This Is Us got me again.
By now, I should know that nothing is what it seems, and since the promos for This Is Us Season 5 Episode 7 suggested Kevin was going to get into a horrific accident, it should have been obvious that wasn’t what was going to happen.
Kevin’s decision to stop and help a driver who had gone off the road while in a rush to get home seemed bizarre, but by the end of the hour, it all made sense.
The writers set this one up nicely. The first half of Kevin’s road trip felt like a PSA about distracted driving, with him constantly having near misses because his eyes were on his phone instead of on the road.
After he almost drifted into oncoming traffic, I was holding my breath, waiting for the accident Kevin couldn’t get out of at the last minute. But of course, that was all a fakeout.
Well played, This Is Us.
The twist aside, adult Kevin’s rushing down Vancouver roads was my least favorite part of the hour. Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled that Kevin got an episode all to himself, but the younger Kevin’s story was so compelling that I kept wanting to get back to it.
I especially liked the parallels between young Kevin and young Jack.
One of the things This Is Us does so brilliantly is making these connections across generations.
In psychology, there’s this concept of “linked lives,” in which parents’ life experiences influence their kids’ lives in unexpected ways, and This Is Us often illustrates that beautifully.
He wasn’t all bad, my dad. That’s what makes our parents loom so large in our heads. They’re a million things all at once.
Jack and Kevin’s road trip was one of the best examples of that.
The trip had connections to both the past and the future, with young Jack dealing with his alcoholic father on the way home from a baseball game while adult Kevin rushing home because he wanted to be the kind of present father that Jack had been.
There were so many connections that there’s not enough space to list them. When Kevin left his acting job to try to make it home, I couldn’t help remembering Jack telling him that you don’t walk out on your commitments.
The question for Kevin, though, was which commitment was most important.
His decision to leave was impulsive, and he burned his bridge with the director so that he may have thrown away his career for his kids’ sake. Yet, as he told the injured driver, fame and fortune were not what was important: being there for your family was.
There were other echoes of the future as well in Jack and Kevin’s road trip. When they were sitting at the bar drinking Cokes, I thought about how Jack had passed down his alcoholism to Kevin — the same alcoholism that Jack hated in his own father.
Jack’s mature, balanced view of his father is something that Kevin still struggles to achieve. He’s always idealized Jack and now is no exception. He wants to be there from the moment of birth so he can be the “perfect” father he thinks Jack was.
Man: You’re rich, you’re famous. You’re gonna be their [your kids’] freaking idol.
Kevin: None of that stuff matters, man. My dad wasn’t either of those things but he was there. He was the most there person there ever was.
That was what caused him to stop and rescue the guy on the side of the road even though he was in a rush to get home and what made him beg the TSA lady to let him on the flight without ID.
It wouldn’t be realistic for the agent to bend the rules for Kevin, yet I’m rooting for her to do just that.
Of course, Kevin wouldn’t be in this dilemma if he hadn’t decided to stop and rescue some guy off the side of the road. But he did the right thing.
The guy’s car was in flames, the man was injured, and there was no cell service. So even though that whole detour seemed like a random plot point, it made sense that Kevin wanted to do a Jack and save him.
I thought things might have come full circle, and the man might have been drunk, getting into the accident that young Jack prevented by not letting his dad drive.
I wasn’t sure that Jack was old enough to drive when his father gave him the keys, but he seemed to handle the car all right, and I think his dad respected him more when Jack snapped at him to shut up.
That was the kind of language a guy like that understood, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who cheered when Jack said that.
Jack probably saved both his dad’s life and his own that day, and teenage Jack’s frustration provided an interesting contrast with how Jack dealt with Kevin’s coach.
I expected trouble when Jack followed the coach into the bathroom, and I was glad to be wrong.
Coach: Kevin excited for his big day?
Jack: I’m not gonna miss a game this season.
Coach: Of course. Gotta watch your boy, right?
Jack: He’s not the only one I’m watching. Don’t ever call my boy stupid.
Jack’s quiet way of standing up for his son was powerful, and it seemed to have made an impression on the coach, at least for the moment.
Finally, we had some cameo appearances from each of the other Big Three.
Kate will probably get her own episode soon so that we can meet Hailey for the first time, and Randall’s support of Madison was sweet.
The rift between Kevin and Randall seems mostly to be forgotten now. I’m glad that Randall was the one to reach out to Madison while Kevin was struggling to get home before the twins’ birth.
That shows how far he’s come since he lashed out at Kevin.
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics!
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This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.