Ron Batzdorff/NBC
January 10, 2017 at 11:00 PM EST

Randall had some trouble wrapping his head around the fact that William is bisexual, but it also turns out that he was mostly stressed about losing that precious family time with William to Jesse (Denis O’Hare). And that time just got much more precious with William telling Randall that he’d like to discontinue the chemo as the meds weren’t working. Will the intensity of their bond ratchet up again, and will there be a pressing drive to pack as many memories in as possible?

There is. Randall’s story line in the first part of the season has not only been about finding his biological father but about discovering this truth to his origin story, and that cat has kind of come loose. And while he hasn’t fully repaired with Rebecca, that almost feels no longer, to me, as a writer, a story at this point of the season anymore. We’re going to turn a lot of our attention to his relationship with his very sick father. And for a guy like Randall who’s a fixer and a pleaser, somebody making a decision to potentially go off chemo and begin the last stage of the end of their life is a situation that’s going to cause a lot of different stressers. He’s having to give into something. He’s going to try to very clearly try to spend as much time as possible with this man — even in a new, more intensive way. And it unsettles him a little bit. That’s very much where a lot of our attention turns in this next batch of episodes, with regard to his story line.

How much more or how little time with William should we brace for?

We introduced this character as a very sick man without a lot of time left. Miracles happen and things happen, but we’re also trying to play in a reality of this show, where we’re trying to show real life. So in terms of bracing for things, we’re trying to stay true to the characters and what really happens in these situations. There’s a lot of different ways this can go, but definitely the next time we see William after this episode, he will have gone off the chemo, and we’ll see some of the effects of that over the next couple of episodes.

You seemingly just moved us closer to the end game for William — but as we’ve seen, dead people have a way of sticking around the show. Now that you’ve seen how audiences have favorably responded to this character, though, was there sudden talk in the writers’ room of not a miracle drug, but maybe having the chemo treatments be more successful? 

Yeah, I’m not saying which way we’re going with William’s health and his future, but the notion of potentially not finding a prolonging of life, it’s an easy thing to want to do for a character and an actor who you like so much, so anytime you contemplate killing any character, it requires a lot of analysis and consideration. So there’s a lot still on the table, and there’s a lot to decide upon William — a lot will play out in terms of which way his story goes in the course of this first season, and then the last eight episodes.

We learned more about Jack and his father (Peter Onorati), who is not a nice guy. But when Jack is forced to ask him for money, in a heartbreaking scene of self-sacrifice, he takes off his wedding ring and pretends that the money is to pay off gambling. Does he not want his father to know anything about his life — and to serve as poisonous influence, especially with kids on the way? And does the gambling “admission” better pave the path to get the money by allowing Jack’s father to feel superior and that he was right about Jack? Because surely Jack would love to show his father that he was nothing like him — and prove his father’s expectations for him wrong — but that wouldn’t help him in that situation.

It’s the latter of what you’re describing. I don’t think he’s worried about his father being a poisonous influence on the family, I think that he’s not going to expose that part of his life to this man. It’s such a beautiful scene, and Milo is so beautiful in it, because it’s so selfless [and relatable to] any of us who have any kind of relationship like that in our life, not with a father but with anyone — a teacher who told us we’d never amount to anything or just a bully on the schoolyard.

The fantasy is that you get to go back and say, “See? I proved you wrong. I got the best wife, and I became the best father, and I’m going to become everything you’re not.” And Jack’s not even going to allow himself that victory because that victory both decreases his chances of getting the money out of his father that he needs for his family, but also he’s not just laying himself prostrate on the ground in front of this bad man, he’s kind of getting a victory for himself in the process. And that’s not what this moment is. This moment is, “I’m going to sacrifice myself and my masculinity and my goodness and bend at the knee to the person I want to bend the least to.

It’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever shot. That entire sequence of [Jack and Rebecca] hiding the truth of what they’re going through, it feels like… marriage. Even though they’re both sad and making sacrifices, it feels like the beautiful part of marriage to me. Neither of these two wants the other to see how badly they’re hurting in this moment. And Rebecca will never quite know, in that moment at least, what Jack did to buy them that house. I think it’s a really beautiful moment.

This was also the episode in which the love triangle between Kevin, Sloane, and Olivia turned rather pointy. Good intentions or not, which bridge has Kevin burned more badly — the Sloane or Olivia one?

They’re both burned pretty badly right now. What I love about what Justin does with Kevin is he reminds me so much at times of Jerry Maguire, which is always a touchstone movie to me. He’s a really well-meaning guy who just continues to step in it always at the moments when he’s trying to do the best thing. It seems like every time Kevin really tries to do something good, it’s when he winds up being perceived as the biggest dick. He’s just not good at being good, even though he is good. And I love that so much about him.

To read what Chrissy Metz had to say about the Toby twist leading up to the episode, click here.

To read Sterling K. Brown’s take on the first half of the season, click here.

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