‘This Is Us’ Season 2, Episode 11 Recap: The Least Favorite Pearson
At long last, This Is Us returned to NBC tonight following a dreaded one-month hiatus. The midseason finale left us reeling over Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) miscarriage, Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) adoption drama and Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) DUI arrest. But tonight, the Big Three came face-to-face with their actions (and each other). Here’s what went down.
Season two, episode 11, titled “The Fifth Wheel,” opens with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) schooling young Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) in a game of Monopoly when Randall (Lonnie Chavis) enters wearing a new pair of glasses. Randall complains about the inevitable Urkel jokes he’ll endure at school when Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) bursts through the door with exciting news.
As it turns out, Jack’s coworker has a cabin in the Poconos Mountains, which means the Pearson family is going on vacay. Even better? Kevin (Parker Bates) is coming home from summer football camp just in time for the trip so, yeah, it’s going to be good.
At the cabin, Jack arrives with Kevin, who begrudgingly missed out on the first few days of the vacation due to camp. He receives a warm welcome from Kate and his mom, but Rebecca is quick to remind him not to make fun of Randall’s new eyewear.
While Kate raves about all the campfire fun they had, Rebecca pulls Jack into the kitchen to express her concern about Kate’s weight. She points out that everything Kate loves about being on vacation—s’mores, popcorn, etc.—involves food, but Jack reassures her that there is nothing to worry about and promises to encourage Kate to be more active.
Later on, Jack, Kevin and Kate are playing football while Randall and Rebecca sit on the sideline reading books. When Kate realizes Jack is going above and beyond to make her play, she demands answers. Jack responds with the, like, worst line ever and insensitively explains to Kate if she’s going to eat a lot of sweets, she needs to make sure she’s exercising. Kate runs away in tears (duh), and Jack follows.
Suddenly, Kevin realizes he’s been abandoned, so he—naturally—calls Randall “four eyes” before chucking the football at his head. Oh, brotherly love.
Meanwhile, Jack finds Kate sitting on a tree stump. She reveals that a boy down the street recently called her fat and asks him for the honest truth. Jack dives into one of his classic fatherly spiels and says she’s his favorite-looking person on the planet. Yep, we’ve been completely reduced to a pile of mush.
Back at the cabin, Rebecca accuses Kevin of stealing Randall’s glasses. Naturally, Kevin becomes enraged and blurts out that he hates their family and, in particular, his mom. Later that night, Rebecca attempts to bribe him with dinner and apologizes for accusing him without hearing his side. Kevin, of course, gives her the silent treatment.
That night, Kevin suddenly wakes to the sound of thunder and realizes that Randall and Kate are nowhere to be found. As he exits the room, he spots Randall’s glasses underneath one of the beds. He then discovers Kate and Randall are in his parents’ room sandwiched between Rebecca and Jack. He follows suit and curls up on the floor with a blanket.
In present day, Kate is explaining to Toby (Chris Sullivan) how anxious she is to see Kevin for the first time since his DUI. But right as they’re about to leave for the rehab facility, Kate asks Toby to take out the trash, and when he does, the bottom of the bag breaks, revealing several empty junk food containers.
Meanwhile, Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are preparing to visit Kevin, too. Although Beth seems reluctant to support the man who endangered their eldest daughter, Tess (Eris Baker), Randall explains that Kevin was there for him when he was at his lowest and, therefore, needs to do the same.
At the rehab facility, Kate is prepping Rebecca, Miguel (Jon Huertas), Toby, Randall and Beth for the worst. She tells them that they may see a change in his appearance—weight loss, dark circles, you name it—just as Kevin (aka Mr. Rehab) walks into the room looking as cheerful as ever.
Kevin greets them and says that it means a lot they came to see him. He then introduces the family to his therapist, Barbara (Kate Burton—yes, Dr. Ellis Grey from Grey’s Anatomy), who admits that it would be best to have only immediate family members present for the first session. Beth, Miguel and Toby happily excuse themselves and head to the local bar, natch.
In their family therapy session, Kevin starts by going around the room apologizing for his behavior and acknowledging that he hit a very, very low point in his life. But Barbara isn’t having it. She says Kevin’s apology felt too light and tells him to share his thoughts on where his addiction originated. Kate chimes in to reassure him that it’s OK to talk about the death of their father when—suddenly—all hell breaks loose.
Kevin dives into a rant about how he always came second to Kate and Randall growing up and, over time, developed a voice in his head that says he’s not good enough. As a child, he drowned out the pain by turning to football, acting and fame, but it was only a matter of time before he turned into an addict, just like his dad and grandfather.
But wait, there’s more. He then turns to Kate and suggests that she, too, is an addict. But this time? The culprit is food. Seriously, Kev?
Barbara then redirects the conversation to Rebecca, asking why she didn’t properly inform her children about Jack’s alcoholism. Rebecca holds back tears as she explains that her kids lost their father at the age of 17 and didn’t want to ruin their memory of him.
But Barbara is quick to point out that Rebecca only used examples of how Jack’s death impacts Kate and Randall, not Kevin. Rebecca, who is understandably flustered, can’t think of an explanation, so Randall jumps in to save the day.
He tells Barbara that she may not have seen it firsthand, but he did. Randall explains that he witnessed all the love and respect Kevin received as a child and says the only thing he’s addicted to is attention. Bazinga!
After firing several low blows, Kevin directs his anger to Rebecca and challenges her to name one special moment she shared with him as a child. Kate had a unique bond with Jack, and Randall had a special relationship with her, but what about him? As Rebecca scrambles for an answer, Kevin angrily tells her to admit that Randall is her favorite.
Rebecca breaks down and blurts out that Randall was easier. Why, you may ask? He didn’t recoil when she touched him, talk back as a teenager and, for the grand finale, abandon her and move away after Jack died.
Later on, Kate and Kevin reflect on the, er, informational therapy session when Randall approaches. He joins them and dives into a story about the first time he wore glasses. He never knew how poor his vision was until he went to the eye doctor. After that moment, he saw the world through a different lens (literally).
Randall explains that everyone views their childhood through a different perspective. He tells Kevin that he didn’t come here to challenge his perspective but to offer the same support Kevin gave him when he was going through his hard time. Randall concludes his rant speech by apologizing for not being there for his brother. Kevin apologizes for involving Tess and all is right in the Pearson family world.
Meanwhile, Kate and Toby are waiting for an Uber when Kate fesses up to hiding junk food from him. She admits to having issues with food and promises to make a change. Yes, Kate. Yes.
Kevin returns to his five-star rehab room only to find Rebecca waiting for him. After acknowledging the session didn’t go as planned, Rebecca says that she can’t stop thinking about his first day of kindergarten. While Kate cried and Randall clung to her leg, Kevin waltzed into the classroom cool as a cucumber. She remembers Jack saying, “Look at our brave little boy.”
Rebecca admits that she never worried about him because she never thought she had to. Kevin comforts his mom and reassures her that he didn’t have an unhappy childhood. Rebecca agrees and says that she knows they had special moments, even if she can’t think of any off the top of her head.
Cut to a flashback from the stormy night at the cabin. Rebecca wakes up, sees Kevin on the floor and sacrifices her warm (but crowded) bed to curl up beside him.
We’re not crying, you’re crying.