The Pearson Wrap-Up: What This Is Us gets right about adoption

Season Two of This is Us brings all the feels.

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click to enlarge Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in This Is Us. - Ron Batzdorff / NBC Universal
Ron Batzdorff / NBC Universal
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in This Is Us.

click to enlarge Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in This Is Us. - Ron Batzdorff / NBC Universal
Ron Batzdorff / NBC Universal
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in This Is Us.

I once watched shows that took place on a spaceship as an escape. However, now in our twitter-based-nuclear-war reality, I watch This Is Us to escape. For an hour, once a week, This Is Us wraps me in a blanket and tells me a story I feel like I already know, but want to hear again. It’s the comfort food of television and I say that with the utmost adoration for a show that has sweeping popularity — with good reason.

We pick up in season two in the present, with Randall and Beth debating adopting a child after the death of Randal’s biological father. Kate and Toby live together in LA while Kate stumbles around the idea of becoming a singer, and Kevin begins filming his new movie with Ron Howard.

Then we return where last season ended: Jack and Rebecca taking a break after their post-nightclub blowout, only to end the episode with Jack revealing he has a drinking problem and Rebecca insisting they work on it together. The episode ends, somewhat dramatically, with a visual hint at his death. (Don’t worry — no spoilers.)

This week it was Randall’s story that grabbed my attention. Randall wants to adopt a baby and asks his mother, Rebecca, how she knew that they were meant to have him. Such a simple question: How did you know you wanted me? 

Randall and I are both adopted.

As an adopted kid, I have never seen a more accurate description of what it’s like to be adopted. It’s such a weird thing to explain because it’s impossible to do without sounding ungrateful to your family — the family who picked you. At its core, it’s not about feeling unwanted; it’s about feeling like maybe you don’t fit.

Last season, there was an episode where young Randall figured out he could roll his tongue, and his adopted parents couldn’t. The episode followed him through a grocery store seeing if strangers that looked like him could roll their tongue. Watching that scene — which I’m sure wasn’t designed to be the ultimate tear-jerker — had me sobbing.

I can’t tell you how many times the 13-year-old version of me stood in front of the mirror imagining what I would look like if my nose wasn’t so pointy, and my hair was a little darker and I was four inches shorter. Maybe then when I went to dinner with my family I would look like my beautiful mom, just like my (not-adopted) little sister does. Maybe if I had the dimple every other girl in my family has, when we took pictures on holidays I would feel like I belonged to them. Maybe there could be some physical evidence that proved I belonged to them.

When Randall asks Rebecca how she knew he belonged with them she says, “I said no, but your father was so sure…he was so determined that you were meant to be. Meant to be ours. Sometimes in a marriage someone has to be the one to push to make the big moves…he pushed a stranger on me and that stranger became my child, and that child became my life. He became you.”

Cue the waterworks.

Adoption seems like such a simple idea: you pick out a baby, and that baby is yours. But it’s so much more complicated than that and that’s where This Is Us is brilliant. It takes a simple idea and makes every ounce of that idea something you can feel.

My parents waited for me, and I have no doubt that the moment they saw me they knew I belonged with them and never looked back. My parents are Frank and Noreen and whatever is in my DNA doesn’t change that.

However, I still look in the mirror and wonder if someone, somewhere is looking in the mirror with eyes that look like mine — and a smile that always twists a little to the right in pictures.

This Is Us in on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (and on Hulu the next day). Check back weekly the Pearson wrap-up! (I promise it won’t always be this sappy.) 

About The Author

Toni Jannel

Toni's a true Tampa native, equal parts Italian and Cuban — she's practically an ad for Ybor City. She's a USF graduate and a genuine enthusiast for anything with a script.

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