When This Is Us returns to NBC on Jan. 9 — ending a six-week hiatus — the Pearsons won’t be easing back into things. In fact, the man who plays Randall, Sterling K. Brown, points to a pivotal scene in the midseason premiere that he believes will kickstart the second half of season 2.
Reeling from multiple tragedies, including Kate’s miscarriage and Kevin’s rock-bottom-hitting DUI, the family will come together to help the famous family member defeat his demons. “There is a family scene that includes Kevin [Justin Hartley], Randall, Kate [Chrissy Metz], and Rebecca [Mandy Moore] that is about 11 pages long that is absolute TNT,” Brown tells EW. “It is one of my favorite scenes that we’ve done in the course of the two seasons of the show and I think people are going to leave it saying, ‘Damn!’ We come back shooting hot, hot fire. People are going to be happy with what they see.”
Randall and Kevin, of course, have endured a tense relationship since childhood. Although the brothers have made progress in episodes like “Jack Pearson’s Son,” which saw Kevin rush to Randall’s aid, this latest legal wrinkle has the danger of breaking down the relationship again: Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) seemed quite angry to learn that Tess (Eris Baker) was in the back seat of Kevin’s car at the time of his arrest. (In Kevin’s defense, he did not know that his niece was hiding in the car when he put the keys in the ignition.) “I can tell you that is something that we address directly when we come back,” says Brown. “It’s complicated because it has to do with the nature of why Kevin thinks he’s an addict, and it has to do with whether or not Randall validates his brother’s perspective. When you think about the nature of memory, everyone tends to highlight those things that reaffirm their own perspective of truth. And Kevin, Kate, and Randall all have their own different versions of what their childhoods were that shaped who they are, and then they have very different ideas of how other people perceive themselves…. You see Randall working very hard to extend graciousness to his brother because his brother was present for him at one of the lowest points of his life, and now he wants to reciprocate that. But it’s hard to do that when you endanger somebody’s child.”
As for why Tess decided to stow away — and tell Kevin that she hated her situation at home — Brown hints that her reasons will be explained, and they have to do with the chaotic nature of the household over the last year. “There’s been a lot of things happening — new people introduced, et cetera,” he says. “The only thing that’s constant in life is change, but for children, stability is incredibly stabilizing, for lack of a better word. Routine gives us comfort, and Randall is constantly shifting routine on his daughters, especially his older daughter, who’s conscious to it. At a certain age, we’re pretty good at going with the flow, and then at a certain point we’re like, ‘All right, now I’m ready for things to just kind of remain the same.’ I think Tess is in that place where she’s like, ‘Alright, can we just have something stay the same, for a little while, please? Without you dealing with something else?’ I think it’s of that nature.”
Speaking of nature, the Pearsons will head into it during the episode’s past story: Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) takes the family on a surprise vacation to a cabin in the woods.
“The Fifth Wheel” airs Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. on NBC.