This Is Us returned us from the trenches of Vietnam to catch up stateside with the Big Three on Tuesday night, but Jack’s past remained of interest — and intrigue — in the present day. Eager to learn more (or frankly, much of anything) about his father’s service in the Vietnam War, Kevin (Justin Hartley) visited with his dad’s fellow soldier friend, Robinson (Charles Robinson), who, after some reconsideration, handed Kevin some old letters and photos he received from Jack. In that pile of precious intel was a photo of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) with the Vietnamese woman (Porter Duong) whom we met briefly in last week’s episode, and Kevin noticed that she was wearing the necklace that Jack had given him. Here, This Is Us executive producer Elizabeth Berger opens up just a bit about the show’s new mystery woman.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In last week’s episode, we saw a Vietnamese woman running after her son who was delivering the fish to Jack, and she seemed to possibly have some connection to him. Now it’s confirmed that she is indeed wearing that necklace that Jack gave to Kevin when he was a teenager. First of all, please tell me that she ties into the “Who is ‘her’?” mystery, because that would be incredible.
ELIZABETH BERGER: That would be truly incredible.
What can you hint about the reason she gave the necklace to Jack? Obviously there’s the question: Did he have a romantic relationship with her?
Obviously, she is a part of Jack’s larger Vietnam story and what happened over there, and I think we can all feel that Kevin is inching closer and closer to finally launching that journey and getting himself to Vietnam. We are definitely going to get answers, and we’re definitely going to see the way she fits into the larger puzzle.
Is that something that will be explored in episode 7, when we’re back in Vietnam?
We are going to get answers about the puzzle, but not necessarily answers related to the necklace.
When Jack gave Kevin the necklace in the hospital, he encouraged him to be strong during a tough time. Was this necklace given to Jack under similar circumstances, and if so, did those circumstances possibly involve Jack’s brother, Nicky [Michael Angarano]?
From the little we’ve seen so far of what we know about the war in general, pretty much every day was an intense time. It’s safe to say that, yes, it came to him at a time when emotions were high, and when things were very difficult. It definitely has held a meaningful place in his heart, which is why he wore it up until he gave it to Kevin when he was a teenager.
I know you can’t reveal too much about this woman, but how would you describe Jack’s history with her? Is it a surprising story?
I think it’s a really complex story. Any relationship between an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman at that time is going to be so complex, and bring with it so much loaded history, that it is safe to say that it is not going to be the most typical relationship.
What would you say to the idea that there’s another Pearson out there tied to this mystery woman that we don’t know about yet?
Our mystery woman and what transpired between her and Jack in Vietnam is currently wide open for interpretation. I can say that in the course of the season we will learn exactly what happened between Jack and Nicky in Vietnam, and also learn more about this woman. As for whether there could be another Pearson out there? You’ll have to wait and see.
Is there a good chance that when Kevin goes to Vietnam, he’ll connect with that little boy to help solve this mystery?
Good question. I mean, all of these pieces are swirling, and we’re going to pay them off. The question for Kevin is going to be: Who is left in that village, where he’ll get these answers? In some ways the journey is so abstract, even if you have a photograph with you. It’s going to be a constant quest for him to get the answers he needs, and they’re going to come from unexpected places and people we haven’t necessarily met yet. But definitely these people that we’re meeting along the way are all part of the larger fabric of the story over there.
When Robinson is talking to Kevin about Vietnam, he says, “Sometimes the answers are so dark, you’re better off not having them.” Just how dark and painful are the answers that lie in Jack’s Vietnam past?
We know they’re dark and painful enough that he chose never to speak about them, and even really to let Rebecca in on what he went through. There’s some really heavy stuff ahead that we’re going to be unpacking.
Robinson said that he wrote Jack and never heard back, which turned out not to be true, as he gave all Jack’s letters to Kevin. He also shares that from what he knew about Jack, Jack was the kind of guy who wanted to leave the war behind him. But in giving the letters to Kevin, he also says, “Who is to say he wouldn’t have wanted you to know his story?” More specifically, why did Robinson change his mind about sharing the letters? How much of that was that he saw Kevin struggling with this?
I think he did see that. Also, he realized that Jack’s life was cut short, and his life was cut short at a time when his kids were still teenagers, and life goes on, and now he’s sitting across an adult man looking for answers about his father. I think there is a part of him that’s thinking, “You know what? If Jack had lived 20 years longer, maybe he would have wanted his son to know the story.” I think that’s coming from the perspective of a soldier. And also, it took him time to tell his story, so I think he’s bringing all of that to his decision to finally open up and tell Kevin the truth.
To read why Milo Ventimiglia said, “Something ominous is coming” in Vietnam, head over here.