On Tuesday’s episode, titled “Career Days,” Kevin (Justin Hartley) unknowingly attends a stranger’s memorial service after his co-star, Olivia (Janet Montgomery), leads him to think it’s the standard house party. When Olivia reveals she doesn’t actually know the man, Frank Pendergrass, whose service they’re at, Kevin stumbles across the man’s widower, Grace, in the kitchen.
The moment that follows is the first time Kevin faces his father’s death head-on, and at first, he doesn’t know how to handle it. After listening to Grace catch herself talking about her late husband in the present tense and changing it to the past (“He used to be is, now he is was,” she says), Kevin’s grief begins to show once she mentions her son, Jeremy, who is struggling to mourn his dad.
“How old is Jeremy?” Kevin asks, his face noticeably crestfallen when Grace tells him her son is only 15 years old, like he had gone through a similar experience.
“Fifteen is tough,” Kevin says, nodding slowly as he begins to reminisce about his time with Jack and the intimate time they spent together building “complicated” models of planes, boats and aircraft carriers.
“Eventually we had a whole fleet of them -- we had just rows and rows, shelves of them, and then when he died,” Kevin remembers, pausing for a moment before he continues with a clear sign of regret. “When he died, I, um, I threw all the models away. I threw all of them away. I don’t know why I did that, you know?”
When Grace asks Kevin how old he was when Jack died (potential clue alert!), he doesn’t offer much of an answer, only to say “it was a long time ago.”
His (likely) brash decision in the distant past to do away with the models he and his father built together when he was younger rests heavily on Kevin, his voice breaking with emotion as he reveals the only tangible thing he has left of his father: a necklace Jack used to wear.
“I have this -- this necklace, this is his, and it’s the only thing I have left of him, and at first I didn’t want to wear it, I wouldn’t wear it, I wouldn’t even look at it but now it’s all I have now, I can’t take it off now,” Kevin says, unexpectedly crying over his father years later.
Later, Kevin has a confrontation with Olivia, where he lets everything -- and we mean, everything -- out, revealing for the first time to her that his father’s death was “what happened” to him.
“And I hated him for it,” he says, before sharing just how affected he was emotionally and physically by the loss of his father. “And I couldn’t eat for a month and I used to wake myself up crying so I could cry myself back to sleep again. That’s what happened.”
It’s amazing that it took a stranger’s memorial service for Kevin to finally get in touch with the reality of Jack’s death and how deeply it impacted him for what we presume to be the first time. Though there are still many questions over when and how Jack died, Kevin’s reaction to learning of Jeremy’s age could serve as a majorl hint to when his own father passed.
The episode also brought to light several nuggets that may be setting up pivotal life moments:
• Jack postpones his dream of starting his own construction company, Big Three Homes, to partner up with his recently promoted best friend, Miguel. Knowing that Miguel is with Rebecca in the present, could the mixing of friendship and business be a factor to a possible fracture between the two?
• Randall works as a “weather trader,” though it’s still unclear what that occupation actually entails -- which I guess is the point. The important thing is Randall loves it. (Hey, he’s even fulfilling his “musical side” with piano lessons!)
• It’s been hinted at in the past, but Kate confirms that her relationship with Rebecca is not in a good place currently. Kate says that they “barely talk and it sucks.” Come to think of it, the only child we’ve seen Rebecca interact with in the present is Randall.
What did you think of Tuesday's episode of This Is Us? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and on Twitter at @etnow!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
For more on This Is Us, hear why Sterling K. Brown is deeply connected to his character, Randall.