The first half of the second season of This Is Us was focused a lot on Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his addiction. When we left off, we saw Kevin getting arrested for a DUI while Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) daughter was in the back of the car. Tuesday’s winter premiere picked up right where the show previously ended, really hitting a culmination of the last 10 episodes.
Almost the entire episode took place around one major moment in the Pearson family history — family therapy at rehab for Kevin. According to Toby (Chris Sullivan), the rehab was court-ordered by the judge at his DUI hearing. All of the Pearson fam — siblings, S.O.’s, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and Miguel (Jon Huertas) — meet up and the rehab facility. After an emotional but slightly awkward reunion, Kevin introduces them to the therapist, Barbara. She requests that “The Others” meaning Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), Toby, and Miguel aren’t a part of the session. Brutal, but Beth, who is still mad at Kevin for taking her daughter on an intoxicated car ride, is quick to leave.
When the session begins, Kevin apologises to his family. He says that he “ruined things with Sophie, and then went ahead and ruined things with all of you.” He also apologises to Kate one-on-one for being absent during one of the hardest times of her life, to Randall for taking Tess (Eris Baker) in the car accidentally, and to his mom for putting her through this. Kevin quickly calls it “cathartic,” but Barbara the therapist quickly tells him it was just polite, and that he needs to speak to his family about where they think his addiction may have stemmed from.
“We’re going to need to talk about some things involving your family, and even about your father, that were not so perfect even when he was actually alive” says the therapist before their conversation really begins.
Kevin says that his entire childhood he felt like the “fifth wheel of the family.” Randall and their mom and Kate and their dad were two peas in a pod, and he never had that relationship with their parents. For Kevin, it made him feel like he’s not enough, and he was trying to drown that voice out. He says it was a “matter of time until he turned to something worse” because, according to him, they’re a “family of addicts.” He cites their father, grandfather, and himself as addicts before turning on Kate and saying he believes she may be an addict as well.
When the therapist asks Rebecca if she ever spoke to her children about their father’s addiction, Rebecca launches into a heartbreaking monologue. She cites how Randall didn’t have his father for the birth of their children, and Kate won’t have him at her wedding. “No, I did not sit them down and colour their memories with the one part of them that was imperfect” she says. She’s protecting the only 17 years of memories they’ll ever have of their dad.
When, after this, the therapist asks why she has specific examples of her other children but not Kevin, hell really breaks loose. Randall tells Kevin he’s “whining about his childhood” and that “the only thing [he’s] addicted to is attention.” Kevin comes back at Randall quickly after, saying that it’s all The Randall Show. Kevin then turns his attention to getting Rebecca to admit that Randall is her favourite child.
In what is maybe one of the saddest scenes I’ve seen in This Is Us, Rebecca breaks down, saying Randall was “Just easier. He didn’t recoil when I touched him and he wasn’t some sullen teenager who was angry at me for no reason, and he didn’t abandon me and move away after his father died.” At this point, all of the Pearsons and I are crying pretty heavily. This therapy scene really shows a heartbreaking, but incredibly real side of families.
After the session ends, we meet back up with the siblings chatting things through together. Kevin admits that losing their dad is definitely “so much a part of this.” Randall tells his brother that he has a different perspective on their own childhood. He apologises for “shitting all over” that for his brother, and thanks him for being there when he was at his lowest. We also see Rebecca confront Kevin, saying she never felt like she had to worry about him, but she realises that was wrong now.
Meanwhile, the “others” (who have taken to calling themselves “The New Big 3”) have some real conversations at the bar. They’re all talking about how sometimes they reach a “Pearson No Fly Zone,” which can be hard for them in their relationships. Jack is always a no fly zone. The three of them really bond here, each talking about their issues with their significant Pearson.
Also during the rehab session, we see a flashback to a Pearson family vacation at a cabin in the Poconos. After Kevin’s confession about his childhood it seems pretty relevant, especially when he tells his mom he “hates her” (classic angry kid move) and ends up sleeping on the floor while the rest of his family snuggle up in the bed. We also see Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) talk about how she is the “bad guy” and he is the “good guy” to their kids. Their conversation really plays into how Rebecca revealed at therapy that she never wanted to taint the kids’ perfect memories of their dad.
This episode really wrapped up a lot, but opened a lot of new cans of worms for the Pearsons as well. Kate opens up to Toby about what Kevin said about addiction, Kevin is leaving rehab, and a lot of pent-up family drama was brought to the surface.
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