Yes, This Is Us viewer, you will soon find out exactly how Jack came to meet his maker. But you have other questions, too, right? Sure, you do. And one of them involves William’s cat, Clooney, who also serves as the title of Tuesday’s episode.
Clooney, of course, was revealed to exist way back in the show’s second episode, when William (Ron Cephas Jones) explained that the reason he was shadily disappearing from Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) house was not because he had relapsed but because he was sneaking home feed his “pretty ugly,” ironically named cat. What happened to poor Clooney as William’s stay at Randall’s house became more permanent? A small but crucial piece of news was dropped several episodes later when William’s boyfriend, Jesse (Denis O’Hare), told William that a crazy neighbor had been taking care of Clooney in his absence.
“It’s something of a mystery story,” This Is Us executive producer Issac Aptaker tells EW of the upcoming plot. “Perhaps — aside from ‘How did Jack die?’ — the question we get asked the most is, ‘What happened to Clooney the Cat?’ So, we are telling the story of Clooney the Cat.”
In addition, as Kevin exits rehab and begins the process of repairing bonds, the episode will focus on his strained relationship with his stepdad, Miguel (Jon Huertas), while tackling at least one looming question about the romance that blossomed between current spouses Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel after Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died. A scene earlier this season strongly hinted that the love connection came years after Jack’s death when they reconnected on Facebook, but Kevin was seen in the “Clooney” teaser asking Miguel, “Were you in love with my mom when my dad was alive?” (Have you seen the way he looked at Rebecca the day she married Jack?)
“After that epic therapy blowout, Kevin goes to spend some time with his mom, which also means spending some time with Miguel, who we all know he’s less than crazy about,” says Aptaker. “And in one of my favorite scenes we’ve ever done with Jon, the two guys dive headfirst into their issues. It’s an episode where we really peel back the next layer of the onion and get into Rebecca and Miguel story — how they came to be, what their marriage is like. I think people are going to love it.”
While Kevin works on mending his Rebecca-Miguel ties, Randall’s fractured relationship with his career, which he left behind in the season 1 finale, also will be explored. “Randall is at a crossroads, where it’s been quite a while since we saw him leave his job, and his lack of participation in the real world is starting to grate on Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). He’s waiting for another foster child to come into their lives, but who knows when that’s going to be? Beth is starting to feel like, ‘Okay, Randall, it’s time to figure out what’s next for you,’ and he’s a little bit resistant to her desire to get him back out there and figure out what’s next in his life…. Randall’s story is very exciting and launches the back half of our season for him — and what he’s going to be doing with his life for the foreseeable future.”
Transitioning from what’s next to what happened in the past, the episode will transport you back to the ’90s with the teenage Big Three and their parents dabbling in consumerism. “We’re doing something that we’ve been trying to find a chance to do for a long time, which is diving into the heart of ’90s American culture and taking our family on a trip to the shopping mall,” says Aptaker. “We found a great mall that has not really been updated, and we were like, ‘Oh man, what is more ’90s than a Saturday at the mall with the family? We have all the fraught issues that come up when you have a mother and a daughter who are on a shopping trip, et cetera. When you’re Rebecca, shopping with a young Kate, there are definitely issues that come up there.”
While emotion was “front and center” in the recent run of episodes, Aptaker hints that “this one sneaks up on you in a way where you don’t totally see it coming. It’s a big one in a lot of ways that sets up where we’re going for the rest of the year.”
To read Aptaker’s behind-the-scenes insights on last week’s epic therapy session, click here.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.