"[It] just felt undeniable and unfair to say we won't give them another chance," story editor Danielle Bauman says of the romantic resolution in "The Night Before the Wedding."
Courtesy of NBC
This Is Us - Season 3

On Tuesday night, This Is Us viewers saw the Pearson family gather to celebrate a new shot at love later in life — and when this couple kissed dramatically at the end of the episode to make this thing official, everyone applauded.

Also in the episode: Kate married Phillip.

Yes, "The Night Before the Wedding" was set amid the nuptials of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Phillip (Chris Geere), but the flashing happily-ever-after news of this wine-country weekend would be the re-reunion of her brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his ex-wife-but-always-still-a-possibility, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge). This development concluded a two-episode romantic mystery involving not only Sophie but also a wedding singer named Arielle (Katie Lowes) and Kevin's good friend-turned-quasi-romantic-interest-turned-what-are-you-thinking-we're-just-friends, Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison). While there were some moments of misdirection, once Kevin saw Sophie arrive at the wedding — minus her formal clothes, lost by the airline, and minus her husband, as Kevin would later come to learn — it was all over. Or, should we say, just beginning again.

Kevin and Sophie's connection did hit a wee bit of a snag that night in his hotel room. As they were, um, re-familiarizing themselves with each other, she suddenly second-guessed everything, worried that he was in love with a past version of her, and bailed out of the room. A Hail Mary conversation with Cassidy set him straight again, while Sophie listened to an impactful speech from Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who even in an episode of dementia had some wise words to dispense. And so this childhood couple found their way back to each other (again), with Sophie challenging Kevin to love her for who she is now, not then. But speaking of then, Kevin went all final-act rom-com and produced a weathered grade-school valentine to Sophie from the recesses of his wallet.

Let's throw on a Buffalo Bills world champions T-shirt and fresh drawers, walk the other way when drunk Oliver approaches, try not to think of what Nicky and Edie are going to do with all that ice, and cordially invite This Is Us story editor Danielle Bauman (who wrote "The Night Before the Wedding") to take us inside the Return of Kevin and Sophie.

Katie Lowes, Justin Hartley, Alexandra Breckenridge, and Jennifer Morrison on 'This Is Us'
Kevin (Justin Hartley) had quite a night with Arielle (Katie Lowes), Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge), and Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison)
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is it done? Has Kevin officially reached his romantic endgame with Sophie, or is there still a danger of this not working out in the next few episodes? There's not still danger, is there?

DANIELLE BAUMAN: I think we can rest easy.

How long have the writers known that Sophie would be the endgame? Was it one of those things where she was on a short list of candidates but the writers had flexibility to pivot if they wanted to?

I can speak for me and I can speak for the writers as a whole: For me, Sophie was always the endgame. For us as a whole, there was a push and pull. There was a short list. There were times where we were open to the idea that maybe Kevin is going fall for somebody else and that's okay. But just imagine that all these writers are Kevin's hardheaded libido, right? There were times when it was like, "Well, maybe it's Cassidy!' 'Maybe it's Madison!' 'Maybe it's someone totally different!'" The way that anyone is when they are on the search for their true love. You have moments of doubt and moments of confusion, and we as a group were on that journey with Kevin. But even though, yes, there was a short list, deep down most of us were gunning for Sophie. There were some outliers and there were some people that were like, "No, no, no," but I think deep down they knew that was the way it was going to go. We're all with Kevin on this journey.

When was the decision locked down? Did you all know by the flash-forward to the wedding at the end of season 5, or was it still left open a bit?

By then we really knew. We were a little wondering what could it be throughout season 5, and towards the end, we were like, "It's probably Sophie or bust." But again, I say this to the credit of Dan [Fogelman, the show's creator] and to the credit of the other writers, we're not a super stubborn bunch, so we were willing to be surprised by chemistry or just a feeling. It wasn't until we really got together for season 6 and we were like, "Yeah, it's definitive." And then there was, of course, "Let's all talk about it and feel it out." But end of season 5, beginning of season 6, we kind of knew in that gut instinct of like, "These two, for all their flaws and all their ups and downs, are meant for each other."

A romantic mystery played out in these two episodes. When you did the flash-forward to the wedding, did you know that it would be played as a big mystery comedy of who he was with, or was that something you found along the way?

We had a rough idea. We were placing things there and it was supposed to be like, "Let's toy with the idea." We knew it was going to be something that would be exciting for the audience and exciting for us to unravel. We were painting ourselves in this really fun corner of like, "Look, we're putting all this girl stuff here, and we're going to do something with it. Somebody's in Kevin's room!" And then we had fun with it.

What was the deciding factor in bringing Kevin and Sophie back together? On the plus side, they have history, they have chemistry, and many fans are in favor of this. On the minus side, they've tried to reunite before, and you already have key couples on the show with a long romantic history; Randall and Beth are college sweethearts, while Jack and Rebecca met in their 20s. How did those pros and cons play out in the writers' room?

Yeah, there definitely was the issue of "Not everybody ends up with their childhood sweetheart or their high school sweetheart." So that was a con. But then we looked at what we have, and we thought, "Well, we've got Madison and him. That's interesting." But it felt more exciting and interesting that these two people go on this journey together and they are co-parents. She says in episode 10, "I'll always be your emergency contact." They really do love each other and they're great co-parents, and they're not in love and that's okay. It never really felt for us that that was the endgame. There were moments where maybe it would've been, but we were like, "I just don't really feel it." And then with Cassidy, it was like, "Oh, this could also be something maybe, but ultimately can Kevin have a girl as a friend?" That might be more important to be able to show that. Every woman that he ever meets becomes his girlfriend. That was what we felt was a stronger way to go.

So if we're going through this short list, that con of "Well, they've known each other forever" became "But that's kind of the point?" The difference between Kevin and Sophie getting together versus Beth and Randall or Jack and Rebecca is that it doesn't work so many times. They are not right for each other many times. That's what makes it different — they've tried and failed, and they're willing to try again. A lot of people have that person that [you] sort of miss each other emotionally and maturity-wise and life-points-wise, and you wonder what could have been. And in this case, despite it being another from-youth-to-adult romance, it was exciting for us to be like, "Well, what if they finally were at the right moment?" It was less of a linear relationship, because it kept falling apart. When we're watching Justin and Alex playing those characters, [it] just sort of felt undeniable and unfair to say we won't give them another chance.

Alexandra Breckenridge and Justin Hartley on 'This Is Us'
Alexandra Breckenridge and Justin Hartley on 'This Is Us'
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Which is the point that Sophie makes to Kevin, when she says that this needs to be a new beginning and a different relationship than what they had before: You have to love me for who I am now and who we can be now.

These are two people that were never meant for each other before, but they're meant for each other now. I don't know, I'm a bit cynical about things like this normally, but I was always for Sophie, just hoping that Kevin would grow up and figure it out for her. So I like the fact that it was so messy until it wasn't.

Was Alex's availability a factor in your calculus? In the past you've wanted to have more of her in more show, but schedules have proven challenging and now she's busy with Virgin River. Was that tricky to get everything to line up?

It was tricky. We did have to work around her schedule, but it ended up working out because Virgin River would be ending production just as we would need her. We did have to work around it, but it's really great to have obstructions creatively. "Okay, we can only have her at these times and we're going to figure out the story that works for that." It's a fun challenge to have. We did have to work around it, and that was at times something that also forced us to re-examine these other women.

What were Justin and Alex's reactions when they were told Sophie and Kevin would end up together?

I know that Justin was excited and so good about it. I know that Alex was eager to come back to the show. I got to spend quite a bit of time with her in season 4 and I know she wanted to come back, so I'm sure it was very positive. I wasn't there when she got the news, so that would be more of a Dan question.

You must have talked about how the fans would respond. There's Team Sophie, Madison, Cassidy…

We knew that there were strong feelings for several different people, but it wasn't at the forefront of our minds. Because we were really just trying to figure out what was right for Kevin.

Kevin actually being content not winding up with anyone — that was an idea floated by Dan and Justin. Kevin, of course, has always been searching for a great love story like his parents had, but was that ever a consideration?

Yes, it was. I pitched an idea and it's kind of silly. I said, "What if the wedding ring he's wearing in the future is a prop ring that he had to wear and he's coming from a shoot?" And then I said, "Or maybe he's just married to himself! He just chose himself!" And Dan was like, "What are you talking about?" It was a very brief thing. More of a joke than anything else. We wanted him to find love. At the core of our writers' room, I think we all are hopeless romantics — even if some of us are a little more closeted about it. Speaking for myself. I am now being relentlessly teased for being engaged after having said that I think marriage is only useful for tax purposes, so…

Congrats on your tax break! Wait, does this now mean that there's hope for Kate and Toby? Not 20 years down the road — because we've seen them with the respected partners — but 40 years down the road, will you give fans that hope?

Um, you know what? I would say I plead the Fifth. I'm giving the fans nothing here.

Justin Hartley and Alexandra Breckenridge on 'This Is Us'
Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) heat up in the freezer aisle
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

After two episodes ago, which covered years of drama in a single episode, and last week's episode, which involved the wedding, the romantic mystery, Rebecca's lapses, and Miguel's stresses, this episode slowed down and let scenes breathe, such as the vineyard stroll. Was this a chance to catch up to the moment and take a breath before the final run of emotionally challenging episodes?

Totally. One hundred percent. We knew we were going through a lot of time and the audience was going to need to catch their breath. And so were we. We were also excited to live in this really happy moment of the wedding and everyone being together. Most of my favorite episodes are when the Big Three get to be together in real time and celebrate something. So it was exciting to do something so fun and lighthearted — and to see where people have landed and to live with them in a moment of joy.

Let's talk a bit about Rebecca's conversation with Sophie, when Sophie realizes that Rebecca still thinks they're 20, but she still gives her resonant advice. Last week, in mistaking Kevin for Jack, Rebecca said Kevin just needed time to figure it out. Given that these dementia scenes can be so brutal and heartbreaking, did you want to show a side of this where even if Rebecca is lost in time, it doesn't mean that she doesn't have timeless wise words to offer? 

Yeah. You just hit it on the head there. We're in this middle ground before Rebecca's really lost. One of the things we've explored with the Alzheimer's — and things that we've learned from experts — is that your relationships and your love for people, that's still there. And the people that are locked into in your mind from the past are still really strong. We felt that this was the case for Rebecca. Having been so intimately involved in their relationship in their youth, it would be something that she would, despite her struggles with her health, still have a strong memory of. And it's important to note that while they've grown and changed, their pattern never changed. Even though Rebecca thinks she's in 1998, that's still sort of what had kept happening.

I told a story in the writers' room about my grandmother, who was senile in a much older age. One of the last coherent conversations we had before she started to really lose her memory was about two guys I was dating. She, for the last seven years of her life, would say, "Are you still trying to decide between the two guys?" And it would be so funny because somehow the conversation and the advice that she would give me for that was still so resonant. So that was a theme that we were playing with, that she can still be helpful in this way and be wise this way, even though she thinks she's in another time. And as you said, some things are just timeless, and this love story, it is. That's another reason why we couldn't help it. They had to be together.

Kevin's conversation with Cassidy is an eyebrow-raiser. He finally reconnects with Sophie, but she freaks out and leaves the hotel room. Then after Uncle Nick's crazy speech, Cassidy's in his room, and he tries to give it a go with her and she shuts it down: "You're not my person, I'm not yours." For a guy who's supposedly found himself, he's so lost romantically. Sophie just left his room and now he's like, "I don't know. Cassidy, should we give this a go?" And she's like, "What are you doing, dude?"

I mean, Kevin's a bit of a puppy dog. We had a line in season 1 [about his playing] the golden retriever in a Pixar movie. He's grown and he's much better than he was there. He, at that moment, was looking with Nicky, was looking for some kind of help, some kind of advice, and he just takes it and goes, "All right, I guess I can try this." And in that moment, Cassidy knows that he doesn't really mean it. He's just sort of feeling lost in that moment.

Did you flesh out what Nicky says he and Edie are doing with the ice, before Kevin and Cassidy mercifully cut him off? And if so, do we definitely not want to know?

I will tell you that that was purely me writing the ice. And it's from a bachelorette party that you don't want to know about!

By the way, where aren't Randall and Beth's kids seen at this wedding? Were they absent for logistical reasons, such as COVID precaution? Was there a concern that it's five years into the future and these actors would look too young but it was too soon to use the older versions?

They're totally there, we just don't see them. For all the reasons.

Kevin says that he's always carried Sophie with her and shows her the valentine. How long has that valentine been in his wallet?

I think that's something that's been there for a long time. He loves to put things in his wallet: He put that baseball card in there. I'm sure he's got a motivational quote somewhere in there and a Chinese fortune. That's been Kevin's thing. Like his father, he likes to keep a little box of treasures, you know? Jack had a box. Well, Kevin has a wallet, so it's a little less bulky because he moves around a lot, up until the last few years of the show…

He's lucky that Madison never saw it.

That's part of the reason they weren't right for each other. Maybe he didn't always realize he had it. I have the one thing that goes from wallet to wallet that I'm like, "Oh, I can't get rid of this" — whether it's a movie theater ticket stub or a picture or something that I can't quite get rid of it. I think that's what this valentine was for him. He just kind of couldn't let go. 

Will viewers ever hear Sophie's "long story" about changing her phone number?

We won't be hearing that long story. If we did it would be a boring, exhausting tale of identity theft that forced Sophie to change her number and then send a mass email to friends and family beginning with the line "If you get an email from me saying I'm trapped in Bora Bora and I need 10 grand, it's not actually me! Also, here's my new phone number…"

How much will Sophie be in the final four episodes, including the finale?

She's around. She's now an integral part of the family. She's in the family for good now. I think we can rest easy knowing that she's not going anywhere — and that Kevin has finally grown up and is ready for her and she's ready for him. So we'll see them just enjoying each other.

Are there any surprises in store for Kevin and Sophie when the family is gathered at the new cabin in the future?

You'll have to watch and see what happens. If I told you there was a surprise, what would be the surprise in that?

What's one cryptic hint about what viewers can expect in next week's Miguel-centric episode?

"I don't know, but it's a good question. Ask me again later."

To read what Alexandra Breckenridge had to say about Sophie's choice, head over here.

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This Is Us - Season 3
This Is Us

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

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  • Tuesdays at 09:00 PM
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