One thing This Is Us does really well is special episodes. Typically whenever a new character is introduced, they get the majority of the episode explaining their backstories, like we saw with William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones) and others.
Last week, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) found out his birth mother had a more complicated story than he imagined, and decided to take a trip to meet Hai Lang (Vien Hong), who was close with his birth mother.
This week, the audience gets the tale of Randall’s birth mother Laurel throughout her young life (Calah Lane), middle age (Jennifer C. Holmes) and a few years before she died (Angela Gibbs).
When Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) go to meet Hai, he explains that he and Laurel were in love. Then, Hai spends the rest of the episode telling them about Laurel’s story.
She grew up in a well-respected family in New Orleans, with her brother as her best friend and her Aunt May (LisaGay Hamilton) as her guiding post. She grew up, her brother died in the war and she was set up with a nice man who worked at the bank with her father.
It wasn’t until she met young Hai (Kane Lieu) that she decided to runaway from her perfect little life and pursue what she wanted. The two of them fell in love, but then when she decided to run away to Chicago, he said he wouldn’t go because he had to take care of his parents.
When she left, she met William and they had Randall, and shortly after William left and took Randall, Laurel was revived from her overdose. However, she was then arrested for five years due to drug possession.
Once she finished her sentence, she didn’t know where she could find William and her son, so she took a one way train back to New Orleans to move back in with her aunt. It was there she found Hai again, but he was married and had a baby on the way. The two shared only longing looks and pensive waves for decades.
However just two years before Laurel died, after Hai’s wife had died and his children were grown up and moved out, the two reconciled and spent all of their time together. Laurel told Hai that she was diagnosed with cancer, and they spent all of the time she had left loving each other, eating all of Hai’s cooking and learning about what the other person had done in the past years they weren’t together.
Hai told Randall that he felt honored to do all of this for Laurel – telling her story to her son and showing him how much she loved him and thought about him every day. Randall reacted well, and was pleasantly surprised when Hai told him that Laurel wanted him to have her house on the lake.
Randall feels sad that he never got to know his birth mother, so he goes to the lake to let out his pain the way she used to, and he has a moment with her spirit where he feels her tell him that she loves him.
“Something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a long time,” Laurel said. “I love you. I love you.”
Then, as Beth and Randall are driving home, Randall decides he wants to patch things up with Kevin (Justin Hartley) rather than letting their feud get the best of them.
However, when he calls Kevin, he’s in a panic because Madison (Caitlin Thompson) is giving birth in California while Kevin is still in Vancouver and can’t get back in time. The episode ends on this cliffhanger, letting the audience believe that in one week, Kevin will officially be a father.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.