Warning: This article contains spoilers from the This Is Us episode “That’ll Be the Day.”
This Is Us has put a lot of focus on Kate Pearson’s (Chrissy Metz) guilt over her dad Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) premature death. Not only has Kate said that her father’s death was her fault, but there have been a lot of hints that her issues with dogs have something to do with the Pearson patriarch’s untimely demise. Many fans even think Jack may have died saving Kate’s dog. But now, the creator of the This Is Us teases that Kevin Pearson’s (Justin Hartley) guilt over Jack’s death could even surpass his sister’s.
This Is Us fans know that the Pearson home is gutted by fire on the night of the Super Bowl in 1998. Teen Kevin (Logan Shroyer) left the house hours earlier after arguing with his parents. While he did eventually call home to apologize to his mom (Mandy Moore), Kevin passed on talking to his dad, saying he would talk to him the next day. Now, it appears that there was no next day for Jack.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman broke down the heartbreaking “fire” scene and the fact that Kevin was the only member of the Pearson family who wasn’t present for the horrific experience.
“I think that Kevin’s ultimate baggage is about, yes, he had this loaded uncomfortable moment with his father right before he left,” Fogelman told EW.
“He didn’t get any kind of closure. He is the only member of the five-person Pearson family that didn’t experience this colossal [moment], and…that in and of itself is a big, big deal.”
The This Is Us creator went on to say that even if Kevin had a loving final conversation with Jack before leaving the house that night, he will forever be excluded from one of the biggest events that happened to the family, regardless of how awful it was.
“When you think about now starting to look back at other episodes where [Kevin has] felt like the ‘fifth wheel’ of this family, is there ever more of a definitive barometer for that than the fact that in the biggest thing to ever happen to this family, he was the one person who wasn’t present, even if it was horrific,” the This Is Us showrunner said.
Because Kevin had a broken leg and may not have made it safely out of the house had he been home sleeping in his basement bedroom on the night of the fire, some of his guilt could even stem from the fact that he is alive and his father isn’t.
There is another reason Kevin could feel extreme guilt over Jack’s death. It is possible that he thinks his father ran back into the burning house to try to save him. This Is Us viewers never saw Rebecca tell Jack that Kevin was staying over at his girlfriend Sophie’s that night. In fact, shortly before the fire started, Jack rushed down the steps because he thought he heard Kevin come in, only to see that it was Randall (Niles Fitch) arriving home from his Titanic date. One of Jack’s final fatherly acts was to write a note to Kevin to tell him that if he didn’t see him the next morning before work, he loved him. And to also remind him that he owed his parents an apology.
With the upcoming post-Super Bowl episode of This Is Us set to revolve around the 1998 Super Bowl as well as the present day big game, production stills show an adult Kevin looking pretty miserable. But can you blame him? Not only does he carry resentment about the Super Bowl that he once thought he would be playing in, but it marks the day that his father presumably died.
This Is Us star Justin Hartley told Entertainment Tonight Kevin feels guilt over not being able to deliver on past promises he had made to his dad after his career-ending knee injury. At age 38, Kevin still hasn’t found his “purpose.”
“When his knee went, that was the moment where he couldn’t deliver on the promise that he made to his dad,” the This Is Us star told ET. “Also, his dad dying when he did, they never had a chance to hash that out…There’s probably guilt that Kevin feels about not being there for his father now that he’s gotten older and you look at things through a different lens…Jack never got to see Kevin be a successful actor. He never got to see him work on this movie with [Sylvester] Stallone. He never got to see him repair his relationship with Randall.”
The next episode of This Is Us airs Sunday, Feb. 4 after the Super Bowl on NBC.