Randall and William take a road trip to Memphis on the Feb. 21 episode of ‘This Is Us.’ William knows the end is near, but he wants to teach Randall a few lessons of life while there’s still time left. The episode is one of the finest hours in television history.
Let’s face it, Randall hasn’t had it easy these past few months. The stress of his dying father and juggling work and family finally pushed Randall to the breaking point in the last episode. After Kevin ran to his side and ditched his play, Randall was hospitalized for 5 days.
Randall is ready to leave to go on a cross-country road trip with William to Memphis. Understandably, Beth is worried about how much Randall can handle right now. Randall swears he’s OK. Randall knows he’s on borrowed time with William and wants to do this one last thing for him.
Before they leave, William stops by the girls’ room to say goodbye. It may be the last time. Life is unfair, so he’s not taking any chances. Randall and William head out to Memphis. When Randall starts to get a little anxious about directions, William throws the maps out the window. “Just drive, son,” he says. “We’ll get there.”
While on the road, William starts singing “You Are My Sunshine,” the song his mother used to sing to him when he was young. His father died before he was born, so his mother raised him on her own. His mother eventually leaves Memphis to go take care of family in Pittsburgh. “It’s time to spread your wings,” she tells him when he questions whether or not he should go with her.
William and his mom stay in touch by writing back and forth. He stays busy by working on music with his cousin Ricky, played by Brian Tyree Henry. They form a cover band, and they’re really good. Then William gets a call from his mom.
She’s sick. Very sick. He refuses to leave her side. She feels guilty for keeping him from his life in Memphis. She tells him to live some sort of a life while he’s here and he does. When he steps on the bus, he crosses paths with Randall’s birth mother, Laurel. She helps William take care of his mom, but she quickly gets wrapped up in drugs. William’s mom gets sicker and eventually dies. While grieving the loss of his beloved mother, William falls down into the abyss of addiction.
Father To Father
William is able to get Randall to talk about his breakdown. “It was a shock to see you like that,” William admits. Randall always looks so together, but he puts so much pressure on himself and keeps it hidden so no one knows what he’s going through. Randall confesses that Jack helped keep his anxiety in check. His father always knew what to do.
William asks Randall what Jack was like. “Larger than life, I guess,” Randall says. “He had this really great laugh.” William also asks where Jack is buried. Randall reveals that Jack is cremated, and Kate has his ashes. However, the family spread some of Jack’s ashes at a tree at his favorite park, so that’s his official resting place. William decides that he wants to visit to pay his respects and doesn’t want to wait another minute.
They go to the tree and William sits on a nearby bench to talk to Jack alone. “Thank you,” he says. “For doing what I couldn’t. For raising him to be the man he is. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you, brother. I would have like to have heard that laugh. I would have liked to meet my son’s father.”
Seriously, if Ron Cephas Jones isn’t nominated for this scene alone, there is something wrong with the world. This is just acting at its finest.
Randall and William make it to Memphis. Randall drives to William’s old house. They go inside and William pulls out a brick from the fireplace to find hidden treasure he stashed away decades ago. After a brief trip down memory lane, William and Randall explore the city. They eat good, go to the barber shop, walk down the street, and end up at Melvin’s Place.
His cousin is still there after all these years. William left Memphis and never came back. Ricky’s held a grudge ever since. But life’s too short to hold grudges. At the end of the day, they’re family and William is dying. Ricky asks William to play and it’s as if no time has passed. Randall is able to meet his extended family and let loose a little.
A Final Act Of Love
The next morning, William can barely breathe. Randall rushes him to the hospital. The doctor admits that it’s a miracle William made the trip. He’s only got a few hours to live. Randall is desperate to get him home, but William is going to die in Memphis, which was his intention all along.
“You knew you weren’t come home,” Randall says to William in the hospital room. Yes, William knew. He hands Randall a book of poems titled Poems for My Son. Randall is worried about the girls, but William already said goodbye. “I want them to remember looking up at me, not down,” he says.
Before he slips away, William has a few words of wisdom for his only son. “Roll all your windows down, Randall,” he says. “Crank up the music. Grow out that fro. Let someone else make your bed.”
Okay, I’m full on sobbing at this point. Unlike what happened to Jack, William has the opportunity to say everything he wants to Randall before he dies. “You deserve everything, Randall,” he continues. “My beautiful boy. My son.”
Just give Ron and Sterling K. Brown their Emmys now…
William knows he’s been through some tough times, but his mother and Randall have made it all worth it. He’s scared to die, though. To know that you’re no longer going to be a living, breathing human on this earth must be a terrifying feeling. Randall does what Jack used to do to him when he was scared. He holds William’s head in his hands and breathes with him. William passes away peacefully and with his son by his side. William may be dead, but he’ll always hold a special place in our hearts.
Randall makes the trip back home alone. Earlier, he complained that he hadn’t gotten to see the ducks with William. On the road, he sees a group of duck walking across the road, a sign from William that he’s here, just now physically. That’s when Randall decides to roll his windows down for the rest of the ride home.
HollywoodLifers, what did you think of tonight’s This Is Us? Let us know!