‘This Is Us’ Recap: Years of Pearson Family Tension Explode in Therapy

Justin Hartley This Is Us
Justin Hartley as Kevin on ‘This Is Us.’ Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Who knew therapy could be so dang entertaining? Kevin’s stint in rehab led to an explosive family therapy session that brought up years of Pearson issues in the Tuesday, January 9, episode of This Is Us — titled “The Fifth Wheel.” Read on to find out what couldn’t be unsaid.

Mr. Rehab

A month had passed since Kevin (Justin Hartley) was pulled over for a DUI with Tess in his car and a judge ordered him to go to rehab. The rest of the Pearsons traveled to Kevin’s rehab to participate in a family therapy session. They were surprised to discover Kevin appeared to be “Mr. Rehab” — basically his same old self.

Kevin, with the help of his therapist Barbara, sat down with Rebecca (Mandy Moore), Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) to talk about the issues that could’ve led to his addiction. He started by apologizing to his mom and siblings, but Barbara felt his treatment of his family was “a little polite.”

This prompted Kevin to come clean about feeling like a fifth wheel growing up. Kate had Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), and Randall had Rebecca, leaving Kevin to come in second to his siblings. Kevin believed that left him with a voice in his head that told him he wasn’t enough, so he tried to silence the voice with football, acting and fame, and it was only a matter of time before he turned to something worse. Kevin ultimately concluded the Pearsons were a family of addicts.

Of course, the other Pearsons were not very receptive to this idea, and the calm chat quickly turned into an explosive blowout. Kevin posited that Kate could be an addict, too. (She was hiding her junk food relapse from Toby following the miscarriage, but she later confessed to him and addressed that she has “a lot of things mixed up with food.”) When Kevin suggested he was messed up not only because of his dad’s death but also because the family never discussed Jack’s drinking problem, Rebecca defended her decision to not talk about it; she didn’t want to muddy her children’s memories of their father with details of the one part of him that wasn’t perfect.

Parker Bates Milo Ventimiglia This Is Us
Parker Bates as Kevin and Milo Ventimiglia as Jack in ‘This Is Us.’ Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Randall argued that Kevin wasn’t a drug addict — rather he was looking for attention. Kevin responded that Tess was trying to escape “The Randall Show” when she hid in the back of his car. The eldest Pearson basically made his mother admit she loves Randall most, although she reasoned he was just the “easiest” of her children.

The Big Three made up after taking a breath and reconvening. Randall told Kevin he thought everyone saw their childhood from a different perspective and he didn’t want to disregard Kevin’s perspective. Kevin also had a chance to mend fences with Rebecca. When he was growing up, she didn’t feel like she had to worry about him, but she realized she was wrong. Despite their problems, Rebecca knew they had moments that were just them when Kevin was a kid, and the mother and son seemed to be on the road to recovery by episode’s end.


In flashbacks, the Pearsons went to the Poconos log cabin first seen in season 1’s “The Trip” for a family vacation. Kevin was at football camp, so he wasn’t able to join them until later in the week, which made him feel instantly less than.

Randall had just gotten glasses, and Rebecca urged Kevin not to make fun of him. He didn’t … until he started to feel insecure about his standing with his parents. When the glasses went missing, Rebecca assumed Kevin took them, which led to an argument that ended in Kevin telling his mother he hated her.

Jack and Rebecca had a talk about Kate’s weight, and Jack agreed to try to get Kate to be more active and stop taking her to the ice cream parlor every day. But when Kate confided in Jack that their neighbor told her she was fat, he felt bad and took her for ice cream anyway. Rebecca told Jack she was the “family bad guy” while Jack was the good guy.

During a storm at the cabin, Kevin awoke to find Kate and Randall in the bed with Jack and Rebecca. He decided to sleep on the floor in his parents’ room, and when Rebecca saw him lying there, she joined him — marking one of their moments.

The Others

Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) — who Barbara called “the others” since they weren’t Kevin’s immediate family — were excluded from the therapy session, so they went to a nearby bar to day drink and harp on the Pearsons. Toby and Beth lamented the “Pearson no-fly zone,” aka the topics — including Jack — they’re not allowed to talk about with the Pearsons.

Toby didn’t feel like he was “on the inside” with the core four Pearsons, but Miguel remarked that the reason Kevin, Kate, Randall and Rebecca get to be on the inside is because they lived through the loss of Jack.

This Is Us airs on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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