Mandy Moore calls it “super special.” Milo Ventimiglia awards it five out of five Kleenex boxes and calls it “painful.” Chrissy Metz simply refers to it as “holy moly!”
The fifth episode of NBC’s This Is Us airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and it sounds like you should probably start steeling yourself for an emotional journey. And speaking of steeling, the Pittsburgh Steelers factor heavily into the hour. Titled “The Game Plan,” the episode’s past story for married parents of three Jack (Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Moore) takes place on Super Bowl Sunday. And skipping ahead to the present day, we pick up on any given Sunday, when Kate (Metz) is set to enjoy her weekly gridiron game until her boyfriend, Toby (Chris Sullivan), tries to muscle in on her ritual.
Want to go deeper inside the Pearson family huddle? Allow Ventimiglia and Metz to preview the action for “The Game Plan.”
The episode will get you Jacked.
“The Game Plan” will provide some key intel about the Pearson patriarch, whom we have only seen in flashbacks — unlike Rebecca, who is now with Jack’s best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas). “The thing that I keep saying to people is: We are going to meet Jack in the present day,” says Ventimiglia. “That’s been the biggest question: ‘Where’s Jack?’ At the same time, I think there’s a bigger discovery of the connection of a family, and what that particularly means. What that means before us, what that means after us.”
Football is family.
“Now that people understand the family dynamic and how much Jack loves his wife, it’s that idea of, ‘How did the family grow to this?’ — and what is is not what is expected,” says Ventimiglia cryptically. “I think a lot of people see this loving couple, or this couple that’s been through their tough times several years later with the eight-year-olds, but it wasn’t one of those planned-out ideas of having a big family. But it did come from a place of love, and victory, if I can say so much. I’ll just say: Jack must have been sending fan letters to Terry Bradshaw thanking him for the win, because maybe the kids would not have been born otherwise.”
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Kate is playing tough D against Toby.
“Their relationship keeps coming back to, ‘Do I want to let this man in?'” says Metz. “Does she really want to show him the good, the bad, all in-between, the ugly? And if she does, will he still want to be with her? It’s great to love somebody on the surface, but when you get to know their quirks and their isms…”
Is Toby dropping the ball?
Toby certainly means well, trying to incorporate himself into her Sunday tradition, but that doesn’t mean it goes well. “She does this ritual of having this beautiful experience that’s really, realy important to her, and Toby doesn’t even quite know what that means to her, so he’s very flippant about it,” says Metz. “She’s like, ‘No, but you don’t understand. You don’t get it.’ And also to be a female really interested in sports and competitive in that way is really fun, because he could care less. He’s stopping the television and he’s like, “Whatever.” He’s more interested in showbusiness, so I like that kind of role reversal.”
Another kind of love story for Kate will be told.
“She has an awesome childhood and these bonding memories of growing up and watching football is really important to her for many, many reasons and we get to discover why,” says Metz. “It means so much for so many reasons. You get to find out how important Jack and Kate’s relationship was, and is, and will always be — and how traditions and rituals stay with you, and you continue to do that because it brings you a sense of peace and just a warmth about it all. But it’s also very heavy and emotional. Just reading it, I was like, ‘Holy moly!’ It’s going to be… special.”
To read series creator Dan Fogelman’s preview of “The Game Plan,” click here.
To see a first-look clip from the episode, which shows Jack and Rebecca living it up before they had kids, click here.
Don’t miss the cast of This Is Us live and battling each other in a game of trivia at EW PopFest this weekend. Click the banner below for details and tickets.