Much has been made about the power-loaded emotionality of NBC family dramedy This Is Us. (How Kleenex has not done an official tie-in with the show remains a great marketing mystery.) However, as we know, one person’s sob scene is another’s “Really? I mean, I thought it was sweet but it didn’t make me cry or anything” moment. But at the end of Tuesday’s episode, titled “Jack Pearson’s Son,” the room got extremely dusty for a very important This Is Us fan: creator Dan Fogelman.
“All this stuff about people crying watching the show caught me so off-guard,” he tells EW. “I always thought people would like it, but I was not ready for all this conversation about crying. And when you do your job, you have to often be very distant from the material and the emotion of it, so you go, ‘Yeah, that’s going to move people.’ ‘That’s going to upset people.’ ‘That’s going to make people laugh.’ But you’re doing it more analytically, even when you’re watching things for the first time. The next episode is the first time that out of nowhere it made me start sobbing, and I did it in front of people and it was horribly embarrassing. And it’s not on a storyline you’d expect. We’re getting into some really, really good stuff, but it’s nothing traumatic. It just got me. That’s the biggest tease I can give.”
It may be the biggest tease, but it’s not the only one he’s handing out. Fogelman notes that a significant storyline involves Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who was last seen with a shaky hand and under a tremendous amount of stress, fighting a (losing) work battle with Sanjay (Hari Dhillon), keeping up with his family commitments to wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and prepping for William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) final stages of life. “His pressure at work is getting worse, William’s health is really starting to take a turn, and Randall is keeping it all away from his wife and from his family and his loved ones,” says Fogelman. “That is one story that continues to build in a very scary way.”
The story of Kate (Chrissy Metz) left off in the throes of uncertainty: She was looming outside cabin 13 at her weight-loss immersion camp, deciding whether to torch her relationship with rather needy fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) and give into the charms (if you’d call them that) of Duke (Adam Bartley). So… what happens next? “We follow the aftermath of that decision,” he teases, “depending on which way that goes.” Prefer a three-sentence hint as opposed to a one-sentence one? You got it. “There are two versions of what happens next,” he says. “One of them a lot of audience members really will like, and one of them, a lot of audience members will hate. And it’s definitely going one of those two ways.”
As for the final third of the Big Three, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is in the throes of reconnecting with his childhood sweetheart/love of his life/ex-wife, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge), but there is a certain pressing professional matter that requires his attention. “Kevin is rapidly approaching the opening night of his play,” says Fogelman. “We follow [him on] the day of, as he battles nerves and looks for guidance to calm his nerves — and finds it in a most unexpected place.”
Fogelman also issues a bold prognostication about this week’s installment, which airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. “I will say that if the episode does what it think it does, despite everyone’s intentions, people are going to be walking out of the episode liking Miguel (Jon Huertas),” he says of Jack’s best friend and Rebecca’s future spouse. “That is my prediction.”
All right, did we forget anyone? Oh, right: Jack and Rebecca. Last week’s episode seemed to end on a heart-melty marriage-affirming note when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) assured Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), “We’re going to be okay.” But then she dropped some potentially disruptive news: She informed him that she wanted to join Ben (Sam Trammell) for a five-state tour with his jazz band. Now you will see what happens as Rebecca readies to hit the road, playing a final gig with Ben on Valentine’s Day that Jack attends wth Miguel. “Jack’s going to be acting as the sole nurturer caretaker of the kids once she’s gone for a little,” says Fogelman. “Rebecca is battling both nerves and ‘Am I doing an okay thing by my family to be leaving them right now?’ Jack tries to strike that balance between being supportive, but is also really uneasy with some of the aspects of this.”
“It’s heavy duty,” sums up Fogelman of the approaching hour. “The end of [last week’s episode] is the hinge of the rest of the season, and people just need to buckle up for the last four episodes — because it’s going to be pretty intense.”
To read what Sam Trammell had to say about tonight’s episode and playing the guy who comes between Rebecca and Jack, click here.
To read what Fogelman’s insights on had to say about Randall’s health, Kate’s temptation, and Rebecca’s decision in last week’s episode, go here.