Jack and Rebecca might not be able to say who their favorite child is, but I won’t hesitate to tell you that Randall is my favorite. Randall is self-driven, thoughtful, and has dad jokes for days. He also has an inner strength and determination that I admire. Needless to say the third episode of the Big Three trilogy is the one I have been waiting for.

This episode gives us some insight on Randall’s college search as well as his current home life. Teen Randall chooses to visit Howard University in addition to Harvard and asks Jack to take him on the Friday of Kevin’s football game. Randall loves it and feels like he fits in. On the drive back home Jack is gently pushing him to attend Harvard and Randall explains how he has felt his entire life being the only black person in the family and talks about feeling off balance. Jack takes a detour to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Jack points to a name on the wall, which we can assume his is his younger brother’s name. Jack and Randall sit down and Jack tells Randall about being drafted and how after the war he felt out of balance but assured Randal that he will find his. Then Jack gets the page about Kevin.

Meanwhile in the present Déjà’s mom is released of her charges and shows up to Randall and Beth’s house wanting to take Déjà home. The discussion escalates with the mother yelling at Beth. Déjà is able to convince her mom to go home and wait for the social worker to call her back in the morning and assures her that everything will be okay. Randall and Beth and willing to get a lawyer to prove that Déjà’s mom is not fit to take her back. After taking dropping the kids off at school Randall drives Déjà’s mom’s apartment and sees that she has bought clothes for Déjà and she’s proudly showing them to her friends.

In a flashback we see Randall and his birth father William talking after Randall has learned that Rebecca and William met when he was a child. William admits to following Rebecaa home after she ran away from his apartment. He contemplated going up to the door and asking to see Randall but decided against it. William had the realization that he didn’t know what Randall’s nickname was or all the places he had ridden his bike. He didn’t know him the way his adopted parents did. The montage of what could have been with William attending Randall’s birthday party and graduation broke my heart.

After driving by Déjà’s mom’s apartment Randall and Beth discuss not knowing Daja’s favorite color and the nicknames like “Tator Tot” Déjà’s mom called her. They decide to not proceed with the lawyer and Déjà leaves their home to live with her mom. As the Pearson family says goodbye to Déjà, Randall makes a comment about how he knows she doesn’t like him to touch her. She explains that it’s only when she’s not expecting it and the two hug. It’s such a precious moment because Randall has earned her trust. Although she will no longer be living with Randall and Beth, they have given her the gift of knowing what a stable home feels like.

The final few minutes connect with the other two episodes in the trilogy. Randall finds out about Kate’s miscarage and Kevin shows up to Randall’s house. Beth and Randall discuss wanting to foster another child eventually. We then see a little boy having a conversation with a social worker about finding a home for him.

TKevin leaves Randall’s house after finding out about Kate’s miscarriage. Kevin is driving recklessly and swerving on the road due to being drunk. At the same time Randall and Beth can’t find Tess. All of a sudden Tess jumps up out of the back seat of Kevin’s car. She had hidden in the car because she wanted to spend more time with him. At that moment I was screaming at the TV because I thought he was going to wreck with her in the car and I would not have been able to handle it. Thankfully, shortly after Tess jumps up Kevin is pulled over by the police and charged with a DUI. Beth and Randall get the phone call and although they are relieved that Tess has been found and is okay, they are understandably furious with Kevin. The silver lining is that Kevin’s addiction will finally be exposed and he can hopefully get the help he needs.

As these final events are taking place Jack is talking to teen Randall about how when one of the big three is getting knocked down another is standing up. The episode ends with an image of the big three as teens sitting in the living room toghether and it was a beautiful and heartbreaking image as Kevin has his broken leg propped up, reminding us that they are nearing Jack’s untimely death.

This trilogy has done an excellent job of weaving the past and present together which of course is This Is Us’s strong suit. I think it’s easy to take for granted how effortlessly the writers connect the storylines. Understanding why a character makes the choices they makes and what they have experienced in the past is an intrical part in developing a character and that’s what makes This Is Us standout from the pack. They let us in on the secrets of the Pearson family’s past. We get to pull back the curtain and see what makes these characters tick. This is why we watch. Not just for the cute baby flashbacks or the chance of seeing a shirtless Justin Hartley, but because by watching the Pearson family navigate life through the years, it causes us to reflect on our past and connect how it affects us in the present and future.

This Is Us will return on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.