This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16 Review: Memphis

at .

Knowing something is coming doesn't make it any easier.

William's time was up on This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16, but he had already figured it out, and even though his son hadn't, Randall did clear his schedule to make time for his ailing father. 

The two took the trip of their lifetime together.

Road Trip Vertical - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

It was a week from Randall's breakdown, so Beth was more than concerned that he wanted to go on a road trip with William so soon.

Getting permission from Randall's doctor was a good move and as soon as he weighed in on how adorable the couple was Beth should have just stopped all her arguments. The trip was going to happen.

Randall was so alive as he prepared for the journey. The thought that he would meet family – actual blood relatives – was a driving force in joining William on a road trip to Memphis. He was also looking forward to letting his hair down.

William was so good for him. Randall had his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants trip all planned out. He wouldn't use navigation, but paper maps and William as an old-fashioned navigator.

Be Free Maps! - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

William's response was to ignore him with his head out the window, where the maps soon followed.

Williams plans would have to do, and they were a lot less set in stone than his son's.

Just Breathe - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

Having the time alone in the car gave them a chance to get to know each other, to ask questions they'd never dared in front of others.

William: It's quite a shock to see you so vulnerable, the night Kevin brought you home. It's hard to fathom. You seem to have it so together.
Randall: Too together. I put the pressure on myself. It's always been like that ever since I was a little boy. My father, he kept it in check. Whenever I'd get too in my head, he'd take my hands and put them on both sides of my head and say 'there you go, breathe with me' and then we'd just sit there, breathing together, until it passed.

Randall talking so freely about his dad to his dad was simply lovely. Hearing about Jack's bigger than life laugh made him want to visit the man who meant so much to his son. 

When Randall said he thought it was out of the way, William was having none of it. Would some of William's easy going nature rub off onto his son before the trip was over?

Randall, turn the window down, turn up the music. Take me to meet your father.


Thank You - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

Randall didn't seem comfortable at the only place – other than Kate's – where he could "go" to visit what remains of his father as a place of rest. He was reluctant to even go near the tree where the ashes were scattered. 

Could that have something to do with the way he died? 

The tears first started to poke their little heads out when William thanked Jack for raising William.

Thank you for doing what I couldn't. For raising him to be the man he is. Sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you, brother. I would have liked to have heard that laugh. I would have liked to have met my son's father. Yeah. Cool.


It has been particularly touching because William, too, had no father. So all things considered, Randall did pretty well with two good ones. 

Learning about William's life throughout the trip was sweet. It was his love for his mother than both set him on the right path in life and threw him off of it, as well. He was so lost and alone after she died, and his family was so far away, he just fell into the life provided for him by Randall's mother.

He was so busy caring for his mother as her life was ending that he couldn't see the woman he fell for had strayed from who she was when they first met, no longer sitting with him and his mother, but hanging out down the hall with less than savory characters.

Who could blame him for needing a little solace? It's just a shame considering he was such a good kid in all respects before that.

But if not for falling off the deep end, there wouldn't have been a Randall, and William came to terms with his trip to the dark side having had a son like William.

I also wonder, though, if part of Randall's anxiety issues didn't have something to do with his mother's habits before he was born. It's highly likely that he's biologically prone to anxiety and an inability to deal with it. But I also have another theory on that I'll touch on in a bit.

Let's get back to Memphis.

I simply loved the oddity of William going to find his treasure in the house he shared with his mother. It was so unlike him. He became a little boy for a minute, perfectly happy to walk into the house, collect his treasure and leave without a care for the current homeowners.

William: My treasure.
Randall: Yeah? Well what is it?
William: A few toys and three quarters.
Randall: Yeah, I see that, but...
William: I put these here once, and after all these years later, they're still here. Isn't that something? Isn't that strange how the world sticks and moves like that?
Randall: Uh. OK. Here's your brick. I didn't know that was going to happen, but thank you folks. God bless you, appreciate it.

The montage of Randall and William exploring Memphis and recalling happy times from William's youth was so fun. Those are memories Randall will have forever. If he'd not had that breakdown, he wouldn't have had the time with William.

Thank God for crushing and blindness-inducing anxiety, right?

Times Have Changed at the Water Fountain - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

William: This is the original water fountain that they kept here for a history lesson. That was white, this is black.
Randall: You know what? I've been living with white people for a long time.
William: Oh my God. You're in trouble now, son.
Randall [smacking his lips]: I think you should have a taste.
William: Maybe I should, for old times' sake.

It's so hard to believe how far things have come in one lifetime. The juxtaposition of father and son's lives and getting to play out how differently they lived was a sweet moment at that water fountain. 

For Randall, the best was yet to come, as William wanted to make amends with his cousin Ricky, the man who helped him after his mother left Memphis. The man who gave him his start in music and who he left high and dry.

It's so sad knowing William never went back to Memphis before this point in his life, that it took dying to move him to visit the people who once meant so much to him. Shame shouldn't have had such a grasp on him. His family loved him.

Then again, with Randall at his side, it made apologizing so much easier.

Beth is Calling! - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

Interrupting Randall, excited to meet his first known blood relative other than Randall, was pretty hard to resist. Even if Ricky hated William after all that time, he'd still be unable to deny Randall.

Drunk Randall, counting off cousins like they were cards in a poker hand was seriously adorable.

Everybody Gets a Cousin! - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

And he meant it when he wished Beth was here with him to see William take the stage, playing music like he'd never been away.

There was so much joy in the room that night. But Randall didn't know what was happening. 

Thanks to television, I did. There are two other TV moments that came to mind while watching this hour of This Is Us. I'll share the first here. On The Affair Season 3 Episode 10, we learned why a man with dementia had suddenly been able to recognize his family the day before his death.

It happens sometimes. It's what we call terminal lucidity. The patient surfaces right before the very end. Like a sort of final gift.


That night, certainly, but the whole trip was William's final gift. A gift not only to Randall but himself. It was his chance to remember his life, his mother, his family and all that was before what will be.

For everyone who still has parents or other loved ones you've never taken the time to know in an intimate way, don't wait. Sharing time together, one-on-one, won't wait for a right moment. People are here today and gone tomorrow, and your chance to share what Randall did with William might not happen if you don't grab it.

William on Stage One Last Time - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Body," which is simply one of the best hours of television ever made (especially when it comes to dealing with death) Tara had wise words for Buffy.

After Buffy's mom died, Tara was sharing with Buffy that if she needed anything to please ask, as she, too, had lost her mother. Buffy asked if it was sudden. Tara's response, "No. Yes. It's always sudden." 

Because no matter how prepared you think you are that someone is going to leave this earth, there is just no stopping the fact that they are here one second and gone the next. You can ask them a question one moment. After that, the opportunity is gone forever. There are no backsies.

Until you experience it, it's incomprehensible. Even if you do, as Randall has done before with Jack, it still doesn't quite hit you what death and dying is all about.

Randall thought it was so sudden until he realized William knew all along he was never coming home. Then he wanted to get the kids there, anything he could to make William's last moments as perfect as possible. 

But William had already said his goodbyes. He wanted the girls looking up at him, not down. He wanted his last moments to be with his son. This Is Us wanted us to give tissue companies good business. 

William: Roll all the windows down, Randall, crank up the music, grow out that fro. Let someone else make your bed.
Randall: I like makin' my damn bed, old man.
William: Then you make it. You deserve it. You deserve the beautiful life you made. You deserve everything Randall. My beautiful boy. My son. I haven't had a happy life. Bad breaks. Bad choices. A life of almosts and could haves. Some would call it sad, but I don't, cause the two best things in my life were the person in the very beginning and the person at the very end and that's a pretty good thing to be able to say, I think.

We don't know how Jack died, who was there to comfort him or what kind of memories the family has of his death. Randall now has beautiful memories of William's death, and it's infused with thoughts of Jack.

William: I'm a little scared.
Randall: You're OK dad. You're good. Just breathe. Come on, now, breathe with me. There you go. There you go.

I know the way that scene was filmed probably didn't play for the actors nearly as well as it looked when it was finished, so I dearly hope Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones were watching along with us to see the finished product.

Their work together was simply phenomenal. 

It can't be easy to act out death scenes, let alone make them as realistic as possible or to allow them to end with a ray of hope instead of sadness. 

Randall took a chance in meeting his birth father, and it wound up being one of the best decisions of his life. If he had waited another year, it would have been too long. 

You're Good. Just Breathe. - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

For years, and for reasons not wholly understood, Randall has always faced a crushing anxiety. Only his adoptive father had the magic touch to talk him off the ledge. But in his birth father's greatest time of need, Randall used that touch to usher him back into his mother's arms.

I think this will be a turning point for Randall. Getting through William's death on his own, without breaking and in such a way that he used a technique that was always the most helpful to him, will allow him to better weather anxiety in the future. 

He's faced head the most difficult thing life offers and survived. He was able to roll down his window and let the ducks pass. 

The Ducks - This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16

I am so happy This Is Us has come into our lives. Hopefully, William's passing makes room for more of cousin Ricky. It seems impossible Randall will be willing to let his new family go so quickly.

It may be the one show I see multiple times before the second season begins. Join me and watch This Is Us online. Were you blown away by this beautiful hour of television? What are your thoughts after watching?

Memphis Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
  • 5.0 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (75 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: ,

This Is Us Season 1 Episode 16 Quotes

William: What was he like, your father?
Randall: Larger than life, I guess. He had this really great laugh. Like when he laugh, it almost surprised him. Like when he laughed, it surprised him he could laugh so freely.

William: It's quite a shock to see you so vulnerable, the night Kevin brought you home. It's hard to fathom. You seem to have it so together.
Randall: Too together. I put the pressure on myself. It's always been like that ever since I was a little boy. My father, he kept it in check. Whenever I'd get too in my head, he'd take my hands and put them on both sides of my head and say 'there you go, breathe with me' and then we'd just sit there, breathing together, until it passed.