The This Is Us fall finale, “Number 3”, brings us to the final installment of the “Big 3” trilogy. Much like how Kevin and Kate’s episodes focused on them, this one focuses primarily on Randall and his family. While the past follows Randall on his first college tour, the present focuses on the end of their journey with Deja. Kevin’s episode had the theme of finding his purpose. Kate’s theme was ultimately being a fighter and falling into her mother’s arms. Randall’s episode has a common them as well – the feeling of being out of place. The conversation is brought up during his college tour. We see it in a flashback with William. Then, those experiences reflect on how Randall decides it’s okay to let Deja go.
Taking place on the same timeline as Kevin and Kate’s 16-year-old selves, Randall is all ready to go on his first college tour to Howard University. He had to convince his dad a little since it’s on one of Kevin’s game days, but Jack ultimately agrees and makes it work. So, they make the four-hour trip to D.C. Once there, they run into one of Randall’s friends that goes to Howard now. He offers to give Randall a more behind the scenes tour with his friends rather than the generic formal tour they came for. Jack ultimately lets his son go without him.
While hanging out with his new friends and getting the inside scoop on the campus, it’s clear that Randall is happy there. He’s found a place where he feels he truly fits in. It suits him well. When in one of the guys’ dorm, Randall asks about there being no white people, and another guy jokes about the soccer team and a few other extracurriculars. The topic then turns to how they all went to predominately white high schools, only causing Randall to realize even more how much he fits in at Howard.
Later, Jack finds Randall with the guys and tells him it’s time to go so they can beat traffic. Randall isn’t ready to leave. He then hesitates to introduce Jack as his dad, which Jack notices and brings up on the drive home. Randall tries to crack a joke saying that it was because he’s old, but Jack knows better. Randall adds that now Jack hopefully understands how Randall feels every day. He feels like he’s always going to feel “off balance”, like everything is always going to be a little more complicated for him.
It’s then that Jack decides to take a little detour. He takes his son to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Washington Monument. There, he confides in his son about his experiences of being drafted and serving in the war. We don’t get to hear all the details that Jack shares with Randall, but apparently, it’s enough to warrant some understanding of what Randall is feeling. He tells Randall that he’s also experienced the feeling of being off balance, but then he found it, lost it again, and found it again. That’s life. He assures Randall that he will find his balance and his place in the world.
Before the discussion can go any further, Jack’s get the page from Kate about Kevin’s life changing game and they have to leave.
In the present, everything is going well. Randall gets excited for Thanksgiving in a few days. He then checks on Deja who is preparing for her presentation on photosynthesis. Randall cracks a lame dad joke that doesn’t land, and he notes how he’s really enjoyed helping her with the project. He assures her that he and Beth will be there for her presentation even though she says they don’t have to. Deja may not be willing to call him “foster dad” just yet, but things have really progressed with these two.
Unfortunately, it seems their time together is coming to an end. They hear some commotion outside, so Randall rushes down to check it out. What he finds is Beth and Shauna (Deja’s mother) arguing. The charges against Shauna have been dropped and she’s there to get her daughter back. The arguing goes back and forth until Deja finally comes out, surprised to see her mother, but happy to see her nonetheless. She manages to talk her mother down and convince her to do things the right way through the social worker. Shauna finally leaves.
The next morning, Randall and Beth discuss the situation with their social worker, Linda. She confirms that the charges were dropped against Shauna. Linda also states that, even though Shauna’s behavior last night was wrong, she’s going to recommend that she regain custody because she seems to have her life together. Randall and Beth argue that Shauna isn’t ready, her unannounced appearance being proof of that, and they guarantee Linda that they will fight back on this.
Randall takes the girls to school and plays off the possibility of Deja going back to her mom. He tells them that everything will be okay, but it’s clear he’s having a bit of trouble believing it himself. On the phone with Beth, she comments how she thought last Thanksgiving was intense. This causes Randall to flashback to when he learned Rebecca knew his birth father his whole life and never told him.
We then see a flashback of William telling Randall about the time he almost came into his life. He recounts how Rebecca showed up at his apartment when Randall was 9, but then quickly left in panic. With his last $20, William followed her to the Pearson home. All he had to do was knock. We see a fantasy sequence of what life could have been like for Randall: William meeting his son and being there for birthdays and holidays. William never knocked, though. He saw three bikes in the yard with ‘Number 1’, ‘Number 2’, and ‘Number 3’ on their plates, and he had no idea which was Randall’s. He came to terms with the fact they had built a life together, one that he had nothing to do with, and he didn’t want to intrude on that and make things complicated. So, he left.
Change of Heart
Before Randall heads to Deja’s presentation, he goes to Shauna’s neighborhood where he sees her showing off a lot of new purple clothes for Deja to her friends and family. Once he gets to the school, he tells Beth, adding that he thinks they have to let her go. Beth agrees as they realize Deja has this whole life that they don’t know about. Randall recalls his love for Pac Man and passing it on to the girls. – He relates it to their current situation, but I didn’t really get it. – The couple then go into the classroom and watch proudly as Deja presents her project, crediting her “foster dad” for helping.
Later that night, it’s time to say goodbye. Shauna thanks Beth and Randall for taking care of her daughter. Beth tells Deja to take care of “that big, beautiful hair and heart of yours” as she hugs her goodbye. It’s Deja and Randall’s goodbye, though, that brings tears to your eyes. She tells him that just because she wants to go home, it doesn’t mean she didn’t like living with them. She understands her mom doesn’t always do the right thing, but she’s cool most of the time. Randall says something about how he knows Deja doesn’t like him touching her. She responds that it’s mostly when she doesn’t see it coming. They hug, and Randall is in tears as Deja and her mom drive off. ☹
Back to Kevin
At the end of the episode, we’re taken back to Kevin’s downfall. We see him show up at Randall’s and hear the news of Kate’s miscarriage again. He and Randall go into the kitchen where Kevin makes himself at home by pouring himself a strong vodka-orange juice. When Randall questions it, Kevin claims he’s just exhausted. Randall asks if he wants to join his phone call to Kate, but Kevin isn’t ready. While Randall goes to make the call, the girls come in, seemingly looking for a bit of comfort over Deja from her uncle. Kevin brushes it off and says he has to go.
The episode cuts back to Randall’s teen years when he and Jack arrive at the hospital. Jack tells Randall, “Things are going to be different for your brother now, but he’s going to be okay.” He goes on to talk about how when one sibling is doing okay, the other is having a hard time. This monologue plays over Kevin speeding and swerving through traffic. Tess pops up in the back seat crying at him to slow down, shocking Kevin. A cop pulls him over and he gets arrested with Tess crying in the back seat.
The episode ends with Beth on the phone, finding out about Kevin getting arrested for a DUI with Tess in the back of the car. Randall walks in and she tells him what’s going on. Randall, “I’ll kill him.” Beth replies, “Not if I kill him first.” Kevin’s spiral is clearly going to be a prominent part of the second half of the season. All I have to say is, I’m not ready for all the emotions that are bound to come. ☹
This Is Us returns January 2, 2018!