This has been a lonely year. For so many of us, the human experience of 2020 and now 2021 has been defined by isolation—even when we know people care and love us and want to be with us, we often still can’t help but feel alone.
And because This Is Us is a show that works hard to reflect the human experience back to us through the lens of the Pearson Family, it showed us the physical manifestation of that isolation in this week’s episode, “There.”
It was Madison, laying in her hospital bed, ready to deliver her babies alone. She knows Kevin wants to be there; she knows she’s loved and supported and cared for. But in that moment, her reality is one of loneliness—of isolation.
However, all it took was one phone call to change that.
And it wasn’t Kevin on the other line.
It wasn’t even Kate.
It was Randall (and Beth!) reaching out to Madison after Kevin told them she was in labor. It was Randall (and Beth!) checking in and volunteering to send her food and anything else she might need.
And it was Randall (and Beth!) who realized in the smallest pause that what Madison really needed was to feel like someone was there.
Because that’s often all we need when we’re going through hard times and feel alone—no matter how much we try to tell ourselves that we can handle things on our own. We just want to know someone cares. We just want to know someone is thinking of us.
We just want to know we don’t have to be alone.
This was an episode about family being there for each other—about what it means to show up for the people you love. And even after everything Kevin and Randall have gone through—all the pain and bitterness and unfinished business—Randall shows up for Madison. He’s there for her.
Because she’s family.
And that’s all she needs to hear.
Caitlin Thompson’s performance in that scene was her best work on the show to date. Her initial attempts to push down her fear and loneliness and sadness like she’s seemingly done for so much of her life with one too many utterances of, “I’m fine,” felt so realistic. Who hasn’t been there? Falling apart from the inside out but not wanting to be a burden—not wanting to reveal just how deeply we need someone to see that we’re not okay.
Or hear it, in Madison’s case.
And that’s why Randall and Beth are the perfect couple to be there for her in this moment. Because they pay attention. They notice the details. They know that the truths we try to hide often show themselves in the smallest hitching in our breathing, the briefest hesitation on the other line, the slightest sniffle.
So they listen. And they stay.
Because family shows up.
And “we’re family.”
With those two words, the dam breaks. Thompson’s tears in that moment—having to pull her phone away because the kindness being shown to her is overwhelming—spoke volumes about how unfamiliar this kind of love is for Madison. It was such a heartbreakingly realistic reaction—the torrent of emotions that we feel when someone unexpected reaches out a hand to help us, the catharsis that comes when we feel seen by someone we never knew was looking.
That’s what family does. It’s what Jack did with Kevin. And it’s what Randall does with Madison.
Family sees us—even when we try to hide our heartbreak.
They see us, and they show up for us in whatever way they can to fix it.
Family means you’re not alone.
And now, Madison knows she’s part of a family.
There’s nothing better than that.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?