This Is Us: “The Trip”
(Episode 1.09)NBCUniversal TV Reviews This Is Us
After the revelations of “Pilgrim Rick,” we find Randall pacing his bedroom, compiling a list of all the ways his mother has wronged him throughout his thirty-six years of life. He’s devastated, confused and, above all, angry. His childhood, his adolescence—none of it makes sense to him anymore, knowing what he knows now. All the times he stopped black strangers to check for traits he could match to his own, all the times he imagined his real father and what he may be like—he feels foolish now, betrayed, knowing that Rebecca simply watched as her son struggled with his identity, his sense of belonging, for so long. All the fond memories of his childhood are now tainted by the one lie Rebecca never even let her husband in on. It comes as no surprise that Randall would want to escape for a while; I just didn’t expect for him to make it all the way to the dark side of the moon. Obviously, neither did Randall.
“The Trip” shows the big three together as adults for the first time, which was a nice touch given the circumstances. Outraged over the fact Rebecca has decided to sell the family cabin (presumably the cabin they spent Thanksgiving in) Kate, Randall and Kevin decide to head out there for a little get-away. I assumed this was going to be a show of fraternal solidarity, an environment for them to reconnect in, but it wasn’t quite that. Kevin and Kate are still very much wrapped up in their own dilemmas, and while they sympathise with Randall, they don’t really offer much in terms of consolation, nor do they really show him the time of day. On top of that, the whole idea of a strictly family getaway was spoiled by Kevin inviting Olivia, who showed up with two surprise guests in tow: her ex, Asher (Nick George), and the playwright, Sloane (Milana Vayntrub).
While Kevin is busy trying to impress Olivia and her hipster sidekicks, and Kate is starring daggers at her brother’s potential girlfriend, Randall unknowingly helps himself to half a ‘shroom smoothie Asher had left in the fridge with the intention of “opening up his mind” at some point during the day. Their reaction is concerned at first, but upon finding Randall staring into space outside of the cabin, they figure he’ll be fine left to his own devices and retreat back into the cabin. Now, I’m sorry but, who does that? Doesn’t matter whether you’re fifteen or thirty-six, you don’t leave your brother out in the woods tripping balls on ‘shrooms, probably for the first time ever—that just goes against the code of all psychedelic experiences and, well, family priorities. I wasn’t impressed by Randall’s trip, but Kevin and Kate’s lack of support really took the cake.
Randall’s hallucinations seemed a bit far-fetched; if his visions of and conversations with Jack were just a projection of his inner emotional state, fair enough. But if writer Dan Fogelman and director Uta Briesewitz were trying to pass this off as his actual experience, perhaps peyote or ayahuasca would have been the better choice in terms of authenticity. Nevertheless, “The Trip” allows Randall to tap into his subconscious and his feelings of being unwanted in a very New Age manner; the mushrooms didn’t help him find peace with it just yet, but they did steer him towards some important revelations.
Although Kate was right to question Olivia’s motives with regard to Kevin, her attitude throughout the entire board game session is highly unlikeable. Her feelings may have been driven by a need to protect her brother, but it all comes across as an embarrassing fit of skinny-girl jealousy. It sounds harsh, I know, but Kate’s mind is limited to nothing other than weight concerns, so when she’s confronted with a slim, attractive lady, she seems to want to find reasons to hate her, when really she’s just hating on herself. When Kate confronts her, Olivia is quick to mirror my sentiments in last week’s review: She, too, thinks that Kate’s greatest fear is that she’s miserable—with or without the weight.
Although I enjoyed Olivia’s snobbish, complicated character at first, it no longer feels real. She’s trying really hard to be an asshole. Sure, everyone has exes, but to bring Asher along to Kevin’s house and proceed to snuggle and share intimacies in front of him—what exactly does she get off on? What’s her spiel? She came from a dysfunctional family, but does that excuse her behavior in terms of her relationship with Kevin, or with men in general? Not really. Unless the show plans on fleshing out her character a bit more, I think I’m quite happy to see Kevin pursue something with Sloane instead.
Flashbacks to Jack and Rebecca reveal just how much they worried about Randall’s need to understand his background and heritage. When Jack broaches the subject with Yvette, she suggests Randall needs strong, black role models in his life leading the Pearsons to enroll him in a judo class led by Ray (Aaron D. Spears). But Jack doesn’t seem to think this is enough and tries to persuade Rebecca into finding Randall’s biological father. She eventually considers the possibility of letting William into Randall’s life, but upon meeting with him and seeing his face light up at the mere possibility of spending time with his son, she bolts, fearing her worst nightmare—losing her son—may become a reality. Her decision may not have been right, but it was the only way she knew to protect her family, and if there’s one thing Randall learned from his trip, it’s that he needs to find it in his heart to forgive her—just not quite yet.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.