‘This Is Us’: The Big 3, Past & Present, Go Through ‘Changes’ Aplenty (RECAP)

This Is Us Kate Toby
Spoiler Alert

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 3 of This Is Us, “Changes.”]

Fans of This Is Us have waited with bated breath for two weeks since learning that Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) birth mom is alive. Luckily, some answers began to emerge in “Changes,” the third installment from Season 5.

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As the title indicates, transformations are on the horizon for the Big 3 in both their adult and younger lives (puberty!). While Randall seeks out a new therapist, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) deals with their angsty teenagers, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) meet a potential birth mom, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Madison (Caitlin Thompson) continue to define their relationship. We break down the pivotal reveals and moments from the episode, but beware of major spoilers ahead.

Randall & Beth: Home Sweet Home

This Is Us Season 5 Randall

(Credit: NBC)

Randall begins the episode by meeting virtually with various therapists, landing on one who is also a young father, played by 30 Rock‘s Keith Powell. In the meantime, Beth struggles with mundane domestic issue, like getting Deja (Lyric Ross) and Tess (Eris Baker) to eat their breakfast. During the meal, Randall mentions that he and his new therapist had been chatting about trans-racial identity.

When Randall meets with his therapist again and comments on the Kadir Nelson painting behind him (Nelson is Black), the therapist seems almost surprised that Randall knows of him, which makes Randall defensive. The therapist assures Randall that he has nothing to prove in their sessions about who he is. For “homework,” he asks Randall to write about an experience from his childhood.

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Plus, Kate and Toby pursue their adoption opportunity and more.

While Randall’s in this virtual session, Beth texts him implying that Tess is in big trouble. At home, Randall sits with Beth and Tess to watch a video on social media that his daughter made with a classmate in which they complain, among other things, about some teachers who would touch Black students’ hair without permission. But Beth and Randall are not pleased the friends went public with their complaints. Randall later admits he’s proud that Tess defended herself, but that she went about it the wrong way.

Randall chats with his daughter, who they’d sent to her room, saying she can speak up, but needs to be more responsible about it. He then shares, to her chagrin, that she’s being grounded for six weeks — sans cell phone — which, needless to say, she does not take well. Later, Randall does his homework, writing in his journal about the time long ago when one of Kate’s friends tried to kiss him, saying that she always wanted to “kiss someone like you.” This seems to be cathartic for him as he releases this upsetting memory.

Big 3 Growing Up

This Is Us Season 5 Mandy Moore

(Credit: NBC)

Cue the flashbacks. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) have a lot on their hands as they take the kids, now going through puberty, to their yearly physicals. Randall (Lonnie Chavis) rags on Kevin (Parker Bates) for being below average in size, but the doctor says Kevin has gone up in weight, which excites Jack as he looks forward to his son’s football season.

Back at the house, Rebecca hosts Kate’s (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) friend Tonya and Kate’s former first boyfriend, Stewart, for a group project. Tonya seems very interested in Randall, and overtly flirts. When Jack and Kevin return home from an outing, Jack notices that Randall and Tonya, and Kate and Stewart, have pretty much paired off (which Kate is into), but Rebecca assures him that nothing is going on. Jack then takes Kevin out to the garage to lift weights, where he encourages his impressionable son.

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It only makes sense that a show set in the real world would tackle real-world issues.

Meanwhile, when Kate questions Stewart about liking her, he says he only signed up for her group because of the subject they were covering. Heartbroken, she cries to Rebecca and says she feels silly for being so open about her feelings. Rebecca, ever supportive, tells Kate that it takes strength to follow your heart and that she’s proud of her. Tonya, in the meantime, attempts to give Randal that kiss he wrote about.

In the garage, scenes juxtapose with flashes of young Jack with his own father lifting weights. Jack is a more encouraging example, but does his focus on Kevin’s physique cause damage? We later learn that Kevin sneaks into the garage to lift in the middle of the night behind his parents’ backs, so, we’re guessing that’s a yes.

Kate & Toby’s Adoption Journey

This Is Us Season 5 Kate Toby Ellie

(Credit: NBC)

Kate and Toby prepare to meet their prospective birth mother, Ellie (Annie Funke) — who has an 8-year-old daughter named Willow — during a trip to a San Pedro park, and worry about whether they’ll make a good impression. All concerns dissolve as Ellie walks up wearing a Steelers mask. They all hit it off, and Ellie explains that she ended up pregnant after hooking up with an online match she made following her husband’s death. She mentions that she was married to her high school sweetheart, Doug, until he died of cancer.

When their conversation is interrupted by a phone call, Ellie says she will have to leave sooner than expected. Kate and Toby offer her a ride, and during it a phone call of their own reveals that their son’s babysitter can’t find the diapers. When Kate and Toby realize the diapers are in the car, they begin to fight, but quickly resolve the dispute. They apologize to Ellie for the spat, but she says you can tell a lot about people based on how they resolve issues, and has a good feeling about Kate and Toby.

Madison & Kevin’s Image Issues

This Is Us Season 5 Justin Hartley Caitlin Thompson

(Credit: NBC)

This story begins with Madison waking up at 5 a.m. to put on makeup. Later, while making breakfast, she notes aloud that Kevin works out a lot. They chat about their engagement, but it’s hard for them to define the relationship. When Kevin receives a phone call that he might have landed a new role, Madison shuts down a little. He shuns the pancakes, says he should probably stick to chicken and water, and heads out, promising to have dinner with her.

On a walk together later that day, Kevin brings up having to do sex scenes, thinking that’s why Madison is being so quiet. She assures him that’s not bothering her, just as one of Kevin’s fans interrupts them for a selfie. The stranger notices Madison is pregnant and says it took her forever to lose the baby weight, which, oh oh. Madison takes off. Kevin tries to get her to open up, but she says they’re essentially still strangers and there are things she can’t discuss.

Back at home, she reveals that she had once struggled with an eating disorder, and admits that the sonogram photo of their twins is on the fridge to remind her to eat. Later on, Kevin admits that he counts calories and has become a fitness freak to combat his other addictions, and tells her he worries about passing bad habits on to his kids, even hinting about his obsessive exercising when he was young.

The sharing is good for Madison, and she reveals even more: That she almost died when she was 17 because of her bulimia. While she says it’s under control, she admits there are hard days, and Kevin understands this. They begin to loosen up with each other.

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Learn how Randall's storyline affects the entire Pearson clan, plus more on Madison and Kevin's budding romance and coming baby.

Side Story

This section begins with a grandfather and his granddaughter, shown in snippets through the episode, fishing. He tries to teach her the importance of waiting for the fish to bite. They speak Vietnamese, but when we see them later in the episode, they converse in English. Later, while cooking the fish, the grandfather tells her that cooking for loved ones is a privilege. She asks if he cooked for the woman in the pictures hanging on the walls. He had, and we later see that the woman was Randall’s biological mother, providing another piece to that mysterious puzzle introduced this season.

This Is Us, Season 5, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC