Dan Fogelman says there's some pain in a light-hearted episode
For the entire hour of last Tuesday’s installment of This Is Us, you were sent back in time, right into the final hours before the Big Three entered this world. Tomorrow’s episode, on the other hand, gives you a pastiche of past and present (with the past story set exactly 10 years after the Big birth), as well a mix of light and dark (with the tone of much of the episode tilting toward the former).
“The episode is actually really funny,” series creator Dan Fogelman tells EW. “We’ve been dealing in with some weighty stuff in the last few – and in episodes to come. So there’s a tone to the episode in general that’s nice. And then it packs a huge emotional wallop and piece of information into it.”
A few teases: The now chemo-free William (Ron Cephas Jones) drops by Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) office, inviting him on an unexpected afternoon expedition. Wondering if the gastric bypass surgery is her best course of action in the wake of Toby’s surgery, Kate (Chrissy Metz) has “some doubts as to whether or not this is the right time to move forward with it,” says Fogelman, “and she starts exploring some other options.”
Through one of those options, she encounters a bold man named Duke — played by Longmire star Adam Bartley — who works in a horse stable. “One of the things that we haven’t quite had in the show for awhile — except for those who don’t like Miguel (Jon Huertas) — is a bad guy, or kind of a foil,” says Fogelman. “Somebody comes into Kate’s life who becomes a little bit of an antagonist, or somebody who could throw a couple of wrinkles into her storyline with Toby.” Romantic-wise? “Romantic-wise — and otherwise.”
As for Kate’s twin brother Kevin (Justin Hartley), he’ll bond with Toby (Chris Sullivan) — who is without Kate while she is pursuing this alternative treatment — and seek some romantic counsel after having ruined potential relationships with both Sloane (Milana Vayntrub) and Olivia (Janet Montgomery). “He actually winds up having a day with Toby as he tries to sort out which of the women he’s let get away might have been the love of his life, and which one he should be trying to win back,” hints Fogelman. “And his choice might surprise.”
This week’s journey into the past gets you an invite to the Big Three’s 10th birthday parties. For the first time ever, the three kids decide to have separate bashes — Kevin chooses a Princess Bride-themed birthday party, Kate opts for a Madonna angle to hers, and Randall selects a magician theme — which requires Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) to stage three events at the same time in different parts of the Pearson house. “We’re doing this storyline that came up in our writers’ room, because we were like, ‘God, what must it be like when they have to throw birthday parties for three kids who are sharing the same birthday and whose interests are starting to diverge?’” says Fogelman. “It’s Jack and Rebecca dealing with a very simple storyline, where our kids are getting older and they’re suddenly not the little easily problem-solved kids that they were at seven.”
As we hinted above, the whole episode isn’t a party. In fact, you should steel yourself for some somberness in regard to Jack. “There’s a piece of information that comes out in this episode about his death,” hints Fogelman. “People have a lot of questions. Not all of them are going to be answered for quite some time, but in terms of starting to put together the peripheral puzzle pieces, one of them takes shape this week.”
To read a Q&A with Mandy Moore about last week’s all-flashback prequel-to-the-pilot episode, click here. And to see what Gerald “Dr. K” McRaney had to say about that installment — and about lemonade, in general — go here.