This Is Us S4E16 recap: Randall and Kevin’s feud ignites in NYC

THIS IS US -- (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)
THIS IS US -- (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC) /

This Is Us Season 4, Episode 16 saw Randall and Kevin’s feud ignite in New York City. Let’s break down the events that led to the brothers’ confrontation.

This Is Us Season 4, Episode 16 begins with Kate and Kevin video-chat with Randall, who’ll be heading to Kevin’s movie premiere the next morning. He informs them that he wants to send Rebecca to attend a nine-month clinical trial in St. Louis. Both Kate and Kevin are shocked and generally against uprooting Rebecca from her life so soon after receiving her diagnosis.

Kevin is most vocally against the idea, but his concerns fall on deaf ears as Randall remains adamant that he knows this is the best thing for Rebecca, and Kate reluctantly agrees.

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Throughout the episode, we saw how Randall’s tendency to flaunt his intellect and take control of situations manifested animosity between Randall and Kevin throughout their childhood into adulthood.

In one of the episode’s two past storylines, when The Big Three are in middle school, Randall insults Kevin as Kevin expresses his desire to do everything that Kevin McCallister does in “Home Alone 2” on the Pearson’s one-day trip to NYC. Throughout the trip, the brothers fight as Randall corrects Kevin as Kevin shares facts about New York with the family and laughs at him as he dances on the subway.

In the episode’s second past storyline, taking place a year after the fire that killed Jack Pearson, Rebecca, Randall, and Beth head down to New York City to see Kevin perform in an acting showcase. Although Rebecca enthusiastically praises his performance, Randall’s reaction is muted, and the tension is palpable. The tension grows as Kevin introduces his  acting teacher Kirby (Dave Annable) to the family, and it becomes clear to Randall that Kevin intends to set Kirby up with Rebecca.

After Rebecca, who has caught on to the plot, dashes off to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Randall admonishes Kevin and considers going after her until Kevin responds:

"“My God, Randall, she’s a grown woman. You’re gonna spend the rest of your life worrying about Mom?”"

Later on, Randall tells Kevin that Rebecca’s not ready to start dating and tells him that he would know that if he was around, instead of in New York studying his “craft.” To this, Kevin responds that Rebecca can’t mourn Jack forever and deserves to have some fun.

Back in the present, Randall meets up with Kevin and Rebecca at Kevin’s hotel room in New York, where Rebecca’s trying on dresses for the premiere. It becomes clear that his only concern is convincing Rebecca to attend the clinical trial, but Kevin urges him to hold off on discussing it with her until the following morning, wanting her to have one good day.

This episode highlights a contrast between the way Kevin and Randall handle situations. Randall’s anxiety needs him to control any situation that he can. As a result, he often acts as an authority and shuts down other people’s opinions. Kevin, on the other hand, takes a more empathetic approach.

He doesn’t know everything, and he doesn’t claim or care to. He simply wants those around him to be happy doing what makes them happy. While that may not be the high-class approach that Randall would prefer, it is the best that Kevin can do.

So, in the present, Kevin and Rebecca have a good day and night as they walk the red carpet without a word about the clinical trial getting to Rebecca. However, Randall ends up spilling the beans in an attempt to console Rebecca after she forgets the answer to a simple question.

It’s not long before Kevin approaches them, realizes what’s going on, and the brothers begin to fight as Rebecca goes to get some air.

The boys ignite the feud as they pass around small truths. Kevin begins by pointing out Randall’s inability to relinquish control of any situation. This prompts Randall to point out that Kevin’s career obligations make him undependable, which in turn prompts Kevin to take a dig at Randall by reminding him that it is his career, not Randall’s, that is paying for Rebecca’s medical care.

At this, Randall says, “Screw you, Kevin” and walks off. Kevin follows him outside, where Rebecca is nowhere to be seen. They eventually track her down at The Metropolitan, where she’s standing, staring intently at something.

Without taking her eyes off of the painting, she tells them that she used to go there all the time when she was a little girl. On one particular occasion, she noticed a younger woman staring intently for hours at that same painting. She tells them:

"“[…] I was fascinated by her. The idea that you could stare at a painting for that long…it felt so…sophisticated. So adult. And I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to grow up, so I could come back here and be just like her.”"

Rebecca never made it back to The Metropolitan, as we learn through the episode’s flashbacks. Life always got in the way, and Rebecca regrets that. With her diagnosis decreasing her number of good days, Rebecca vows to stop wasting time and to try new things. With that, she lets Randall know that she will not be attending the clinical trial, and Kevin tells her that he supports her decision.

After Kevin puts her in their car, Randall lets him know that he’s not pleased:

"“I spent every day for the last 20 years wondering if I could’ve saved Dad. And now I had a chance to save Mom, and you blew it.”"

Here we get at the heart of the issue. Randall, like Kate, blames himself for Jack’s death. His anxiety, which was already bad as a child, skyrocketed after Jack died. Randall feels that he could have convinced Jack not to go back into the house, but he didn’t, and now he feels an overwhelming responsibility to protect everyone else he loves.

Of course, as Rebecca tells Kate in Season 2, Episode 15, Jack was a grown man who made a choice, and there’s nothing that any of them could have done to change that. Jack, like his sons after him, was a man who would do anything to protect and make the ones he loved happy, even if his decisions weren’t always rational and would ultimately cost him his life. Randall needs to realize that he couldn’t save Jack, he can’t save Rebecca, and he can’t change that.

What he can change is how he reacts to crises. He needs to take a page from Kevin’s book, take a step back, and show some empathy. He needs to start listening when those he loves tell him what they need rather than start assuming that he already knows. Unfortunately, this might be a lesson Randall has to learn the hard way.

Next. This Is Us star reveals when Kevin will be engaged. dark

What did you think of the episode? Will Kevin and Randall be able to repair their relationship? Let us know in the comments.

This Is Us returns on Tuesday, March 17 at 9pm ET on NBC.