Need to catch up? Check out the previous This Is Us recap here.
Well, at least now we have confirmation on which son is Rebecca’s favorite.
Even though This Is Us‘ Rebecca has repeatedly sounded the “I love you all equally” gong to her three children, a particularly grueling therapy session at Kevin’s rehab center forces her to admit the bitter truth: She loved Randall better than Kevin, at least while the boys were growing up, because he didn’t push her away like a churlish Kev did.
But that’s not the only truth bomb that hits its target during the hour. Read on for the highlights of “The Fifth Wheel.”
CABIN BELEAGUERED | How about the flashback first? Jack comes home from work all excited: One of his colleagues has a cabin sitting empty in the Poconos, and he’s offered it to the Pearsons for a week. Vacation time! Rebecca looks vaguely pained by the development — probably because she has no say in the matter before Jack tells Randall and Kate to start packing their bags — but gamely goes along with her husband’s enthusiasm for their upcoming vacation. To be fair, Jack is a full-on puppy dog of excitement here, all but wagging his tail as he happily plots out his plan to pick Kevin up from football camp on the way to the woods.
But the getaway isn’t as idyllic as Papa Pearson might’ve hoped. First off, Rebecca is worried about Kate’s weight, and she puts the kibosh on Jack’s daily daddy-daughter trips to the local ice cream parlor. Jack maintains that their daughter takes after his grandmother, who was “big boned,” but Rebecca says they’ve got to get Kate to be more active. This is not easily accomplished. When Kate wants to stop playing football with her brothers and her dad, Jack stalls her by saying that she’s eaten a lot of sweets that week, and a little exercise will do her good. His comments are well-intentioned yet super hurtful, and Kate’s face as she stomps off damn near kills me.
When Jack later finds her sitting alone in the woods, she mentions that a neighbor kid called her fat, then asks her dad point-blank: “Do you think I’m fat?” Jack grasps for an answer that won’t crush her soul, finally choosing something about her being “my favorite-looking person on the whole planet.” As a kid who grew up fat, I can report with 100 percent accuracy that the only answer Kate wanted was “No,” and she definitely noticed its absence from his speech.
IN WHICH REBECCA IS EERILY PRESCIENT | Meanwhile, Kevin has rejoined the family after his football camp, but he’s being a gigantic jerk to both Randall and his mother. When Randall’s new glasses go missing, Rebecca suspects Kev had something to do with it, but he says he’s innocent. Well, what he actually says is, “This cabin sucks. This family sucks. You suck!” Endearing, no?
And when Jack and Kate come back — he took her to get ice cream to help her feel better, which makes an already irked Rebecca even angrier — Mama Pearson confronts her husband about how she’s “the family bad guy” and he’s “the good guy.” But she seems to give up the fight almost as quickly as she starts it, brushing everything aside with a flip, “It’ll give our kids something to talk about in therapy one day.” Yeah, but the humor in that joke is that when people say it, they don’t think they’ll be around to hear the therapeutic recriminations, which the rest of the episode informs us is NO FUN AT ALL. (But more on that in a minute.)
During a storm that evening, Kevin wakes up and happens to find Randall’s glasses under the bed, where his brother lost them. He goes into Rebecca and Jack’s room to find Randall and Kate already bunking with Mom and Dad… and there’s no room for Kev. So he curls up on the floor like a dog. When Rebecca rouses and notices her son resting on the hardwood, she climbs out of bed, spoons up behind him and goes back to sleep.
ALL IN THIS TOGETHER | In the present, Kevin has been in rehab for a month, and his family is preparing to visit him for the first time. As Kate and Toby prep healthy snacks for the plane, she says she feels guilty that “I let Kevin get sent to rehab.” But Toby reminds her that they had a lot going on, too. She vows not to let the miscarriage and Kev’s troubles get her down. But when Toby is taking out the garbage, he notices junk food wrappers and fried chicken containers in there: Kate’s been sneaking unhealthy stuff and hiding it from him.
In New Jersey, Beth is not happy that they’re taking time to visit Randall’s “jackass brother,” and though Randall shares her anger over the DUI arrest with Tess in the backseat, he tells her that they have to be there for Kev the way that Kev was there for him during the Office Breakdown of 2017. “That is some white people-level repression, babe,” she says. “I was raised by white people,” he counters. “Everybody knows,” she shoots back. (Ha!)
So Randall, Beth, Kate and Toby gather at the treatment center with Rebecca and Miguel… where Kevin rolls in, looking like he’s spent the past four weeks at a beachside yoga retreat. He is, of course, the mayor of the place, jovially shaking hands and calling other patients by name. His therapist, Barbara, announces that only Kevin’s immediate family will be needed for the first session, so “the others” can occupy themselves elsewhere for a while. And while Beth takes issue with the term — “The others? What, are we on Lost?” — she all but skids outta there in relief, taking Toby and Miguel with her.
Barbara is played by Kate Burton (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, every single other show that has ever aired), so you already know that the therapist doesn’t play. Indeed, when Kevin quickly and neatly runs through his apologies to his mom and siblings, Barbara not-so-gently pushes him to talk about what his time in rehab has taught him about the source of his addiction. And because this is going to get ugly real fast, let’s take a quick break and check in on The Others, OK?
EXCEPT FOR THESE THREE | At a nearby bar (the irony!), the Pearson-adjacent family members — aka “The New Big Three” — are getting drunk and talking light smack about Rebecca & Co. Beth can’t believe that Kevin unironically gave them that folded hands gesture more commonly seen in yoga classes and text messages. Then Toby mentions not being able to say one critical word about the family in front of Kate, lest he accidentally enter “The Pearson No-Fly Zone.” Beth piles on that anything regard Jack is “a straight-up airstrike zone” and that Randall’s dad is “untouchable. He’s the saint we’ll never meet, who none of us will ever live up to.” But then Miguel reminds them that Jack was actually his best friend, saying, “Easy. You’re entering my no-fly zone now.”
Beth backs off just in time for Toby to launch into a monologue that compares the Pearson clan to Star Wars: “When you break it down, it’s really just about a few people on the inside who know what’s up,” he buzzedly laments, adding that he, Beth and Miguel are all Chewbacca. Then Miguel pipes up that Kevin, Kate, Randall and Rebecca experienced “the loss of the best man that any of us would ever know” — that sound you just heard was me rolling my eyes a LOT, because enough already with the Jack sanctification — “and that’s why they get to be on the inside, Toby. That’s why they get the lightsabers.” I’m just about to rule this whole scene an intergalactic mess when Chris Sullivan saves it with his excellent line reading: “How drunk is Miguel?”
IT GETS REAL | Back in the therapy session, Kevin says he always felt like the family’s fifth wheel: Kate had Jack, Randall had Rebecca, and Kev had nobody. But he’s learned, he adds, that he comes from “a family of addicts,” a pronouncement that has Kate scoffing before the last syllable even leaves his mouth. He points out that Jack’s father and Jack were both alcoholics, and that Kate’s weight problems might be more complicated than she thinks. “I feel like, maybe, Kate, you’re an addict, too. And I feel like you get some of this from dad.” When Kate lashes out at Barbara for planting those kinds of ideas in her brother’s head, Kev doubles down. “I can’t sit here and pretend that the only reason I’m messed up is because [Dad] died,” he says, voice rising.
Barbara steps in to point out that Rebecca never really talked to the kids about Jack’s alcoholism, and that’s when Mama Pearson gets angry. “You really do a disservice by calling my husband an addict, because he was so much more than that,” Rebecca says, crying. And when No More Mr. Zen Guy Kevin goes after Rebecca, Randall has had enough.
“You’re not an addict,” he says, finally flipping out. “The only thing that you’re addicted to is attention.” Kev hits back by bringing up how Randall welcomed both William and Deja into his home without really thinking about how it would affect Beth and the girls, and just when it seems like it’s going to come to blows, Kevin brings up the idea that Rebecca has always loved Randall best. She denies, and denies.. and then blurts out, “He was just easier!” OUCH. With the Unsayable Thing said, she sobs as she adds that Randall wasn’t a sullen teenager who recoiled when she touched him, and he didn’t abandon her and move away after Jack died.
LEAN ON ME | Kate later finds Kevin sitting on a bench on the treatment center’s grounds, and they agree that it was better that Toby wasn’t there to witness the drama, because he would’ve cried. Then Randall shows up and, after yet another monologue (this, the Pac Man one, what is up lately?), apologizes for not being there for Kevin the way Kevin was there for him. “I did a bad job today, and I’m sorry,” he says. Kevin is near tears as he replies that he’s “really sorry about Tess.” Both men rest their heads on Kate’s shoulders as she says, “I love my crazy-ass brothers. I really do.”
With everyone feeling extremely raw but a little better, Kate later confesses to Toby that she’s been hiding junk food. “I have a lot of things mixed up with food,” she adds, and the admission feels really healthy and like a good step forward for her. Meanwhile, Kevin finds Rebecca waiting in his room. “I never worried about you because I didn’t think that I had to,” she says. “But now, I realize that I was wrong.”
Kevin backpedals a bit, saying that he “didn’t have an unhappy childhood.” Still, “It wasn’t as good as I thought,” she says sadly. “But I know we had moments,” — like the aforementioned floor-sleeping — “you and me, Kevin. I know we did. I feel it in my bones.”
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Hit the comments and tell us!