NBC's smash hit "This Is Us" is wrapping up 2017 in "Big Three" fashion with a trilogy of episodes that will shine the spotlight one by one on each of the Pearson triplets. According to the show's producers, the episodes take place on the same day in the past and in the present, meaning elements will weave across all three of them to give them multiple chances to make us cry over the same moments over and over again.
We can already see it happening after this first installment, which showed us Kevin (Justin Hartley) reliving his career-ending high school football injury in the past at the same time that he may finally be hitting rock bottom in the present. And yet, the final moment pulled the rug out from under us in classic "This Is Us" fashion, and we're still reeling.
As TooFab does every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
Struggling to connect with his seriously cocky son Kevin (Logan Shroyer), Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) called his sponsor for guidance. Kevin is very much a typically arrogant teenager here, but due to his success on the gridiron, his attitude is beyond awful. While seeing this vulnerable side of his father deepened his understanding of this man he'd idolized for so many years only to lose all respect for him as Jack struggled with alcoholism, he still wasn't able to get out of his own way to show him any actual respect.
0 tissues (because teenagers -- yeesh!)
"He Caught Some Tough Breaks"
Kevin has been refusing to process the loss of his father for decades, but the presence of another father figure in his life at an awards ceremony at his old high school brought back memories. The production crew did a great job of slipping Jack into the scene back-and-forth with the coach to show us how this touching speech was impacting him. He was also drinking and strung out on drugs, so who knows what that experience was like for Kevin, but it was powerful stuff seeing Jack look over at his grown son and talk about what an amazing career he's managed to have both before and after his knee injury. It's as close as we've gotten to seeing Jack validate the success Kevin has achieved as an adult, and that is something Kevin desperately needs.
Justin Hartley has been overshadowed for the better part of a season and a half now on "This Is Us," but he came full circle in this hour, turning in some pained and beautiful work. Perhaps his strongest moment came when he returned to the football field where he was essentially a god and gave a monologue of his life. Every time life kicked him down and he felt he deserved to lose it all, it didn't happen. His football career ended, he became an actor. He blew up his sitcom, he got a movie with Ron Howard. He keeps failing up and it's driving him crazy. And he keeps making the same mistakes over and over again due to rampant narcissism and a refusal to really dig deep and face his demons. This was him beginning to acknowledge them. The rest would come soon enough.
"I've Been Awful to You And I Can Do Better"
Just as Hartley hasn't had to do the heavy emotional lifting as a performer, neither has Shroyer as the teenaged Kevin. This week, however, we finally got to see the moment his life fell apart before his eyes. The moment between him and Jack in the hospital was one of the most honest and tender exchanges between a father and a son, and finally when he realized that maybe he didn't have it all figured out after all, Kevin found the humility to admit that he'd been awful to his father. Jack, being the amazing father he is, told Kevin, "I would take this on for you." And you know he meant it.
Kevin has been wearing the same necklace every day since the show began, and in most of the flashbacks it was around Jack's neck. It was that moment in the hospital, when the men finally got real with one another, that we got to see the exchange. The necklace was a gift to Jack in Vietnam at the lowest point in his life. It is the Buddhist symbol for purpose, and he told his son that it helped him find purpose in his life. "You were my purpose," he told Kevin. "And I swear to you, you will find yours." He was right, too, even if he wasn't there to see his prediction come to pass.
"I Just Need It to Stop"
If the monologue on the football field was powerful, it was nothing to the final breaking point for Kevin, coming after he'd used his former classmate Charlotte even worse than she realized. It was bad enough he ditched out on her, but he stole a piece of paper from her prescription pad with the intention of fraudulently getting drugs. It was only when he realized he'd left the necklace at her place that he lost it completely. Screaming from her front lawn that it was the only piece of his father he had left, he finally collapsed to the ground admitting that he needed help. Understandably, Charlotte wasn't the person to do that at this moment, but she's also a kind and decent person. We may not be done with her yet.
"Kate Lost the Baby"
Now come on! That's not fair. We were touched that Kevin went to see Randall (Sterling K. Brown) at his weakest point, as the relationship between these two is the most strained on the show. But then they had to go and rip the floor out from under us with Randall's revelation of what's been happening while we followed Kevin's downward spiral. Next week's episode shifts to "Number Two," so we'll get this whole story and we're going to need extra tissues for it.
We haven't even processed this yet to grab the tissues but there aren't enough