TV Reviews

This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11: The Fifth Wheel Review

If you would like to read my review of the last episode, click here.

Synopsis: The Pearsons come together under unexpected circumstances. Meanwhile, Jack surprises the family with a summer vacation. (TVGuide)

Writer: Vera Herbert

Director: Chris Koch

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 45mins

Just when we thought we had seen the peak of emotional storylines in This Is Us, tonight’s episode goes and blows us away. Wasting no time after its winter hiatus, we were thrown back into the lives of the Pearsons without missing a beat.

Tonight’s episode dove into topics like addiction, therapy, and unresolved issues stemming from childhood. It was an emotional rollercoaster and we were not prepared for the ride.

A flashback takes us to the young Pearsons’ getting ready to go on vacation. An excited Jack plans a weekend getaway to the Poconos’ courtesy of a co-worker and his cabin. In these moments, we see Rebecca flustered and keeping an eye on young Kate’s eating habits. Habits she feels are starting to get out of hand and something she conveys to Jack. Flashing forward to the present, we see adult Kate packing a healthy lunch for herself and Toby. Just as we think Kate has made progress in her efforts to have a healthy lifestyle, Toby finds junk food cartons in the trash, alerting him that Kate has been binging.

After the events of the mid-season finale, Kevin is in rehab after getting a DUI. The Pearson family goes to visit Kevin so they can all participate in a family therapy group session. However, the therapist asks Beth, Toby, and Miguel not to join them as she wants to speak to the immediate family. The therapy session begins with Kevin apologizing to Kate, Randall, and Rebecca for everything that has gone down since he spiraled. The session soon takes a very emotional turn when the therapist asks Kevin to speak about his childhood and the feelings he has harbored since then.

In a show that is unapologetic about exploring a range of topics, this episode was no exception. As Kevin dug deep into his addiction, he pointed out that they are a family of addicts–him, Jack, and Kate. And that as a child he always felt second to Randall and Kate, who were their parent’s favorites. As a result, he never felt like he was enough and felt like the “fifth wheel”. The extremely emotional therapy scene was one of the best This Is Us has had thus far and highlighted each actor’s unbelievable talent to become one with the characters they play.

In the past, young Kevin was also struggling as he felt left out of the family vacation, causing him to lash out and rebel against Rebecca. This continues throughout the episode as they illustrate how Kevin’s childhood has led him to the present and how he feels about it.

The therapy session continued to get intense when Kevin asked Rebecca to admit that Randall was her favorite child. In a moment of frustration and upset, Rebecca reveals that she always felt Randall was easier to deal with–and didn’t abandon her after Jack died.

Meanwhile, the new “Big Three” aka Beth, Toby, and Miguel bond over beer and pool and discuss their tribulations with living with the Pearsons’. Miguel reveals he has always felt on the outside too and has come to terms with it.

After the tear-jerking session, Randall, Kate, and Kevin have a heart-to-heart and apologize for their behavior. Randall makes a comment which was very profound and heartfelt and is worth reiterating here, “Everyone sees their childhood with different lenses and perspectives.” This is a testament to the entire episode discussing every character’s point of view on how their childhood was. Everyone struggled in their individual ways and continues to. A tense moment is broken when Kevin suggests that it is confirmed that Randall is their mom’s favorite.

As always, This Is Us presented a beautiful, emotional montage while Kate revealed to Toby she had been hiding junk food from him. A scene from the past shows Kate eating ice cream with Jack, showing her connection to her struggles with food and losing Jack.

The final moments of the episode felt bittersweet as in the present Kevin and Rebecca apologized to one another, and in the past, Rebecca embraced young Kevin as he lay sleeping.

Tonight’s winter premiere of This Is Us really dug deep and explored some taboo topics that shows tend not to mess with. It was a beautiful intermingling of connecting childhood problems and how they trickle into adult life. Watching the Pearsons’ fight back and forth about their truths made the audience realize that this family isn’t perfect and they have had their share of issues despite how great each of them truly is. Addiction was the underlying theme of the episode and they did a stand-up job of identifying and dealing with it. As the second half of the season progresses, it will be interesting to see where the story heads and when we will learn about Jack’s death.

Score: 8.5/10

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