'This Is Us' midseason premiere recap: Therapy session

Welcome back to “This Is Us,” friends! We’ve got a ton to dive into, so let’s briefly recap where we left off: Kate had a miscarriage, Randall and Beth lost Deja, and Kevin got arrested for DUI — with Tess in the backseat.

I think that sums it up, yeah?


If you haven’t seen the latest “This Is Us” episode yet, there are spoilers ahead — come back later when you’re caught up.

Everyone else, grab the cheese fries, take a seat in the therapy room and let’s talk this out!


Back in the Day …

Jack has surprised Rebecca, Randall (now with glasses!) and Kate (focused on cookies) with a last-minute vacation at a co-worker’s cabin in the Poconos. (I think this is “the” cabin, yeah? But they haven’t bought it yet? Maybe?)

Jack arrives with Kevin, fresh from football camp with two trophies and eager to tell his mom all about it. She wants to hear it all, but when she cautions Kevin not to tease Randall about his new glasses, apparently this is Not Allowed in Kevin-land and he looks crushed.

Randall's story is at the center of the last leg of this three-episode arc. Grab your tissues.

Rebecca is also worried about what she sees as Kate’s obsession with food. Jack protests — she’s big-boned like his grandmother, she’s just a kid — but eventually agrees to come up with more ways to up Kate’s activity level.

But Kate’s not feeling the three person football game while Randall and Rebecca read at the picnic table. Jack finally blurts out she’s been eating a lot of sweets and he wants her to be healthy. She looks destroyed and runs off.


Meanwhile, Kevin is pleading for his parents to watch him and ignore his siblings. He throws the football directly at Randall’s face — although he does helpfully give a 1-second “hey, four eyes, catch!” warning — and Rebecca is up in a flash, threatening Kevin with a long time-out alone in his room while the rest of them have fun. Her voice fades as the camera focuses on Kevin’s hurt face.

(Quick aside: I have to say, I’m not on board with this revised narrative. Kevin has always demonstrated a pathological need for attention and a complete inability to share the spotlight. Nothing is ever enough. I’d buy this “they’re favoring the others over him” argument if there had not been such a clear “star” position reserved for “Number One” from the beginning — his golden boy popularity, his football glory days.)

Jack finds Kate, who wants to know if he thinks she’s fat. He responds carefully that she’s his favorite looking person ever. Pops, I know you mean well, but all that kid wanted and needed to hear was “NO, I DO NOT, UNH-UNH, NO WAY.”

When Randall can’t find his glasses, Rebecca asks Kevin if he took them. This entirely reasonable suspicion ends 30 seconds later with Kevin exploding into a flurry of “I hate you! This cabin sucks! This family sucks!” and storming off.

Yeah, the problem here is everybody else. Sure.

This episode of 'This Is Us' is the second in a three-episode arc, all directed by director/actor Ken Olin. And y’all, it. Is. A. Doozy.

Jack and Kate come running in from the rain, and after Kate runs off, he confesses to Rebecca that he took Kate to the ice cream shop. Rebecca is anything but surprised. She’s the family bad guy, and Jack gets to be the fun good guy who supplies the ice cream and surprise vacations. This is a totally valid point! They joke that it’ll give the kids something to talk about in therapy one day.

And speaking of one day …

… Present Day

Kate and Toby are getting ready for a cross-country flight to visit Kevin in rehab. As Toby goes to take out the trash, the bag breaks and he finds evidence that Kate has been noshing on chocolate chip cookies and fried chicken behind his back. He says nothing.

Randall and Beth are also getting ready for this family visit. Beth is obviously reluctant, but Randall reminds her how much Kevin was there for him during his breakdown, so they’re going to suck it up and support him. And when he wants to drop-kick Kevin into a new county, he’s only going to say “We’re all here for you, Kevin.”

At the rehab center, they’ve all gathered — Beth and Randall, Kate and Toby, Rebecca and Miguel. Kate wants everyone to prepare for a changed Kevin but he looks … just the same. He’s “Mr. Rehab” and throwing up the “Namaste” hands and talking about being “so blessed.”

Kate Burton guest stars in this episode as Kevin’s therapist, his “favorite Barbara” (and he’s met Walters, he’s quick to remind her). Barbara announces that they’re going to start with “immediate family” and “not the others.” Beth, Queen of the Clapbacks, says “The Others? What are we, on ‘Lost’ now?” Kevin objects but Beth is super-quick to tell him not to worry about it and she gathers up Miguel and Toby (her sotto voce “quick, before they change their minds” aside is one of the funniest things in the episode) and they … hit a bar.

There, Toby dubs them the “New Big Three.” (That might stick.) Toby and Beth commiserate about the Pearson no-fly zone. Jack is an untouchable subject, they acknowledge. He’s the saint they’ll never meet. Miguel listens for a bit but then cautions them “Easy. You’re entering my no-fly zone now.” Everybody on this show is so quick to forget Miguel lost his best friend.

Meanwhile back at family therapy, Kevin apologizes to the group for allowing himself to get in a bad place. When he gets to Randall, all he can say is “we’re here for you, Kevin.” Rebecca says she just wants him to be happy.

Kevin thinks he’s done. “Helpful, cathartic,” he observes. Barbara ain’t having it. “It felt a little … polite to me.” She urges him to share their thoughts on the origin of his addiction with them. He is deeply reluctant. Kate thinks this is about Jack’s death, but Barbara warns them they’re going to have to talk about the family and Jack, specifically, in ways that aren’t entirely complimentary.

And boy, the look Rebecca shoots this therapist would freeze boiling water.

Here we go. Kevin dives into the “I always felt second-best to you two” narrative. And OK, sure, that feeling is valid — it’s what he felt, and he has every right to communicate it in this setting. But it’s not reasonable, and it’s not based in truth and accuracy. It’s the flawed perception of a flawed man. I stand by that. Don’t @ me.

Kevin does however lay some truth down about the Pearson family history of addiction. They don’t want to hear it, but this part is objectively true. Jack, his dad, Kevin … he even tells Kate he thinks some of her issues stem from addiction.

There’s an increasingly tense back-and-forth, and Randall loses his “we’re here for you” facade of support. He ends with a particularly brutal observation: Kevin isn’t addicted to anything but attention.


Kevin turns on Rebecca and goads her to admit she just doesn’t love Kevin as much as she loves Randall. The tension builds until the poor woman cracks. “He was just easier!” she exclaims. Randall didn’t recoil from her touch, he wasn’t a sullen teenager who was always furious at her for no good reason, and he didn’t fly across the country and abandon her when Jack died.



On that note, let’s check in with the New Big Three! They’re appreciating the irony of drinking while the other Others are at Kevin’s rehab, and debating the suitability of cheese fries. Toby puts the brakes on, and tells Beth and Miguel about the junk food he knows he has to confront Kate about.

Back at the rehab, the OG Big Three sit on a bench. Randall apologizes to Kevin for not being as effective at supporting Kevin, as Kevin was for him. He knows he did a bad job today, and he’s sorry. Kevin, in turn, sincerely apologizes for endangering Tess.

They both lean their heads on Kate’s shoulders and Kate says “I love my crazy ass brothers. I really do.” Randall destroys whatever tension’s left with the observation that it’s official — he is, in point of fact, their mother’s favorite. And the Big Three laugh.

Kate finally comes clean with Toby. She’s starting to come to terms with Kevin’s observation that maybe there’s more to her food issues than just lack of willpower or love of the taste.

One more flashback to back in the day: Kevin wakes in the middle of the night during a storm to find both of his siblings have decamped for their parents’ bed. He finds Randall’s glasses along the way. Since there’s no room for him on the bed, he makes himself a pallet on the floor. Rebecca wakes up and joins him on the floor, snuggling into her son.

"This Is Us" is all about Kevin, aka "Number One," this week.

One more flash forward to the present: Kevin finds his mom in his rehab center room. She reminds him of how he waltzed into kindergarten on the first day while his siblings clung to her legs and cried. She believed she didn’t have to worry about him, but she sees now she was wrong. Kevin reassures her that he didn’t have an unhappy childhood. His mom knows they had moments together — moments like sleeping on that cabin floor.

This was an intensely “real” episode — probably the most internal conflict we’ve seen among the Pearsons ever — so I don’t want my eye-rolling at Kevin’s perceived victimhood to be misinterpreted. I don’t buy his delusional story, but the way they show us that is entirely real and authentic and welcome.

Fun Facts I Learned on Twitter

Join Chrissy Metz in congratulating her screen-sibling Sterling K. Brown on his Golden Globe award! Much deserved, sir.

I just can’t get behind #KaToby. Am I wrong? I kinda like #Tate. Short, snappy, memorable.

Oh COME ON, show. When a product tie-in effort makes you cry harder than the actual episode did.

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