This Is Us Episode 9 Recap: Smoothies Anyone?

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
We’re now only a week away from the mid-season finale of This Is Us. While I'm already wondering how I’m going to replace my Tuesday night ritual, I’m also slightly relieved that my emotions will finally catch a break. Many people say that This Is Us tugs at your heartstrings. For me, this show has tugged, stretched, and tangled mine. Here’s what happened in episode 9.

Olivia doesn’t know “meet the family” etiquette
When Randall, Kevin, and Kate decide to visit their family cabin as an escape from an intense Thanksgiving, Kevin takes it upon himself to invite Olivia. Don’t you just hate when people do that? Olivia takes it upon herself to invite playwright Sloane and Asher, her ex. Let that sink in. Olivia invites her ex to the family cabin of the guy she likes and just shared a passionate kiss with less than a week ago. I’m pretty sure that’s prohibited according to the “meet the family” playbook.

Luckily, Kate wastes no time calling Olivia out on the bold move, even as Kevin tries to defend it. In a private conversation, Kate confronts Olivia about her intentions with Kevin. But oblivious Olivia (I think that’s my official new nickname for her) still refuses to chill. She responds to the challenge by attacking Kate’s self-esteem, calling her jealous, and claiming that Kate is afraid that she’ll "get the surgery and nothing will change.” The audacity of her! Even when one of your lover’s family members is aggressive or rude, proper protocol says brush it off and report your concerns to the person who invited you. You absolutely don’t get all in their business about weight loss surgery. Especially after you show up with your ex.

Kevin might be clueless, but he knows when to speak up
Olivia and Asher find the Pearson family cabin to be “quaint.” It’s clear that the sentimental wholesomeness of the place is amusingly corny to them, perhaps even pitiful. They feel the same way watching a young Kate perform in a homemade family video. The couple cuddle on the couch (again, not cool, Liv) idly entertained by the whole situation and Kevin suddenly snaps.

He immediately checks Asher for making fun of young Kate (something that more fat allies need to do) and sets them both straight about their condescending attitude toward his family. “I’m not sure you’ve experienced anything real your entire life. I feel sorry for you,” he says to Olivia. She takes that as the cue for her and Asher to leave. Thank god.

The next morning Kate finds Kevin in bed with Sloane.

Rebecca & Jack struggle with Randall’s identity
Not-so-fun fact: one of the critiques that people of color have about white families that adopt kids of color is the intentional ignorance of their kids’ unique cultural heritage. Thankfully, This Is Us addressed this issue head on in episode 9. The flashback scenes show Randall desperately seeking a connection to his biological family, using traits like tongue rolling from strangers as clues that he may be close to finding them. Taking advice from the Black parent of one of Randall’s friends, Rebecca and Jack enroll Randall in a martial arts class led by a Black man. In a tender scene where Randall is initiated, the sensei vocalizes the responsibilities of fathers to support and nurture their sons. “We are your community,” the sensei says. “When things get hard, we will be the ones to hold you up.” During the speech, Jack literally holds young Randall on his back while doing push ups (because masculinity?).

Later, Jack and Rebecca argue about whether or not to hire someone to find Randall’s biological parents. Rebecca voices her fear that Randall’s parents might want to take him back since they didn’t go through official adoption channels, even though she is secretly in contact with William. When Jack and Rebecca agree that they want to be enough for Randall, she writes William, telling him that she has decided not to allow him to meet his son. It is this heartbreaking letter that Randall found in episode 8.

Randall struggles with reality
Before Asher and Olivia’s dramatic exit, the guests discover that Randall has unknowingly consumed a large amount of Asher’s smoothie, made with psychedelic mushrooms. You’d think that Randall accidentally drinking too much 'shroom smoothie would offer some of the same comic relief found in previous episodes of This Is Us. But Randall’s hallucinations don’t lessen the burden of his inner crisis, they cause him to confront the pain of his mother’s betrayal head on.

In his drugged state, Randall remains outside the cabin alone and consults with his dead father about Rebecca’s secret. Between conversations with Jack, Randall revisits childhood moments with his family that lend him some clarity on the complexity of his mother’s situation. While he is still riddled with grief about Rebecca’s decision to keep her knowledge of William hidden from the rest of the family, Randall suddenly empathizes with his mother.

Trying to balance compassion and anger, a now sober Randall confronts Rebecca. But instead of reading his penned list of reasons he’s mad at her, Randall says, “You kept a secret for 36 years. It must have been incredibly lonely.” Rebecca bursts into tears. So do I. She reaches for Randall but he backs away with the line that sets us up for next week’s episode. “Not yet. See you at Christmas.”

Here is an alternative title for This Is Us: This Is Deep. Too damn deep!
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