The next three episodes of This Is Us, are deemed to be special as they each focus solely on Kevin, Kate and Randal – giving each of The Big Three their own episode. This week’s, appropriately titled, is all about “Number one” – Kevin Pearson. He was first born, first to walk, and the list goes on – ultimately branding him the title of “Number One.” Therefore, it makes sense for him to get the first of the special “Big Three” episodes.
Let me start off by warning you that Justin Hartley’s performance is so heartbreakingly phenomenal that it will leave you ugly sobbing by the end. So, grab the tissues because here we go.
Kevin the Arrogant Teenager
Teenage Kevin, unsurprisingly, has let his popularity and football talents get to his head. There’s a football scout coming over for dinner and an interview, and he doesn’t really care because “it’s just Pitt.” Jack and Rebecca have to force him to change out of his crop top and sweatpants and tell him to drop the attitude. Kevin changes his clothes, but not his attitude. His arrogance and rudeness shows as he makes it clear he would rather go to Notre Dame and that he should start.
The whole things really ticks Jack off. He’s embarrassed that his son was so rude to someone who offered Kevin, a C+ student, a full scholarship to a good college. He orders Kevin to write an apology letter to the coach. Kevin makes a crack about Jack’s AA, his father’s anger not deterring his attitude problem. “Do you have something you want to say to me?” Jack questions, clearly boiling under the surface. When Kevin says no, Jack notes how Kevin’s behavior was embarrassing. “I know the feeling well,” Kevin responds smugly before exiting.
Later, Jack apologizes to Kevin for his anger, but Kevin doesn’t apologize for his attitude. Even more later, Kevin struggles to write his letter, so he goes upstairs. He overhears his dad in the kitchen on the phone with his sponsor venting his struggles. Kevin watches emotionally as Jack hangs up and gets on his knees to pray for serenity.
A Father’s Purpose
We all know that Kevin’s football dream got shattered in high school, well tonight, we get to see the moment it happens. Jack is visiting a college in D.C. with Randall, but Kate and Rebecca are still in the stands cheering him on. The cheering ends, though, when Kevin collides with another player. Rebecca instantly knows it’s bad and prompts Kate to page her father.
Randall and Jack meet them at the hospital as Kevin’s getting an MRI. After talking to the doctor, Jack takes on the daunting task of telling Kevin about the “catastrophic break.” The good news is, the doctor believes Kevin will definitely be able to run again, but his knee couldn’t possibly take on the stress of football. This news breaks Kevin. He cries as he apologizes for being so awful. Jack assures Kevin that this isn’t the end for him, that he has so many dreams he can pursue. He then gives Kevin his medallion necklace that someone gave to him in Vietnam when he was really lost. It’s the Buddhist symbol for purpose. Jack states that the day his kids were born was the day he found his purpose. “And I swear to you, son, you will find yours.” UGH! Jack Pearson, you always bring the tears!
In the present, Kevin’s still spiraling straight toward rock bottom. He’s spending his hours cooped up in his hotel room drowning in alcohol and eating pain killers like candy. He’s also ignoring Kate and Toby’s calls. Housekeeping, whom he hasn’t let in for a week, interrupts his self-loathing party. When he realizes that Martina can restock the alcohol, he is more than happy to let her do her job. She’s disturbed by how messy his room is and can tell he’s obviously on some sort of bender. Kevin soon gets a phone call reminding him of the alumni honor ceremony at his high school the next day. He asks Martina if he should go, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell him that he needs to get outside. Side note: she plays a small part, but I love Martina haha!
So, Kevin goes to Pittsburg, and as soon as he arrives goes through the motions of being famous at the airport. You can tell he’s dragging. On his way to the high school, Kevin gets his driver to make a pitstop at his old home. It’s been re-built and someone else is living there now. Kevin stands in front of the house as he remembers simpler times of playing football in the front yard with his family… with his dad. The memory gets interrupted though when the current resident walks out and Kevin leaves.
When Kevin arrives at the high school, he instantly relives his glory days. He mistakenly sees the girl that phone him previously as a younger Sophie, and even tells her so. Since he’s early, he decides to roam the halls where he relives his popularity. All the students smile at him and Sophie runs into his arms. By the time he gets to the reception before the ceremony, all he wants is a drink. Another honoree comes up to him, but he doesn’t remember her. That fact doesn’t faze her though as she flirts with him and recalls having such a crush on him in high school. After making small talk and drinking both their drinks, he brushes her off.
Before Kevin accepts his award, his old coach gives a heartwarming speech on Kevin’s talent, confidence and charisma even through adversity. As he’s giving the speech, Kevin pictures his father giving it instead, and it makes him more emotional than he already is. When coach hands Kevin his award, Kevin pulls him in for a tight hug, but it’s juxtaposed with adult Kevin hugging Jack. Ugh, and so starts my tears.
Kevin’s speech is really the first time we see him sort of confess to his own demons. He claims that what coach said about him was wrong, and that he doesn’t deserve any award. The crowd still cheers him on even after he tells them not to.
After the ceremony, Kevin’s drinking with the old classmate from the reception. They talk some more as he drowns in his sorrow. He confesses that he feels he could stand out in the middle of the football field naked, and all anyone would see is him in that football jersey. She makes a move by saying that’s not all she would see, but Kevin tells her not to do that before walking away.
He finds himself drunk in the middle of the football field. He gives a play-by-play of his life as number one: the highs and the lows. “Even when he tries to tell people how pathetic he is, they don’t hear it. They just cheer.” Side Note: Justin Hartley really makes you feel Kevin’s pain in this scene, but the most heartbreaking scene doesn’t come until later. Kevin’s misery fest gets interrupted by the girl who organized the event, asking if he wants to party.
Misery Loves Company
We then see Kevin naked and in bed with the classmate that flirted with him at the event. He’s clearly still in a drunken stupor while she’s riding on cloud nine for snagging her high school crush. After she cracks a window for his sweatiness, he excuses himself to the bathroom where we learn the real reason for his sudden interest after turning her away twice: her medicine cabinet. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t find anything he wants. So, while she makes him some food, he raids her drawers, snags a couple of blank prescription sheets and bails. Oh, Kevin.
He makes it all the way to the pharmacy line before he realizes his dad’s necklace is missing. Kevin races out of the pharmacy and back to her house. He pounds on the door pleading for her to let him in even though he screwed up. He just wants his dad’s necklace, he cries. She sticks her head out of the 2nd story window and yells she doesn’t have his necklace and basically tells him to go to hell before slamming the window shut. This is when Kevin – and myself – breaks. He falls to his knees as he cries that it’s all he has left of his dad. More than that, he cries that he needs the pain to stop and that he needs someone to help him. CUE MY HEART SHATTERING! Bravo, Justin Hartley!
In the final scene, it seems that Kevin’s turning to Randall for help as he shows up at his house. As soon as he walks in, “Randall, I need to tell you something.” Randall interrupts, though, by saying he already knows. Now, I was just as confused as Kevin was. But, remember how I said Kevin was ignoring Kate and Toby’s calls? Well… “Kate lost the baby.”
Dang it, This Is Us! As if I’m not already emotional enough over Kevin. Now, not only is Kevin going to put off his own problems to support his sister, but now I’m going to be a mess over Kate and Toby. Forever sobbing over this show. ☹
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c!