This week's episode of This Is Us had one of the funniest insider cameos the show has done so far in it's short life. As fans might know, Milo Ventimiglia originally played Robert "Rocky Jr." Balboa in Rocky VI, alongside Sylvester Stallone. Now Stallone is returning the favor, guest starring as the man Kevin is supposed to be looking up to as the father figure he lost. Not only are they heartwarming, these scenes lead to a new This Is Us theory about Kevin.
It proves that, as much as he might deny it (and deny it he does), the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Like father, like son.
Most of the time, I don't enjoy the Kevin and Kate storylines. I divide the show into three parts: "This Was Us," This Is Randall," and "This Is The Rest Of The Show You Have To Put Up With." But tonight was one of the best Kevin and Kate episodes we've had so far. And much of that was due to the man who told everyone to call him Sly.
Kate got to have a scene where she talked to someone who didn't judge her, didn't pity her, just hung out with her, taking her and her life and her poise at face value. She's a normal girl in a sorta normal world, and Stallone liked hanging out with someone like that. It's not something he gets to do very often.
She also got to talk about her dad without it having some deeper meaning or something that's a clue about the past. It's just "Hey, yeah, my dad, he passed a while back but you made his life good, so thanks." A really nice scene.
...And then Kevin found out about it, and blew his top. He yelled at Kate, screaming that just because she was happy wallowing in sadness that he was not going to have it. The saddest part was how it was so obvious that Kate is the one who's well adjusted, and Kevin is so damaged he cannot hear the word "father" and then go out and do his job afterwards.
But here's where it got really good. Part of the reason Kevin and Kate don't work as well as the other characters is because the show rarely manages to make their past memories mirror their present lives in a deep way, like they do with Randall's. But tonight it was different. Because Kevin's mirror wasn't the 17-year-old self he was back in the 1990s when he father was struggling to get sober. It was his own father.
Jack can't talk about the past; he can't admit to the things that hurt. He doesn't understand this therapy nonsense, the "sitting in it" and all those horrible feelings he's worked so hard to try and escape. Instead he drinks and he pushes it away.
Jack may have stopped drinking now, but that doesn't make the talking any easier. It starts to come, in dribs and drabs. He'll tell Rebecca more. Later. One day.
Kevin can't talk either. He may not pooh-pooh therapy in 2017 like his father did 20 years ago, but the same impulse is there — to bottle it up, and deny that's he's holding it in. He can't talk to Kate about it, not really. OK, maybe he can; one thing though — just one, that dad's death does hurt. But that's all he can handle. He'll tell Kate more. Later. One day.
Instead he starts taking the scourge of our era, the painkillers, the oxycotin, the heroin of our times. He gets high and he pushes it away.
Like father, like son. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Will it take a fire of his own to make Kevin see?