This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11 Review: The Fifth Wheel

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The return of This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11 featured the Pearsons in overdrive!  

What happens when you put even the tightest of families into rehab? All hell breaks loose! 

As Kevin, Kate, Randall, and Rebecca talked through their childhood trauma and knocked Jack from his pedestal, one thing became very clear: they have a lot of unresolved issues. 

Don't Say I Never Gave You Anything  - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

*Takes deep breath*

This is the first time since the holiday episodes that we're seeing all of the Pearsons in one room and while the circumstances were grim, the truth is, Kevin got off pretty easy after his DUI. 

He needed to hit rock bottom to admit that he had a problem but for a celebrity, rock bottom always comes with comfy pillows and a fancy suite. 

The family, feeling super guilty that they didn't notice any of the signs, prepared for weight loss or baggy eyes in his post-rehab state but unsurprisingly, Kevin is Mr. Rehab.

This is worrisome because it's all still an act! We've seen the happy-go-lucky Kevin hundreds of times, suppressing his feelings and emotions — that's what got him here in the first place! 

Randall: When I was at my lowest, Kevin was there for me so we gotta be there for him too.
Beth: Fine, but I'm not making any efforts to hold in my passive-aggressive side.
Randall: Since when do you make any efforts to... [Beth gives him a look as he trails off] Whoo ha-ha.

However, that all changes during the "closest family" therapy, which his therapist (and I cannot be the only one who couldn't get over the fact that it was Sally Langston from Scandal!) wanted to be an open conversation about the core of his problems: his childhood. 

And all roads lead back to Jack... and Kevin's inability to grieve him.

If you haven't noticed before, every episode that dug into Kevin's pill-popping problem always came hand-in-hand with an episode of his childhood.

Part one of the problem was that Kevin felt like he never got enough attention. 

I'm Over Here Guys  - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

As always, the flashbacks parallels the present day storyline; Jack surprises the family with a mini-vacation in a log cabin, which quickly takes a turn for the worse when Kevin becomes jealous that both of his parents are spending more time with his siblings. 

Whenever that would happen, he would lash out, usually at Randall, and make fun of him, which would get him in trouble. Negative attention is better than no attention.

Just to clarify, so it's official, I'm mom's favorite, right?

Randall

I don't know why it wasn't so obvious — and maybe it was to some of you — but Kevin's problem has always been that he wasn't the favorite child. He was the first born but he always felt like the fifth wheel. 

He describes the feeling as a voice in his head that he couldn't shake that kept telling him he wasn't enough. He tried to drown it out with football or acting but eventually, the pills did the trick. 

You Can Always Count on Family - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

Which brings him to the next point.... addiction. 

The road to recovery was hard but painting Jack as an addict was even harder mainly because as Rebecca pointed out, that was Jack's only flaw. 

Kevin confesses that he believes it was only a matter of time before his problems got worse because they are a family of addicts. 

Saying it out loud is tough especially because you don't want to label someone as just an "addict." He was so much more but of course, when one child begins to have problems, that's the first thing therapists bring up. 

Kevin does have the gene, as they all do, but I don't necessarily think it caused any of this. Maybe he found it as an easy out because his father once did but I don't think he's necessarily an addict. 

They failed to mention that addicts aren't necessarily villains or bad guys. When you hear the word, your brain immediately associates it with something bad but as we've learned from Jack, that isn't necessarily the case. 

Addicts can be good fathers and be dependent on a substance. They also can be bad fathers and dependent on a substance. 

They also painted Kate as an addict but her vice was food. It came up in flashbacks with Rebecca worrying that every "happy" memory Kate associated with food and then again with her fast-food binging following the miscarriage. 

Daddy's Girl  - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

Part of me believes that, for Kevin, it was easier to blame all of his troubles on everyone else and paint his father in a negative light so that he wouldn't have to grieve him. Because it's easier to just not care if someone was a terrible person to you. 

When he couldn't vilify his father, he tried to do it to his mother. 

Yet when pushed to the limit, Rebecca finally cracked and admitted that Randall was just easier to love. 

And she's not lying. Her relationship with Randall was smooth sailing up until he learned that she'd been keeping his birth father's identity from him. And even then, he needed some time to be upset and then moved on. 

With Kevin, his need for being the center of attention oftentimes made him an unpleasant child who yelled things like "I hate you" to her. He had an attitude, he was snarky and he only thought of himself. 

One With Nature - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

So while this was therapy for Kevin, he also needed to be put in his place. Rebecca made it clear that she thought he didn't need as much coddling as the other two while Randall let him know that he was around for this "terrible childhood" and it was anything but that. 

I needed him to be the voice of reason! You can't blame everyone else and expect your faults and shortcomings not to be pointed out. Did everyone play a part in some way? Of course. But to say it was a terrible childhood when it wasn't really isn't fair to any of the family members. 

I tried to empathize with you Kevin, I really have. I've held my tongue as your rich, spoiled-ass got sent to this Four Seasons for almost killing my daughter when most anybody else would have got sent to jail. I've held my tongue while you've whined about your childhood, a childhood, which I was there for, by the way, which I bore witness too. Your football tosses on the front lawn with dad, your tummy rubs from mom when you had a fever. See, Barbara may not have been there but I was there, so don't you dare try to pull that same lame ass piece of wool over my eyes bro, okay?

Randall

Thankfully, they all came to that conclusion and acknowledged that maybe there were things they could have done differently. 

It all came full circle with Randall's glasses. Everyone sees their children differently; through a different lens, from a perspective that fits their narrative. 

It infuriates me that no one ever stopped to just say 'thank you' to Rebecca.

Kevin placed all these expectations on her about not getting enough love and attention, Randall placed all the blame on her for making a decision to keep him away from his birth father, Kate has always resented her for not being able to live up to her ideals but no one ever stopped to think how hard being a mother of triplets had to be!

Something's The Matter - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

Rebecca, sans a few meltdowns, made it look easy!

She took the fall and was the bad guy simply so the kids could remember their father as the hero! She sacrificed everything for them and I know she doesn't regret it but the realization that despite your best intentions, everyone still found some reason to fault you, definitely has to sting. 

Thankfully, she's one strong woman who raised a bunch of strong kids who will rise above all of this. 

I never worried about you because I didn't think I had to. But now, I realize that I was wrong.

Rebecca

We finally got confirmation that Miguel and Rebecca are in fact married. We haven't seen much of Miguel as her husband but the statement "I married my best friends wife," would stop anyone dead in their tracks. 

I've been waiting a long time to hear more of Miguel's story and I think we're just scratching the surface here. After his light saber analogy, I can't help but love him. 

Seeing Beth and Toby so petty about not being "on the inside" really struck a nerve. I expected that kind of behavior from Toby since he's always had the jealous bone but Beth, really? Sure, she's mad at Kevin for driving drunk with her daughter but I thought she was better than that. 

As for Toby, I thought we got over it. His comment about Kate telling Kevin or Randall about falling off the wagon and eating junk food was low, especially because right after, she came clean about it to him first and foremost. 

The Look of Love - This Is Us Season 2 Episode 11

One thing I can agree with Kevin on is that we definitely need to give Tess and little Annie a bit more screentime. 

I don't think she hid in his car to run away because she wanted attention, however. I think Tess was genuinely concerned after seeing Kevin drink and then get behind of the wheel because her parents raised her to know that it's wrong. 

Still, we saw a lot of Deja in the first half of the season and we need more of the OG Pearson bitties! 

Thoughts on the first episode of 2018? Was it everything you hoped for?

You can watch This Is Us online and share your thoughts in the comment section below! 

The Fifth Wheel Review

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Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (36 Votes)

Lizzy Buczak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and read her personal blog at CraveYouTV.

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