WARNING: The following contains spoilers for This Is Us Season 5, Episode 13, "Brotherly Love," which aired Tuesday on NBC.
After last week's episode of This Is Us, "Brotherly Love" focuses on Randall and Kevin having an open and honest conversation about their childhoods. The episode opens with Randall as a young child imagining that a weatherman and a librarian are his real parents and that he lives with him. In reality, though, he is pretending to be Mr. Rogers with Kevin when Jack is home alone with them because Kate and Rebecca are away for the weekend. And for their big weekend activity, Jack reveals that they are going to a taping of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
In the present, Randall is anxiously awaiting Kevin's arrival and their long-awaited serious chat. Earlier in the season, the two started to repair their relationship
, but now, the time has come for them to have a difficult conversation about their complicated relationship
. Beth takes the girls out for the day to give Randall and Kevin the time to talk, and she reminds him of the awful things they said to each other during their last fight, explaining that it can't get worse than that. When Kevin arrives, he and Randall make awkward small talk about how Kevin is waiting for a call from Robert DeNiro. but it doesn't last long.
The third subplot of the episode focuses on a college-aged Randall going to visit Kevin, who is trying to launch his acting career in LA. Randall is there on spring break with his model UN team, so Kevin wants to party, and while Randall is reluctant at first, he eventually agrees.
Meanwhile, at the taping for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a PA doesn't recognize Randall as Jack's son. Jack overcompensates by telling the PA it isn't a big deal, which upsets Randall, but he insists on giving the young boy some special treatment. This leaves Kevin upset, so when the two boys are seated in the audience, Kevin pushes Randall and tells Jack he wants his brother's seat.
When Kevin and Randall drink in LA, they get along really well and have a good time. Randall asks Kevin about some art on his wall, and Kevin explains that it's from a friend after Randall makes fun of it. Then, Kevin reveals he got them both fake IDs. Randall is offended that his ID looks nothing like him, but Kevin is flippant about how since both Randall and the picture are Black, it will work.
In the present, Kevin gives Randall a rehearsed apology speech that includes a reference to their prom when he witnessed racism towards Randall at the hands of Randall's date's father and how he regrets not protecting him. Randall is not overly moved by Kevin's speech, calling it a nice sentiment, and admits he's having a hard time not being annoyed. Kevin gets defensive and doesn't understand why Randall isn't taking him seriously. Randall then says he needs some air and goes to the front porch, but Kevin follows him.
On the porch, Randall calls Kevin out for his repeated use of the word "if" in his apology. They fight about why it's taken them so long to have this conversation in the first place and how tense their relationship has been in recent years. After Kevin asks what Randall wants from him, his phone starts to ring from inside and they realize they are locked out of the house.
While locked out, Kevin complains about missing De Niro's call before saying he thinks Randall never planned to accept his apology no matter what he said. In response, Randall says that Kevin just wanted credit for doing the right thing and his apology reflects a complete lack of understanding. Kevin explains that he thinks his brother's childhood was glorious and it made him special, which causes Randall to say that he just wanted to fit in. Randall then tells Kevin he has racial blind spots and his actions hurt him because they were never intentionally or overtly racist but had a racial component. When Kevin interprets that as being called racist, Randall walks away promising a way back into the house.
Back in the past, in the cab on the way to the bar, Randall is put on edge by Kevin's rude behavior towards the Black cab driver. This escalates to them getting into a fight, which forces the cab driver to kick them out, leaving them on the side of the road. The pair then gets into a physical fight, which ends with Kevin losing his keys.
After the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood taping finishes, Kevin runs off and Jack chases after him, leaving Randall alone on the set. Randall then talks to Daniel -- Mr. Roger's iconic tiger hand puppet -- about using his imagination and admits that he has imaginary parents.
In the present, Randall collects a spare key to his house from his neighbor. While they wait for her to get the key, Randall explains how Kevin's behavior was full of racial microaggressions when they were kids. But Kevin insists they fought like brothers because he was envious of Randall's treatment by their parents, not because of race. On their way back to the house with the spare key, Randall tells Kevin that the day he was adopted was not only hard on Kevin, but hard on him, too, because being adopted robbed him of his birth parents. Kevin thinks that Randall's attitude sounds ungrateful, which forces Randall to explain that his family's demand for constant gratitude is a suffocating prison.
After their street fight, Kevin and Randall return to Kevin's apartment with the keys. Randall tries to bring up the fact that Kevin was being rude to the Black driver, but Kevin blows it off. So, Randall calls him oblivious, and when Kevin argues with him, Randall changes the subject. Kevin then admits that he was hoping for a good time with Randall because things in LA were tough. He shares that the painting was a way to express his feelings and he's been bombing his auditions. Kevin also explains that he thinks Randall has everything -- Beth and a huge future -- and he feels like the family failure. Randall says he doesn't see it that way, and the two go back inside to eat hot pockets.
Present-day Randall and Kevin use the spare key to get back inside, and Kevin asks if Randall wishes he was never adopted. Randall claims it's not that simple, and Kevin says how he doesn't see their childhood or their relationship the same way Randall does. Randall then explains to Kevin the concept of Ghost Kingdoms, which he learned from his transracial adoption support group
Randall says he's always had a Ghost Kingdom, even before he knew what they were called. But without a name, he imagined that the nice librarian and the local meteorologist from the news were his parents because the only two adults he saw regularly that looked like him. Back then, Randall didn't know other people did that, and he felt guilty about it because he loved his adoptive family, so they existed in his Ghost Kingdom, too.
Kevin apologizes for all of the things he doesn't see and tells Randall that he loves him. Randall tells Kevin that Jack didn't die ashamed of Kevin and that it was a cheap shot when he said it during their fight. He says both he and Jack are proud
of Kevin and apologizes for letting him think otherwise.
After talking on the phone with DeNiro, Kevin asks if Randall still thinks about his Ghost Kingdom. Randall says it's the same because when he's a kid with the weatherman, the librarian and his adoptive family, not even William and Loreal
replaced the fantasy. Kevin seems hesitant to speak, so Randall tells Kevin they have to say the ugly things even if the rest of the world can't. Kevin acknowledges that his resentment towards Randall was connected to him being Black because he associated his brother's special treatment with his skin color. Kevin admits that he wanted to take Randall down a notch with his comments and that he overlooked things he shouldn't have.
Kevin's admission causes Randall to cry just as Beth and the girls return home happy to see Kevin. That night, Randall lays awake next to Beth as he rolls over and dreams about being a small kid with William and Loreal. The episode ends with his actual birth parents replacing the librarian and meteorologist in his dreams, signaling that his conversation with Kevin helped him to move forward
Created by Dan Fogelman, This Is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Chris Sullivan and Susan Kelechi Watson. New episodes air Tuesdays at 9pm ET/PT on NBC.