By Dan Snierson
October 29, 2019 at 10:01 PM EDT
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Warning: This article contains spoilers about Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, titled “The Club.”

In their first encounter on This Is Us, Jack Pearson and Dave Malone did not get along like, say, G&Ts. In fact, Rebecca’s father (Tim Matheson) pulled him aside and bluntly told him that he was not good enough for his daughter. There was a chance for a fresh start in this week’s episode, though, as Dave invited Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to the country club to hit some balls. Jack and Dave teed off, all right, but on each other, and their loaded outing only cemented the divide between them and nearly devolved into a fist fight.

More than a decade later, Jack took Tiger Woods-worshipping Randall (Lonnie Chavis) out for a round, looking to make a connection with his son on the links. The championship-level father would discover that his being colorblind was not what his son needed, as Randall had been bonding with someone else who also saw great potential in him: his African-American teacher, Mr. Lawrence (Brandon Scott). But it would be a sly lesson that Jack taught Randall (Sterling K. Brown) on the greens that would serve him well in his political game decades later; he played down to Councilman Wilkins (William Allen Young) to up his chances of securing an affordable grocery store for his constituents.

Meanwhile, Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) went to work out, and to work on their individual issues, only to work their way into bed later in the day. And Kate cut up Toby’s pants before they renewed their desire to get into each other’s. Let’s turn on some Turner Classic Movies, get some fresh cold cuts at a most inopportune time, drive one right into the water for Pop, and call up This Is Us executive producers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker to take us behind the scenes of “The Club.”

Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We often see Jack in SuperDad mode, where he knows the exact right thing to say or do to help his kids. You began deconstructing that image a while ago, and in this episode Jack is truly bumping up against his limitations. Was that an appeal in writing this episode, where lines like “I don’t see color, I see my son,” aren’t soothing Randall, because his son is at an age where race increasingly matters to him?
ELIZABETH BERGER: Randall is getting older, and he’s getting more complicated, and he’s asking these really nuanced, difficult questions about race and his own identity. Jack has always felt like, “Well, if I love my kid enough, that’s all that really matters.” And now he’s finding himself in this really tricky territory. It was really interesting for us in the writers’ room to explore putting Jack — who tends to handle himself pretty phenomenally around his kids — into a situation where he is a bit out of his depth, and he does have a bit to learn here. That’s going to be a really interesting journey for him moving forward in these next couple episodes.

Jack is intimidated by the bond that Randall is forming with Mr. Lawrence. He intuits that it’s invaluable to his son — he even asks Rebecca if they felt threatened by the dojo — but in his effort to be everything to his son, he’s having trouble accepting that this is a hole he just can’t fill. Jack lays down a boundary with Mr. Lawrence… but also surprises by inviting him over to the house. How fraught will that upcoming dinner be?
ISAAC APTAKER: That’s our very next episode, and it’s definitely a really, really complicated dynamic. It speaks to — you just hit on it — this internal struggle that’s going on with Jack, where he knows that this is definitively good for Randall to have this smart, older black male influence in his life, but he’s also threatened by it because it’s one of the ways that Jack can’t be everything for his son. So it’s this push-and-pull that lives within him of wanting Randall to have this, but also not wanting to deal with it.

Speaking of Jack — and pride — we see him in the past refusing help from Dave and his friend, even though he’s struggling. Jack knows that he doesn’t want to surround himself with Dave and his less-than-stellar friends. But does he carry regret in the way he handled it, and Dave? Jack later tells Randall that sometimes you play up or down to the competition, but you have to play the game — and Jack was too proud to play the game.
APTAKER: That’s a fair read on it. There’s a lot of pride involved in that golf story. He and Dave didn’t start off on the best foot. So the idea that in their next big interaction he would have to accept help from him getting a job is a lot for Jack to stomach. And I think he’s not willing to come crawling back to this guy who was such a jerk to him and say, “Get me a job with one of your buddies.”
BERGER: Jack obviously prides himself in being self-sufficient and being able to handle himself in every situation, and he keeps finding himself in Dave’s world, where he’s not on the surest footing and he keeps being in these situations that get away from him. So it’s tricky for him to keep feeling like he’s embarrassing himself in front of this guy that he wants to make an incredible impression on.

Jack and Dave almost came to blows, and Rebecca caught a whiff of that tension. What can you hint about the next development in that already-poor relationship? It seems that you are positioning Rebecca to be forced into the middle here and having to make a choice.
APTAKER: Yeah. It’s definitely good that they didn’t come to blows. It’s not a great look to punch your girlfriend’s dad on the second [meeting]. That’s like Meet the Parents-level shenanigans. [Laughs] But certainly you see it at the end of this episode, Rebecca is starting to become aware that something is a little bit amiss there. We’re moving away from the timeline for a little bit, but when we come back, we will really see things come to a head in terms of Dave’s desire for Rebecca not to wind up with this guy.

As Dave outlines his idea of Rebecca’s perfect wedding to Jack, we already know that it doesn’t happen that way, since we saw Jack and Rebecca get married at City Hall. Are we starting to lay the groundwork for how we’re getting to a City Hall situation?
APTAKER: All of this is so interesting because we’re exploring a time in their relationship where there is this huge obstacle of her father. But we also know how the story ends, to a certain extent. We know that they do wind up having the City Hall marriage and having this incredible family together. So the mystery is really filling in the blanks. So yeah, we’re shedding light on his ideal version of his daughter’s wedding when we know that that’s not how it ultimately turns out. [That] begs the question, “Well, how did it get so off course?” Or on course, depending on how you’re looking at it.

We learned at the end of the episode that Randall followed Jack’s advice and realized that sometimes you have to play down to the competition. How did you decide to have Randall take that course of action of showing subservience and deference to the councilman versus Randall teaming up with the councilman and showing off his skills in the effort to win him over?
BERGER: Randall is someone that’s always looking at something from all the angles. We’ve seen him strike out with this crowd a couple of times now, and he knew that he had to win back their favor. And he’s somebody who will do whatever it takes. So I think he really was scheming: “If I can just get on the course and I can just show this one guy in particular that I need him, I might have a chance to turning this whole thing around.”

Let’s turn our attention to Kevin and Cassidy. What was going through her head at the moment when she impulsively kisses Kevin, besides reeling in self-loathing that her last interaction with Ryan was a disaster, and, well, here comes the handsome movie star saying all the right things, including that she is trying her best?
BERGER: That’s what was going through her head. It is just a super-vulnerable moment, and Kevin is standing in front of her being incredibly kind to her. And it’s just one of those moments where life gets away from you and you do the thing that you know you shouldn’t do but will feel good momentarily, and now they’re going to both have to deal with the aftermath.

What can you tease about the aftermath? Kevin didn’t seem in a great place at the fridge after Nicky left — and when he opened the door back into the bedroom, it was a little awkward.
BERGER: Yeah. I mean, I think when you tell someone that you’re going to help them fix their marriage and instead you sleep with them, you feel like things went off the rails a bit. [Laughs]
APTAKER: Kevin is the world’s worst relationship counselor of all time.
BERGER: So we’re going to see him beating himself up a bit for the way this… got away from him.

When Nicky is your voice of reason, saying, “We should have taken that hike,” you’ve got to ask yourself some hard questions.
BERGER: That’s right.
APTAKER: I know, the tables have really turned there. [Laughs]

This was an ill-advised move. And as is mentioned, AA discourages relationships in the first year. How did we go from him smiling in last week’s episode after Ryan warned him to back off and Kevin happily telling Cassidy, “Oh, he still likes you!” to Kevin kissing her back when she tried to leave his trailer? He clearly has a lot of restless energy, and he obviously saw that Zoe (Melanie Liburd) was moving on too.
APTAKER: They do have this really palpable chemistry together, so it’s confusing for Kevin because he knows he’s rooting for her family and he’s rooting for her to get back with her husband. But at the same time, she’s beautiful and she’s charming, and they have this great energy and this great dynamic. Also Kevin has a bit of a self-destructive streak; if it’s not drinking, it’s other reckless, questionable behavior. And I think that this is another example of his impulsivity getting the better of him.
BERGER: Yeah, he wants to do the right thing. That’s why he settled in this town and is spending all this time with his uncle. But at the same time, he’s a recovering addict in a small town with nothing to do, watching his ex move on with another man. And like Isaac said, when you have an available, beautiful, fascinating woman standing in front of you, that can be the perfect storm for making the wrong decision.

Do you remember when you first talked about bringing these two together — and what fans might think about him in a moment like that with a war vet in a troubled family situation?
APTAKER: It felt very realistic to us that these two flawed, broken people who are trying desperately to do the right thing but keep on making mistakes — who are also that appealing and good-looking — would probably wind up making this mistake. So there was an honesty to it, especially when we saw how great Jennifer and Justin work together. It’s confusing as a viewer because in that gym scene, they have the great romantic-comedy banter and the great energy and the great rat-tat-tat, but at the same time you’re rooting for this greater path for her, which is for her to try to save her marriage and do right by her son. So it felt like confusing and messing it messy — in all of the best ways.
BERGER: We just find the dynamic between Kevin and Cassidy so fascinating — these two people that would never, under ordinary circumstances, be put in each other’s way, becoming friends and moving through this difficult chapter of life together. That to us just felt so rich. And tossing things in the air and messing them up a little also felt exciting.

This kiss has ramifications for two people at very fragile places in their lives. Who is in more emotional jeopardy after this kiss, Cassidy or Kevin?
APTAKER: Oh, man. I think that’s pretty even money there. I don’t know my betting terms. Pretty 50-50 split.
BERGER: For Kevin to come to his place and his only intention is to try and do good, and to screw up so badly is really going to throw him for a loop. So I guess I would maybe give Kevin the edge. [Laughs]

As you mentioned, viewers will be seeing the dinner at Jack’s house next week. What else can they expect?
APTAKER: We’re going to see a couple dinners in different times. And we’re also going to be seeing a really, really special day that Deja and Malik share together — which we sent the kids to Philadelphia to film. So it’s a really cool, unique, cinematic one for us.
BERGER: It’s an incredibly romantic episode and Lyric [Ross, who plays Deja] and Asante [Blackk, who plays Malik] are unbelievably special in it, so we can’t wait for people to see them together.
APTAKER: It’s intense and it’s complicated — and it really makes you think.

Related content:

Episode Recaps

This Is Us

NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 5
rating
airs
  • Tuesdays at 09:00 PM
creator
  • Dan Fogelman
network
  • NBC
stream service

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