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THIS IS US: “The Fifth Wheel” discussion

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When we last saw The Big Three on NBC’s This Is Us, each were going through a rough time – Kate had just miscarried, Randall reluctantly said goodbye to Deja as her mother returned for her, and Kevin continued to spiral and make bad choices which resulted in him getting pulled over for a DUI while his niece Tess was in the car. Now over a month later, about the same amount of time has passed on the show with the Pearsons visiting Kevin in rehab during the present and then flashing back to when Jack took the family on a vacation. Join Ange and Melissa as they discuss the show’s winter return…

Ange: To be honest, I didn’t love this episode – I enjoyed elements of it like “the others” bonding, but I also didn’t think it was the strongest episode we had seen. That being I said, I understand that everything went down in this episode to fill the blanks of where we last left off. This episode takes place just over a month later (or possibly two) from when we last saw the Pearsons and Kevin has been in a rehab facility for a month following his DUI incident and hearing. The family is there to visit him for the first time, except it’s immediate family members and “the others” – aka Beth, Toby and Miguel – have to occupy themselves (more on that later) while Randall, Kate and Rebecca attend therapy with Kevin. There’s nothing like a therapy session to trigger things to get ugly. I don’t know about you but I was not buying the pleasantries at first so when Randall stopped holding his tongue and Rebecca had her outburst about how it was easier to love Randall than Kevin, I was ready for it to all go down but also boy was that intense!

Melissa: I wouldn’t say I loved this episode, but it was important. And very real. Randall and Rebecca needed to say what they said, and so did Kevin. Kate didn’t say much, but she was listening and it sounds like she heard some things that are making her think about her own issues.

Ange: Good observation on Kate. (Side note, there’s a moment where the rest of the family is going at it and we just see Kate sitting there in tears. I wonder if that was scripted or something organic on Chrissy Metz’s part. Either way, I felt that moment to be very real.) Throughout this season we’ve discussed not being able to empathize with Kevin because his issues seemed trivial in comparison to Kate and Randall, how were you feeling this episode when Kevin continued to complain about Jack and Rebecca playing favorites? In the previous episodes I hadn’t felt as strongly about Kevin as you had but I definitely felt it this episode.

Melissa: Ha! I’m starting to change my perspective on Kevin now! Without getting too personal here, I’ll say that listening to Kevin’s feelings reminded me a lot of some very difficult, very painful conversations I’ve had with my younger brother about the time after our parents separated. Like the Pearsons, it was about 20 years before we talked about it, so there’s a lot to unpack. Once he really explained himself, and we saw some moments from his childhood that supported his feelings, Kevin’s struggle resonated with me at last.

Ange: While the Pearsons are at therapy, we have Beth, Toby and Miguel bonding at bar and jokingly referring to themselves as the new Big Three and Big Three 2.0. I loved it and also wondered why we hadn’t had scenes with the three of them before! They brought some much needed lightheartedness to this episode with references to Alanis Morrisette songs, Star Wars analogies and jokes about the Pearson No Fly Zone and Air Strike Zone. Can we get more of these guys please?

Melissa: That was fun! Given how tight the Pearson clan is, even with all their issues, the New Big Three really do need to bond if they’re going to survive.

Ange: Agreed! Just when you think the New Big Three was all about the comic relief, Miguel addressed the elephant in the room, casually referring to the fact that he married his best friend’s wife. We didn’t get the story there but my interest has piqued again.

Melissa: He also cautioned Beth and Toby to tread lightly in discussing Jack, because that’s also his No Fly Zone. I didn’t realize how necessary that comment was until he said it; Miguel is more intertwined with the Pearsons because of his friendship with Jack, not just his relationship with Rebecca. Geez, the layers!

Ange: This show is so good at layers! In the flashbacks, Jack takes the family on a holiday where we see young Kevin feeling like an outsider and Rebecca concerned about young Kate’s weight but Jack unable to resist Kate, leaving Rebecca to feel like the bad guy. Is Jack really perfectly imperfect or is he put on too much of a pedestal?

Melissa: I’m still leaning toward perfectly imperfect. He’s a little impulsive, sure, idealistic, definitely, but his heart is in the right place and he tries to do what’s best for his family.

Ange: This episode is called “The Fifth Wheel”, but who do you think this was in reference to? Was it in regards to Kevin feeling like he was an outsider with his family? The Big Three 2.0?

Melissa: Ostensibly it was a reference to Kevin, but I think any of the Pearsons (except Jack) might feel justified in claiming the title. As would The Big Three 2.0. Going broader, doesn’t everyone feel like the outsider in their own family on occasion? How we handle that feeling has a significant role in how healthy our relationships are with family. (Guess who’s been in therapy for five years. 😉 )

Ange: Favorite lines? I had a couple this episode – I loved the analogies from the New Big Three, Randall’s “oh god, do we have to?” when the therapist told them to stop being polite and acknowledge the big issues and also Randall and Beth’s exchange at the beginning of the ep with:

“That’s some white people level of repression.”,
“Well I was raised…”
“Everybody knows.”

Oh Beth!

Melissa: The Beth/Randall banter was on point this episode! I mean, it always is, but this was some solid work. Otherwise, this wasn’t really an episode for lightheartedness or zingers. I think the scene in group therapy, where Kevin finally tells them how he feels and Randall and Rebecca get real, was my favorite. It was emotionally difficult, but it was powerful.

Ange: Definitely powerful!

This is Us airs Tuesday 9/8c on NBC.

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THIS IS US: “Number Three”, or “Blind Spot” discussion
THIS IS US: “Number Two” discussion
THIS IS US: “Number One” Discussion, or What is Kevin’s Problem?
THIS IS US: “The Most Disappointed Man” discussion
INTERVIEW: Hannah Zeile Talks THIS IS US & Teenage Kate

Ange is the Girl from Oz who travelled the States. Teen dramas, rom-comedies and superhero shows are her weakness. She also loves a good crime and medical drama and probably watches more TV than she can handle... You can contact her at ange@nicegirlstv.com.

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