To sum up Randall and Kevin Pearson’s relationship on This Is Us, I turn to one of the smartest and wisest movies ever made, High School Musical 2. There’s a scene between Troy and Chad where Troy apologizes for being a jerk over the summer. Troy says, “Hey, brothers fight,” to which Chad says, “And they’re still brothers.”
Is that the greatest brotherly quote ever? Randall and Kevin fight, but they’re still brothers. Finally, it was time for “The Talk” between Randall and Kevin. Did the brothers become closer or move farther apart?
This Is Us Season 5 Episode 13 Recap: “Brotherly Love”
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Randall traced his battle with identity and race all the way back to his childhood. The episode starts with a 5-year-old Randall spending time in the kitchen with a black couple. It’s clearly a fantasy, but more on that later.
In a flashback, it’s boys’ weekend at the Pearson household and Jack takes 5-year-old Randall and Kevin to a taping of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While in line at the show, a PA mistakes another white boy as Jack’s second son instead of acknowledging Randall. Jack forgives the PA for the mistake, but it stings Randal. To overcompensate for the mistake, Jack asks the PA to give Randall a “special seat” with a great view of Mister Rogers, much to Kevin’s dismay. Kevin then acts out the entire taping because of his jealousy for Randall.
Before leaving the set, Randall is alone with one of the puppets on stage. Randall reveals to the puppet that he created a set of imaginary parents for himself. These imaginary parents are a black weatherman and a black librarian, who happen to be two of the only black people that Randall sees daily. The puppet says it’s ok to create this fantasy, which makes a young Randall smile.
The College Boys
In the second flashback on This is Us, a late teenage Randall visits Kevin in Los Angeles. Randall is in town for a Model UN conference while Kevin tries to make it as an actor. Kevin calls Randall the “Fresh Prince” upon arrival at his small, beatdown apartment.
After some small talk, Kevin convinces Randall to go out clubbing, and the brothers start to drink like fish. I just want to say that Kevin is a MANIAC for taking straight shots of cheap vodka. Randall starts to loosen up with more liquid courage and takes a hurtful jab at a painting on the wall. Then, Kevin gives Randall a fake ID of a black guy who looks nothing like him. When Randall relays his concerns, Kevin says it will be fine since they’re “both black guys.”
On the cab ride to the club, Kevin is obnoxious to the black cab driver, requesting music changes and demanding specific routes to take. Annoyed, Randall tries to defuse the situation, but it leads to an argument, and the cab driver kicks the brothers out of the car. Randall and Kevin then wrestle on the street before calming down and walking back to the apartment.
While in the hallway, Kevin apologizes for being a jerk. Randall specifies that he was a jerk to their black cab driver, and Kevin responds by saying he’s rude to all cab drivers regardless of race. This argument is a microcosm of their relationships with race. Kevin overlooks Randall’s race despite blackness and identity being very important to Randall. In turn, Randall never wants to discuss race with Kevin for fear of an argument and elects to diffuse any situation where it’s brought up.
The boys eventually make up. Kevin admits he’s a struggling actor and says he’s jealous of Randall because he seems to have it all figured out (Beth, college, future, etc). Randall comforts Kevin by complimenting his painting, taking back his previous insult.
In the present on This Is Us, Kevin arrives at Randall’s house, and the two waste no time diving. Kevin acknowledges that Randall probably had a tough, racially charged childhood. It could not have been easy growing up as the only black kid in a white family, living in a predominantly white area. Kevin shares his regret for not defending Randall when the racist father of his prom date humiliates Randall for being black.
While Kevin’s words are sincere, Randall doesn’t accept this defense because frankly, he believes it’s not a true apology. Kevin is just saying what he thinks Randall wants to hear instead of taking responsibility for his racial blindspots.
When the duo locks themselves out of the house, Randall tells Kevin he’s not an intentional racist. However, Randall explains that Kevin’s ignorance towards race was the true problem. Kevin insists that jealousy, not race, was the heart of his problems with Randall. On the flip side, Randall questions if his relationship with Kevin would have been different if he were white and accuses his brother of never accepting his blackness.
The argument showed no signs of slowing down after returning to the house. A defensive Kevin believes Randall is ungrateful for the life that Jack and Rebecca gave him. It’s actually the opposite. Randall is very grateful for his adoption but does wish he could have had a life with his birth parents. It’s here where Randall explains ghost kingdoms and how the black weatherman and black librarian in their town were his imaginary parents. Kevin finally starts to understand where Randall is coming from and the two start to reconcile.
Later in the night, Kevin finally accepts responsibility for his inconsiderate treatment of Randall. Kevin’s jealously stemmed from the fact that Randall’s blackness gave him special treatment so Kevin lashed out and tried to put Randall down because of it. This is the apology Randall was looking for all along. The episode ends with Kevin embracing Beth and the girls as Randall looks on with a smile.
That night, Randall dreams about his ghost kingdom, but this time, it’s with William and Laurel. Randall can finally dream about a life with his real parents, which puts him at ease.
Is all forgiven between the brothers? I’m not sure, but this was definitely a step in the right direction. Brothers fight, but they’re still brothers.
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