This Is Us Boss Sheds Light on the Latest Pearson Family Rift


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As to be expected, the Pearson family Thanksgiving in Season 4 of This Is Us was full of drama. Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) fight from the previous episode escalated in the fall finale before Rebecca finally admitted that she might need to see a doctor, though an ominous flash-forward revealed that things are going to get worse for the beloved matriarch.

The real jaw-dropping moment in the finale, though, came in the final sequence, when it was revealed that most of Rebecca’s exploits in the episode — getting lost on a playground, getting confused at a grocery store, and at a Chinese restaurant — actually take place nine months in the future, on the Big Three’s 40th birthday. The police bring her back to the family cabin where Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Kate (Chrissy Metz), along with Miguel (Jon Huertas), are waiting for her. Once Rebecca arrives, the audience finds out that at least part of the family isn’t speaking to Randall and Kevin is not only engaged, but his fiancée is also pregnant.

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It should also be noted that baby Jack and Toby (Chris Sullivan) are also missing from the birthday celebrations. That doesn’t bode well for them considering Kate and Toby left Thanksgiving in a very precarious place after Avocadogate and Kate discovering that Toby has been venting about her to his crossfit group text.

TV Guide hopped on the phone with This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker to talk about these big revelations and what they mean for the Pearsons in the second half of the season.

Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, <em>This Is Us</em>Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, This Is Us

Is the whole family not talking to Randall or is it just Kevin?
Isaac Aptaker: That’s just a rift between the brothers, between Kevin and Randall.

Do you think that fans will be more Team Kevin or Team Randall in whatever this argument is?
Aptaker: We always try to come at things from everyone’s point of view. This show is at its best when we live in that grey area and people are really split, when you can see from everyone’s side. When Beth and Randall were having their marital issues last year, we really tried to get inside both of the characters’ heads where no one was completely right and no one was completely wrong. It is always my hope that when we have two characters in conflict that we have everyone divided on who is right and who is wrong.

We also find out that Kevin is not only engaged, but that his fiancée is pregnant. Is the engagement a by-product of that engagement?
Aptaker: People get engaged or pregnant in all orders, for all sorts of reasons. So who knows?

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Eight months is a quick timeframe to meet someone and get engaged. How safe is it to say that we’ve met this woman before?
Aptaker: Perhaps — or not. [On this show] we meet new wonderful people all the time!

Have we seen the last of Jennifer Morrison this season?
Aptaker: I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t want to ruin anything.

How much of that love story are we going to get to see in the back half of the season? Or is it something we’ll have to wait longer to see develop?
Aptaker: We have started every season so far with the Big Three’s birthday in the present day. That cabin sequence that Rebecca arrives into is their 40th birthday, so that would suggest that’s where we’re going to start Season 5. People won’t have to wait too long for answers in the flash-forwards. That’s coming up right away at the top of next season.

How much should we read into the fact that Jack and Toby are not seen at the 40th birthday party?
Aptaker: Everything that we do with these flash-forwards is intentional and a choice. We are revealing exactly what we are ready to reveal. I think that people should think whatever they want to think about that, but we left Kate and Toby in our midseason finale in a bit of a precarious place. She’s found this text message on his phone where he’s been complaining about her and their marriage and a female has sort of responded… That’s an upsetting thing for Kate to find and an upsetting thing for our audience to see. People should draw their own conclusions there.

What are Kate’s immediate next steps after she sees that text message?
Aptaker: That’s a scary moment for anyone in a marriage, to find out that your husband has been venting about you behind your back to his group of friends. Not only that, but the person who is weighing in there, her name is “Lady Kryptonite.”…I think that is not a good feeling for Kate. She’s going to have to figure out what to do with that and how to confront Toby about those texts.

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One thing we didn’t really get to see in this episode was Nicky and Rebecca getting closer, even though we know he’s at her bedside 12 years in the future. Will the back half of the season start to show that relationship develop?
Aptaker: That is something that is a bigger picture story for the show. They obviously do form a relationship because he’s at her bedside, but that is more big picture. We are starting to see the seeds of this sort of new and improved Nicky. Presumably at Thanksgiving when Rebecca gets home, obviously it’s off camera and it’s not in the show, but you can imagine that those two have a more positive interaction now that he’s in a better place over the course of this Thanksgiving. He’s beginning to cement himself in the family in this more positive way.

This latest flash-forward introduces yet another timeline. Can you break down how the time is going to be split between those stories in the back half of the season?
Aptaker: We always try to pop in to all of our timelines because we love all of our actors and we want to give them all a chance to tell stories. We are going to be spending a lot of time with the 13-year-olds. Those actors are just so exciting this year. It’s such an interesting time of life to watch people begin to make that transition from kid into teenager. That’s been a really fun one for us as writers and we’re going to be there a bunch.

When the first episode airs in 2020, how much time will have passed for the Pearsons since Thanksgiving?
Aptaker: It’s pretty much in line with the calendar, so it’s roughly January when we come back.

Is anyone happy in the back half of the season?
Aptaker: Is anyone happy? That should be the tagline of this show. Kevin is kind of leaving the middle of the season in an OK place. He’s put the pieces of his uncle back together. He’s left Cassidy and his work in Bradford is done and he left everyone in a better place than when he got there. Now he’s telling Randall that he’s ready to start figuring out his own romantic family life and is excited to do that. I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom for Kevin right now.

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A lot of people have really fallen for Deja and Malik this season. We didn’t get anything of them together in the Thanksgiving episode, so can you tease what’s next for them in 2020?
Aptaker: They’re going to continue to have this teen, high school love story. They’ve gotten through the immediate hurdle of getting their parents on board with each other. Now they’ll continue on trying to have this first love. We have Omar Epps back for an episode where he has a storyline with Randall coming up that we’re very excited about. It’s early in the back half of the season. Those two men get to interact again about something that isn’t necessarily related to their kids’ romance.

How would you describe the back half of the season in three words?
Aptaker: I would call it sweeping, emotional, and exciting.

This Is Us returns Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 9/8c on NBC.

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