The stars of the NBC dramedy preview 'Three Sentences'

By Dan Snierson
January 24, 2017 at 02:24 PM EST
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This Is Us

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Tonight’s episode of This Is Us is titled “Three Sentences,” but we’ll give you a few more than that to provide proper preview.

Here are the first two, courtesy of Mandy Moore, who plays Pearson matriarch Rebecca. “The thing I love about this episode is that there’s a little bit more levity to this episode than some of the past — at least in the last few that we’ve seen,” she tells EW. “There are more laughs in this episode, which is good, especially considering what’s to come, and considering how this particular episode ends.”

We’ll get to that ending in a minute, but let’s start with the premise: The past-set story takes you to a Big Three 10th birthday celebration. Or should we say celebrations. Instead of the traditional three-in-one party, the kids ask for separate festivities. “Kate wants a Madonna party, Randall wants a magic party, and Kevin wants a Princess Bride party,” says Moore. “It’s just utter chaos. We have 45 kids over at the house, three different cakes. Jack stayed up all night bedazzling gloves for the Madonna party.” (Warning: Your heart might crack a bit when you see how few people show up to Randall’s celebration — and his reaction.)

But there’s more to this storyline than just the three-parties-at-once commotion. In fact, it’s about expanding the family beyond the Big Three. “The whole underlying thread throughout all of this is Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) is so upset that the kids are growing up that he’s trying to convince me to have another kid,” says Moore. “We have a moment in the middle of the episode where we’re like, ‘Maybe let’s have another kid.’ It’s just all the little things that you miss as they grow up and they become more independent and don’t need you as much.”

Back in the present day — a time period that we haven’t seen in two weeks, given last week’s flashback-only episode — Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and William (Ron Cephas Jones) will do some afternoon bonding in the wake of his decision to go off chemo. Meanwhile, Kate (Chrissy Metz) will separate from boyfriend-turned-fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) — but not as in a break-up. In reconsidering whether gastric bypass surgery is right for her, she heads out of town for a special “camp,” where she crosses paths with a man named Duke (played by Adam Bartley). “Duke is a little cheeky — much to Kate’s disliking,” Metz tells EW. “But he is supportive in an unconventional way, if I can cryptically explain that. There’s some twists and turns in that thread of the story — and I think that some audience members might be a little upset.”

Speaking of upset people, Kevin (Justin Hartley) has made two women very unhappy with his recent romantic decisions, and at the moment, he’s with neither of them. “Kevin’s at a loss right now,” says Hartley with a chuckle. “He’s trying to figure out which one he needs to patch it up with. Because it’s got to be one of them. He’s got to patch it up with one of them and figure that out.” Aiding him on this difficult journey is… Toby. “Toby is a romantic where Kevin is not, and he explains to him, ‘Where you’ve had these advantages, I have not had these advantages, so I’ve actually had to work to get women.’ So he helps Kevin with that side of it,” continues Hartley. “In his quest, [Kevin] discovers the truth of what he really needs to do, which is something that kind of comes out of left field. But it’s good for him and then he pursues it with everything he has.”

While much of the episode (which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC) is light, any laughter will subside near the end, which deals with Jack’s death. And which brings us to our final three sentences about “Three Sentences.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” cautions Hartley. “It’s gonna sit with you for awhile. It’s one of those things where when you turn it off, it’s gonna sit with you for days.”

To read This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman’s hints about this episode — which he says packs a “huge emotional wallop” about Jack — click here.

To delve further into matters of the breaking heart, read this Q&A with Gerald McRaney, a.k.a Dr. K.

Episode Recaps

This Is Us

NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.

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