'This Is Us' Recap: Randall's Campaign Makes No Sense, But We Are Here For It
Geography makes no sense on This Is Us. Randall and his family live in New Jersey, about half an hour away from Manhattan, so I roughly understand how they often find themselves in the city, or how Kevin often finds himself in Randall’s home. However, I can’t imagine anyone who lives in the city traveling into the suburbs with so much ease, at least not without beginning every visit with, “Ugh. The traffic was brutal. It took me forever to get here. I don’t know how you do it.” I complain when I have to drive to suburban Portland, and it’s ten minutes away and there’s no traffic in Maine.
But whatever. The point is: Randall is running for city council in … Philadelphia. He lives in New Jersey. Nevermind the two-hour commute each way, does owning a building in Philadelphia give one the right to run for city council? When Councilman Brown and others complain that Randall is an “outsider,” do they not have a point? He lives two hours away. Why is he even taking his daughter to dance classes in Philadelphia? Aren’t there dance studios in suburban New Jersey? Do people think that all the cities on the East Coast are next to each other (I once had a friend from Arkansas tell me he was going to be in NYC for the weekend, and that I should “pop” by for a visit. People in Weehawken don’t “pop” by NYC. Also, I live six hours away).
Point being: None of this makes sense. Hell, when Randall decided to run for city council, he did not yet know that Beth had been fired. Is that not something they should have talked about first? Because I assume if Randall wins, they’d have to move to Philly (and she’d have to quit her job). You can’t be a city councilor in Philly if you live in New Jersey. Councilman Brown has a hard enough time prioritizing all the work he needs to have done in a neighborhood that he lives in. How do you do that if you live two hours away?
Whatever. Let’s put the time-and-space logistics aside. In this week’s episode, Councilman Brown greets Randall in his Philly church from the lectern, and he’s very gracious about it, but it’s apparent in his greeting that he’s highlighting how little connection Randall has to the community. From this, Randall immediately realizes that he has no chance to win over Councilman Brown’s base, which is the Black people of this Philly district.
After church, Kevin pops down to Philly from NYC to have lunch with Randall and talk about their father’s connection to the Vietnamese woman with his father in that picture. During that meeting, Randall discovers that Kevin is hugely popular with the Korean community, owing to the fact that The Manny is a massive hit in Korea. Randall switches gears. Instead of trying to win Councilman Brown’s voters away from him, Randall will … use Kevin’s popularity with the Korean community to convince 20,000 Koreans to register to vote.
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, but Randall has two strokes of good fortune. First off, he meets Jae-won and, more importantly, Jae-won’s grandmother, who is so won over by Randall (and his soft hands) that she decides to register to vote for the first time in her life. Jae-won — who had seen through Randall’s transparent attempts to leverage Kevin’s fame into Korean votes — is won over, and Jae-won decides to become Randall’s campaign manager. This puts the fear of God in Councilman Brown.
Meanwhile, back in Jersey, Beth’s anger and sadness over being fired bubbles up while she’s helping her daughters sell Girl Scout Cookies. She blows up at her kids. Deja, in turn, delivers a truly incredible speech about how Beth needs to talk to Randall about her problems because Randall looks at her like she’s a Disney princess when she walks into a room (this is true). When Beth finally does share her grief over the loss of her job with Randall, he asks her to work on his campaign. “You are my missing ingredient, baby. You are the horseradish in my Bloody Mary.” I would work for anyone who looked at me the way that Randall looks at Beth.
So, to sum up: Beth and Randall, who live in New Jersey, where their children attend school, will be working 12-14 hours a day in Philadelphia in an effort to register a bunch of Korean voters who love The Manny to elect Randall and unseat the beloved Councilman Brown. This is not exactly an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez situation, but by the end of the episode, I somehow still found myself incredibly invested in Randall’s campaign. I’m rooting for the carpetbagger with the heart of gold, even if he is spending way too much time and money for a position that likely pays very little.
In other storylines, Kate and Toby have switched positions, and now she’s the one trying to keep Toby’s spirits up while a depressed Toby is worrying that Kate will leave him. Audio eats a rock, and Kate asks Rebecca for advice. Jack teaches young Randall how to box, but then realizes that Randall is better with his brain than with boxing gloves, and Kevin asks Zoe if she will go to Vietnam with him to track down his Dad’s story. Zoe agrees.
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