This Is Us producers drop hints about Kate's secret pregnancy, Randall's birth mother
When you last caught up with the Pearsons seven weeks ago, Kate had something important to say. The closing minutes of the Nov. 17 episode of This Is Us showed the mother of one who hoped to make it two having an extremely difficult conversation with her husband, Toby (Chris Sullivan). Kate (Chrissy Metz) started to reveal something that she had never talked about before — with anyone — that she had gotten pregnant by her abusive boyfriend, Marc (Austin Abrams). Questions loomed over the flashback of teen Kate (Hannah Zeile): Did Kate wind up having an abortion? Is that why she had a strong reaction when Ellie (Annie Funke) asked if Kate was judging her when Ellie revealed that she almost had an abortion? Is it possible that young Kate wound up miscarrying shortly after getting pregnant? Or — in the most outlandish and least plausible scenario — did she hide her pregnancy for nine months, have the baby and then give it up for adoption, adding to the Pearsons’ rich history in that department?
This exclusive clip from the episode answers that mystery; it was an abortion. This Is Us exec producers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker aren’t divulging exactly what you’re going to see in tonight's installment of the time-hopping family drama — just that you are about to watch a formative and essential chapter in the life of Kate Pearson. “It's a really important episode in learning a little bit more about the whole psychology of this woman,” Berger tells EW. “We've seen so much about her father's death, and we've seen some stuff about Marc, and we've hinted that that relationship had even more darkness and complicatedness to it than we've shown thus far. This is just a really important puzzle piece. When you step back and you look at Kate Pearson as a whole, this episode sheds some light, some clarity on everything that she's been through.”
And clarity comes into focus extremely early in this “really beautiful” episode, according to Aptaker. “This isn't going to be a lingering mystery,” he says. “We're not going to draw this out. We pick up immediately into that conversation with Kate Toby right when we come back from the break and then we're going to explain the story of what happened.” (It doesn't involve an ovulation test, only a pregnancy test, as the producers confirm here.)
Marc — that toxic, mercurial record-store manager who was Kate’s first real boyfriend and the last person that Rebecca (Mandy Moore) wanted to see hanging around — will return, as teased in the trailer for the episode. "He factors into the story in a big way,” says Berger. “This will give people a greater understanding on the role that that seminal relationship had, and the impact it had on Kate over the years, and also give people some really, really great closure on that relationship as well.”
Also on the short list of things to be explored: The moment and manner of connection between Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Hai (Vien Hong). As you recall, the recently introduced Vietnamese grandfather saw Randall’s viral video, which mentioned the late William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones), who fathered Randall with Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes). Randall was told by William that Laurel died soon after giving birth to him, but now viewers know that she survived past that day, given the photos in Hai’s home. How long she lived and if she's still alive are questions that will be answered shortly. “[What] this Vietnamese gentleman has to do with Randall and his life is something that we're going to be addressing early on when we return,” says Aptaker. “It sends Randall on a really, really exciting journey for this next chunk of our season.”
Indeed, next week’s episode will send Randall on a mission to learn more about his family tied to his birth mother, somewhat akin to season 1’s “Memphis," which sent Randall on a journey with William. How might Randall handle the news that Laurel lived a life beyond what he knew? “Identity and the search for his identity is such a driving force for Randall throughout our entire series,” says Berger. “We have some incredibly beautiful, exciting stuff coming up as he continues to piece together his past and his history…. It's going to be pretty spectacular.”
Adds Aptaker: “It definitely opens up the other half of Randall's identity. The first four years of our show focused so much on the paternal side of his ‘where do I come from?’ origin story. And this unlocks for him a totally new world that represents the other half of who he is and who his parents were. As for whether or not those characters actually come into play in present day, I don't want to say just yet.”
The producers are remain mum on whether William was being honest with Randall when he told his son that she died after giving birth to him. (Audiences certainly know William to be a forthright man trying to make amends for his past, so it would seem unlikely that he would have withheld the truth from Randall, if he knew it.) “I'm so glad that's what our fans are wondering because that is literally what Randall is wondering and where his head is,” says Aptaker. “I think that everyone's going to be on this journey right alongside him, wanting those answers.” (The one theory that he will rule out is that Laurel went on to have another child after Randall. “That is not the direction we chose to go, so put that to rest,” he says. “But I think if someone wants to write fan fiction about the second child Laurel had, I would love to read it.”)
In other Pearson news, what to expect from Kevin (Justin Hartley) and the pregnant-with-twins Madison (Caitlin Thompson)? The sudden couple will face hurdles trying to figure out their life together on this highly accelerated schedule before Delivery Day. “They fell into this very serious relationship very quickly, with her getting pregnant and then being thrown into living together through quarantine,” says Berger. “So we're going to find them navigating their relationship and working backwards still to figure it out how it all works and how they fit together and how the future is going to work for the two of them.”
To that end, “we have some very exciting births coming up that we think will be really impactful and momentous down the road,” says Berger. “We have a beautiful adult brother story that we can't wait for people to see. It's a really, really jam-packed, beautiful back half of the season.”
While Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) doesn’t play a critical role in the next episode, father does factor in felicitously into some upcoming installments. “We have some really great Jack/father stories with the little Big Three that we're really excited to tell,” hints Aptaker. “We have an episode coming up that's like a real tour de force for Milo as a dad, that connects back to his own childhood and his own relationship with his father, Stanley [Peter Onorati], which we're going to continue to explore.” Berger offers up one seemingly related and intriguing hint by referencing another beloved father figure: “Mr. Rogers.”
This Is Us returns to your neighborhood on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.