Who wants to watch a most uncomfortable family reunion?
Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us will boast a can’t-miss Pearson family event, as the Big Three — you also know them as Kevin (Justin Hartley), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Kate (Chrissy Metz) — take a journey to Bradford, Penn., to confirm that Jack’s brother, Nicky, is actually still alive, despite Jack’s assertion to the contrary. (After watching the fall finale, viewers are now ahead of the characters in knowing that Nicky is definitely amongst the living.) The trail began earlier this season, when Kevin, while visiting Vietnam, learned that Nicky was in fact not killed during the war. After returning home, Kevin rifled through a box of his father’s war possessions, and found postcards that were sent to the Pearson patriarch from a “CK,” which led him to the theory that Jack knew that his brother was alive: CK is a logical abbreviation for Clark Kent, which is how Nicky signed himself out of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center following a psych evaluation.
While viewers don’t yet know the reasons as to why Jack might have hid this information from the family — is he protecting Nicky? is he angry at him? — one wonders how the different family members will react in the wake of this news; some might even feel a tinge of betrayal. Speaking with EW about Randall’s big election episode, Brown dropped a few hints about the Pearson family’s response(s). “I would say that everybody has a slightly different take on it, but I think the person who really has to come to terms with it is his wife, is our mother,” says Brown. “We were children, so there’s a bit of an excusing of an adult sharing things with children — although we all react slightly differently. But I think the person who’s really trying to put the pieces together is Rebecca [Mandy Moore], and recognizing there were times in which she could have pushed but didn’t push, and allowed for the status quo to be what it was, and wondering whether or not she made the right decision in giving him that space.”
This revelation surely will have reverberations through the second half of the season, and Brown indicates that it might surprise you while deepening your knowledge of Jack. “Boy, it’s nothing that we could have ever anticipated. You find out these things about your father who you put up on a pedestal,” he says. “And then you come to find out that the brother that he’s referred to his entire life, that he said passed away in the war, may actually be alive. And so there’s a real questioning of like, ‘How much did you know about this person?’ And that he purposely didn’t share the beginning of his life, or his life up to a certain point, with his children in the way that they could understand, or that they felt illuminated. He kept them in the dark. We will find out what exactly is the reason he was so private about what transpired in the war. Not that a grown man needs a reason not to share the atrocities of war with his children, but there’s something very specific and very shocking and sad that transpired that left these two brothers going in separate directions.”
The teaser for the episode, titled “Songbird Road: Part One,” hints that it’s the Big Three alone who make the initial contact. “The Big Three go on a journey of self-discovery that leaves them with more questions than answers” is how Brown teases that mission. What exactly is this trio of siblings walking into when they come face-to-face with this deeply troubled (and now isolated) Vietnam War vet? Would words such as “awkward” and “charged” be used to describe this family reunion? “‘Awkward’ and ‘charged’ are two wonderful words,” he answers. “It’s one of those things where the kids don’t know what to expect. Nicky doesn’t know what to expect. They meet each other in vastly different phases of life, so to speak. And you don’t know if you’re actually going to get what you’re looking for. Kevin is looking to connect. He’s peeling back the wallpaper and trying to see what’s underneath, what might he learn about his family, and what might he learn about himself through his exploration of family. You leave not knowing whether or not he’s going to get what he’s looking for, and whether it’s not just an empty chase, or is there a fulfillment that can come from the interactions?”
Brown had much more to say on that election upset and Randall’s future with Beth right here. And over here, he reveals that the flash-forward event is “shrouded in sadness.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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