Kevin's never been able to escape his expectations of being just like Jack.
This Is Us Season 6 Episode 8 featured the final Kevin-centered episode, but did it resolve anything for him?
In the past, Kevin struggled in many ways with his feeling that he wasn't good enough and wasn't like Jack, while in the present, he got sidetracked while trying to prove he could be a good father, thanks to Cassidy's accident.
The final Kevin story seemed to be more of a Cassidy story than anything else, at least in the present.
People like Cassidy don't give you a heads-up when they're not okay. Tonight at dinner, she didn't sit with her back to the door. I've seen that before. I've BEEN that before. This kind of thing, you don't get better. And in case you don't believe me, let me remind you that your father drank in secret to forget. And when you busted into my trailer, I had a gun sitting on the table. And that was 50 years after boots left Vietnam.Nicky
Cassidy's story was an important one. As Nicky pointed out, many vets not only return with PTSD but become so adept at hiding their pain that nobody knows until it's too late.
No one had any idea that Cassidy was going to attempt suicide until she crashed her car into a pole. But as heartbreaking as her story was, Cassidy isn't a main character any more than she was when she was first introduced on This Is Us Season 4 Episode 1.
On the other hand, Kevin was supposed to be the star of the hour. So what did Cassidy's suicide attempt mean for him?
It seemed like the pivotal point was the conversation he had with Nicky.
Nicky encouraged him to stop trying to help Cassidy and just be himself, leading Kevin to ramble endlessly to some poor guy in the hospital waiting room about wanting to be a better man while waiting to visit her.
Nicky may be blunt, but he's generally perceptive, and this was no exception. Kevin's problem all along has been that he tries too hard to be Jack 2.0 and doesn't allow himself to be who he really is.
Ironically, Kevin's desire to be a good man has led him to be somewhat self-absorbed, which was why Nicky had to call him out. He was making Cassidy's condition all about himself and his relief that she had sustained only minor injuries and was not using or drinking.
Nicky may have woken him up to that. It wasn't a coincidence that he told Matty how painting was about expressing yourself freely, no matter how good or bad you are at it.
And afterward, Kevin seemed far more relaxed. He talked to Cassidy's fellow vets and came up with an idea to get them more building jobs and had a much easier time on the flight home than he had on the way there.
He was so relaxed that I wondered if he would snag himself a stewardess like Nicky did!
Seriously, though, was the emphasis on Cassidy because she's the one Kevin will ultimately end up with?
It seemed bizarre to focus half the episode on her plight if she isn't going to be a significant part of the series as it wraps up.
She and Kevin had that hate turning to love thing going on that's so common in romance stories, too. Kevin was especially obnoxious to her during the first part of the hour, to the point that I wanted to send him back to LA post-haste. And then when he apologized, it led to some cute banter.
Kevin: Hey, I just wanted to say I'm sorry for being a dick.
Cassidy: You mean like an hour ago or since I met you?
Of course, This Is Us could do a switcheroo and have Kevin fall for the construction worker he was talking to before coming up with his business idea, but there's no compelling reason to do that.
As always, This Is Us did a phenomenal job connecting past and present. Little Kevin's desire to be able to dive and failure to learn to swim was one of those pivotal moments that doesn't seem like anything important but which affected him for the rest of his life.
The most poignant part of his childhood memory was when he told Rebecca that he wasn't like Jack. Even at that early age, Kevin had internalized the idea that his father was perfect and that he didn't measure up.
Kevin: Dad tried to drown me.
Rebecca: No he didn't.
Kevin: Yes he did!
Rebecca: The last thing your dad wants is for you to drown. He wants you to learn to swim before you dive off the board so that you won't drown. I know it might seem like it's out of order, but he's trying to keep you safe. It's like if you tried to build the roof on one of your Lego houses before you put up any walls. You know, Dad is really good at building things. Character, too. You should listen to him.
Kevin: I'm not like Dad.
Rebecca: Believe me, you're exactly like him.
It's too bad that he couldn't listen to or believe Rebecca's response. Kevin IS more like Jack than he knows.
Even his alcoholism is like Jack's. They both drank to forget the pain of feeling like they weren't good enough.
College-age Kevin felt like he not only didn't measure up to Jack but wasn't as good as his siblings either.
It's ironic that, at least according to the preview for This Is Us Season 6 Episode 9, Kate also felt like she wasn't doing enough with her life and that she didn't know what the future held.
They both felt as if their lives had gone off track in different ways, and it took years for them to find their way back.
In Kevin's case, he's made this type of journey so many times. He's always looking for the answers to his life.
But in the past, he's asked the wrong question. He's always been searching for the magic key that will allow him to be like Jack and live the way he thinks his father lived.
Hopefully, he's finally integrated the lesson that he doesn't need to be Jack -- he needs to be himself.
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics. Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know what you thought of Kevin's final solo episode.
This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST / PST.