This Is Us is going Big with its next three episodes. Big Three, that is.
Each of the final three installments of 2017 will focus on a different Pearson sibling. Tuesday’s episode will focus on Kevin (Justin Hartley), who’s currently spiraling down on pills and booze, while the Nov. 21 episode will center on Kate (Chrissy Metz), who’s now pregnant and properly engaged, and the Nov. 28 installment (which serves as the fall finale) will shine the spotlight on Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who is trying to get a handle on being a foster parent to Deja (Lyric Ross).
The three episodes “take place on the same day in the past and the same day in the present,” This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker tells EW. “[TIU executive producer] Ken Olin directed all three of them over 24 days, like a big movie. His hair went completely gray from doing it. It’ll really reward going back into the episodes and seeing these different ways that they connect that you didn’t realize the first time around. You’re seeing the same moments from different characters’ perspectives and realizing what you missed. It’s very different from anything that we’ve tried on the show. It’s this really big, complex three hours of interweaving stories that end up in a really exciting place to close out the first half of the season.”
Kevin kicks off the trilogy by returning to his high school in Pittsburgh to receive a distinguished alumni award, one week after torching his relationship with his ex-wife, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge). “As you can probably imagine based on where he was at the end of episode 7, he’s not exactly in the ideal head space to speak to a roomful of optimistic teenagers about their futures,” quips Aptaker. “It’s a very loaded situation for Kevin to be entering given his headspace. It’s also one of the first times that he has really come back to Pittsburgh since leaving, so there’s all those feelings that brings up as well. He goes on a very, very emotional dark spiral — and Justin gives such a phenomenal performance in the episode.”
In the past, we’ll catch up with teenage Kevin (Logan Shroyer), whose exceptional football skills have caught the attention of college coaches. “But, as we know, his college dreams never come to fruition,” says Aptaker, “so we’re going to see the story of how Kevin gets that life-defining knee injury that really alters the entire course of his future.”
How emotional will things get over the course of these three episodes? “They get pretty intense,” answers Aptaker. “We’re maybe going to top Toby crashing through that coffee table in our midseason finale of last year. It gets pretty real.”
“Number One” airs Nov. 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. To read what Aptaker had to say about last week’s episode — including Rebecca’s tense meeting with the judge — click here.