We never quite get resolution on why Kevin is having a hard time accepting Randall. Jack tries to press him and he keeps saying, “I don’t know.” Is Kevin’s current-day spiral into pills and alcohol mirroring that inability and still haunting him, as he tells Randall?
REQUA: This inability that Kevin did not communicate his issues and problems started when he was a child, and it continues. He clearly says it when he’s outside the bathroom and Randall is trying to build the courage to go in. He says — and I’m paraphrasing — “I minimize things. I push things down.” And there’s all this volcanic emotion beneath the surface that’s just waiting to come out, and he’s been pushing down for a long time. He’s been doing it his whole life. He has problems with Randall and we’ve explored it in other episodes, and he’s just incapable, even as a child, and that’s Jack. And it’s frustrating for Jack on two levels. Jack recognizes that that’s him that’s not communicating by not telling him what the problems are… His frustration with young Kevin is that he’s keeping secrets and he’s not dealing with his emotions, like he does, and also he’s not having a relationship with this brother which is so important to Jack, and we learn at the end of the episode why that’s important. Because we see that Jack basically was the father to his little brother.
FICARRA: Ultimately that mirror of Jack — the reason that Jack is acting the way he is in this episode — is because of his history with his brother. And the way that Kevin interacts with Randall is also a reflection of that and that’s the beauty of the show — we are the product of our pasts, no matter how small the decisions that are made. It all ripples forward.
How far will Kevin spiral before he faces his blocked emotions? It’s starting to look like his relationship with Sophie will be in jeopardy again.
REQUA: She — and I think his relationship with his family as well — represents the stakes. That’s what he has to lose.
FICARRA: He’s lost Sophie before. Are we seeing a repeat of behavior that added up to that? And what’s he going to do about it this time?
Kate finally let Toby in on her pregnancy, but she still didn’t want to get her hopes up. She ultimately allows Toby a pass to tell everyone in the coffee shop. These two are clearly approaching this in two very different ways that are in step with their personalities. How will that impact their journey through pregnancy? Is he in danger of getting too ahead of himself, and is she playing it too safe?
FICARRA: Absolutely. They’re just two ways of thinking, and I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong in that, although I do believe that living your life thinking the other shoe is going to drop is never a good thing. [Laughs] Because you not only have a sh–ty future once something bad happens, you have a sh–ty present waiting for it to happen. At least Toby can have a little fun. But setting the bar low is a defense mechanism, and Kate has it. She’s convinced that life is against her in many ways, and that’s something that she needs to mature out of. And Toby can be impetuous, but it’s kind of the thing she needs to remind herself that she can be too down and too expectant of failure…. It’s always their dynamic. In some ways it’s helpful, and in some ways it can cause friction. We’re the products of habits and defense mechanisms we’ve honed over the years to keep ourselves safe and quote-unquote happy, and sometimes they are more destructive than that.
I’m guessing there are probably all sorts of outtakes from Toby’s colorful coffee-house choreographed flashdance. What ended up on the cutting room floor?
FICARRA: Like, a ton. We could do a whole episode.
REQUA: Tyler Bensinger wrote a really great scene with several moves, so we shot all that. And then we said, “Okay, we got all that in the can. Let’s just play.” We had prepped Chris [Sullivan] that this was happening, and he came on the location scout, which was rare, and got a sense of the space and what he could do there and we just started riffing. And in fact, that Flashdance thing was something that Glenn and Chris cooked up themselves — and surprised me. We do this a lot on set: Glenn will come back [behind the camera] and I will go, “What’s going to happen?” And he goes, “Well, just watch!” [Laughs]
FICARRA: And vice versa. John had the idea of taking Chris to the location scout a week before so he could see the space and work something up because Chris is a super talented song-and-dance man. He’s a Broadway guy and he has an incredible voice and he’s a dancer, and he loves to perform. So, we knew he’d drink it up and just let him run. There’s a thing where he uses coffee cans as maracas that’s funny.
REQUA: There’s a scene that absolutely killed me and I really was lobbying hard to get it in there, but I could never convince Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator]. He goes up to someone for a hug and they’re terrified of him and they run away. And I just thought it was so funny but we never got it in there. I mean, it could have been a half-hour long. There was so much stuff.
FICARRA: There was a thing where we greased the floor and he kind of did a knee-slide across the room. And then there’s one where he jumps on a pole and then gets scared to come down. We blocked out enough time where we could have a lot of fun with it, and sadly the episode is so rich with other stuff that we had to cut it down.
Deja opened up to Randall in a big way in the bathroom, admitting she was abused. But it can be two steps forward, one or two steps back in these situations; there’s no straight line of growth. In attempting to earn her trust, is Randall still trying to find the right mix of when he needs to, say, wait her out in the bathroom and when he’s actually pressing too hard — because he’s someone who’s been pressing hard his whole life?
FICARRA: Right. Randall’s struggle, he is earnest and he strives for perfection, and the thing that Deja brings to this equation is something where he learns he has to temper his behavior. He’s self-aware enough but he also can be impetuous. But she is almost the perfect vessel for him to understand — he wants to bond with her but he’s aware that if he pushes too hard it’s not going to work. And he’s willing to let Kevin take the lead and be his way in because he wants the best for her. But he gets in his own way sometimes.
Can you give us a one-sentence tease for next week’s episode?
REQUA: It takes place in the year 3000.
FICARRA: And Nicky returns as a cyborg.
Want more info on Jack’s death? Milo Ventimiglia offers up hints here.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.