This Is Us delved into Kevin’s unrelenting battle with addiction and the first major obstacle he ever faced during its Tuesday, November 14, episode. “Number One” focused solely on Kevin, but the hour wasn’t without its shocking revelations about another member of The Big Three.
This week’s flashbacks took us to a few months before Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) death. Kevin — nicknamed “Number One” because he was the firstborn in the family, the first to walk, the first to do everything — was the McKinley High football star, with colleges already courting him. He had his sights set on Notre Dame, but Jack had set up a meeting with a coach from Pitt. Kevin, entirely uninterested in Pitt, felt he could do better, so he was a complete jerk to the coach when he visited the Pearson home.
After the disastrous home visit was over and the coach had offered Kevin a full ride to Pitt, Jack laid into his son. Jack asked Kevin if he knew how lucky he was, but Kevin insisted it wasn’t luck — it was talent. Jack ordered Kevin to write an apology letter to the coach for his embarrassing behavior. Kevin told Jack he knew the embarrassment his father was feeling, alluding to his embarrassment about Jack’s alcoholism and the 12-step AA program he’d be participating in for six months. Kevin later saw his dad struggling with his sobriety and kneeling in the kitchen floor reciting the AA Serenity Prayer. But that didn’t change his bad attitude.
The next day, Jack and Randall headed to Washington, D.C., to visit a college, which meant they’d miss Kevin’s football game. It was in that game that Kevin suffered the life-altering accident that messed up his knee. Jack rushed back to the hospital to see Kevin and deliver the news to his son. Kevin was adamant that he could overcome the “catastrophic” injury, but Jack gave him the doctor’s more realistic prognosis: his knee wouldn’t be able to endure the physical demands of playing football.
Kevin apologized for treating his father so poorly and promised he could do better. He even offered to go to Pitt. Jack gave Kevin his necklace — the one Kevin still wears in the present — and told him how he’d come to wear it. At a hopeless time in Jack’s life, when he was in Vietnam, someone special gave it to him. The necklace was the Buddhist symbol of purpose. Jack assured Kevin he would find his purpose because football wasn’t his only talent. He also told Kevin how he’d been wearing the necklace when Kevin was born, and when he held him, Jack knew he’d found his purpose.
In the present, Kevin (Justin Hartley) was holed up in a hotel room taking pain pills and drinking any alcohol he could get his hands on. Eventually, a maid came to the room after a week of obeying the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Kelly, the homecoming coordinator at McKinley High, called Kevin to remind him of the school’s alumni honor ceremony, at which he was being recognized. In his daze, he’d forgotten about the ceremony, but he decided to stick to his commitment and head to his hometown.
Kevin — donning a beard that wasn’t for a movie, as many suspected — was hit with a wave of flashbacks when he visited the site of the Pearsons’ former home and again at his old high school. He saw himself playing football with his parents, Kate and Randall in their front yard. He pictured walking down the halls — the most popular guy in school — and Sophie. Kevin’s visions of the past continued at the ceremony, where he pictured his dad presenting him with the award, rather than his high school football coach. In his speech, Kevin tried to tell the audience he didn’t deserve the award, but they cheered for him anyway.
The hoopla continued at the reception, as Kevin, out of pain pills, kept downing tiny plastic cups of red wine that tasted like feet. Charlotte, a former classmate of Kevin’s who was being honored for her work as a plastic surgeon, asked if Kevin wanted to take a walk, and he obliged. Charlotte had already made her obsession with Kevin clear and had gone so far as saying he was the reason many people came to school. So it was really no surprise when Charlotte hit on Kevin in the school courtyard. Slightly more surprising was the fact that Kevin rejected her.
He then went to the school’s football field where he relived every excruciating thing that’s happened to him since the accident that ruined his chance at a football career: his father dying, cheating on Sophie, blowing his opportunity on The Manny, injuring his knee while filming his latest movie, losing Sophie again, his painkiller addiction. “And even when he tries to tell people how pathetic he is, they just – they don’t hear it. They just cheer,” he lamented. As Kevin wrapped up his pity fest, Kelly strolled up to ask if he wanted to party.
The next scene led us to believe Kevin had slept with Kelly, but he’d actually slept with Charlotte. Kevin was suffering from serious withdrawals at this point, so he went to Charlotte’s bathroom to rifle through her medicine cabinet. When he came up empty, he searched her drawers and found her prescription pad.
Kevin snuck out and went straight to the pharmacy with his forged prescription. There, he noticed he was missing Jack’s necklace. He raced back to Charlotte’s house to look for it, but she was understandably upset with him for sneaking out while she was cooking them breakfast. Kevin broke down on her front lawn when she wouldn’t let him in. “I am in pain here, OK? I just need it to stop. I just need somebody to help me,” he cried.
Kevin turned to Randall (Sterling K. Brown) for help. At least that was his intention when he showed up on his brother’s doorstep. But Randall delivered terrible news before Kevin could share his own: Kate (Chrissy Metz) lost the baby.
This Is Us airs on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
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