Sylvester Stallone was at the center of Tuesday’s episode, offering timely advice about dealing with the loss of a father.
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us.
This Is Us welcomed Sylvester Stallone on Tuesday’s episode, titled “Highs and Lows,” and it was his fatherly advice to Kevin about dealing with Jack’s death that struck an emotional chord.
“There’s no such thing as a long time ago,” Stallone says on the set of their fictional wartime movie, after Kevin tells him his father died “a long time ago.” “There are only memories that mean something and memories that don’t.” Out of the Big Three, Kevin has had the most difficulty talking about and properly grieving over Jack’s death; Kate let out her frustrations, guilt and grief in pound class and in therapy, while Randall relived the loss through the death of his biological father, William.
During her on-set visit, Kate opens up to Stallone about the huge impact his movies, notably Rocky, had on her father and their childhood. After all, Sly was Jack’s favorite actor. (Fun fact: Milo Ventimiglia, who plays the Pearson patriarch, portrayed Stallone’s son in the 2006 film, Rocky Balboa.) “We would watch [Rocky] when I had a cold, when my dad had a cold,” Kate shares, reminiscing about the past. “You just made my dad feel good. You could help him forget about a 102-degree fever or a bad day at work. I just want to thank you for making my dad feel good.”
When Kevin learns that Kate shared intimate memories of their late father with Stallone, he has a hard time coping, snapping at her for talking openly about Jack with his A-list co-star, which causes him to struggle with a big emotional scene moments later. “It kinda seems that it throws you no matter who brings him up or when. You never talk about it,” Kate confronts Kevin in his trailer. “‘Cause I don’t want to wallow in sadness about it, I have a problem?” Kevin yells, less in anger and more out of frustration.
“When I went to my weight loss camp and I saw a therapist, she asked me about Dad’s death and I couldn’t talk about it. You know what she told me? She told me, if I don’t learn to face my grief, that it would be like taking in a deep breath and holding in that breath for the rest of my life,” Kate says, nudging her brother to try and do the same. It has, after all, been decades. But, people cope with loss in different ways and while Kate may be at the point where she’s able to open up, Kevin still isn’t.
“There’s nothing for me to let out. Our dad died and it’s very sad. But I don’t need therapy because of it and I don’t need to go to some exercise class and scream my head off about it. And here’s what I really don’t want: I don’t need to be talking to Sylvester Stallone about it two seconds before the biggest scene in my entire career,” Kevin fires back, before making a hurtful dig at his sis, for which he -- thankfully -- apologizes for later over the phone. “I’m not like you. We’re different people. I don’t need to walk around and be sad and damaged, just because you are.” Oof.
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In a rare moment of vulnerability, Kevin admits in that phone conversation with Kate, in so many words, that he’s still going through the stages of grief -- and that he’ll soon have the strength to talk about Jack freely. “It’s really hard for me with Dad,” he admits to Kate, voice breaking and tears threatening to spill. “Maybe one day.”
Tuesday’s episode also provided significant new clues about Jack’s impending death, including a vague timeline on when. What were the other markers that came to light (after all, Ventimiglia likened these episodes to “a game of clues”)? ET breaks down the five new hints from the latest episode.
Clue No. 1: How the Pearsons got the family dog
Weeks after Jack confessed to Rebecca that he had been hiding his relapse with alcohol for a while, Rebecca attempts to “Jack Pearson” her husband -- a term she made up “for when you sweep someone off their feet,” she says (we’re stealing it!) --.after receiving unlikely advice from Miguel’s ex-wife, Shelly, who warns her of the signs they’re heading toward divorce. Rebecca’s first go at resurrecting her romance with Jack is unsuccessful, but the second time’s a charm, after Jack admits he misses having deep heart-to-hearts like they used to.
Following their first intimate evening in a long while, they drive home to meet a dog -- the same dog teenage Kate is holding the day of Jack’s death -- chowing down on the burgers Rebecca tossed in the front yard earlier that night. “Do you think he’s a stray?” Rebecca asks. “I don’t know,” Jack says, as he picks up the abandoned dog. Jack’s desire to have a dog (and a fourth child) had been briefly touched on in a handful of season one episodes and it appears this is how the dog comes to be a part of the family.
Clue No. 2: When Kevin broke his leg
The episode doesn’t provide the exact context in which Kevin breaks his leg, but what is revealed through brief vignettes, via the Pearson twins' memories, is that it happened at least three weeks after Jack and Rebecca’s big fight. It’s also an injury that continues to linger in Kevin’s adult life. While filming an intense battle scene on the set of the fictional Ron Howard movie, Kevin injures his “bad leg” after falling in a makeshift ditch and is seen taking painkillers, presumably, to alleviate the pain. What’s eyebrow-raising is Kate’s voiceover in the episode-ending scene, to her late dad, Jack: “He’s just like you.” Is Kate insinuating that Kevin has a pill-popping problem?
Clue No. 3: When Jack gave Kevin his prized necklace
In the season one episode, “Career Days,” Kevin opens up to a widower about the only tangible thing he has that belonged to Jack: the necklace he never takes off. It’s revealed in this episode that Jack gave Kevin the prized possession shortly after he broke his leg. What did Jack say to his son when he gave him the necklace? Why did he feel the need to give Kevin a piece of him?
Clue No. 4: When Kevin found out Jack died
It’s been established that Kate was the one who broke the news of Jack’s death to Kevin, who spent the night with Sophie, instead of with his siblings at Miguel’s house the day it happened. A “flash-forward” to that fateful night sees a distraught Kate arriving at the car that Kevin was sleeping in to break the news and Kevin waking up moments later, his face ghost-white once he sees his sister, knowing that something devastating had just happened.
Clue No. 5: How much time Jack has left
The ticking clock on Jack’s mortality officially kicked into high gear after the season two premiere, when the badly burnt Pearson home was revealed as somehow connected to Jack’s death. But the most recent episode set a very vague timeline, but one nonetheless, of how much time Jack has left. At the beginning of the episode, Jack says during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that three weeks have gone by since he seriously dug into the root cause of his alcoholism. So, it’s now set that Jack has at least that amount of time before that fateful day some time in the near future.
What did you think of Tuesday’s episode? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter at @etnow!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.