On a show that's tended to spotlight the emotional turmoil of other characters just a little bit more than that of his own, Justin Hartley gave the This Is Us performance of a lifetime for the Nov. 14 episode. Hartley's character, Kevin, was the central focus of the latest episode, and viewers finally caught a bigger glimpse of his relationship with Jack as well as the injury that dashed his football dreams forever. As an adult, he relived all these horrors this week through a haze of alcohol and prescription drugs as he returned to his hometown to accept an award from his former high school. And then, just as audiences had become completely absorbed in Kevin's narrative, wishing his pain could ease just a little bit and that he would get help, another bomb was dropped on him — and viewers — when Randall revealed that their sister Kate had lost her baby on This Is Us.
It's yet another gut-punch from a show that's become famous for them. Kate's loss is bound to bring excruciating heartbreak to the Pearson clan, particularly after she begrudgingly allowed Toby to celebrate the news she initially wanted to keep private. What will be particularly interesting, though, is how this coincides with Kevin's addiction problem. Kate is going to need her brother, and Kevin needs anyone else to know what he's going through. He seemed ready to tell Randall about his issues before he found out about the miscarriage, but it's unlikely he'll continue with that when he's bound to think Kate has the more pressing situation.
Initially Kate was reluctant to share the news of her pregnancy or even allow herself to be happy about it for fear that something would go wrong. But, finally, she allowed herself to tell her loved ones and celebrate. Seeing Kate finally let loose and let herself actually experience the joy of impending motherhood felt so triumphant and pure, and now it's going to come crumbling down just as fast.
Some fans speculated that she'd go through this — the show is notorious for it's gut-wrenching twists, so the pregnancy was nearly as much a worry for viewers as it was for Kate. Some even theorized that it could lead to the same misguided guilt she feels over Jack's death.
Kate's loss will no doubt affect everyone in the family, but it's particularly heartbreaking when it comes at a moment when Kevin needs a support system more than he ever has. This Is Us has shown viewers some of Kevin's hardships in the past — an unfulfilling career and a divorce to name a couple — but they've often paled in comparison to Kate's guilt and self esteem issues, and Randall's bouts with severe anxiety attacks. Kevin always seemed like even if he got a little down about things, he would spring back up in no time like the affable, carefree Number One that he's always been.
But now we've seen him at his lowest — he's wrecked about the loss of the football career that could've been, Jack's death is weighing heavily on him even decades later, and he's resorted to lying and stealing in order to get more of the pills he's clearly addicted to. If there was ever a moment for the Pearsons to rally around Kevin, it'd be this one. And now that seems unlikely.
This is not to say that Kevin's story is more important than Kate's. Both have deeply upsetting storylines and you can't judge loss and addiction against each other. But, it seems obvious that Kevin will struggle even more while trying to be strong for his sister — and she deserves a Kevin who can properly support her in this dark time, not someone who is struggling in secret and trying to remain stoic for his family like his father did to his own detriment at times.
Kevin and Kate have always had a special bond, evident ever since they were kids. Kate decided she had to be the one to tell him that Jack was gone — he had to hear it from her. Kevin's been looking out for his sister ever since he bribed 10-year-old Kate's crush with Halloween candy so he'd hold her hand and make her smile. He's not going to allow his own problems to overshadow hers, and while the love he has for her is moving, it shouldn't get in the way of his own health. And, aside from the obvious issue of Kevin's physical and emotional wellbeing, Kate is going to need her brother to help her through this traumatic time, and Kevin can't help anyone until he helps himself.
The Pearsons have proven themselves to be a rock solid family — even despite whatever each of them is going through, their love for each other is never in doubt. Their patriarch may be gone, but he left them with all the necessary tools. They have been through the unthinkable together, and there are times when families simply have to juggle multiple hardships at once. Kevin isn't a burden, and he's not any less worthy of emotional support than any other of the Big Three. Audiences can only hope that in the episodes to come, he'll realize that.