Saturday, February 1, 2020

This Is Us 4.11: “A Hell of a Week: Part One”

“Look bro, I get it. Us men of a certain shade aren’t used to talking. But that’s therapy, right? Talking.”
- Darnell

This week kicks off the yearly Big Three-centric episodes and we begin with Randall. As we know, he has struggled with panic attacks and anxiety from a very young age. As it turns out, it probably started in his very early childhood when he and his siblings moved to big kid beds and he was convinced there were monsters under the bed. Jack slept on the floor for a while but when he tries to sneak out, Jack tells him that he needs Randall to be strong and brave for him because his siblings are kind of high maintenance. I don’t usually disagree with Jack’s parenting but here I think he set Randall up for a rough time.

The majority of the episode splits between the present and when the Big Three were just out of high school. In the past, Randall is dealing with crazy stress-filled dreams about Jack. He keeps seeing various scenarios where he can’t interact with his family and he’s left standing there yelling at them and nothing happens. Beth tries to support Randall and suggests he see a counselor to deal with the trauma of losing his dad and the stress. He brushes it off. He does, however, agree to go with her to Grief party 9which sounds like a really weird idea but I’m intrigued and kind of sad we won’t get to see it). The reason: the family is gathering to rally around Kate. She’s still seeing Marc (the slime ball abusive boyfriend) and something has happened which puts a damper on celebrating Rebecca’s birthday. If these episodes are like the ones where we saw Jack’s last day from each of their perspectives, I suspect we will finally get to see what happened to Kate.

I’m thinking Randall probably should have gotten therapy a long time ago because he’s not coping well with a lot of things going on in his life right now. He is clearly stressed and anxious about Rebeca’s condition and keeping it from his siblings. I do think it is really unfair of Rebecca to make Randall that information from Kevin and Kate. At the close of the previous episode, Randall went into the kitchen to get some water and was confronted by a figure. At first I thought it was going to be a figment of his imagination like a smoke and soot covered Jack or something but it’s some kid wielding a knife and he’s very real. Randall offers his credit card, tells him the police are on the way and kid takes off.

Now, Randall was totally lying about having a security system or that the police were on the way. The officer who responded to his later call explains that sometimes burglars come back the next night because often families don’t feel safe and they stay in a hotel. Randall isn’t going to leave his home undefended so he sends Beth and the girls to a hotel for the night and he installs a very high-tech security system which ends up consuming a lot of his focus. He’s hyper aware and he isn’t sleeping. He’s got every notification possible on the app for the security system running so he knows when a leaf blows across a sensor. He also freaks out when he comes home and the alarms are going off. Annie opened a window and set off the alarm and Beth couldn’t remember the override code.

The lack of handling his anxiety becomes obvious when he holds a Town Hall with his district to talk about the new housing bill he’s backing that could impact a lot of small business owners. One in particular is Malik’s dad. He shows up when Randall is about to go for a run (to try and manage his anxiety) and points out that the new condos could hike up his rent to a point he couldn’t continue to operate his shop. He also tells Randall that talking helps deal with anxiety and he ended up going to therapy after confiding in a minister for a while (until the minister got tired of giving out free therapy). It is obvious that Randall isn’t into the suggestion, even though I think he really needs it. I understand there is a huge stigma around mental health in the African American community, especially with men, but Randall is going to fall to pieces again and it’s going to be ugly and he needs to get help. It doesn’t help that as he’s out for his run, he sees a woman being mugged and he jumps in and starts being up the attacker (breaking a few bones in his hand in the process).

As Beth and Randall try to get back to normal after the break-in, they realize that the burglar actually was in their bedroom and took a pair of Beth’s earrings and a pair of Randall’s cufflinks. This sends Randall spiraling into bad dream territory again as he imagines worst case scenarios of the burglar hurting Beth. Ultimately, he calls Kevin (who he’d talked to briefly before to let him know what happened). We also learn that Sophie’s call in the last episode was to let Kevin know her mother died so he’s now in Pittsburgh for the funeral. Yeah, that’s not going to end well (or hey, if she’s the baby mama then maybe it is). As Randall breaks down in the bathroom. I guess he’s willing to talk to his brother (sort of) about what’s happening and he asks Kevin just to talk to him, which Kevin says he’s good at doing.

As much as I love Randall, him not being willing to accept help when multiple people suggested he do so is really irritating. Perhaps this whole situation will convince him to go talk to someone who isn’t a member of his family or spouse. Someone who doesn’t already know the Pearson baggage. I have a feeling this show isn’t shy about addressing lots of topical issues and mental health in general is a big one. So here’s hoping they continue with the storyline. I think it was good to see how even though we like to think Randall has it all together, he really doesn’t and he’s fallible, too. Annoyance aside, this does make him human and I love that about this show. It just shows people living their lives and follows you through the good and the bad.

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