This Is Us producers brace you for 'incredibly hard questions' about Rebecca in tonight's episode
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Have you recovered from last Tuesday's bittersweet Miguel episode of This Is Us? No? Well, pull yourself together, because your attention turns tonight to Rebecca (Mandy Moore), whose battle with Alzheimer's is only intensifying. And with Rebecca in decline, her children — Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Kate (Chrissy Metz) — find themselves at odds over how to handle the distressing situation. "The Big Three really have to ask themselves some incredibly hard questions about what's next for their mother, in the aftermath of Miguel's [Jon Huertas] passing," TIU executive producer Isaac Aptaker tells EW. "And as is often the case when the Big Three have to make a big decision, and they sit down together, they don't see eye to eye. This is an episode about how they work through those conflicts."
"Family Meeting" sets up the era-hopping family drama's end game, which has been teased since the season 3 finale. "This episode catches us up in time to those flashes forward that we've played through the last few seasons of family members arriving at the house and getting ready to say their goodbye to the head of this family," executive producer Elizabeth Berger, who wrote the episode with Aptaker, tells EW. "By the time this episode is through, we're really teed up to be at that place."
This episode is indeed all over the place — and by that, we mean that you will see Rebecca in many different time periods of yesteryear when she was parenting the Big Three, and it will remind you just how far she's deteriorated from this illness. "In an episode that's about: 'How did the Big Three have to rise to the occasion and figure out how to take care of their mother?,' we really wanted to contrast that with these vignettes of how well Rebecca did at taking care of them at all the different states of their lives, how she really was a truly incredible mother and caretaker for so many years," says Aptaker. "[We wanted] to get inside of the weight that they feel and the responsibility they feel to now pay it back to her. So it's a real tour de force for Mandy, and she plays this character in so many different ages — and we just see how epicly she mothered."
And, with just two episodes left in the series after this one, "Family Meeting" also sheds light on the future of Kate, Kevin, and Randall. Hints Aptaker: "It's an episode that really sets the stage for where the Big Three wound up and where we'll leave them at the end of this series, and how different that is from where they were when we met them in our pilot." These producers mean "stage" somewhat literally. "We loved the idea that it's very contained, that it's very much staying in the set and our cabin set," explains Berger. "The word 'play' really comes to mind for this episode in that it is a play, not that it's particularly playful. Other than a handful of times."
Speaking of those, "Family Meeting" does find some comic relief in the pain of coming to terms with Rebecca's descent. (Prepare to meet Therapy Cat.) "For these three navigating these very complicated, difficult decisions and watching their mother in the state that they never previously imagined she'd be, sometimes it's so terrible that the only thing you can do is laugh," says Berger. "And you can't do that all the time. So we try to really infuse the episode with those moments that feel very true to life to us, where sometimes there's nothing to do but laugh at how awful it all is."
"So," adds Aptaker, "if you don't come for the crushingly sad how-to-deal-with-Alzheimer's story line, come for Sue [Kelechi Watson] and Alex Breckenridge doing incredible impressions of Kevin and Randall."
This important "Family Meeting" starts Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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