‘This Is Us’ Season Two Episode Five Recap: Breakthroughs and Breakdowns

One of the interesting things about NBC’s hit drama This Is Us is that it answers one question many people spend their whole lives asking: why? 

By telling the Pearson family’s story in real time as well as through flashbacks to the past, the audience not only gets to see each character as they are today, but also why they became that way in the first place. In Tuesday night’s episode, titled, “Brothers,” fans learned a little bit more about Jack’s strained relationship with his father, and Randall and Kevin’s relationship with one another.

When the show opens, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) takes young Kevin (Parker Bates) and Randall (Lonnie Chavis) camping to help them bond. Despite being raised together since the day they were born, Kevin treats his brother like an annoyance, while Randall tries really hard to get his brother to love him back. The result? The boys are always squabbling.

Jack thinks the trip will help them grow closer, but it seems to be a lost cause from the beginning. While the boys set up the tent, Kevin lets it fall on Randall, and his dad reprimands him, banishing him to the tent to think about what he’s done. As he languishes inside, Jack asks why he treats Randall the way he does, and Kevin yells that he doesn’t know.

Kevin’s actions continue to be perplexing throughout his life. So far he’s been the most underdeveloped character on This Is Us, and admittedly my least favorite. This season, however, the show’s writers seem to be peeling back his layers, by letting viewers see what makes him tick. So far, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is really trying to be taken seriously as an actor, but after suffering a knee injury while shooting a film, he’s quickly following in his father’s and grandfather’s history of addiction.

On Tuesday night’s episode, Kevin is out of pain medication, drinking, and desperately trying to get more pills. He accompanies his girlfriend, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge), to her work gala where he’ll be auctioned off as a charity date, but ends up disappearing in the middle of the event while he attempts to talk his doctor into refilling his prescription.

When he isn’t successful securing more medication, Kevin turns to alcohol, getting so drunk he lets Sophie down. She confronts him about it, but rather than tell her the truth–that he’s becoming addicted to pain meds and having intense flashbacks about his father–Kevin lies and says he’s just tired and will meet her back at home. Like his younger self who couldn’t verbalize his uncomfortable feelings about his brother Randall, Kevin still has trouble sharing his feelings with those who care about him. And now that he’s quickly spiraling into pills and alcohol, Kevin’s road to healing is getting even harder.

While Kevin’s life is starting to spin out of control, his brother Randall (Sterling K. Brown) finally has a breakthrough with his foster daughter, Deja (Lyric Ross).

Since he’s back on the east coast visiting Sophie, Kevin stops by his brother’s house where he meets Deja. Though Randall tells him to be gentle with her because her transition into their family has been rough, Deja quickly takes a liking to Kevin because he’s famous and she has a little crush on him. Kevin invites Beth and Randall to Sophie’s gala, but when Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) turns him down, Deja asks if she can go instead. Immediately Randall agrees to take her, hoping the pair will finally be able to bond.

The night of the event, Beth cautions Randall to relax and act normal, but he can’t. He’s trying way too hard to make a good impression on Deja, but is failing. Still, he keeps trying. During dinner, he tries to save her from eating a shrimp tail by grabbing it out of her hand, but she flinches.

Randall suspected Deja has been abused in the past, but since she’s never opened up to him, he can’t quite be sure. She flees to the bathroom, and because he can’t help himself and cares “too much,” according to Kevin, he follows her inside to talk. When she realizes he isn’t going to leave, she shares that her last foster home was indeed abusive and that’s why she doesn’t like being grabbed. It’s the first breakthrough Randall and Deja have had since she joined the Pearson family, and I hope it’s only the beginning.

Randall and Deja’s emotional moment isn’t the only good news of the episode. Kate’s pregnancy is going well and after telling Toby they’re expecting a baby, he’s insanely happy. While Kate is worried that she still may not carry the baby to term because of her age and weight, she comes around to the idea after a minor car accident. For once, she allows herself and Toby to be happy about the baby, and I hope that means that we’re getting a new Pearson member soon–and an end to Kate’s unhealthy obsession with her body.

The episode ends with a bit of a plot twist. No, we still don’t know how Jack died, but we do know he had (or has?) a brother. The revelation caught fans off guard and gave Jack’s character even more depth. It looks like his story won’t be ending anytime soon, and five episodes into the season and we still don’t have many answers, just way more questions.