This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6 Review: Birth Mother

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Wow. After learning Laurel's story, it's going to take me a minute to gather my thoughts.

Most shows couldn't get away with devoting 90 percent of an episode to people we've never seen before, but This Is Us does it regularly without it feeling like an intrusion.

And This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6 was one of the most emotional single-story episodes so far as Randall learned his mother's sad story and how to let go of his pain.

An Important Visit/Tall - This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6

Laurel's story felt like a movie about a different family than the one we're familiar with. 

In some ways, it was timeless. There have been plenty of stories about domineering fathers, young women desperate to get out from under their thumb, and families torn apart by Vietnam.

Yet this was compelling television, despite the familiarity of the story and the characters mostly being strangers.

Laurel had three important relationships in her life, not counting her relationship with William: her brother Jackson, her secret lover Hai, and her Aunt Mae.

It was unsurprising that throughout her life, Laurel turned to Aunt Mae. The two were kindred spirits who didn't fit their family's expectations for them, and Mae was probably more of a mother to Laurel than her own mother was.

Facing the Past - This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6

Laurel's life was filled with heartbreak, but Aunt Mae taught her how to push through the pain and keep moving forward. That was probably what gave her the courage to run away from the marriage her father demanded she made and the courage to return after she got out of prison.

Laurel: Jackson is gone. What am I gonna do without him?
Aunt Mae: God can take your pain, my sweet Laurel, but you gotta let it go.

There was one thing that was missing, and of course, it was something that Hai wouldn't know: how Laurel ended up addicted to heroin in the first place. 

The reasons why were fairly obvious. Laurel's brother died, her father never approved of her, and she'd had to leave the one man she loved behind to escape the miserable life her father had tried to force upon her.

Discovering the Tr.uth - This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6

We know she and William did heroin together, and maybe that's all we need to know, but part of me was curious about how it all started.

In any case, the nurses' attitude toward her at the hospital pissed me off. 

Even today, there's limited understanding that addiction is a mental health issue, and plenty of people view it as a moral failing. Substance abusers often don't seek help, sometimes dying unnecessarily of overdoses, because of both stigma and fear of arrest.

And this was forty years ago, at the height of the war on drugs.

Nevertheless, it was shocking and appalling to hear healthcare workers speak so disparagingly about a patient.

Randall Meets Hai - This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6

And, of course, that was another way racism has touched Randall's life.

His mother, who had no criminal record whatsoever, and was sentenced to five years in prison because she tried to self-medicate after his birth. Most likely, the harsh sentence and the way the healthcare workers talked about her were related to the color of her skin.

And because of that experience, she was so ashamed that she never sought her son out, and Randall only learned she'd survived his birth long after her death.

Randall: How did you know my mother, exactly?
Hai: If I'm being honest, your mother was the love of my life.

It was semi-tragic that Laurel didn't spend her life with Hai until the last few years, too, though there would have been no Randall if she had been able to do that.

In the end, her life was marred by her inability to either live up to expectations or stand up for what she really wanted because of circumstances. But her ghostly visit or whatever that was with Randall was beautiful.

Learning About Laurel - This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6

Things came full circle, as Laurel's ghost gave Randall the same advice that Mae had given her all those years ago about letting go of the pain before it swallows you whole.

It makes you wonder how it would have changed Randall if Laurel had been able to be part of his life while growing up.

Beth: How are you holding up?
Randall: We own a farmhouse by a lake where my dead biological mother grew up and fell in love with her Vietnamese boyfriend. That's how I'm holding up.

And now Randall owns the farmhouse that was passed down to Laurel from Mae.

I was curious as to what he's going to do with that house. His family lives elsewhere, but obviously, it means a lot to him to have his mother's property.

Also, now that Hai's given him the house, what happens to Hai? 

He must not live there, as he left for the night after giving Randall the keys. I wonder if Randall will have him tend to the house when he's not there and whether he will become part of the extended family.

Finally, I was glad that Randall was ready to make up with Kevin, but I had a bad feeling about Kevin speeding down that empty-looking road to get to Madison on time.

And from the trailer for This Is Us Season 5 Episode 7, it looks like I was more right than I wanted to be. I'm not looking forward to Kevin's accident, especially since things are still left unsaid between him and Randall.

Your turn, This Is Us fanatics.

What did you think of Laurel's backstory, Randall's impatience with it, and his reaction to finally learning the entire truth about his birth mother?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!

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This Is Us continues to air on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST. 

Birth Mother Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.9 / 5.0 (22 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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This Is Us Season 5 Episode 6 Quotes

I don't understand how Daddy can hate his own sister. I could never hate you, Jackson. Besides Aunt Mae, you're the only one who understands me.

Laurel

Laurel: I was no good as a daughter and no good as a mother. My son is going to grow up thinking I didn't love him. Why couldn't I be good for him?
Mae: You can't keep doing this to yourself. If you don't let the guilt go, it will strangle you.