THE VERY SPECIAL KEVIN EPISODE (THIS IS US RECAP)
For the past week, commercials for This Is Us have been hinting at a trio of Very Special Episodes, where supposedly the defining moments of the Big Three’s life will be revealed. Their hushed, reverential tones during these sneak peeks leads one to believe that they have more confidential info than Bob Mueller. I mean, I was pretty much waiting to be subpoenaed to stand before a Grand Jury. I was half-expecting an indictment to be issued on my behalf. I pretty much had my lawyer on retainer in case the Big Three’s secrets somehow affected my recent naturalization status. That’s the kind of gravity they were promising. Did they deliver???? We’ll have to see. They’re starting off soft, by focusing first on the weakest link in this investigation into our pop culture national psyche: Kevin
Let us Deep Throat this son of a bitch of an episode.
Though this episode begins in the present, I believe it’s best to begin the recap in the past, at the origins of Kevin’s pathology. This Is Us has never met a time jump they didn’t like, but for the sake of clarity I’m going to opt for chronological order. You hear that gasp? It’s the lament of the show’s writers for my oh so pedestrian attempt at telling a story like a regular person.
It’s senior year over in the Pearson household. Randall is filling in his Harvard application by hand because that’s the kind of uncivilized recourse we had back in the 90s. Kate is moping to the sweet, sweet sounds of her Discman. As for Kevin, he is annoyed at the world because he can’t do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and does not understand why the rest of the world won’t bend to his desires.
Kevin’s big, deep, dark secret is that…he is a privileged, straight, white man.
Now, now, hear me out. I understand that I have been projecting a lot of my feminazi, POC-sensitivity wokeness to a silly, little show about family values. Maybe a scene is just a scene, Ines, and not an allegory of white supremacy. Maybe a character is just a character, Ines, and not a symbolic representation Mike Pence. I’m willing to hear your arguments. (You’ll be wrong.) Yet, in this particular case, I have to stand my ground. This episode is the television equivalent of all those New York Times articles wringing their hands about the forgotten Trump voter. The ones that they churn out on a weekly basis pleading for us to understand the plight of swaths of people that were a) overwhelmingly white b) had a higher median income than the average population (look it up) c) were mostly college-educated (again, look it up) and yet somehow continued to believe they were the real oppressed population. This is Kevin in a nutshell. What is interesting is that I can’t tell if the show wants us to pity him or is in on the joke.
As portrayed here, Teen Kevin was the man. He has a cute girlfriend, he’s popular, coaches are starting to offer scholarships for his dumb ass. Kevin doesn’t see this as luck, he sees it as his birthright. It’s why he’s annoyed at his father for being an alcoholic and ruining his image. It’s why he treats the coach from the University of Pittsburgh like crap, because it’s not prestigious Notre Dame coming to blow smoke up his tight end. Football pun! It’s the only one I know.
Daddy Pearson’s working-class background knows a punk ass when he sees one. Daddy yells at Kevin once the coach leaves cause Daddy Pearson is aware that much of what Kevin has accomplished is actually pure, dumb luck. Kevin is under the delusion that it’s talent. See that right there? It’s not just the seed of Kevin’s hubris. It’s yet one more rotten example of the toxic masculinity that has gotten all of us into this big ol’ mess called 2017.
Kevin needs a humbling. He gets a taste of it when he hears Jack calling his sponsor and praying to a higher power to free him from his demons. But his big serving of humble pie, with a side of schadenfreude, comes in the form of this athletic accident that he’s been hinting at for most of the season. If I cared even an ounce about Futbol Americano, I could give you the play-by-play. Unfortunately, I can’t really get into a sport where burly men stand around in a field while they wait for commercials to end. All I know is there was a ball, there was clashing, and there was Kevin with a shattered knee by the end of it. The fact that this is done in drunk, monologue-form via Adult Kevin made me tune out even more. The only person who should ever do a drunken, monologue about football tragedies is Tim Riggins. That’s just fact. In the hands of a lesser character, it all turns into the nonsensical ramblings of your has-been uncle at Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holidays!
There is no salvaging Kevin’s knee or his burgeoning athletic career. Daddy Pearson is the one to break the news to him. Daddy tells him he’ll find other dreams. Daddy gives him a necklace with a Buddhist symbol because it’s too early in the decade to get a tramp stamp of a Japanese character during a Western Man’s spiritual journey. That shit won’t start until the early aughts. This is the next best thing to it. This necklace that holds the symbol of purpose will now guide Kevin through a life that the vast majority of this world would envy.
That’s not how wimpy Adult Kevin feels about it, though. Ughh, the whining. Let’s take a look at the emotional labor this episode has thrust upon the unsuspecting viewer.
Kevin’s lost weekend continues. He is hiding out in a dirty, hotel room with all the alcohol, painkillers and pizza boxes in the land. His sheets are crusted. He is crusted. The whole place is a crust of regret, self-pity, and bad choices.
This is when he receives a phone call from a cute, perky teenager reminding him that he is to be honored by his old high school. Kevin decides to go to the ceremony because we wouldn’t have an episode without it. This Is Us has never met a coincidence they didn’t like and for the sake of recapping this speedily, I won’t dwell on how easy it would have been to cancel his appearance.
Kevin is a bit of a hometown hero in Pittsburgh because it’s, well, Pittsburgh. Fans take selfies with him. His driver doesn’t immediately start recording when Kevin asks for painkillers, even though TMZ would offer a nice little nest egg. No one calls into question the fact that he is staring at this perky, teen girl because she resembles Wallflower. This is one of the few realistic elements of the episode: people staring idly while a famous man ogles a minor like a freaking creep.
At the reception, he meets a fellow honoree. I’m going to call this character Hang Up. She is a plastic surgeon. She works with Operation Smile. She looks and sounds accomplished. However, Hang Up used to have a massive crush on Kevin when they were in high school. Given her fluster, she wants to revisit these feelings, biblically, ifyouknowhaddImean. This trope is…so…. annoying. Honestly, one of the reasons I love weddings despite my cold, frigid, lump of a heart, is because I run into aaaalllllllll my teen crushes and realize how much better I am in comparison. My immediate reaction is disgust. Teen Ines did NOT have good taste. Even the ones who are still handsome are mildly revolting. They’re all boring dudes in middle-management who like to tell me how they’re really going to write that one book that day, if they only knew what that one book would be about. Teen Ines was perfectly content with a guy who had 3 chest hairs and knowledge of at least ONE author because that is all she knew. Adult Ines requires at least 5 chest hairs and knowledge of ONE female author. Picky, picky! I don’t care that Kevin is some D-list actor; homegirl has probably had lots and lots of satisfying sex with some oncologist on a life-saving mission deep in the jungles of Honduras. There is no way I’m believing she’s all hot and heavy for a generic dude covered in vodka sweat. In this episode, though, we are asked to suspend disbelief.
Before they can get it on, Kevin has to be celebrated and honored by a loving community because HE HAS A TERRIBLE LIFE WAAAAAA. His old football couch, Duffy “The Duff” Collins or Dan “Jock Strap” Stone or Pete “Blue Balls” Simmons or insert-ridiculous-coach-name-here introduces him. As he’s singing his praises, Kevin imagines that it’s actually Jack who is giving this speech. Kevin does not consider himself worth of it and, for once, we agree on something. He urges people to love journalists, doctors, people who actually matter! Of course, this is met with thundering applause because we always celebrate men when they hit the bare minimum of decency.
Plastic surgeon, and her inexplicable lady boner, listen to Kevin prattle on about the burden of being so successful all the time. For real. Showing no sense of self-worth, she makes a move on him. He rejects her to instead cry and turn the football field into a stage. His soliloquy describes the accident but also lists the second and third opportunities that life has given him, despite not deserving any of them. He married a nice woman, he fucks that up. He becomes a famous actor, he fucks that up too. He should be punished.
Is this when This Is Us become self-aware? It is but a fleeting moment. In one blink of an eye, it is gone.
Kevin sleeps with the plastic surgeon. It is only in her post-sex haze that she finally realizes he’s a walking bundle of sweat glands, red eyes and tediousness. He is going through major withdrawals and needs to get hands on some drugs pronto. So, he steals her prescription pad and bails. Ooof, that’s cold. Kevin, being Kevin, forgets the necklace Jack gave him in her room. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by whiskey dick, and Hang Up absolutely refuses to look for the necklace. It is forever lost in the dark cavernous hole were all us spinsters keep our lovers’ souvenirs, so we can later curse them.
If you want to witness some Grade-A, second-hand embarrassment, jump to the scene where Kevin is crying on her lawn. Could.Not.Go.Through.It
Then we find out Kate lost the baby. This Is Us has never met a melodramatic plot twist they didn’t like, but for the sake of my readers I’m warning you that’s what’s about to come. We have that emotionally-devastating, triggering topic to look forward to next week.
Reason to Lust After Milo
Some will argue it’s his warm speech to Kevin at the hospital, but I’m all about Milo ranting against privilege to his jerk of a son.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- The whole damn episode was one long-drawn attempt. It failed miserably.
- Baby Kate taking her first steps as we hear that she miscarried.
Deep Quote of the Week
“Don’t do that, don’t love me.”—Kevin, speaking truth to power for once.