Things get crazy in family therapy on This is Us as Kevin brings the family to rehab
This is Us is back for their midseason premiere and what went down? After Kevin (Justin Hartley) got arrested for driving drunk a court orders him to rehab. Toby (Chris Sullivan), Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) get the boot for his first family therapy session so they head off to a bar. The rest of the Pearsons take a deep dive into some serious family drama. The episode jumps from a cabin vacation when the kids were young back to the present.
Through their group therapy session Kevin talks about his views on growing up Pearson. Not coincidentally it didn’t exactly coincide with the way other people in the family remember it. In an interesting study on varying viewpoints on addition the Pearsons hack at each other with the force of lumberjacks. But the big three manage to have a heart to heart and patch things up in the end.
So what did everyone think of the midseason premiere? Let’s hit it!
Danielle (@dani_pitter): Couch potato, dreamer, writer, and recent college graduate! Also needs many tissues during This is Us, among other amazing shows. Danielle’s book blog, PoetryBooksYA, Danielle’s fansite, ParamoreRKLife.
1) Kevin’s in rehab and Kate is hiding food and boy has it caused some issues for Randall and Beth as well. So how does it feel to be back this way?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I missed the east coast airing of the show, so when I came back to Twitter full of sad and crying and hearts-breaking emojis, I knew there was something going on lol. But seriously, I think it’s good that everyone has come back, still with plates full of problems. It shows that life isn’t the same as a movie, with the happy ending where everything is good again. The Pearsons really have to dig deep into their feelings this season, and I love it!
Mel (@musiccitymel): Honestly, it feels very real. When we last saw them, each of the Big 3 were each going through some sort of trial. This episode we got to see a bit of that aftermath.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): In true This Is Us fashion, we are back with heavy emotional punches to the gut. They got right into the swing of things, and I loved it. Most shows try and slow burn the cliff hanger from the mid-season or season finale, and it makes for some infuriating television watching.
We all saw Kevin going to rehab a mile away, but I was surprised that Kate was binging food. It was a small step back for her character that was thankfully kind of redeemed at the end of the episode.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): This was a good way to start: a month removed from the DUI incident and the miscarriage devastation. It brought us up to speed really quickly, and we saw how everyone is dealing (or not dealing) with this major fault line in their family.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): This was a nice come back to the family with the slight time jump. I also like the nod to Tess and what she went through with Kevin. She’s looking more a little more mature to me and something tells me that though Deja is gone, Beth and Randall are just getting started with the teen, well, pre-teen, girl issues and I’m here for it.
2) Immediate family in therapy only? Kate Burton, this is going to be brutal we can tell. What did you first think?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): Kate Burton, aka VP Sally from Scandal!! I kept looking at her, trying to figure out where I’ve seen her from before, and I looked up her on Wiki and found her credit on Scandal lol. But anyways, I’m glad that she asked the hard questions, because the fam were letting it slide with this “We’re here for you, Kevin” white-people answers lol. Kevin has issues not with everyone, but mostly with his mother, father and Randall, so it makes sense why only immediate family needed therapy.
Mel (@musiccitymel): Ellis Grey 4 eva baybeee! Listen, I’m always here for Kate Burton. As soon as I saw her face, I knew this therapy was going to be legit. I was absolutely for the exclusion of everyone outside the immediate family for now. They have some issues to work out from before Beth, Toby and Miguel joined the family. Though I definitely want to see Beth tell Kevin off.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I’m glad that it was immediate family only. Kate and Randall have significant others that they can lean on, but Kevin only has his family, and whether it’s true or not, he feels neglected by them. Beth’s feelings about Kevin, as justified as they were, would have shined through during the therapy session even more so then what Randall’s did and that wouldn’t have gotten the family any where.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I chuckled at Beth’s reaction to being called The Others. The “Lost” callback was smart! But she was almost too happy to be told she didn’t have to sit through the session simmering with anger at Kevin endangering her child’s life. She did tell us about her passive-aggressive ways. Ha! (And Kate Burton, the great stage and screen actor, will always be Dr. Ellis Grey from Grey’s Anatomy for me, no matter how many other shows she pops up in. Not a bad thing, Kate!)
K.M. (@kwanawrites): What a little snub for the rest, but I get why it was done. Beth was so funny with her, “quick before they change their mind” comment. It was a perfect set-up for the outsiders to have their conversations though and for the viewers to get a good look into their thinking. Some of those lines were great. Like Miguel saying what we all were thinking about him marrying his best friend’s wife. Like what up with that? LOL.
3) The destroyed look on Young Kate’s face when Jack told her she’d been eating a lot of sweets was the worst. And then it had to continue with Kate asking if she was fat? Cue that tight throat feeling we can’t seem to get rid of. Tell us how it worked for you.
Danielle (@dani_pitter): Kids need time to be kids!! So what if they eat a lot of sweets?! I didn’t even eat sweets much as a kid, and I turned out fine. But then again, I’m not fat. I’ll never know what it feels like to be made fun of for being heavier, so hearing Kate ask if she was, must have hurt her more than it hurt Jack. Little things like that have added up to grown-up Kate’s insecurities and self-esteem issues.
Mel (@musiccitymel): That is such an impossible place to be. I felt like Jack tried to handle it, but it just didn’t translate for Kate. All she could seem to hear in that moment was that the person’s opinion she values the most thinks she’s fat. I think there’s a way to handle this that doesn’t involve making it seem like they think Kate is fat or that it’s all about her appearance. I don’t think that was their intent either, but the way he told her…. Really Jack? I know you can do better.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): It’s a delicate tightrope that you have to walk to make sure that you’re not only not going to hurt the child’s feelings, but also cause a complex that’s going to make them go the other way and develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. He handled it about as well as a young father who’s daughter is the apple of his eye could. However, I do agree with Kate that he needs to be a little more staunch in helping her make healthier choices.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I was cringing! Again, the young actors who play the Pearson Three as kids are really good. I felt every bit of that deflated feeling and destroyed look Young Kate went through in those scenes. Well done!
K.M. (@kwanawrites): That was so heartbreaking. I just about died on the spot. It was bad enough when Rebecca had the apple comment but to have Jack break her heart was too much. She was so not buying his saying she was the most beautiful to him.
4) This Beth, Miguel, and Toby “others” story was an amusing side diversion. In fact they might have had the best sound bytes of the entire episode. Which was your favorite?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I thought it was hella cute that they came all this way, only to get shut out of therapy lmao!! And Beth didn’t even want to go!! But Miguel’s monologue about him marrying his best friend’s wife, and how he doesn’t get his fair share in the family….ouch. I still don’t hate Miguel like most of the fandom does; he’s done nothing to me lol. But hearing at least some of his struggle of trying to please this screwed-up family made me feel some compassion for him. It’s not his fault that Jack died suddenly, and he was there for Rebecca and the family.
Mel (@musiccitymel): Though I reserve the right to remain on the fence about Miguel, I actually loved his line about why it was the others with the light sabers. Also, I’m a sucker for pop culture references.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): My favorite sound byte was Toby comparing them to Chewbacca. That was really funny, and the group as a whole provided some levity to the episode which it needed because of how heavy the therapy session was.
Side note: Try as you will This Is Us, you will not get me to like Miguel. Every time he tries to get me to like him, I just see him sliding into Rebecca’s DMs after she had he first grandchild like a total creeper.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): Listen. You already know how I feel about Damn Toby and That Miguel. I was preemptively giving both of them side-eye. (Btw, Beth is the forever best. She can do no wrong! I like that she made her fun despite having those two ughs with her.) But when Miguel started talking about his “no-fly zone,” I was hollering at the TV: YOU HAVE SOME NERVE! But he took me over the edge when he said, “I married my best friend’s wife. No one ever talks about it.” It was like, uh, I do. I talk about it every damn time I see you on my screen, bruh! And next week’s episode looks like it’s going to delve into that whole mess. Someone send me a scream-pillow or something to prepare.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): As I said before my fave was Miguel. Also Toby’s Star Wars analogy was pretty good. I’m not so sure about Chewy though. I consider Chewy pretty much an insider in the Star Wars world. He knows all.
5) Holy. Family. Therapy session. There are so many complicated issues in here, both familial and especially dealing with addiction issues. Which character did you end up feeling the most “simpatico” with and why?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I just watched this scene twice now, and HOLY GOD it was needed!! I don’t think I felt sympathy for any one person, but for all of them. Rebecca did the best she could with her kids before and after Jack died, but it wasn’t enough. Jack was the glue that kept them together, and when he died, the happiness died with it. And addiction? Whew!! Jack was an addict. Jack was addicted to alcohol. Brushing that over won’t erase Jack’s memory, it’ll only insult it. And those addictions trickled down to his kids, especially Kate and Kevin. Kevin was right, Kate is showing some addictions to food and her weight, the same way Kevin is addicted to pills and attention. Randall also had his issues, so him saying that Kevin isn’t an addict, when in fact he is, made me go, “Whoa Randall, back up.”
Mel (@musiccitymel): Rebecca. Hands down. There was so much feeling there. You saw her fierceness come out as she defended Jack but then we saw her softness as she laid down her own truth bomb. Randall was easier for her. We have seen it throughout this entire show. Both kid and adult Randall have always had more tenderness toward their matriarch while Kevin was bratty and more independent. Though I can see why Rebecca felt Kevin didn’t need her, I think it was far from the truth.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I want to start this answer with could we never see the therapist lady again? She seemed way too overly combative and trying to ask gotcha questions to Kevin’s family instead of helping him/them understand his feelings. But to answer the question, much to my surprising, Rebecca. Kevin’s issues stem from what he thinks they are, and I honestly believe that he feels that way. But Kevin has proved time and time again that as a child and as an adult, he is a self-absorbed douche. She tried really hard with all of her children, and Kevin only saw what he wanted to.
Randall has to take some responsibility for the Tess situation as well. Yes, Kevin got in the car drunk and drove, but I also don’t think Kevin is the type of person who would knowingly put Tess’ life in danger. I agree with what Kevin is saying about Randall bringing strangers into their house without giving much thought to his children and sometimes Beth.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): Wow. The therapy session was innnnnntense! When the “polite” wheels fell off and folks started letting the rawness of how they really feel spill out, my teeth were locked and face was on a perma-cringe. I don’t know who I felt most simpatico with, to be honest. There was so much to unpack! Maybe Randall. I have a brother who always felt like I was my mother’s favorite, and it really governed how he went about everything. That’s a whole other story for another session with Therapist Dr. Ellis Grey. ha.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): For me it was Rebecca. When she said that Randall was just the easiest and broke down that was the crying moment in the episode for me. Being a mother of now young adults, I know those painful push/pull years and though they are hard on kids they can be so hard on moms too and sometimes it’s really all about survival and just doing your best to get through. I felt so much for her just then.
6) Rebecca seemed to cross a bridge in this episode in the past and the present. What did you think of it?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I think Rebecca is stuck in the past, and is using the present to try to make up for it. But since her kids are grown now, dealing with their own problems, it’s harder for her to sweep everything under the rug and baby her children. She seemed to want to change for Kevin’s sake, but I don’t know how genuine it is now.
Mel (@musiccitymel): Did Mandy Moore knock it out of the park this episode or what?! I think this was her best episode yet. I loved everything about her realizations. Her apology to Kevin was sincere and I think she truly realizes she could have/should have been more involved with Kevin’s life. When she laid down next to little Kev on the floor, I melted. I hope Kevin will start to remember these little moments that were all theirs.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I feel for Rebecca with the twins. For some reason both of them want to play it up like they had this terrible childhood, and they take it out on her for no rhyme or reason. Mandy Moore has done a phenomenal job as Rebecca, and when she went after that “therapist” for criticizing her not relaying Jack’s addiction to the kids (when we’ve clearly seen that Kevin especially in his solo episode before the break) have seen him battle that addiction, was awesome.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I thought it was all well done. When she broke down in the therapy session, it let us see the inner dialogue that she’s probably had going for decades. We haven’t been privy to that as much in this show, especially post-Jack. We don’t really get to hear how she feels about losing Jack or raising the kids without him.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): I thought she did beautifully. And the scene at the end when she got down on the floor to sleep with Kevin and he didn’t even know it was such a mom thing. Then compounded by the fact that he will never know about what she did that night which calls back to his vague “I guess” comment at the end about them having connections, wow, it was so heartbreaking.
7) This episode gave us some Pearson family realness and juxtaposing the past and the present gave us perspective. Was Kevin the fifth wheel? It’s all very ambiguous, so what were your feelings overall?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I think in some ways, Kevin was considered an afterthought. It’s like Home Alone, “What about Kevin?” Lol. So many times Kevin was left out. Kate had Jack. Randall had Rebecca. Where did Kevin actually fit in? When he wasn’t fighting with his parents, he was picking on Randall. Did he have any friends? Where did he see himself going in life? We really didn’t know because he’d put this wall up for years, and now it’s chipping away. This addiction is only the beginning.
Mel (@musiccitymel): Kind of. I mean, the other Pearson’s picking up to go on a vacation while Kev was in football camp was lame. Sure, he got to join them for part of it but that’s just not the same. Kate and Randall also definitely needed more attention. Truthfully, life was easier for Kevin until it wasn’t. The problem with that was that during the times he felt he needed his parents, they were busy with his siblings. Rebecca and Jack missed some of what was going on with Kev because they had this false sense of security that he didn’t need their guidance as much as the others. I can see each person’s perspective and they’re all valid. I guess that goes to show just how subjective experiences and memories really can be.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): Kevin is not the fifth wheel, he’s very much a part of the family, and he’s just being whiny looking to deflect his problems.
Overall this was a tremendous way to come back from the break. If I have one complaint about the show it’s that we need more adult Big Three scenes. It’s nice to see the brothers and their sister interact with each other, and I hope that we see more of it.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): What Randall said about lenses and perspective was so true. Kevin could have been the fifth wheel for a portion of their childhood. But then ask the other kids about it and they would tell you that THEY felt like the outsider at certain times too. Our POV really informs so much about how we move through the world, and how we think other people view us.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): I thought it was a really good episode. Kevin was kind of the fifth wheel, at least in his mind. Perspective is reality. I agree that as a family they have an addiction problem, but I also get Randall’s comment about Kev being addicted to attention. Going back to perception and reality, if filmed from another direction I don’t think it would have turned out the same. Say from another kids POV who didn’t get to go away to paid-for football camp it all may look remarkably different in my opinion
Final Verdict: Well some of that made us hide our eyes behind our hands. Family drama can be so awkward!
The midseason finale was a look at addiction. Kevin is in rehab and it hasn’t just had an impact on him but each of the people revolving in his life as well. Through the Pearson family therapy session we were able to take a look at it not only from different perspectives but we got a chance to empathize with each of those perspectives as well.
You can’t unring a bell. Now that all of those things have been said will we see continuing repercussions moving forward? When will Kevin get out of rehab? And what will his life be like when he does? Will Kate start facing up to her own addictions? At least she has Toby.
Mandy Moore gave a powerhouse performance tonight. Rebecca really developed in both the past and the present. Her therapy breakdown and subsequent apology to Kevin were really lovely moments. It’s nice that she finally got a really big moment on the show. The work she does it quieter but really underrated. We really enjoyed watching Rebecca’s silence in the beginning and see the tension rise in her until it bubbled over. It was really her best work in the series so far.
As Beth and Toby brought up, at what point does the “Saint Jack” narrative end? It’s getting more than a little old. And with Miguel doing nothing but trying to enforce it so strongly it was more than a little trying. Jack had an addiction but that didn’t define him. Oh no, Jack was a human! Is it that difficult for the Pearsons to admit that he was just a man? The Pearsons need to reassess their Jack worship and how it impacts them.
This is Us was a fitting midseason premiere after that cliffhanger before the holiday break. It was another topical issue study. The show has handled addiction before but this was a new spin on it.
Can’t wait to see what the team has for us next week!