5 Major Takeaways From the Kevin-Centric 'This Is Us' Episode

I’m not shy about the fact that Kevin’s storylines on This Is Us usually leave me feeling meh. Give me Randall being a dorky dad or Kate snarking about people in her weight support group any day. I was a little skeptical about the trilogy of Big Three-centric episodes kicking off with the spotlight on Kevin, but like with all of Season 2 so far, “Number One” turned out to be a helpful insight into piecing together how all of the Pearsons, not just Kevin, ended up where they are today.

It’s clear that we need to keep our eyes peeled for little details in the show's next few weeks, so here are the top things I took from "Number One" and its exploration of Kevin. 

1. The marketing of these special Big Three episodes was no joke

If you noticed, the episode title “Number One” was included in the show’s regular opening title card, sending a clear message that NBC wasn’t kidding about these three episodes being particularly focused on the Pearson siblings. The episodes are also airing in the triplets’ birth order, perhaps to emphasize or play around with the stereotypes that come with where you place in your family. Kevin strives to be perfect, as firstborns often do, but for most of his life, it came naturally, whereas Randall, the “youngest” child, has always struggled with internal pressure to succeed and prove his worth. Kate is in the middle, obviously with a special loyalty to Kevin, but equally caring with both brothers in a way neither Kevin nor Randall are with their siblings. Now aware of how this scheduling was planned, I’m looking forward to Kate and Randall's episodes even more.

2. Teen Kevin has Justin Hartley’s mannerisms down

Kevin in all time eras wasn’t much to me until the “Deja Vu” episode. As a group, all of the actors playing the young versions of the Big Three are incredible, but like with adult Kevin, teen Kevin wasn’t given much to work with before this week. Now, I happily stand corrected! Logan Shroyer has taken on Justin Hartley’s mannerisms perfectly, particularly in the way he interacts with Kate and shows frustration. Apparently, the younger Big Three actors didn’t interact much with their older counterparts while filming the first season, but it’s clear that Shroyer has spent some time studying Hartley’s methods since then. He was particularly heartbreaking while watching Jack kneel down and recite the Serenity Prayer (which AA uses as a mantra for members), delivering a face that was both reminiscent of Hartley and my own feelings when seeing a parent in a vulnerable position.

3. Among the kids, Kevin clearly had the worst relationship with his parents when Jack died

I had my suspicions about this before, but this episode basically confirmed that Kevin had the worst relationship with his parents at the time of Jack’s death. While Kate and Jack had a special bond and Rebecca and Randall always looked after each other, Kevin needed the least from his family as a teenager. He was a popular athlete who had been given the world because of his charm, which served him through adulthood. It was only when Jack joined AA and the Pearson family life was less than perfect that Kevin seemed to realize that he took his parents’ stability for granted. In addition to that, Kevin was also ashamed of Jack allowing his behavior toward Rebecca to spiral out of control, telling Jack, “I know the feeling well,” when his father said how embarrassing it was to watch Kevin meet with a college football coach. Growing up and recognizing that our beloved parents are flawed, complex humans is tough, and some experience that moment more harshly than others.

4. Kevin may have never felt that he was enough for Jack

We saw hints of this even when Kevin was a child, complaining that his parents only cared about Randall. Drunkenly wandering on his high school football field, present-day Kevin relived his life-changing injury, imagining his father watching him win the Super Bowl “with tears down his face.” Just as Kevin thought he didn’t need Jack, Jack and Rebecca likely figured that Kevin didn’t need them as a teenager. There was a distance between them, and that space definitely created some gaps that are still challenging to close. At this particular moment, with both siblings in happy, domestic bubbles, Kevin may be recognizing the repercussions of his teenage behavior damaging his ability to maintain family life. 

5. This Is Us won’t cross over into the “disturbingly too real” territory

Was anyone else afraid that Kevin was going to do some inappropriate things with that teenager? Perhaps it’s the influence of Hollywood’s current climate, but I was expecting the worst when the peppy high school student approached him on the football field in a fairly flirty manner. Seeing as the show made an effort to edit out a comment about Kevin Spacey a few weeks ago, I don't think they would have Kevin fool around with a minor, even in his current state. Still, given how the story panned out, that moment just sticks out as awkward and a little unnecessary. Why wasn’t more clarification given on why that encounter drove Kevin to find Charlotte again? If anything, the girl’s similarity to Sophie may have been a sign that Kevin desperately wishes for the simplicity of their high school relationship before marriage complicated things.

After going into this episode feeling wary, it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for Milo Ventimiglia to showcase himself even more as the dream family man. Most importantly, Justin Hartley was finally given the chance to show us some real acting chops, making it clear that Kevin has a complicated, intriguing road ahead of him.