If you follow NBC’s hit drama, This is Us, you probably already know and love Beth and Randall Pearson. If you haven’t followed the show, do yourself a favor and start from the beginning. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to Season 1, Episode 1 because this show has some REALLY great insight on family and relationship dynamics.

Most of us have seen this couple as the epitome of “relationship goals”. On the outside, they seem to have it all … a perfect partnership, passion & romance, two wonderful daughters, a huge home, great careers, and a close-knit extended family. They have their disagreements  (as most couples do) and seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum sometimes but overall, they seem to compliment and balance each other well.

That is, until Season 3, Episode 17, aptly entitled “R&B”. This episode reveals a deeper layer by looking into some of the pivotal moments of their relationship. In each of those moments, it was clear (at least from the outside looking in) that there was something unresolved that festered over the years and eventually built up to an explosive encounter.

Beth’s role in the dynamic “R&B” duo has been the supporter, the cheerleader, the partner who brings her husband’s vision to life, even if she wasn’t actually doing cartwheels about said vision. Here’s a brief recap of three seasons of Randall and Beth’s story.

Randall finds his biological father, William & soon discovers that he’s dying of cancer. He decides that we wants his father to move in with their family. Beth complies.

Eventually William dies and naturally, Randall grieves. During this grief, he remembers his father’s “carpe diem” advice. So Randall quits his high-paying job and then tells Beth. Beth agrees to hold down the fort, even if it meant working hella overtime to compensate for the lost income.

Next on the Randall Show, he begins to long for another baby. Beth speaks up this time. She is not on board. Eventually not being on board with fostering/adopting becomes not being on board with an actual infant so they compromise and foster (and eventually adopt) an older child.

Then, Randall begins to reconnect with the community where William lived. Wanting to make a difference in the apartment building, Randall decides to use their savings to buy the building. Beth complies. And of course, in his quest to fix everything, he realizes that the councilman does very little to improve the community (although everyone knows and likes him). So guess who decides to run for councilman! Yep, Randall.  Beth is leery but agrees to support his candidacy with the caveat that he would quit if it got to be too much.

Soon after, Beth is laid off from her job and begins to show signs of depression (she actually cried about the loss of her previous job while in a job interview) despite her stoic attempt to hold it together. Unfortunately, Randall doesn’t even notice until his new daughter points it out to him.  

With Beth’s job loss, a newly adopted daughter and another daughter who has just expressed that she’s lesbian, the Pearson household is in heavy transition. So Beth decides that it’s time to throw out her veto card. She asks her husband to quit the campaign. Randall does NOT comply.

And the final blow to this house of cards happens when Beth goes home to see her Mom and has an epiphany that she wants to return to her dream of dancing.  She goes home, giddy with optimism and excitement and tells Randall that he wants to be a dance teacher. This is the most excited we’ve ever seen Beth. She is literally beaming with joy. And Randall says “great” and then later he asks her to defer her dream so that he can continue to pursue his new role as councilman while she holds down the fort … again.

I have been Beth more times than I can count so I empathize with this character’s constant decision to focus on the greater good, at the expense of her own desires and passions.  

So fast forward to the “R&B” episode, here are some of the moments that led up to this volatile moment in Randall and Beth’s relationship.

    1. The First Date – Randall unloaded some personal struggles (TMI for a first date), ignored the fact that the waiter was clearly racist and was adamant about staying at the fancy restaurant when all Beth wanted was nachos and ginger beer. She basically told him to lose her number and he went home thinking that she was “the one”. Totally different perspectives.
    2. Sunday Dinners-There was little flexibility for them to spend their Sundays any other way except family dinners with Randall’s Mom. When Beth suggested mini golf-guess who came along……yep, Mom.
    3. Heavily Coerced Multiple Proposals– Seven years into their courtship, Randall had proposed to Beth several times. She declined so that she could take some time to find her career path and establish herself. During a heated mini-golf conversation, Randall guilt trips her and then withdraws. After a talk with Randall’s Mom, Beth decides to accept his next proposal.
    4. The Wedding Vows- Randall and Beth are writing and revising their wedding vows at the very last minute. At some point, Randall realizes that his vows don’t even mention Beth specifically. It was more of a “dissertation on marriage”. That’s a huge red flag that despite his love for her, he chooses to share his ideas about his vision of marriage vs. sharing his undying love for her as an individual.
    5. The Nacho Epiphany – As the marriage continues, one night Randall and Beth are awake with their crying newborn. After the baby falls asleep, they head to the kitchen to chat over Beth’s favorite food, nachos. As they both eat the nachos and talk about life, Beth makes the analogy about how some people always take the biggest, most perfect nachos and leaves the broken off pieces for others. Zoom in on the bowl and it looks like Randall has done just that….left the broken nacho pieces for Beth. This was a perfect example of their relationship.
    6. Beth’s “Calgon, Take Me Away” Moment– Fast forward to the present day, Beth comes to the kitchen where Randall, his brother Kevin and William are laughing and talking in the kitchen while making a big mess as they make breakfast. Beth says that she’s going to a one day conference and would be back the next day. Later, Randall and William are out and about and run into Beth at the grocery store where she is stocking up on snacks. Randall confronts her and she admits that she lied about the conference so that she could check into a hotel and have one night alone, without mommy duties, caretaker duties or wife duties (her previous requests for a break fell on Randall’s deaf ears). He guilt-trips her and she decides to go back home with him. Instead of encouraging her to proceed with her much needed night of “me time”, they go home together so Beth doesn’t get her Calgon moment.

So here’s where the lesson comes in. Over the years, I have learned to be my own advocate and self-preservation warrior, mainly as a result of complying and agreeing and supporting the greater good of the relationship, even it meant making huge sacrifices. In the episode, I believe Beth calls is bending. I have learned the hard way that it’s not healthy for me to constantly bend, especially when it means putting my needs on the backburner.

In the case of Randall and Beth, most people will say that Beth could have exercised free will and not went along with all of Randall’s demands and ideas. As women, there is a delicate balance between standing up and rolling over. We have a deeply ingrained instinct to support and make the lion’s share of the sacrifices. From childhood, girls are given baby dolls to nurture and take care of. Boys are given Tonka trucks and legos to build shit.  In adulthood, women continue to nurture while men continue to build.

And yes, I know that times have changed and women are doing so much more building and creating and envisioning but the reality of our bullshit patriarchal society is that we rarely have a 50/50, equal partnership. In a relationship, one person usually carries more of the weight and it’s usually women.

Beth is a giver and Randall (although he loves her), is totally fine with being the taker (hence the nacho analogy). On some subconscious level, I believe that Randall is totally aware of how much Beth is bending but it serves him and his needs.  The fact that he is ok with her bending until she damn near breaks is not ok. She submits for the greater good of her beloved.

But when is it Randall’s turn to bend?

“Some people will take until you have nothing left and then hold a grudge against your hands for being empty”

– Rudy Francisco