This Is Us Episode 16 RECAP: “My Beautiful Boy.”

This is Us Episode 16Oh, William. What a sweet, sweet man. A wise owl. A loving father.

Many would say he’s just a character on TV, but when a character is so alive, so fully realized, and so beloved, he’s much more.

I am sorry this is the end of William’s story, but I know writers this good will find a way to keep bringing him back into the mix. I am wondering if “Poems for My Son” will be published posthumously? Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Ron Cephas Jones is a gifted craftsman. He can convey so much–irony, tenderness, frustration, despair–with a single look. I will miss him so.

Needless to say, I adored William and Randall’s road trip to Memphis. Reminded me of our own trip to Memphis maybe 20 years ago. The electric energy of Beal Street was like none other. It’s where I fell for the Blues for the first time.

This recap will be all Randall and William because of course, this episode was all theirs. 

1. I know the trip was necessary and even priceless but was Randall’s breakdown on LAST WEEK’S EPISODE diminished by his seemingly snappy recovery? Here’s hoping we get a peek into the hard work of his healing.

2. When William gently woke the girls up to say goodbye, I felt a spasm of pain. He knew just as my Dad knew when I said goodbye to him that July day in 2006 that it was goodbye until Heaven. William’s term as Grandpa was short but oh so sweet. So glad those little girls got that gift.

3. Speaking of gifts, I was struck by William asking Randall what Jack had been like. What a beautiful thing to ask. And the scene where William “pays his respects” to Jack’s resting place? Astonishing. “Thank you for doing what I couldn’t,” he said to Jack. “I would have liked to have met my son’s father.” I’ve written quite a bit about my own birth father, and the choices he made–to walk away and not toward me–stand in striking contrast to William’s good choices. Yeah, I lost it.

4. The Memphis flashbacks are superbly done. We meet William’s parents as his father is going off to WW2. We see his mother grieving, yet rejoicing in her baby son. We get acquainted with William’s cousin and understand more about his creative pursuits of songwriting, poetry and the Blues.

5. In current day Memphis, William knocks on his old door and wanders through the house that built him. I’ve knocked on my old door, too, but wasn’t let in. Still, even being in my old backyard was potent, stirring up a million memories.

6. William drinks from the old whites-only fountain, quenching a deeper thirst.

7. It was good to see signs of Randall’s goofiness coming back. He sure was keen on meeting those cousins! “I’m up to twelve cousins in various forms!” he exults to Beth. Cute. Even cuter: “You are the chocolate sauce in my ice cream.”

8. After a last hurrah, William declines quickly. His organs shut down and Randall is told his birth father only has hours to live. At the hospital, in those last moments, William has something of inestimable value to give Randall. He calls him his “beautiful boy” and affirms again that Randall made the right choice to risk so much for the chance to know and love him. And also a spiral-bound collection of poetry, “Poems for My Son.” He also has some magnificently meaningful things to say before he leaves this world:

* “I want (the girls) to remember looking up at me, not down.”

* “The two best things in my life are the person at the very beginning and the person at the very end.” 

Ah, what richness! I hated saying goodbye to William, my very favorite character, but what a sendoff.

You know, when Randall rolled down the window on his way home–as William suggested he do–it made me think about all the ways we carry our loved ones and their influences with us, always. How do you carry your loved ones with you?

Next week: Looks like Sloane chose to let Kevin live after he walked out on their play to rescue Randall. But what will the fallout be? And Jack and Kate? With TWO EPISODES left to go, is this the beginning of the end for our favorite couple?

What was your favorite part of the episode? Least favorite? What storyline are you most excited to see play out? Comment below and we’ll discuss!

(Here’s Recap One and Recap Two and Recap Three if you missed them. Also, my first #Us post, “10 Adoption Thoughts About This is Us.”)


  1. Catherine Behrendt says

    I am loving your #Us recaps. As an adoptive mom, I have especially enjoyed hearing your reaction to the way the adoption triad is depicted. That aspect of the show has brought me to tears more than once! I was a late joiner – was actually trying to avoid discovering a must-watch television show – but I’m so happy that I did. Please keep sharing your perspective!
    Catherine Behrendt

  2. Sue Laitinen says

    I have to talk about the anxiety aspect of the show, with Randall. As a mother with a child (now an adult) with anxiety, I can very much relate to this. It took a long time, and many sleepless nights, to learn how, (and to teach my daughter how) to deal with it. Certain triggers set it off, only certain things help her to deal with it. And the sad part about it is, you don’t see it on the outside of a person, so many many people don’t understand it as a real issue…a real problem. So I give props to the show for dealing with it. However…I feel they brought him to the brink, to show people that anxiety is a real thing, but then it was that quickly over and done with. Kind of swept under the rug, so to speak. I wish they would have shown him working through it, and how the family is involved in that aspect, too.
    The way they portrayed William’s death…this whole episode…was so poignant. The way Randall talked about Jack…and although William could have shown some jealousy toward the man who raised his son and was called “dad” he took the high road instead and thanked him, posthumously of course, for raising his boy. Randall telling William how Jack help him through the panic attacks, then in the end, how Randall used that to help William…so good. And Williams words…”The two best things in my life, the person at the very beginning, and the person at the very end.” Oh man, what a gut wrencher. So goo . But so sad.
    Now to my complaint (lol). In every episode so far, we see how wonderful Jack was. His character is very built up, so to speak. But I feel Rebecca may be getting the short end of the stick. While Jack, being dead since they were teens, has caused his memory to be that of close to superhero status, lately Rebecca just seems like a spoiled brat. I think they need to show a good side to he . But that being said, I absolutely love this show. I just wish there was more episodes in the season!
    Hopefully there’s not too many autocorrect mistakes ,lol. That’s my phone for you!

    • Lorilee says

      I agree, Sue. Randall’s anxiety was “Kind of swept under the rug, so to speak. I wish they would have shown him working through it, and how the family is involved in that aspect, too.” I trust that writers this good will show us more of the healing process!

  3. says

    I feel like Sterling and Ron need to be held up by the Actor’s Guild and told that this is the standard you need to bring to your medium, and the writers, the same. Their story lines have this unique quality where you not only forget it is a show, you can’t find the line where they begin and your own story ends.

    This episode—-so. much. Beth at the doctor’s office. How the doctor noted how adorable they were. How William and Randall fisted each other when they got the okay to travel.

    Saying goodbye to the girls. My dad knew long before we did when his last days and hours were. He his his pain so well.

    Throwing the maps out the window, telling him to roll down the music and turn up the radio, what great fatherly advice.

    The last ten minutes I was so embedded into it remembering my own father that I realized I was holding my breath. I forgot to even breathe. And when he held his dad just as Jack had and called him dad instead of William, that was everything.

    Nothing over the top to say he was gone, just him and his mom sharing a hug.

    What I love just as much are the aftershow interviews. Ron and Sterling broke everything down, and you learn even more. Then, I happened to run across Sterling on Facebook Live. He had watched the show East Coast time, his 5th time seeing it. He was a mess. He was crying as much as I was.

    That episode and those actors together were a gift to people who love to watch writing and acting unfold. It was nothing short of brilliant.

    • Lorilee says

      Sterling is a beautiful person! Wow–this show is so much more than a show, isn’t it? thanks for your comments, Julie!


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