Let the solo episodes begin. Last night on This Is Us, Randall finally learned the story of his birth mother, Laurel.
This Is Us Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: “Birth Mother”
Randall, meet your mother, Laurel. Randall and Beth traveled to New Orleans to meet with Hai Lang. The duo met Hai at a lakeside house, which unbeknownst to Randall, belonged to Laurel. Over a day of conversation at the kitchen table, Hai shared Laurel’s story and how they came to know each other.
The Spark Notes Version
- Lauren grew up in New Orleans. Her father never truly accepted her.
- Comforted by her brother, Jackson, and Aunt Mae, who was secluded from the rest of the family.
- Jackson died in Vietnam. Aunt Mae encouraged Laurel to swim in the lake and scream her problems away.
- Laurel meets Hai, who moved with his parents from Vietnam.
- Hai and Laurel fall in love, but her father disapproves. When Laurel’s father forces her to accept a proposal, she asks Hai to leave town with her. He rejects her proposition so Laurel heads to Pittsburgh.
- Skip ahead to Laurel’s overdose. William leaves with baby Randall, never to see Laurel again since she technically died for a few minutes. William didn’t lie to Randall about his birth mother because that’s what he believed to be true.
- Laurel miraculously survives, but she’s arrested a few days later. She pleads guilty to drug possession and serves five years in a California jail.
- After jail, Laurel moves back to New Orleans and lives with her aunt. Laurel believes she could never be a good mother, which explains her decision to never seek out Randall.
- Laurel works at the same market at Hai. Although Hai is married with children, they remain friendly from afar.
- After Hai’s wife dies decades later, he finally reconnects with Laurel. However, Laurel has breast cancer and stops treatment. Hai happily spends Laurel’s final two years at her side before she dies in 2015.
- Hai gives the house to Randall.
Everything about the first forty to fifty minutes was so sincere. Although Laurel had tough moments, her life was not a tragedy; it was a story of redemption. For Randall, he finally received definitive answers about Laurel and her life. There were no tricks or curveballs about Laurel’s story. It felt like a completed story that Randall could accept and move on with without any regret.
Here’s where things could get controversial. Towards the end of the episode, Randall goes for a swim in the lake. (Sterling K. Brown, drop the workout to stay shredded in the comments.) Randall entered the water because his mother used to do the same thing when she was feeling angry or upset. Not only did Randall feel his mother’s love in the water, but envisioned her physical self. Laurel told Randall that she loved him and needed to let go of his pain and anger. Randall screamed, and all of his pain went away.
The idea behind the scene was heartfelt. Since Randall spent time with William on camera, it makes sense to show an interaction with Laurel. The scene was beautifully written and acted and hit all of the emotional notes between Randall and Laurel.
For lack of a better word, This Is Us just went “supernatural on us.” The show uses flashbacks, but this is the first time where a character envisioned someone out of thin air. It wasn’t silly, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. This Is Us was on the X and Y axises and last night opened the door to the Z axis. Once again, the acting and heart of the scene was great, but envisioning Laurel didn’t make sense to me in the grand scheme of the show. Instead of the lake, what if Randall found a letter written by Laurel that stated her love for her child that she never knew? She could’ve written that entire monologue from the lake on paper and read it as a voiceover, with flashbacks to the day she wrote the letter as well as the happier moments in her life. Wouldn’t that have been just as effective?
Randall Calls Kevin
When Randall was ready to forgive his brother, Kevin was having a crisis of his own. Randall tries to bury the hatchet with Kevin, but the oldest member of the Big Three can’t concentrate because Madison went into labor while he’s in Vancouver. Kevin is speeding back to be with Madison, but in the promo for next week, a car crash will occur. I pray Kevin wore his seatbelt.
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