[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the latest episode of This Is Us.]
This Is Us loves putting the Pearson family in precarious situations. The Big 3 just found their long lost uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) hiding out in a dusty trailer in the wilderness of Pennsylvania, but their attempts to bring him into the family fold had some tragic consequences for one of them. "Songbird Road Part 2" ended with the revelation that Kevin (Justin Hartley) relapsed after Nicky revealed that he didn't actually want to be a member of the family.
"The end of Kevin's journey into his dad's Vietnam history was really bittersweet," executive producer Isaac Aptaker told TV Guide during a recent set visit during the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "He found this secret about his family which is that they have this living relative, but then had a door slammed in his face and told, 'I don't want this. You need to leave me alone.' The high and low of that right on top of each other was a lot for Kevin to process. That's why he relapses."
Even though Nicky does agree to at least go to one meeting at the end of the episode and doesn't completely shut the door on the Pearsons entirely, Kevin's relapse could have the opposite effect of what Kevin intended when he set out to find Nicky.
"I think when they left, [Nicky] was even more lonely than he was when he was on his own. I think he probably cobbled together more words in the few days during those episodes than he has since he got out of the war," Griffin Dunne told TV Guide over the phone. "He was really touched by this kid caring, and how he might have even recognized things in himself, particularly Kevin's desire to sort of fill in the empty spaces in his own life. I think that's probably why [Nicky] drinks and medicates himself, is there's still an emptiness. ... Nicky would be kind of devastated to learn that he didn't help this kid. He'd also recognize that this kid probably has the same genetic disease of alcoholism that he has."
Before Nicky finds out that Kevin has relapsed, the rest of the family and Kevin's girlfriend Zoe (Melanie Liburd) will have to find out first. After all of the trust issues that Kevin and Zoe have overcome in recent episodes, his relapse is going to be a real test of their still fledgling relationship.
"It's going to be a real challenge. He knows that Zoe has a difficult path and she has difficult issues in her own history," executive producer Elizabeth Berger added during the set visit. "He wants nothing more than to keep the trust alive that they've earned, but it's going to be something that he has to face head on, as scary as it is. We'll see that play out over the next couple episodes...It's very difficult for him and disappointing to himself at this point because he thought he had really put this chapter behind him. Unfortunately, that's not the way it works with addiction. He's going to have to face this head on once again as we head into the back half of the season."
Do you think that Kevin will be able to pull himself back together?
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.