Randall’s therapist makes him think about what life would have been like if Jack had survived the fire and he finally faces his feelings about Rebecca.
What would life have been like for Randall if Jack had survived the fire? That’s what his therapist makes him think about in the March 17 episode of This Is Us. In Randall’s mind, Jack escaped the fire with only minor burns and minimal smoke inhalation. He’s alive and well. After the ashes have settled, everything has been put in perspective for Rebecca. She ends up telling Jack that she met Randall’s birth father when he was a baby. Rebecca decides to tell Randall about it. Randall is so angry with his mother and wants to go find William by himself. Jack says he’ll go with him. Jack is so understanding of what Randall is going through.
Randall welcomes William and Jack into his home. Randall asks William about his biological mother. William tells him that Laurel is no longer alive. Despite leaving him at the firehouse, William stresses to Randall, “You were never not wanted.” William shows Randall the book of poems he wrote for him. When Randall wants to go back again to see William, Jack wants him to cool it a bit. He William might still be using. “Dad, you’re an addict, too,” Randall says. Jack can’t argue with that, so he takes William with him to AA. Randall gets to know William, as well as Jack. Randall ends up staying close to home and attends Carnegie Mellon instead of going to Howard University.
Despite his newfound relationship with William, Randall is harboring some bad feelings towards Rebecca about keeping this secret. At Carnegie Mellon, Randall still meets Beth. At a family dinner, things are still awkward with Rebecca and Randall. Randall is really holding a grudge big time. Beth has a “come to Jesus” meeting with Randall. “You need to forgive her,” she tells him. Life is too short not to forgive Rebecca. Randall follows Beth’s lead and mends his relationship with his mother.
Randall and Beth’s trajectory says pretty much the same. At their wedding, Jack makes a speech and William is there as well. Jack and William are there for all the big moments. When William gets stomach cancer, they manage to catch it early. Where this version ends is when Jack tells Randall that Rebecca’s memory is getting worse.
The therapist stops Randall. This version is too perfect. She wants him to be honest. She tells him to try again. What would have scared him the most if his father did survive? This time around, Jack isn’t as forgiving as he was in the first version. He’s furious that Rebecca lied to him and Randall for 17 years. “I can’t even look at you right now,” Jack says to her. Randall overhears their conversation. When Randall and Jack go to see William, William refuses to acknowledge Randall. Randall is furious with his mother for holding this secret and doesn’t forgive her for it. Randall winds up going to Howard University and never meets Beth. Kevin didn’t pursue acting. He works for his dad.
At Kevin and Sophie’s wedding, it’s revealed that Randall is a professor. He’s kind of a ladies’ man. Kate has two daughters with a guy named Ethan. Randall’s relationship with Kevin and Kate is not close at all. His relationship with Rebecca is worse. When Randall receives a box of William’s old things that shows William did care about him, Randall tosses it all in the trash. Jack calls him to come home for Thanksgiving. He thinks it’s time to forgive Rebecca because she’s not well. Randall races home and hugs his mother, forgiving her once and for all.
“I need you to acknowledge that even if your dad did survive, your life could have gone a million different ways,” Randall’s therapist says. She wants Randall to admit that he can’t control every situation. She continues to ask him tough questions, like what makes him think he could have stopped Jack from going inside the house? Randall says he should have been at the hospital with Jack and Rebecca. He could have been there when Jack had his heart attack. The therapist fires back that there’s a possibility that Randall couldn’t have saved him then.
Randall thinks that just knowing he tried to save Jack would have helped him process his father’s death because he did it with William. Even though Randall thinks he’s life has been mostly shaped by his fathers, his therapist says it all goes back to his mothers. Randall tells his therapist that he never knew his birth mother and he forgave Rebecca for keeping him from William. His therapist points out that in both scenarios of Randall’s alternate lives, Rebecca tells the truth about William.
“You’re looking for someone like your mother to process her, what’s she’s done, her illness,” she says. She knows that Randall doesn’t “have all the time in the world to heal from the wounds you have from” Rebecca but thinks he should talk about them with her. When he’s home from therapy, he calls Rebecca and opens up about everything. He confesses that he let go of things she kept from him and never resented her because he knew it would be painful for her.
He asks her to do the clinical trial. “I know you don’t want to, but you have to,” he pleads. He doesn’t want to wish he could have done more for her. “I can’t live with that, even if you can,” he continues. At therapy, he refuses to bring up what Rebecca did with William. “I won’t reopen that wound. I’ve already lost 3 parents,” Randall says. “I know that losing my mother would break me. I can’t lose her. I will do anything to keep that from happening. I’ll do whatever it takes.” After Randall’s conversation, Rebecca agrees to do the trial.