I think this is my favorite episode of This Is Us ever.
My love for this episode is primarily due to one freakin’ phenomenal scene: the therapy sequence in which Rebecca and her kids completely obliterate each other (well, Kate is pretty much silent throughout). It’s a gut-wrenching, anxiety-inducing scene that acts as the perfect culmination to everything we’ve seen from the show thus far. There have been hints of Rebecca’s selective treatment of Randall, Kevin’s feelings of isolation, and the addiction that runs in the family, but The Fifth Wheel tackles all these topics head-on and allows the cast to explicitly state all their insecurities. It’s both harrowing and refreshing to hear Barbara the therapist ask Rebecca why she never gives “examples” of Kevin, or to just watch as Randall lets loose on his brother for endangering his daughter. Moreover, we get a heartbreaking revelation from Rebecca who finally admits that Randall was just “easier” to raise. Mandy Moore does so much here, and it’s the perfect showcase for how far she’s grown as an actress over the course of this show. Now that Sterling Brown has pretty much won all the awards, can Moore get some due please?
Much like Kevin Pearson, Justin Hartley doesn’t get much “attention” for all that he does. It’s easy to label him as the pretty boy and move on, but he’s brilliant in The Fifth Wheel. His performance is incredibly affecting, and the real achievement here is how he still manages to remain likeable while hurling so many harsh truths at his loved ones.
Of course, this episode could have coasted on the therapy scene alone and still be considered a winner, but it also manages to be unforgettable by grouping the three “outsiders” (Beth, Miguel, and Toby) in an amusing day-drinking subplot. It’s highly enlightening to see the trio engage in their own impromptu therapy session, and so satisfying to hear Miguel state the obvious: he married his best friend’s wife. This Is Us rarely focuses on this mysterious character, and it’s about time we get some more exploration into Rebecca’s second hubby.
– If Kevin’s therapist was familiar, that’s because it’s none other than Kate Burton who plays Meredith Grey’s mother on Grey’s Anatomy, and Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal. I love this woman!
– Jack telling Kate not to eat so much sweets was just cringeworthy. How about some subtlety Jack?
– It’s funny how I never noticed that the Big Three are all addicts. Wow.
– The whole “no-fly zone” metaphor was pretty funny. And what do you know, Jack DOES look like a 70s pornstar; I never noticed!
– Notice the moment Rebecca starts silently crying in the therapy scene. Brutal.
– Loved Rebecca in the past saying that they’re giving their kids “something to talk about” in therapy in the future.
– How great was Randall’s speech about “The Better Machine”? I loved watching The Big Three bonding by the lake and agreeing that they all have contrasting perspectives about their childhood.
– So very heartwarming: Rebecca getting out of bed and sleeping with Kevin on the floor.
Randall: As for me, when I think about how angry I am with him, I’m just gonna take a deep breath and force myself to say, “We’re here for you, Kevin.”
Beth: That is some white people-level repression, babe.
Therapist: Oh, actually, Kevin, I was thinking that it might be better for our first session to meet just your immediate family. So, just your siblings and your mom and not the others.
Beth: “The others.” What are we on, Lost?
Beth: Did you guys see Kevin do that actor hand thing today – all of a sudden? Like, when you put the two hands together and say “thank you” and then like, bow a little bit?
Toby: Like an overgrown Mr.Miyagi.
Beth: We’re day-drinking on family day from Kevin’s rehab place.
Toby: I know, it’s like an Alanis Morissette lyric.’Cause it’s ironic.
Toby: You know, when I was a kid, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I loved that it was this huge story, right, where a bunch of people come together to fight these giant wars. But when you break it down, it’s really just about a few people on the inside who know what’s up. Luke and Vader. Leia and Obi-Wan. They were on the inside. And they’re having lightsaber battles on bridges, and they’re talking about big stuff and everybody else is pretty much Chewbacca.
Beth: So in this story the three of us are Chewbacca?
Toby: If the Chewie fits, Beth.
Miguel: I married my best friend’s wife. Nobody talks about it, but everyone’s always thinking it. I’ve been on the outside of this family since I entered it.
I’m not even Chewbacca. I’m one of the fighter pilots who doesn’t even have a name.
Toby: That’s not true, Miguel.
Miguel: It is. And I’m okay with that. You see, Toby, those four lived through something very unique together. They lived through the loss of the best man that any of us will ever know. And that’s why they get to be on the inside, Toby. That’s why they get the lightsabers.
Toby: How drunk is Miguel?
The Observatory by The White Buffalo
Paying off a season and a half of storytelling, The Fifth Wheel is my personal favorite episode of This Is Us. Perfection!