This Is Us used a very effective memory/flashback to effectively and realistically explain where Kevin, Kate, and Randall find themselves i...
#ThisIsUs Recap: Swimming Lessons
Jack and Rebecca
The boys are fighting over toys, Rebecca has been trying to read Misery for two years, and Jack can’t fix the A/C, so he decides on a family day at the community pool. Besides, he’s already packed a cooler of soda — he’s managing to stay on the wagon — and Kate’s Care Bears bikini isn’t going to show itself off.
It’s packed, and Jack is on the hunt for chaises. Rebecca applies sunscreen to the kids, albeit very poorly. (But hey, it’s the ‘80s, so I guess the kids are lucky it wasn’t baby oil and a reflective screen.) She also doesn’t know the answer when Randall inquires if he needs sunscreen. Rebecca tries to get Kate to put a shirt on over her bathing suit. When she walks off after declining, Rebecca is positive someone will make fun of Kate, and Jack assures her that it’s just baby fat. They are exhausted trying to keep track of all three kids. “Yep, it’s a war. They got the numbers. We were beat before we started,” Jack surmises.
Kevin begs for his dad’s undivided attention while he’s doing handstands (so not much has changed in 32 years), and suddenly Rebecca notices Randall is missing. As they go off in search of him, Kevin dives down into his own little world. Rebecca finds Randall playing with all the black kids on the opposite side of the pool and gets into a confrontation with one of the moms who says it was fine for him to be down there as she was watching him. Things get a little heated as the other mom tells Rebecca she needs to get a barber who can cut black hair to get rid of the bumps on Randall’s neck. She explains that she knows who Rebecca is because they all pay attention when a white lady adopts a black kid and doesn’t introduce herself to any of them. Rebecca stands her ground saying that Randall is in trouble because he was not supposed to go away from their spot and throws in, “That’s my son and I’m his mother. I don’t know if you have a problem with that, but I don’t care.”
Kate keeps trying to play mermaids with the skinny, mean girls, but they hand her a note and you know it can’t be good. It isn’t. Basically, it reads, “We don’t want you to play with us anymore. You embarrass us.” And they throw in a pig face for good measure. She is crushed, and she stops eating and sulks with a towel around her.
Rebecca finds the note, and Jack plans to give those girls a talking to, but Rebecca says he will make things worse. While they are discussing it with their backs to him, Kevin almost drowns. Now his feelings are truly hurt, so he marches over and yells, “You are too busy making sure Kate doesn’t eat too much and that Randall isn’t too adopted, and you never watch me. ‘Oh, where’s Kevin?’ He’s dead.”
Jack fixes Kate’s issues by giving her a magic T-shirt that makes your enemies see you how you want them to. She chooses “princess,” and he explains that he already sees her that way. Then he tackles Kevin with an apology, explaining that he is doing this, fatherhood, for the first time, so he’s likely to mess up again.
Rebecca realizes that Randall has requested going to that pool specifically so that he could meet other black people, because as Randall later explains, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania is basically the whitest place on earth. So she does the right thing and seeks out that other mom again to ask if she has a barber’s name — and if they could set up some playdates. She also asks about the sunscreen and gets a big laugh.
The kids have apparently been told off-screen that William is grandpa, and they are so accepting that they ask him to do their hair instead of mom. When they inquire about a scar on his arm, Beth assumes it’s drug-related, but William tells them that it’s actually from a protest to integrate schools.
When William goes out for a walk, the security guard of Randall’s mostly white neighborhood stops him after a loitering complaint from the neighbors and demands to see I.D. When he’s in the midst of refusing and calling him out, Randall runs out to smooth things over and the neighbors apologize. Randall decides it’s time to buy William some new clothes.
Their shopping trip quickly turns into Randall feeling like his dad is judging his life. “You didn’t like me apologizing for you. Would you have liked it if I made a big scene, got up in Tony’s face, had the cops roll up and turn the hoses on us? Because history would not have memorialized our stand,” Randall says. “Because I grew up in a white house, you don’t think I live in a black man’s world.”
But, Randall argues, the security guard is still clocking them and that the saleperson will still ask for ID even though she hasn’t asked for it from anyone else that day. “Plus, a million things I have to let go every day just so I am not pissed off all the time,” he says.
The family attends a play at the kids’ fancy public school — which has a farm and a goat — and it still seems like Randall is feeling antsy about William’s true opinion of his life. One of Randall’s girls is playing Snow White, and he looks around noticing people laughing about lines like “a maiden so fair.”