him – telling Randall that he’s the one paying for Rebecca’s care. “Screw you Kevin,” Randall utters and walks away.
Rebecca heads off to a museum she remembered as a child and as the boys follow her there, she tells them her life has been a series of “next times”, leading her to tell Randall she’s not going to do the clinical trial and instead wants to make up for lost time. Randall clearly has a hard time accepting this.
After the museum trip, Randall blames Kevin for Rebecca disagreeing with him before telling him he thinks about Jack going back in for the dog during the fire every single day. As we jump back in time we see an alternative past where Randall stops Jack from going in the house. Finally it’s clear what the trigger point for Randall’s problems are as the episode ends.
This rivalry between Kevin and Randall has always bubbled away in the background through the years but as we see through this episode, the catalyst for a lot of this stems from their Mother and what’s best for her. Both Randall and Kevin are polar opposites in this respect, with Kate the odd one out and reduced to background noise in the face of these two strong personalities.
As we gear up for the season finale, numerous questions remain over how this one will end but the returning focus to the Big Three has really helped the show add some additional layers to the established relationships this year. Given what we know in the future, next week’s episode “After The Fire” may well be one of the more important ones this year and certainly a must-watch!