*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
In last night’s episode of This Is Us, the college-aged Pearsons prepared for Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) birthday, only to have their dinner plans foiled by a family emergency to do with Kate (Hannah Zeile). Earlier on in the episode, we hear Kate arguing on the phone with her boyfriend Marc (Austin Abrams). Given that Marc definitely rubbed fans the wrong way when we first met him in season four, episode five, we can only assume that something bad transpired between the two of them.
But before we speculate about what the family emergency might be, let’s rewind.
In episode five, we witness a sweet dinner between the teenage Big Three, their partners and Rebecca and Miguel (Jon Huertas). And while there are ups and downs, the evening ends on a high note with Beth (Rachel Hilson) taking Polaroids and Rebecca playing the piano while everyone sings along. But when adult Kate (Chrissy Metz) finds those Polaroids in the family piano bench many years later, she seems gutted to see herself posing with her Marc. But why?
When Kate shows Rebecca the photo, she says she wanted to believe so badly that all of her children were happy at the time, but that she didn’t see what was happening. Kate agrees with her and says she didn’t know either.
Clearly there’s more to the story of Kate and Marc, but what could it be? There are two plausible theories.
1. He Was Abusive
Although Marc seems perfectly nice, Kate’s reaction to seeing a photo of him, coupled with Rebecca’s response suggests that perhaps he was controlling and abusive of Kate. He is a 23-year-old dating a vulnerable 17-year-old who just lost her father. He also shows up at her house unannounced, invites himself to dinner and introduces himself as her boyfriend even when Kate doesn’t. Now, this could either be an indication of his confidence and feelings for Kate, or evidence that he’ll grow to be more controlling and harmful toward Kate. Rebecca saying she didn’t notice what was going on suggests that her daughter was going through a silent battle, like many who experience abuse. All these facts lead us to believe that Marc hurt Kate and that’s what the family emergency is.
2. He Died While He and Kate Were Dating
Since Kate cries, but doesn’t seem necessarily angry when she sees the photo of her young self and Marc, it could mean that something less nefarious happened between them. Through this lens, Rebecca could potentially be referencing the fact that maybe Marc abused drugs and neither she nor Kate noticed. He and Kate did initially bond over Nirvana’s Nevermind album, which could foreshadow a potential suicide (like lead singer Kurt Cobain) on Marc’s part.
Since he was angry when he and Kate spoke on the phone in last night’s episode 11, it could also mean he was speeding and involved in a car accident (potentially with Kate sitting passenger).
Regardless of what their story holds, fans are certain that whatever transpires between Kate and Marc leads to her weight gain. Kate has struggled with her weight since she was a child, but it seems to be under control in her teenage years. Oftentimes, a traumatic or stressful event can lead to stress-induced weight gain and overeating, so it’s possible that the end of her relationship with Marc ultimately leads her to lose control of her diet.
We’ll see what happens when This Is Us returns with season four, episode 12 on Tuesday, January 28, at 9 p.m. PT/ET on NBC.