Kevin Pearson is not in a good place. The Nov. 14 episode featured Kevin at his lowest point and revealed another key moment in his life that changed everything for him.
The next three weeks of This Is Us will focus on each one of the Big Three. Kevin is up first. He’s always been the biggest risk-taker of the three kids, even taking his first steps before Kate and Randall. It may seem like Kevin has always had it easy, but that’s not the case at all. In the present, Kevin is spiraling. He’s drinking and still taking drugs to drown out the pain.
Kevin gets a call from his high school about an alumni honor. He had totally forgotten about the ceremony, so he decides to fly back to Pittsburgh for it, opening up deep-seated wounds in the process. He stops by the spot where his old house once stood. Even though there’s a new house in its place, Kevin still sees the house charred from the fire that changed his life forever. He can only see the version of the house that was never repaired, much like himself.
Kevin has always appeared to be the guy who had it all. A flashback scene to Kevin as a teenager reveals how that all came crashing down. A coach from Pittsburgh comes to visit Kevin while in high school to talk about football scholarships, but Kevin doesn’t take it seriously. He’s offered a full ride, but he believes he could do better. Jack is furious with Kevin for not making a good impression and demand his son write an apology letter. Kevin scoffs at his father. When Jack asks if there’s something Kevin wants to say, the eldest Pearson child stays silent. Before the conversation ends, Jack tells Kevin how embarrassed he is by his son’s behavior. “I know the feeling well,” Kevin snaps back. At this point, Jack’s been in AA for six months.
Later, Jack tells Kevin that he’s going to miss his football game because he’s going on a college visit with Randall. Jack apologizes for yelling at Kevin. He wants his son to open up to him, but Kevin shuts his father out. During the night, Kevin walks upstairs and sees Jack on the phone with his sponsor. Jack may seem as if he’s coping well to everyone around him, but he’s still struggling with his personal demons.
The Moment Everything Changed
At the high school ceremony, Kevin encounters a girl he went to school with. She’s heard Sophie and Kevin broke up. Kevin goes on a tangent about how he screwed up that relationship a second time. He learns that he has to give a speech, but he’s already high. His former football coach presents him with the award, and Kevin envisions his father on stage. His former coach and his father are two people Kevin never wanted to disappoint. When Kevin steps up to accept his award, he says, “I’m not strong. At all. Don’t love me… The truth is, I’m not worthy of this award or any honor, for that matter.” And yet, people still cheer for him.
Later, the girl from high school makes a move on him. “Please don’t do that,” Kevin tells her. He walks away with a bottle of booze in his hand. He goes to the football field, the place where everything first changed for Kevin. At this point, Kevin is wallowing in his own misery. He remembers the moment his football dreams ended: the game where he broke his leg. The game his father chose not to attend.
“He sees his entire future: Notre Dame, Heisman trophy, first round draft pick, rookie of the year, Super Bowl MVP,” Kevin says of what he was thinking in that moment. “He sees his dad in the stands as he holds the Super Bowl trophy in his hand. His dad’s proud of him, like tears down his eyes proud of him. He says, ‘That’s my son. That’s my son.’” But then, it ended. That snap of his knee changed his life.
“He’s down, folks. Ladies and gentleman, Pearson’s down. He’s not getting up. His knee is wrecked. He’s not coming back from this one, folks. It is over for Kevin Pearson. Will he get up? He will. Ladies and gentleman, he will. He’ll get up. Kevin Pearson will walk again just in time to bury his beloved father,” Kevin continues. “That’ll keep him down for good this time, right? Nope. Nope. He’s up again. He’s up again, and he’s marrying a terrific girl. He’s off to Hollywood, and it’s a happy ending for Kevin Pearson. Oh, whoa. Wait, hold on now. He cheats on the girl. Yes, that’s right. He loses her. And how’s he punished? Well, he gets a sitcom, and he makes millions, ladies and gentleman. What will he do with his second chance? Ladies and gentleman, he’ll blow it. That’s what he’ll do. He blows it all. Surely the universe has to punish him this time, right? WRONG! He gets the girl back. Now, he’s got the girl back, and it’s a movie this time. And then, ‘Pop!’ There it goes, the same knee. He’s down again. And he tries so hard to be strong, and he needs painkillers to get through it. And even when he tries to tell people how pathetic he is, they just, they don’t hear it. They just cheer.”
(Sidenote: If Justin Hartley is not nominated for an award for this performance, then there is something truly wrong. He is truly masterful in this scene.)
Jack and Randall rush to the hospital after hearing about Kevin’s injury. Kevin wants his dad to tell it to him straight. The break is “catastrophic,” Jack admits. Kevin will never play football again. “I can come back from this,” Kevin says. He doesn’t want to believe it’s over. Everything has come so easily to him before, so why not now?
“I’m sorry. I’ve been awful to you. And I can do better,” Kevin says to his father. Jack knows there’s more out there for Kevin than just football. This is not the end. Jack gives Kevin’s the necklace he’s always wearing. He got it when in a “very hopeless time” in his life. Someone close to him, likely his brother, gave it to him in Vietnam. The necklace features the Buddhist symbol of purpose. “I was feeling very lost when I got that, but I put it on and I moved forward,” Jack says. He was wearing it the day Kevin was born — his “number one.” Jack continues, “When I held you for the first time right here in this hospital, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. You were my purpose, Kevin. And I swear to you, son, I swear to you you will find yours.”
Kevin goes back to the reception and ends up sleeping with the girl from high school, who happens to be a plastic surgeon. She doesn’t see him, the real him. He writes himself a prescription for Fentanyl using her notepad. He sneaks out and proves he’s not the good guy everyone thinks he is. Kevin is about to get the Fentanyl prescription when he realizes that the necklace his father gave him is missing.
Kevin goes back to Charlotte’s house for his father’s necklace, but she is beyond pissed about being ghosted. “That necklace. It’s the only thing I have left in my life from my dad. It’s the only thing I have,” Kevin cries. She doesn’t care. “I’m in pain out there,” Kevin says. He crumbles to the ground on her lawn. “I just need somebody to help me,” he pleads. So who does he call? Randall. The next day, he shows up on Randall’s doorstep. Randall stuns Kevin with news that Kate lost her baby. After Kevin, Kate was the second Pearson to walk, so her story will continue next week.
HollywoodLifers, what did you think of tonight’s episode? Let us know!