The bad news: This Is Us is already going on hiatus until January 5.
The good news: This Is Us Season 5 Episode 4 was one of the strongest episodes yet. If the series has to take a long break, this was the way to go out!
And even better, for once the majority of the hour revolved around Kevin.
Kevin is one of those bafflingly underused and underrated characters.
He has a rich, complex history and his desire to overcome his sobriety issues and his pain is incredibly rootable, yet he too often takes the back burner to Randall and Kate. Especially Randall.
But not this time.
This Is Us did a masterful job of following Kevin through three different phases of his life, making connections that viewers might not have been aware of before.
To me, one of the most compelling aspects of the entire thing was the difference between Kevin's perspective and the way his parents attempted to be there for him.
Kevin told Kate that Jack and Rebecca were "obsessed" with Randall and he was lucky to get five minutes of undivided attention. Yet Rebecca doted on Kevin to the point that she was unintentionally stunting his growth.
Rebecca: He's a kid. It's a game. It's supposed to be fun.
Jack: Here you go.
Rebecca: Here I go what?
Jack: His whole life, every time it got hard you let him quit. Guitar lessons, boy scouts...
Rebecca: So our six-year-old got tired of tying knots, so I let him stop. Put me in Mom Jail!
Jack: I'm just saying, every time it gets hard he quits and you let him. I think sometimes you're too soft on him.
I couldn't help thinking that the way Rebecca and Jack handled Kevin's babyhood difficulties with falling asleep affected him his entire life.
It set up the dynamic where Jack wanted Kevin to overcome challenges on his own while Rebecca wanted to jump in to comfort him and protect him from his own feelings.
That dynamic, of course, played out far more dramatically for teenage Kevin and his difficulty rising to the football coach's expectations.
But it made sense that Rebecca and Jack couldn't see eye to eye on that, since they couldn't agree on how to handle his infant inability to fall asleep either.
I had mixed feelings about the whole football thing, only because it seemed like it was more Jack's dream than Kevin's.
Jack was right that once a kid makes a commitment, he needs to learn to follow through with it even if it's hard. And he was also proven right that Kevin, when left to his own devices, would find a solution to his problem.
But from the beginning, Jack was the one who was super enthusiastic and built Kevin up to be the next great football star, and that might not have done Kevin any favors either.
Kevin had to be the one to want to succeed at football, and not just to please Jack. But it seemed like that was the main reason he had joined the team in the first place: because Jack wanted it.
And that's not a good reason.
In any case, it seemed like Kevin's problems with this director on the new
movie film that he was working on tied directly into his childhood problems.
The director made no secret of the fact that he far preferred Ava to Kevin, interrupting the scene to praise her and to subtly suggest Kevin wasn't doing well enough without giving him specific feedback.
There was no way that didn't trigger Kevin's childhood feelings of invisibility and that his parents gave Randall all the attention! Plus, that director was impossible to please since he wouldn't tell Kevin what he wanted from him.
This time, though, Kevin was determined not to quit.
It was sad that he was motivated mostly by his fear that Rebecca would deteriorate too much to share in his success if he didn't hurry up and win an Oscar, but at least he had absorbed the lesson of seeing your commitments through.
Meanwhile, Randall's storyline allowed us to finally experience a different side of him than the controlling jerk he's been recently.
Malik: You know what I had to go through to be at your house only 6 minutes late? I got up at 4:30. I usually get up at 5, prepare Janelle's meals, and do the laundry to be ready by 6. But today I had to pack a lunch and iron my shirt. So it was 4:30. City Hall isn't boring, not at all. But I have a daughter. And her needs come first even if it means I can't do things I want to do.
Randall: My father died when I was 17. And I thought I had to make my dreams smaller to take care of my family. So trust me when I say, don't make your dreams smaller. Make them bigger. Not in spite of your daughter. For her.
Although he was disappointed that Malik wasn't as focused as he expected him to be, he didn't go ballistic about the accidentally livestreamed dance routine. And he listened to Malik, understood him, and even gave him advice!
That was strong progress for Randall, especially since anyone who has ever looked at online news knows that that video of a half-naked Randall dancing in his office isn't going away any time soon!
I enjoyed Randall bonding more with Malik, father to (teenage) father. It may drive Deja nuts, but it's far better than Randall continuing to disapprove and try to interfere with this relationship.
Malik's story was one of several unexpected stories driving people's behavior, too.
Jack pushed Kevin so hard with football because he didn't want to be like his own father, acting like Jack wasn't good enough to do anything.
Randall's reactions to Malik, and indeed his reason for working on the City Council at all, were due to not kniwng William until he was older.
And Kate and Ellie both had their own painful pasts to deal with.
It was quite a coincidence that Ellie's high school nemesis was named Chloe, but it was understandable that she wouldn't want Kate to give her baby girl the same name.
And it was an even stronger, more powerful coincidence that Ellie had considered abortion, while it appears teenage Kate went through with one.
I can't wait to learn more about how Kate dealt with Marc getting her pregnant. I'm also excited for Toby's reaction to Kate sharing this secret with him.
Toby and Kate have been getting along better as they prepare to be parents again, and I hope he'll be supportive now that he knows about her teenage pregnancy.
But still, considering how hard it was for Kate to get pregnant and that the couple is now considering adoption because of her pregnancy-related health problems, I wouldn't blame Toby for having mixed feelings about Kate having been able to get pregnant when she was younger, even if the circumstances were horrible.
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics.
What did you think? And what do you hope happens when This Is Us returns in January 2021?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts.
And if you need to satisfy your This Is Us fix during the break, you can always watch This Is Us online right here on TV Fanatic.
This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST. It will return on January 5, 2021.