Warning: This post contains spoilers for Tuesday’s This Is Us.
As those who watched “Songbird Road: Part Two” know, Kev’s mission to help his newfound Uncle Nicky deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism failed rather spectacularly. And when a dejected Kevin went to Nicky’s trailer by himself to assess some repairs, he wound up drinking a serious amount of his uncle’s liquor, ending a period of sobriety that began when Kev was in rehab last season.
“I knew what was happening, but I don’t think Kevin did,” Hartley says. “I don’t think he, at all, expected any of that to happen. Up until the very end, he was under the impression that he was still in control of this thing.”
Executive producer/co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker observes that the abrupt end to Kevin’s long, emotional journey to get at the truth behind Jack’s medallion “was a real blow” to The (former) Manny. “It’s a low point, and he turned to what he turns to to get through things, which is the bottle.”
In a candid conversation with TVLine, Hartley explores how the “family schism” that unfolded over the past several episodes has seriously challenged Kevin’s memories of Jack. “This whole thing that he thought about his father,” he says, “has now been turned on its ear.”
Read on as Hartley breaks down the episode and offers his thoughts on Kev’s immediate future.
TVLINE | What was running through your mind when you first heard that Kevin was going to take a drink after so long?
One of the things that I was thinking is, if he made a phone call to Zoe, and she picked up the phone, and they were able to talk about what was going on for maybe even just a minute, I wonder if he would’ve gone down that path, you know? It’s a real thing, This happens all the time. People get sober, and then they “fall off the wagon,” and they get sober again… It’s just an everyday struggle for him. Hopefully, he’ll do it right this time. Hopefully, it won’t be this big, huge thing for him. But gosh, it is heartbreaking, isn’t it? Because I feel like he’s gotten far, and now, here we go again.
TVLINE | How do you think this development might play out between Kevin and Zoe?
There’s a lot of things that go along with it, right? This idea that he’s got this thing under control, and their relationship is based on that fact. And then she’s going to find out that he obviously doesn’t, at least not right now. He’s not taking care of himself. Kevin, he’s got this great, big spirit. And he’s got this idea that he can solve a bunch of problems. He’s really good at fixing other people, or helping other people, and being there in a time of need.
Just to walk through it: He gets out of rehab, and he immediately starts fielding job prospects, and goes to a movie premiere that apparently goes really well. And then he meets a woman, falls in love with her, and has her move into his place — and we don’t see him in [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings. We don’t see him with a sponsor. We don’t see him ever talking about alcohol. He’s doing the thing that he did before with his father, and it’s so interesting how patterns repeat. He was the one that kept saying, “Listen, I don’t need to cry all the time. My dad’s dead, big deal, okay? It happened a long time ago. I’m over it. It’s fine. Move on.” And then you realize, this is just his way of dealing with it — not dealing with it — and it’s the same kind of thing that he’s doing with his addiction, and it comes back to kind of bite him. So yeah, there’s that.
There’s the embarrassment, there’s the humiliation, there’s the helplessness, there’s the feeling of failure. There’s the feeling of, “I’ve lied to these people, now I have to pick up the pieces.” He’s going to probably go into some kind of a hiding thing to try to make sure that people don’t see what he’s really up to, which is a telltale sign. So everything’s probably going to fall apart for him. I hope not, but it probably will.
TVLINE | The upside is that when that happens to him, you’ll get good stuff to play.
[Laughs] Well, yeah. I know. What a selfish thing to say, but I absolutely, 100 percent agree with you.
TVLINE | You bring up the AA meetings. I was going to mention that we haven’t seen him at anything like that. You’re saying that it’s not happening offscreen, either?
Yeah… I thought, “Well, maybe they’re just not writing that. Maybe he’s going to meetings and they’re just not writing it.” But you know, our writers don’t do that. It would have been a comment. He would have, you know, instead of coming through the door and being like, “Oh yeah, I was at a meeting with a producer,” [Zoe] would have said, “How was your meeting?” and he would have said, “It was good,” and then they would have gone on with their lives. [The writers] don’t gloss over anything, so I truly believe he’s just not going. I don’t have that as a fact, but that’s how I’ve been playing it, that he’s just, he’s neglecting to take care of himself in the midst of taking care of everyone else, and making sure that this new relationship that he has is going well, and dealing with Vietnam, and dealing with Zoe and all of her stuff, and having her say, I don’t want to move in, and kind of slowing things down with her, and then getting her back. I think he’s just neglecting self-care, honestly.