In a twist of fate, the man who knew Laurel long after she was thought to be dead, Hai Lang (played by guest star Vien Hong), reached out to Randall through his website following the councilman's unintentional bout of viral fame (thanks in no small part to his striptease video), revealing that he was close with Randall's birth mother.
As Hai shared, Laurel died in May 2015 of breast cancer, decades after William, Randall and all of us were led to believe. Afraid that William had been lying all this time, there was some amount of comfort for Randall when he learned that that likely wasn't the case. "From what I know of the story, I believe he was telling you what he thought was the truth," Hai told Randall over the phone after the two connected.
Sometime after Randall was born, Laurel made her way from the East Coast to New Orleans, where she met (and most definitely fell in love with) Hai in the early 2000s. It appeared Hai knew about Randall (that Laurel must have spoken glowingly about her son and kept tabs on him), confessing to him, "I thought about telling you about her for so many years."
And then opened the door just a tad for Randall to step right through, as his life-long quest to learn about his roots picked up again. "I just wish I could see your face. I wish I could show you the places she lived, the things she loved," Hai lamented.
A light bulb went off in Randall's head. A trip to New Orleans to meet Hai and learn more about his mom was the next logical step. He took Hai's invitation to heart, telling him that he and his family would go out to New Orleans "to see where my mother lived and the things she loved. I would like that very much."
Randall's decision to discover more about his parentage, most notably the mystery of his birth mom, didn't come easily. A session with his therapist helped illuminate the importance behind Randall's desires to find closure with the void left by Laurel. While Randall felt questions were answered when he delved into William's story, it only seemed fitting to give Laurel the same.
"There's obviously a story to tell, continuing onward from that moment," Fogelman told reporters in October. "It's not something that's going to be [dragged out]. Answers will be gotten pretty quickly; without spoiling too much, well within the first half of the season. Certainly it's not something we're going to drag out as a mystery over multiple seasons or anything. So there's a pretty quick answer and I think it will be found to be elegantly done."
He addressed why now felt like the appropriate time to introduce this new thread into the fabric of the show.
"It's one of those last things we've always bandied about, in terms of this being the area where we would reveal this information and dive a little bit into his birth mother's story," Fogelman explained to ET. "For us, Randall's story, big picture, has always been a story of identity. He's a man who, like many people who come from different backgrounds who's searching for who he is and where he's from, it's always been a part of his story -- the story of his birth mother -- that we've never really filled out and told. I think for Randall, for that character, until he can get some answers there and some kind of closure, it will be a final step in coming to terms with some of his own questions about his identity."
"It's something that, if you look back in the series, we've always kind of laid [down] talk of where's his mother, why is his mother not a part of this narrative as she's this character who died in childbirth and we've never really looked into it. This first half of the season is our opportunity to do that and it's our conscious plan of the when and the how and the why in terms of Randall's big picture arc," he continued.
This Is Usairs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. For more on the series, watch the video below.