‘This Is Us’ Recap: William and Randall Take One Last Ride

Father and son go on a road trip to Memphis, in the most emotional episode of the NBC drama yet

Last Updated: February 21, 2017 @ 7:05 PM

(Spoiler alert: Please do not watch if you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of “This Is Us,” titled “Memphis”)

In the most emotional episode of NBC’s “This Is Us” yet — and that’s saying something — William (Ron Cephas Jones) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) decide to take one last roadtrip to William’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, before he dies from the cancer that’s making him weaker by the day.

But first, Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) consult his doctor to make sure he himself, fresh off that heartbreaking mental breakdown in last week’s episode, is healthy enough for such a trip. The doctor is clearly a good one, because he notices and comments on the fact that Randall and Beth are freakin’ adorable together. “We know,” they reply, proving his point.

Anyway, onto the road trip, which of course turns out to be quite a journey down memory lane as well for the ailing William, as we learn that he was raised by a single mother Dorothy (Amanda Warren) after his father died in the military while she was pregnant with him.

Mother and son were inseparable, until she moved to Philadelphia and left him to forge his own path in Memphis, with his art, music and writing.

Young William (Jermel Nakia) proved his genius early on, as he hooked up with his musician cousin Ricky (“Atlanta” star Brian Tyree Henry once again showing off his musical chops) to write music for their band, taking them from cover band to original artists seemingly overnight.

Defying expectations, William remained a good kid and didn’t fall into the partying rock star lifestyle — a surprise since we know he was addicted to drugs at one point — choosing instead to focus on his work.

That is, until he got a call from his mother, who was extremely ill in Philadelphia. He promised Ricky he’d be back as soon as he could, but as we soon learn, fate has other plans.

Caring for his ailing mother, young William got on a city bus and met Randall’s mother Laurel, a scene that we’ve seen briefly before.

This time, though, we get the full scope of the young couple’s relationship, which was loving and lasting, and ultimately tragic. After William’s mother died, he finally succumbed to joining Laurel in self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, setting him on the course to become the man we know today.

Speaking of the present man, he manages to track down cousin Ricky, who was still perhaps rightly annoyed that he left and never came back decades ago, but the two patch things up to play some music together.

Meanwhile, Randall meet cousin after cousin and is up to about twelve new extended family members by the night’s end.

However, of course things couldn’t be all happy reunions forever, as William’s health takes a turn for the worse and he’s rushed to a local hospital. Turns out, he never planned on being healthy enough to travel back home: This was always supposed to be a one-way trip.

“The two best things in my life were the person at the very beginning, and the person at the very end,” William tells Randall, referring to his mother and his son, who’s sitting in front of him … and we all wept.

As if that weren’t enough, we then cut to William in the afterlife, being embraced by his mother. As if that weren’t enough, we then cut to Randall driving home, alone now, but with a copy of the “Poems for my son” packet a young William had tried to give Rebecca (Mandy Moore) many years and many episodes ago.

Guys, if you’re now too sad to function, just remember this: We haven’t even gotten to Jack’s death yet.

“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.