This Is Us returned last night after a month-long hiatus over the winter holidays. “The Fifth Wheel” jumps ahead in the present-day timeline, while the past shows the imperfections of a Pearson family vacation.


With the time jump, we start off with Kevin admitted into a rehab program and Kate starting to recover from her tragic miscarriage. Randall is also coping with the loss of his foster daughter Deja back to her birth mother. Kate and Randall are planning a trip to visit Kevin, for which Tess tags along. Beth isn’t being supportive of Kevin’s rehab, and Randall says he understands her feelings, but adds that “when I was at my lowest, Kevin was there for me.”

Randall, Beth, Kate, Toby, Rebecca, and Miguel all gather at the rehab facility and are greeted by Kevin, who looks better than ever. There’s an undercurrent of tension of course, but Beth jokes that, “Of course, he’s Mr. Rehab!” We meet Barbara, played by Scandal‘s Kate Burton, who will moderate the family sessions, and who warns that the sessions could get combative. She splits the family into “the Big Three” (Kate, Randall, and Rebecca) and “The Others” (Beth, Toby, and Miguel).

Finally, we get to the past timeline, where we see Jack taking his young family on an impromptu vacation to the Poconos. Kevin has to come a few days late because of a football camp, Kate has been putting on weight, and Randall just got new glasses, sending Rebecca into protective-mom mode. Jack becomes hyperdefensive of Kate, arguing that she’s just “big boned,” but Rebecca stands her ground: “No more daily trips to that ice cream place,” she says, to which Jack agrees. Jack also tries to get her physically active by starting a game of flag football with his kids, but it soon turns argumentative and has to be stopped. Kevin, in all this, feels left out and ignored by the family.

In retaliation, Kevin throws the football hard at Randall and calls him “four-eyes.” To make matters worse, the glasses go missing, and Rebecca accuses Kevin of purposely hiding them. “I hate you!” Kevin retorts. “This family sucks. You suck.”

Back in the family therapy session at the rehab center, Barbara pushes Kevin to delve into the beginnings of his addiction, and the scene is difficult to watch. He admits he felt like “the fifth wheel of the family” during his childhood, and possibly still. He explains that his drug use started to replace the things he felt inadequate at, like football and acting. He then argues that addiction runs in the family, saying his father was an alcoholic as was his father, and then says that Kate has a food addiction. Everyone gets on the defensive and the effect is draining.

Finally, Rebecca explodes and compares Randall to Kevin. “He was easier, and he didn’t recoil when I touched him,” she says. “And he didn’t abandon me and move away after his father died.”

Back in the past, we see Jack admit that he took Kate out for ice cream because he couldn’t bare to disappoint her. Rebecca laments that she always looks like the bad guy, and while Jack announces fun vacations, she’s the one that Kevin says he hates. Later that night, Rebecca offers Kevin dinner but he refuses. He wakes up in his cabin in the middle of the night and sees Randall’s glasses, so he runs to show his mother, only to find that his entire family is cuddled up sleeping in the same bed. He takes a spot on the floor, again feeling very alone.

The end of the episode shows the family coming back together. After the session, Kevin admits to Kate that Jack’s death did have a profound effect on him as she’d suggested, and she owns up to her issues with food. This motivates her to be honest with Toby that she’s been starting up bad eating habits again. Randall joins the siblings as well and they all apologize to each other. “I think everyone sees their childhood with different lenses, different perspectives,” he says. “And I didn’t come here to day to crap all over your perspective, Kevin.”

For Kevin and Rebecca, however, things are much more difficult. She waits for him, unwilling to leave on bad terms. She tells him she felt like she didn’t need to worry about him as a child, and he assures her that he didn’t have an “unhappy” childhood. Things are still tense, but Rebecca says, “I know we had moments, you and me, Kevin, I know we did. I feel it in my bones.”

The episode ends in the past, with Rebecca waking up and seeing Kevin asleep on the floor. She gets out of bed and cuddles up next to him, and falls asleep with him in her arms.

Read more about: