Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Dan Snierson
November 07, 2017 AT 01:07 PM EST

This Is Us is taking you to court on Tuesday. In “The Most Disappointed Man,” the NBC family drama will explore the emotional power of the judicial system as Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) seek to make legal their adoption of Randall (Lonnie Chavis, Niles Fitch, Sterling K. Brown, take your pick) circa 1981 and officially cement the Big Three. It’s just a formality, right? Objection!

“The process is a bit more fraught than we realized it was going to be,” Moore tells EW. “It was explained to us that it was going to be very cut and dry and we’ve had him in our home for just about a year. Our social worker is like, ‘You have the thumbs up from me. Basically, it’s just going to be a rubber stamp and a signature, and he’s officially yours.’ It’s very distressing to Jack and Rebecca because it puts in [play] the biggest nightmare that they haven’t either bothered to even factor in. They never really thought they would find themselves in that position of not being able to adopt him officially.”

Indeed things turn tense when the judge presiding over the proceedings, played by Get Shorty‘s Delroy Lindo, is far from convinced that two white parents should be raising an African-American child. “It’s all about race, and whether or not we’re qualified to raise this child because we’re white,” says Moore. “It’s very heavy.”

Putting together this episode with three one-year-olds proved to be taxing (“I remember Milo and I were just exhausted because we had to juggle three actual children who all have different personalities and sleep schedules and feeding schedules,” says Moore), and she found “The Most Disappointed Man” emotional in a different way that a typical episode of TIU might break you down. “You really get a clear indication and a fuller picture of, ‘Whoa, their life could have gone on a completely different track,'” she explains. “This child could have very well been placed in another home and not been a part of their lives. It would have been a completely different story and a completely different show, and everyone would have an unimaginably different life, so it was scary. There were scenes there where you’re like, ‘I don’t know how we get around this,’ because we’re facing a judge who is adamant about what he believes, and there was seemingly no way of changing his mind. It was the ultimate nightmare to have fallen in love with this child and have him in your home for a year and they’re every part of your family, and that one person has that position of power to potentially change your entire life. It’s so terrifying.”

As you may have seen in the preview at the end of last week’s episode, this installment hints at a different kind of courthouse visit for another Pearson: Toby (Chris Sullivan) and newly pregnant Kate (Chrissy Metz) are considering a low-key wedding. In related legal news, young William (Jermel Nakia) finds himself in front of a judge after running afoul of the law. Also: Randall (Brown) takes a behind-bars meeting with the mother of Deja (Lyric Ross), and Kevin (Justin Hartley) will continue to spiral when he visits Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) in New York.

Before you watch the episode, which airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT, check out what Ms. Moore had to say about last week’s Miguel-Rebecca relationship revelation right here.

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