This Is Us season 2 episode 11 review: The meaning of ‘The Fifth Wheel’

The Fifth Wheel

This Is Us season 2 episode 11 carried with it the title of “The Fifth Wheel” and going into the episode, there was one clear question that came along with that: Why? Was “The Fifth Wheel” a reference to some sort of awkward person stuck out on a date?

Not exactly. Instead, this was a reference to Kevin feeling unused, unwanted, and completely unnecessary in the midst of his own feeling. He spent a lot of his life lost within himself, and over the course of this hour he had to find answers … but the same went for some of the other characters, as well. This was one of the best episodes of the season, one anchored by a powerhouse scene in rehab featuring Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, and Mandy Moore at the center of it. Kevin poured out his soul to the family (with some coaching) about how he felt left out in his family and had for many years. He thought that his mother loved Randall more and his father loved Kate … which left him on the outside. No one ever looked after him, and that’s when his addiction started to spiral out of control.

Kevin took this moment to explain this to his family, but to go along with that he also took the moment to explain that he still wasn’t the only addict in the family. In rehab, he helped to make Kate open her eyes to some of what she was struggling with, including her addiction to food and how she used that to substitute her emotions. It wasn’t just about pain over them losing Jack; he left this one bad part of him with each of them, and it was hard for all of them to admit this sometimes because of the idyllic picture painted of him.

At the end of the episode the entire Pearson family came together, but not without some angry, intense moments — especially when Kevin pressed Randall about why Tess wanted to leave his place and how he was fostering constant chaos with first William and then Desi. Meanwhile, he also pressed Rebecca over why he felt so different and alone growing up.

The flashbacks of “The Fifth Wheel”

In some ways, you could argue that these were unnecessary, sweet and heartfelt as they were. They were basically a visual aid to everything from Kate’s issues with food to Kevin feeling somewhat detached. The family went on a surprise vacation thrown by Jack, and while there Kevin at first lashed out. Eventually he started to get some sort of attention from his mother, and that in turn made him want to be a part of the unit. This showed how much Jack cared for the kids, but also the husband – wife dynamic at play here where Jack was almost always the good guy.

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Final Verdict

“The Fifth Wheel” was a thing of beauty for the Pearson family as they all worked to get on the same page again. The writing was fantastic and the performances superb. While no problems are necessarily resolved, for the first time we feel good about the family starting to move forward together.

Also, we loved the little B-team story tonight where Beth, Toby, and Miguel all sat around and talked about some of the Pearson family’s problems.

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