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After several weeks of multi-generational Pearson family drama, Tuesday’s penultimate episode of This Is Us‘ third season takes a closer look at two characters in particular: Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson).
While the second-to-last episode of season two also focused on a singular character — Randall and Beth’s foster daughter, Deja — the season three installment, “R & B,” chronicles the married couple’s relationship from their first meeting at Carnegie Mellon as teenagers to their present-day, potentially relationship-shattering fight.
The duo has been at odds nearly the entire season, with Randall deciding to run for office in a city hours away from the family’s home, and Beth reigniting her passion for dance. With Randall spending more and more time in Philadelphia and Beth’s schedule as a dance teacher not conducive to child care, the pair are at a crossroads in their relationship.
“This is when it all hits, the ish hits the fan, and it’s kind of no holds barred,” Watson told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet before the series’ PaleyFest panel Sunday — and a screening of the March 26 episode. “So we’ll learn what’s at the core of why their rhythm is off now.”
Brown told THR and a small group of reporters that he understands why people are nervous for the two characters.
“To see Beth rediscover herself, rediscover her passion, the idea that Randall could do anything to step or tread on that passion is really disappointing to people — and understandably so,” he said. “Some people are like, ‘No, she’s being selfish, he’s trying to do what’s right for the family.’ And you know, most people — especially the ladies — are like, ‘Come on, man. You gotta step on this woman’s dreams right now?’ So I completely understand. What I love most of all is that [fans] are invested and not indifferent. I think if people didn’t care at all, we’re doing something wrong. But the fact that folks are like Team Beth, Team Randall — they’re mostly Team Beth.”
Creator Dan Fogelman pointed out on the show’s packed PaleyFest panel that Randall and Beth’s episode echoes Jack and Rebecca’s big blowout in “Moonshadow,” episode 18 of the first season. But who’s in the right this time?
Said Watson, “They both have two perspectives. Nobody’s ever 100 percent wrong, nobody’s 100 percent right. But now is it’s sort of a time where Beth really is coming into her own and she really wants space to do that. And what I know is that she’s going to take it. So now what happens?”
“R & B,” which screened to a packed house at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater on Sunday night, closing out 2019’s week of PaleyFest programming, will chronicle the couple’s history and provide even more context for their current fight. Fogelman said the episode alone won’t reveal the fate of their relationship, but it’ll be clear soon.
“This one combined with the next one will,” he said. Later on the panel, he noted the tension in the couple’s storyline, and revealed that the finale will hold “an answer there as to the long-term health” of the relationship.
In addition to past and present-day storylines, the finale will again flash forward to several of the characters in the future — and the final five minutes of the episode are “gigantic,” Fogelman confirmed. (In fact, those pages were so top-secret that they weren’t distributed in the draft of the script sent to the stars.)
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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