This Is Us Season 5 Episode 5 Review: A Long Road Home


One of the best things about 2021 so far is that This Is Us is back.

It’s been a long two months since the fall finale, which aired before Thanksgiving.

But This Is Us Season 5 Episode 5 was well worth the wait. The Pearson family saga’s latest installment had everything the time-hopping series does best and stopped at just the right place, making me eager for more.

Switching back and forth between timelines is a This Is Us’ trademark. It was particularly effective this time, considering that each of the Big Three were trying to decide what to do with their pasts and the best way to move forward into their futures.

Kate’s story was super compelling. As much as I’d hoped that we’d seen the last of Marc after Rebecca threw him out, I knew it would never be that easy.

And while I’m not sure that confronting her abuser was the best idea, her response to unchanged, unrepentant Marc’s ridiculous comments about their relationship was satisfying.

Kate Pearson. I knew you couldn’t stay away.


Part of me cringed at the idea of Kate taking this road trip at all. With a semi-stalkerish abuser, you don’t want to give them any hope that they can suck you back into a neverending spiral of chaos and mistreatment.

Sure, Kate told Marc to go to hell, but there was always the risk that even after all these years, he would be so delusional that he would think her looking him up meant he could eventually win her back.

If this were real life, I’d definitely have advised against her telling him that she had a husband and son. You never know what someone like this is going to do.

But, fortunately, this isn’t real life, and hopefully, this trip gave Kate the closure she needed and nothing else. And I loved what she told Toby in the car on the way home about appreciating that he never saw her as a victim, too.

Toby: So you’re telling me that this boyfriend of yours…
Kate: Got me pregnant. Yeah. And I was nowhere near ready to be a mom. And I couldn’t be tied to that guy forever. So I had an abortion. And it was the toughest decision I’d ever made in my life. And I don’t regret it. But I made it alone and I did it alone.

I much prefer supportive Toby to uncommunicative Toby, and I’m glad that the fighting, stress, and misunderstandings of This Is Us Season 4 seem to have gone by the wayside, at least for now.

I also liked the way the series handled 18-year-old Kate’s abortion.

The most heartwrenching thing about Kate’s abortion is that she dealt with the pregnancy and the termination entirely independently. 

She never told anyone until she told Toby, and that was a lot for an 18-year-old to deal with, especially one who had been traumatized by the abuse she suffered at her ex-boyfriend’s hands.

The clinic’s scenes also effectively illustrated how difficult this is even for a woman who knows that this is exactly what she wants and how laws designed to “make sure the person really wants this” make the process harder and more painful.

I wondered why Kate went to see Marc, too. Was it before or after she’d terminated her pregnancy?

I’m glad she didn’t tell him about the pregnancy. That would have been a disaster.

Marc already wanted to control Kate, and knowing she wanted to terminate a pregnancy when he was the father would have gotten messy fast.

Thank goodness she saw him for what he was and got the hell out of there!

Meanwhile, Randall’s being thrown for a loop by learning his mother died in 2015 was understandable, but I’m glad he came around to talk to his therapist about it.

Randall got himself in a ton of trouble during This Is Us Season 4 by going for runs instead of dealing with his anxieties and whatever else.

Beth: Did you really just peck and go? Randall, this is not a peck-and-go situation. We need to talk about this.
Randall: I was wondering for 36 years. I got my answers. I’m not going down this road.

So it was disappointing, to say the least that he wanted to go for a run to deal with the news that his mother might not have died soon after he was born.

I don’t know whether it was because of Beth’s influence or because Randall realized he was falling into bad habits again or both, but it was a relief for him to talk to his therapist about his feelings later.

It also must have been a consolation in some ways for Randall to learn that William didn’t know that Laurel had survived, though it also brought up more questions than answers.

Randall assumed Laurel never wanted him, just like he assumed William lied about Laurel’s death. The midst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems a strange time to be traveling cross-country to learn about his mother, but it should make for good drama.

I’m also glad that Kevin reached out to Randall. It’s about time the cold between them thawed, and Randall seemed truly touched by Kevin’s admission that he looked up to him.

And the two began to talk honestly for the first time, though it was sad that Kevin never got to discuss the issue with Randall that he called about.

As for Kevin’s dilemma, I think this is one thing where he and Madison need to talk about what they both want and try to find a compromise that works for them.

Kevin’s decision to go to LA without Sophie was part of what went wrong between them. But this is a more adult relationship, there are children involved, and it’s beyond time for Kevin and Madison to both realize that conflict doesn’t have to mean a break-up.

There is a middle ground between the entire family traveling all the time for Kevin’s career and Kevin choosing between Madison and acting.

Since both Kevin and Madison want to be a family, they need to have some tough conversations, decide what they each can live with, and try to find a way to make this work.

Kevin can be all in on his family and his career, and if they both give up the idea of having it be entirely their way, there is still hope.

Your turn, This Is Us fanatics! What did you think about the decisions Randall and Kate made and the decision Kevin needs to make?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!

Want to refresh your memory first? Just watch This Is Us online right here on TV Fanatic, and then come back to share your thoughts.

This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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