The Pearson wrap-up: Therapy and the new big three

The Pearson's come together for Kevin's group therapy — and a lot gets said.

click to enlarge Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown on This Is Us - Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown on This Is Us

It’s been six weeks since we saw the Pearsons and we’re finally back, catching up with them in real time. When we left off, Kevin had spent most of the fall spiraling out of control and into an addiction problem. In the final scene of the fall finale, Kevin is arrested for a DUI while unknowingly driving with Randall’s oldest daughter, Tess, in the backseat.

We pick up with the Pearson clan going to visit Kevin in rehab, where they’ve been asked to join him for a therapy session. Randall is being exceedingly level-headed about the situation, but Beth is not hiding the fact that she has not forgiven Kevin for putting her daughter in danger. She’s even irritated when Kevin makes his first appearance looking rested and tan and says, “Of course he’s Mr. Rehab.”

Barb, Kevin’s therapist played by the amazing Kate Burton, suggests that only the immediate family (Rebecca, Kate and Randall) join in the therapy session and their significant others (Miguel, Toby and Beth) stay out of the room. Beth immediately takes the out and the group splits.

In the past, Jack comes home to announce that the family is going to a cabin in the woods for a week (to Rebecca’s surprise). At the house, Kate asks for more cookies and Rebecca gently shuts her down. This was a positive shift for the show because in the past Rebecca has been harsh at times with Kate and food. At the cabin, Rebecca talks to Jack and tells him that she’s worried about Kate’s eating habits and Jack dismisses her explaining that it’s only “baby weight” urging her to relax.

When Jack tries to talk to Kate about her eating habits, Kate gets emotional and Jack almost immediately recoils. He doesn’t encourage her bad eating habits, but he also doesn’t say she needs to change anything. This is our first glimpse that Kate and Jack have a food connection, which becomes even more clear when we find out he takes her on daily ice cream trips.

In the present, Kevin politely apologizes and everyone politely accepts and responds and the whole thing takes all of three minutes. Now, I’ve never been to group therapy but I’ve had more intense family conversations at Christmas dinner. Barb, the therapist, calls bullshit and tells them that, “it felt a little polite to me,” and requests that they talk about their past — and specifically their father. Randall responds, “Oh god, do we have to?” and I, for one, was excited we we’re going to get into the meat of the problem.

This constant dancing around Jack’s death is so irritating to me. Hopefully the writers have something truly epic planned for his demise because they’ve built it up so much you would think it’s going to link back to the LOST finale. At this point, everyone is itching so badly for Jack to die and I, for one, am not because I want to keep Jack on my screen as long as possible.

Beth, Toby and Miguel decide to do a little day drinking while they’re waiting. Toby raises a glass to, “the new big three,” and they create a bond over being Pearson-Adjacent, but not Pearson-Inner-Circle. In their own bar-side therapy session, they talk about how certain topics are off-limits with the Pearson’s, Beth labeling it, “Pearson No-Fly Zones”. Toby mentions that he discovered Kate has been hiding junk food and he doesn’t know how to approach her about it because it’s in a no-fly zone.

They all agree that Jack is the ultimate no-fly zone, and Beth explains by saying, “Jack is untouchable. He’s the saint that none of us will get to meet — that none of us will ever live up to.” That’s when Miguel interrupts and says, “Easy — you’re entering my no-fly zone.”

I was caught off-guard by Miguel’s loyalty to Jack; it was so sincere. It’s easy to make him a villain for marrying Rebecca after Jack died, even though when you think about it logically, there’s no reason to vilify him. I made him a villain and forgot he lost someone,  too.

In the past, things start breaking down at the cabin: Randall can’t find his glasses, Kate is concerned about her weight, and Kevin is mad at everyone but especially Rebecca. This brings us back into the present where the therapy session gets intense.

Kevin explains that he’s always felt like the fifth wheel of the family; Jack favoring Kate and Rebecca favoring Randall. He goes even further to say that, “we are a family of addicts,” and Rebecca starts to silently cry. There’s a great shot of Rebecca’s profile and a single, silent tear falls down her cheek.

Kevin admits to being an addict and tells Kate (gently) that maybe she has a food addiction. Suddenly, extra-polite therapy turns intense with Randall coming to Rebecca’s rescue and Kate attacking the therapist for making them talk. When Kevin goes hard at Rebecca, accusing her of loving Randall more she finally breaks and says, “He was just easier.” Creating a list through sobs of all the ways Kevin was hard to raise, I suddenly felt so terrible for Rebecca as she makes a perfect argument explaining that she doesn’t love Randall more – but Randall was simply nicer.

In the past, Rebecca and Jack have a conversation when she finds out the Jack is still taking Kate on daily ice cream trips. She explains that he is always the good guy (ice cream trips, toy store trips) and she’s forced to be the bad guys too often. 

The best part of the episode was, believe it or not, Randall talking about his glasses. After the therapy show down we find the big three outside on a bench. Randall recalls how the first time they fit him for glasses they made him sit and look through the, “better machine” flipping lenses in and out asking if it was, “better or worse” than before. Randall says, “I think everyone sees their childhood with different lenses. Different perspectives.”

All three of them can look back on the same event and see it different ways. Even now, as an adult, I’ve asked my parents about family events from the past and I’m shocked to find out how different our memories are.

I’ve been looking at Miguel as a villain, but when I change the lens he is just a guy that lost his best friend. It makes me wonder if I just adjust my personal lens more often, would I find myself saying, “better” more often than “worse” at the end of the day. 


Since 1988, CL Tampa Bay has served as the free, independent voice of Tampa Bay, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming a CL Tampa Bay Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Toni Jannel

Toni's a true Tampa native, equal parts Italian and Cuban — she's practically an ad for Ybor City. She's a USF graduate and a genuine enthusiast for anything with a script.

Scroll to read more Events & Film articles

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.