Ah, another episode of This Is Us, another round of questions and plot lines to pick apart and analyze. In the October 10 episode of This Is Us, Kevin is finally ready for his close up — that movie that Ron Howard called him up for is in production, and he’s a star! Except, during a stunt, he banged his leg really hard and had to sit the rest of the day out. What did Kevin do to his knee on This Is Us?
Normally, a clumsy actor is just a clumsy actor, but Kevin’s leg has been injured before, seemingly around the time that his dad, Jack, passed away. When Kate and Randall got the news of Jack’s death, they were together, but Kevin was out, presumably, with Sophie, his girlfriend. In the shots of Kevin and Sophie, Kevin is rocking a cast from the foot to the mid-thigh, which of course is signed and scribbled on (Kevin was totally popular in high school, right? He had to be). The cast isn’t explained, like many other things in the show. In the present day, Kate refers to Kevin’s leg as his “bad leg,” so clearly, something happened to Kevin’s leg to make it affect him years later.
In Season 1, Rebecca and Jack Pearson talked about how to get to both of their son’s football games (at different schools, of course) at the same time, so if Kevin was still the jock we think he was, it’s a good guess that Kevin’s high school injury was sports-related. Kevin said in the Season 1 Thanksgiving episode of This Is Us that he wanted to be the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers when he grew up. Kid loves sports, but they can be dangerous.
Besides the fact that Kevin hurt his leg on his movie set, though, Kevin is also dealing with all the feels as they’re related to the death of his father. Sylvester Stallone is in the movie with Kevin, and Sly just happened to have been Jack’s favorite actor. In a nutshell, Kate thanked Stallone for being there for her dad, and Kevin wasn’t happy, as it meant that he had to think about Jack and be sad (basically). Kevin’s bum leg could be an extension, in his mind, at least, of Jack’s death. The episode is called "Deja Vu."
Think about it — around the time when Jack died, Kevin’s leg was hurt. Before Jack died, he and Kevin were in the hospital after Kevin got hurt (this is an assumption, because Kevin was the patient), and Jack gave Kevin a medallion and hugged his son. What if Kevin’s injury was enough to end his sports career, which also coincided with Jack’s death and Kevin’s career move into acting? Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, echoed this statement to Entertainment Weekly. “[Kevin's] a star athlete with the busted leg. Does that change his course in life? Was that really a possibility?” he said. “And is that how his life and world changed and [set up] the path that he took to get into acting?" This is a good point. Maybe Kevin became an actor so he wouldn’t have to think about Jack’s death and the sports dreams they shared together.
Hartley confirmed (as much as he could) the idea in a recent interview with Vanity Fair. “[The broken leg] has a lot to do with his story line this year. It has a lot to do with why Kevin behaves, sometimes, the way that he does," he said. "The broken leg is a turning point for Kevin in his life, and something that sort of sticks with him as he gets older. It’s paved the way for him to do the things that he’s doing.”
In Kevin’s mind, dead dad could equal bad leg. And now that he’s thinking about the dead dad again, his leg is acting up. It’s mental, but it’s also physical. Mandy Moore, who plays Rebecca, said that Kevin’s broken leg was a clue in the mystery of Jack’s death. Who knew that one man’s leg could mean so much to the fabric of a television show? If Kevin wants to do well in this new film of his, he needs to get it together. He needs to deal with his dad. Kevin’s leg could be the manifestation of his inability to talk about Jack’s death, and it will get worse if he does nothing about it.