If Christmas is anything like Thanksgiving, hold on to your Santa hat. And Pilgrim Rick hat, too.
The Yuletide episode of This Is Us — which is ominously or innocuously titled “Last Christmas” — will bring the Pearson family back together for a meal, as well as Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) for the first time since their emotional exchange at her doorstep, when he told her that it must have been incredibly lonely holding onto that secret for 36 years but also to keep her distance until Christmas.
The family dramedy’s final episode of the year (but not the season; the show returns in early January) will break storytelling form from previous installments. “It’s got a completely different structure,” series creator Dan Fogelman tells EW. “Normally we intertwine all the stories so you’ll cut from Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) to Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). In the Christmas episode, we have six little one-act plays, where you stay with one character or set of characters for an entire act of the show, and then after commercial, you do another one-act play with a different character. And then in the final act, the stories all come together, as they might on Christmas.”
“Last Christmas” may also deviate in tone a bit from prior episodes. “All the episodes seem to be very emotional for people,” says Fogelman with a chuckle, “but this episode has a tremendous amount of weight in a different way. Each story has this dramatic, life-and-death weight to it, and it’s all happening around Christmas, so there are coincidences and a little bit of that Christmas magic… What’s really nice is that there’s some big shocking stuff, but then also it’s the first time that we’ve ever had our whole cast together on one set.”
Directed by Helen Hunt, the episode also features guest appearances by Denis O’Hare as William’s friend, Jessie, and Jimmi Simpson as Randall’s colleague, Andy, as well as the return of Gerald “Dr. K” McRaney (in a hospital bed!). “These outside forces [are] really pushing on our main characters and moving them forward a little,” says Fogelman. And the final act revolves around Christmas Eve dinner at Randall’s house, which also was the locale of that awkward, confrontational Thanksgiving meal. What can Fogelman tease about the final moments of the first half of the season? “There is an ending to the episode that involves all of our cast that is really special and game-changing in a way.”
The Pearson holiday gathering takes place tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
To read more hints about this episode from Sterling K. Brown, click here.
To read a Q&A with Fogelman about last week’s episode, click here.
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