05x06 - Birth Mother

Previously on This Is Us...

JAE-WON: Today's bulletin, it's kind of going viral.

I'm doing this for William Hill.

Because you all were his family.

"My name's Hai Lang, and I live in New Orleans.

"I believe I knew your mother, Laurel.

"I was by her side when she died in May of ." What?

I wish I could show you the places she lived, the things she loved.

Hey, what if we were to come out there?

If that's what you could do.

You okay, babe?

You haven't said much since we got in last night.

I'm just thinking about the last time we were here.

Mm.

Our fifth anniversary.

Oh, we tried absinthe for the first time.

That was a good night.

Five-hour man.

It was six.

- Don't short-change a brother.

- Oh, okay.

My fault.

We were here for...

what?

- Five, six days?

- Mm-hmm.

Could've walked right past her and wouldn't have even known it.

(BIRDS SINGING)

(CAR DOORS CLOSE)

Randall.

Welcome.

It's nice to finally meet you in person.

RANDALL: It's a pleasure.

Thank you for agreeing to this.

And thank you for testing and quarantining.

- I know it's a lot to ask.

- Not at all.

You remember my wife, Beth?

Your place is beautiful.

It's, uh, actually yours.

Excuse me?

This house, this land...

it was your mother's.

And now it's yours.

Come in.

(QUIETLY): I'm gonna need some absinthe tonight.

You must have a million questions.

A million is in the ballpark, yes.

I'll tell you what I know, from the beginning.

Your mother was a Dubois.

They were the most distinguished family in town.

(LIGHT LAUGHTER)

HAI: I think that was always a lot of pressure on Laurel.

ELIZABETH: Oh, stop.

I'll check the guest list, but I think we should go.

Elizabeth, I said I'd think about it.

I don't want to think about it right now.

(SIGHS)

Hilda, my briefcase.

You're going to the bank on Sunday?

It's such a lovely day out, I thought we might take a stroll after lunch.

Laurel...

What is it I always say?

You need to start paying more attention during Mass, young lady.

Jackson...

"To whomever much is given, much will be required." Luke : .

PAUL: Very good.

Um, Elizabeth, honey.

If I get back before supper, maybe we'll take that stroll.

Mwah.

You two, mind your mother.

I've got to lay down.

I do not want to hear the television set until homework is finished, you hear me?

Yes, ma'am.

You can't let Daddy ruffle your feathers.

(SIGHS)

Cover for me while I go visit Aunt Mae?

Again?

Well, if you're so worried, come with me.

Then who would sneak you back in when you got home?

Ah.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Mind my peppers.

(SIGHS)

I forgot, you have eyes in the back of your head.

No, I just know you.

There are two kinds of people in this world.

The ones who look before they leap, and the other ones, who throw their arms out and plunge into the void, not the least bit worried about what's below.

And you, my darling, are the latter.

How do you know?

'Cause I'm the latter, too.

(LAUGHS)

I was fixin' to go for a swim.

- You want to come?

All right.

- Mm-hmm.

Help me get those tomatoes inside.

(INSECTS TRILLING)

I know.

I know I'm late.

Mama's gonna have a fit.

Come on.

Laurel, where have you been?

And don't you even fix your mouth to tell a lie.

Aunt Mae's.

After I forbade you?

I'm sorry, Daddy.

I will not tolerate a disobedient child.

If you even think about going over there again, you will get a lashing you will not soon forget.

Am I clear?

Yes, sir.

- Ow!

- Sit still.

I'll comb the wild out you if it's the last thing I do.

Can I hide out in here?

Only if you promise to be quiet.

Why should I be

Discouraged...

Don't you have any Marvin Gaye?

Mahalia Jackson sang for MLK.

She's an American queen.

Why

Should the shadows...

You all right?

Yeah.

Just still don't understand how Daddy could hate his own sister.

Aunt Mae's his blood.

I could never hate you, Jackson.

Other than Aunt Mae, you're the only one who understands me.

I don't understand you.

Ow.

All right.

You ain't even holding this right, okay?

Let me show you.

And long...

HAI: Laurel hated being away from Aunt Mae.

But she had Jackson.

And when he went to fight in Vietnam, she said she never felt so alone.

When Jesus

Is

My portion

And my constant friend

Is he

(ENGINE APPROACHES)

- ♪ You know his eye

- (ENGINE SHUTS OFF)

(CAR DOORS OPEN, CLOSE)

Is on

(DOORBELL RINGS)

Little old sparrow

And I know

He cares

For you and me

His eye...

(BIRDS SINGING)

LAUREL: I can't believe he's gone.

Jackson is really gone.

What am I gonna do without him?

God can take your pain...

...my sweet Laurel.

But you have to let it go.

I don't know how.

There.

I go in there, and let it all out.

Hmm.

Go on.

Yeah.

Go on.

(BIRDS SINGING)

(SNIFFLES)

(SCREAMS)

Is it too much?

No, I'm sorry.

I, uh...

I just met and lost an uncle in the course of five minutes.

BETH: Hmm.

I, uh, I didn't realize that you'd know quite so much about her.

How did you know her exactly?

If I'm being honest, your mother was the love of my life.

After the war ended, my family and I became refugees.

The church helped bring a lot of us here.

The weather, the water... made it a perfect home for us.

I decided to become a fisherman to care for my parents.

It was out there where I saw Laurel for the first time.

(LAUGHS SOFTLY)

Or should I say, heard her for the first time.

Yeah!

(LAUREL SCREAMING)

(SCREAMS)

W-Whoa, whoa!

- (STAMMERS)

- What are you doing?!

Get off of me!

Get away from me!

I'm not drowning.

Hmm.

I couldn't stop thinking about the woman who wasn't drowning.

That's what I called her before I knew her name.

Before I knew anything.

Oh, Mae, let me get that for you.

These old bones appreciate the help, but I don't want to get in the way of you spending time with that handsome fellow of yours.

Marshall's busy at the bank with Daddy.

As usual.

That's not a complaint.

Any woman in New Orleans would be lucky to have him.

Mm, so he's a dud.

(LAUGHS)

Aunt Mae, quit!

MAE: You go and take these over to Marcel.

If he tries to pay for 'em, don't take his money.

- Yes, ma'am.

- Mm-hmm.

- Hi, Mr. Leblanc.

- Good morning, Miss Dubois.

Morning.

Hey.

It's you.

It's you from the lake.

(SPEAKS VIETNAMESE)

What?

- (LAUREL LAUGHS)

- Aah!

(LAUGHING)

You.

"Aah!"

(LAUGHS): Yeah, that was me.

But I wasn't drowning.

I'm Laurel.

Hai.

Hello.

No.

Hai.

Oh.

That's your name.

Nice to meet you.

(LAUREL LAUGHS SOFTLY)

Uh, for me?

I...

I'm not much of a cook.

- (LAUGHS)

- Oh.

Um, bad cook.

We...

(IMITATES CHOKING)

(LAUGHS): Oh!

Yeah.

- Uh-huh.

- Yeah.

I cook.

You eat?

Okay.

HAI: I still remember the look in her eyes.

(SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY)

Being with her...

Pinch the tail.

Suck the head.

- (LAUGHS)

- Mmm.

...was the best time of my life.

ELIZABETH: It's so nice to have you over.

HAI: Although it was complicated for her.

(INSECTS CHIRPING)

I want to tell you something, but...

...don't make fun of me, okay?

- What?

- (LAUGHS)

Em yêu anh.

Anh yêu em.

I love you, too.

(INSECTS CHIRPING)

PAUL: Laurel.

(OPERA MUSIC PLAYING OVER RADIO)

Daddy, I didn't know you were up.

It's after midnight.

Oh, I was studying at Dorothy's.

Then we went into the city.

Must've lost track of time.

Mm.

Yeah.

- Come on.

- (PATS CHAIR)

You know, I feel like I hardly even see you at dinner these last few weeks.

My studies have been keeping me busy.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah.

Marshall told me as much.

I offered him the vice president's position at the bank.

Oh, that's wonderful.

- I'm happy for him.

- Mm.

Yeah.

He plans to propose.

I've already given him my blessing.

Quite frankly, it was an easy yes.

(PAUL SIGHS)

Now, the reason I'm telling you all of this is because Marshall is coming over for dinner to celebrate his promotion.

Should he decide to propose...

...your answer will be an easy yes.

(BRAKES SQUEAK)

Laurel?

I can't be here one more day.

Let's leave.

I know people in Chicago.

We can go now.

We can be together freely, like we always wanted.

I love you, Hai.

Come with me.

HAI: I knew her father would not let us be together, and I wanted to go with her.

But my parents wouldn't have survived without me.

I cannot.

S-Stay with me.

Please.

I can't.

(CAR DOOR CLOSES)

So she went to Chicago?

She never made it.

The cheapest bus out was to Pittsburgh.

And that's when she met William and had me?

Eventually.

She needed time to adjust to the city,

- find her place.

- Okay.

Look, um...

we've come a long way.

And you have told us a gorgeous story.

- Seriously, it rivals The Notebook.

- Randall, just let him finish.

All I really want to know is why William told me my mother died of an overdose after having me.

Now, you said on the phone that he was telling the truth.

But how?

Like, why did he think she died?

Because she did.

What?

Hai, we're gonna need a little more than that.

The nurses told Laurel she OD'd.

She was unresponsive.

MEDIC: Joel, leave her.

- (RANDALL COOS)

- I-Is she gone?

MEDIC: Mark the time and call it in.

HAI: The paramedics said when they were trying to revive her, your father took you and ran.

So that's it?

I mean, after she got out of the hospital, why didn't she try to find me?

William didn't just vanish into thin air.

- She was going to.

- Then why didn't she?

What stopped her?

Prison.

Please sit.

This isn't The Notebook.

HAI: Like I said, Laurel didn't go to prison right away.

She ended up in the hospital.

(MONITOR BEEPING)

(WEAKLY): Where's my baby?

W-Where's my baby?

- Where's my baby?

- Ma'am, please.

- I need you to relax.

- I need my baby.

- Take it easy.

Take it easy.

- All right.

William?

William?

We don't know where he is, but you

- just need to relax, okay?

- I need my baby.

Take it easy.

- William...

- (SHUSHING)

- There you go.

(SHUSHING)

- I need my baby.

Okay.

- There you go.

- That should do it.

NURSE: What kind of mother gets high after giving birth?

NURSE : Wherever that baby is, he's better off.

The devil's in the basement in my home

HAI: She recovered in the hospital for a few days.

A flight of stairs is way too close

There she is.


HAI: Then the police showed up.

He comes for me...

Laurel Dubois?

And she was arrested for drug possession.

There's a warrant out for your arrest.

Collecting debts

That I don't owe

Follow me down where the waters run deep

We don't have a phone.

I-I need to call my boyfriend, but we don't have a phone.

There's no one else?

No family?

If my intentions are good, why can't I come clean?

If heaven's above, where does that leave me?

Am I looking

For revival?

Am I dressed in others' sin?

(PHONE RINGING)

Dubois residence.

Hold my breath until I'm honest

Hello?

Will I ever breathe again?

Laurel?

When the world's so heavy

I can't stand

I close my eyes and start again

(CUFFS JINGLING)

Though my heart is in my hands

I won't break, give me faith to bend...

HAI: Laurel's lawyer made her plead guilty.

It was her only offense.

He thought she'd get mercy.

But the judge sentenced her to five years.

The prisons in Pittsburgh were overcrowded, so Laurel was sent to California.

Will I ever breathe again?

Again

Again...

She didn't talk much about that time, and I didn't push.

I knew it was too painful.

But she said there wasn't a single night that went by when she didn't dream about you.

Am I dressed in others' sin?

Hold my breath until I'm honest

Will I ever breathe again?

What year was she released?' .

Am I looking

For revival?

Am I dressed in others' sin?

Hold my breath...

Laurel only had enough money for a one-way bus ticket.

Will I ever breathe again?

She thought about going to find you, but I think she was still punishing herself.

She felt she forfeited the right to be your mother, so she went to the only place she knew.

Hold my breath

Until I'm honest

Will I ever breathe again?

Will I ever breathe again?

Will I ever breathe again?

You have nothing to be ashamed of.

I do.

I had a child, Aunt Mae.

I had a baby with a man who loved me.

A boy.

I don't know where he is.

He used to give me gardenias.

(CHUCKLES)

Who?

Raymond Blanchard.

I didn't know gardenias were my favorite till he gave them to me.

I loved him more than life.

But I was so young.

So naive.

Naive enough to think that a married man could be mine.

That's why I was...

happy when I got pregnant.

I thought that would bind us together, make us a family.

What happened?

(INHALES DEEPLY)

I lost 'em both.

(EXHALES)

And it changed me.

I let my broken heart be all that I was.

And after that, my parents sent me away.

But I came here.

Found salvation.

Oh, we should call your parents.

I'm not ready.

Oh, they... they need to know you're back.

(CRYING)

They're better off.

No.

I was no good as a daughter, and I'm no good as a mother.

Hey, stop that talk.

My son is gonna grow up thinking I didn't love him.

No.

(SOBBING): Why couldn't I be good for him?

Why?

You can't keep doing this to yourself.

If you don't let the guilt go, it'll strangle you.

(WHISPERS): It will.

(NIGHT BIRD CALLING)

(SCREAMS)

Come on, now, Cher, I'll give you a quarter.

Now, why you want to give me a hard time, huh?

Either you want the onions, or you don't.

She don't never smile, does she?

Leave me out of it, Woodrow.

WOODROW: Fine.

(SUCKS TEETH)

Mm.

Appreciate you.

He's right, you know?

About what?

I miss that big smile of yours.

I'm not sure what there is to smile about.

Your health, for one.

And me, for another.

I know.

I-I'm sorry, I...

I just can't find a reason to...

BETH: All right.

Time-out.

So all y'all did was wave?

All that hot sexual tension,

- and the only...

- (RANDALL GROANS)

I'm sorry, but there was hot sexual...

There wasn't much we could do.

I was married.

My wife was pregnant.

And I hadn't seen Laurel in so long.

So yes, it was just a wave.

At least that's how it was for several years.

We had a few moments.

Small but enough.

RANDALL: I'm sorry, Hai.

I'm a little lost.

I thought you said you and Laurel were close at the time she died.

We were.

But it took decades.

After my wife passed on and my children left home, it was just me.

But knowing Laurel was only a few feet away gave me comfort.

Until one day she was gone.

Hi.

Hi.

When do you start treatment?

I'm done with that.

The doctor said it's an aggressive tumor.

Meaning...

there ain't no treatment.

Oh, Laurel.

Have you eaten today?

No.

But I-I'm gonna.

I cook.

You eat.

Her doctor was wrong.

Or maybe God wanted us to have more time.

'Cause Laurel lived another two years.

(LAUGHTER)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

I learned her story, learned your story.

Every day with her was perfect.

♪ If only we had more of them.

(SIGHS)

(DOOR CREAKS OPEN)

(SNIFFLES)

What are you thinking about?

My son.

(INHALES)

I wish I had told him.

You'll get a chance to.

♪ - What a life.

- HAI: Hmm.

It's strange.

After all this time, I can still feel her here.

Sometimes when I swim in the lake, I swear I could hear her laugh.

(HAI CHUCKLES)

Mm, I have something for you.

You know, Hai, you should really consider making this into, like, a podcast or, like, a book or something.

You could call it Alex Haley Presents Laurel's Roots.

(LAUGHTER)

These belong to you.

Uh...

You sure you don't want it?

You've been looking after it for years.

It's yours.

(KEYS JINGLE)

I don't know how to thank you for today.

I waited a long time to do this for Laurel.

I should be thanking you.

Okay.

See you tomorrow at breakfast.

(DOOR CLOSES)

That was, uh...

(SIGHS)

How are you holding up?

- We own a farmhouse.

- We own a farmhouse.

By a lake.

Mm-hmm.

In New Orleans.

Where my dead biological mother grew up.

And fell in love with her Vietnamese boyfriend.

That's how I'm holding up.

I could go for a shot of the absinthe if you...

you know...

Maybe the whole bottle.

(BOTH LAUGH)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(LAUGHTER)

WOMAN: My baby.

My baby.

I didn't even know I was looking for you.

Now I've found you, and you're gone.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I wish...

I wish I could change everything.

But I can't, and you know that.

And all this sadness is weighing you down.

(CHUCKLES SOFTLY)

You have my eyes.

I see so much pain in them.

Aren't you tired?

You need to let the pain go.

I don't know how.

Yes, you do.

(SCREAMING)

Me yêu con. What is that?

Something I've been...

wanting to say to you for a long time.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you, too.

♪ What?

(CHUCKLES)

You seem different.

Lighter.

(CHUCKLES)

I know my birth story, Beth.

And it's not just getting left at a fire station.

It's two people.

Two imperfect people...

...that loved me.

I'm-a call Kevin.

What, now?

I don't want to hold on to the bad stuff anymore.

I want to let it all go.

Okay.

- (LINE RINGS)

- KEVIN: Randall, hey.

RANDALL: Hey, Kev.

We're driving home from New Orleans.

Uh, long story.

- I was wondering if we could talk.

- I-I'm sorry, Randall.

Listen, I can't right now, okay.

My whole life has been turned upside down.

Madison is in labor and I'm stuck here in Vancouver.

I'm trying to get home in time for the birth.

She's already at the hospital and she's all alone.

I never...

I never should have come here.

- Hey, Kev.

- I'm sorry, I'll call you soon.

Okay, I'm sorry.