'This Is Us' EPs on Kevin's Bombshell, Deja & Malik and Randall vs. Carol
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 4, of This Is Us, "Flip a Coin"]
Oh, Kevin! While we're loving seeing how responsible and caring you've been in the present timeline this season on NBC's This Is Us, Tuesday's episode, "Flip A Coin," also reminded us of how you gave your mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), more than a few gray hairs with your bombshell announcements.
Yes, in the present Kevin (Justin Hartley) has been hanging out in Pennsylvania helping troubled war vet Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne). But now Kevin is also helping new recurring character Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison), and her own war PTSD has nearly caused her marriage to end. But is there more brewing between Kevin and Cassidy, even if their hearts aren't necessarily open at the moment? Hmm...
And what about Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan), whose lives have been very consumed with their blind infant son, Jack? And let's not forget the multiple timelines for Randall (Sterling K. Brown), his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Beth's oft-disapproving mother, Carol (Phylicia Rashad), which added more intel about that relationship while possibly reflecting on a new one that's just starting to blossom.
After this episode, I had many questions (a few of you probably did, too!) so I hopped on the phone with executive producers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger to get all the answers and find out what happens next.
I admit that I had forgotten that The Manny was even still out there but why was it important to bring it — and its cancellation – up now at this point for Kevin?
Isaac Aptaker: Early on in the show when he quit, it was such a big part of his storyline and we made up this lore that [actor] Morris Chestnut took over and they did a reboot and kept it on the air. When we were talking about Kevin and the intersection of his Hollywood life and his new small town Bradford, PA life with Nicky, it occurred to us that The Manny is this dangling thread that we've never really tied up. Presumably it's still on TV in this universe, so wouldn't it be interesting the show finally came to an end and Kevin, who thought he was so far past it, realizes that he actually has some unresolved feelings concerning his time there and how it changed the trajectory of really his entire life.
Elizabeth Berger: I think Kevin sees the pilot of The Manny was this real fork in the road where if it went [forward], there’s this door open towards fame and fortune and if it hadn't gone, he could have lived this whole other alternate simple life. That seemed to us like a really interesting thing to explore at a moment when he has stepped away from the fame and fortune and actually is finally getting to experience the sliding doors version of his life in this small town.
He’s been really patient with Uncle Nicky but is that due to keeping his own sobriety in check? Or is it bigger than that because it's family?
Berger: I think both. I think Kevin is obviously really searching for meaning, and he thinks getting close and having an impact on his father's brother, it would be an incredibly meaningful thing to do and use of his existence. He feels cosmically drawn to this man who is his blood relative. And I think having something to focus on can only help with his sobriety because his life is a little unstructured. Nicky is bringing sort of a daily purpose to his life where before this, it was somewhat lacking.
When it comes to Cassidy, I couldn’t help but notice when he’s talking (in the past) about finding a good woman, the show cuts to the present day where we see him with Cassidy. How much of that is a foreshadowing for those two characters?
Aptaker: I think it's open to interpretation but everything is intentional, so certainly cutting to her is no accident and it's perhaps asking the question, is this someone who maybe Kevin is meant to be with?
Kate and Toby have been very consumed with Baby Jack for obvious reasons but will we be spending more time on that since they also have some marital stuff they could be going through, too.
Berger: It is definitely going to keep going on but we are also going to be opening things up and playing other things as well. Obviously, like you said, this is a couple who has the baby but they also have a marriage to think about. They have jobs, they have outside lives, so hopefully we'll be touching a bit of all of it as the season progresses.
And I love seeing Tim Omundson on the show and how you’ve weaved Tim into their story.
Berger: Oh, thank you. Us too. We think he's doing such a fantastic job. We're thrilled to have him.
When going to the past and back to the present, as we do in the Randall storyline with his mother-in-law, Carol, how do you structure this show for yourselves. Do you look at the present timeline first, then see what in the past you can tie in or….?
Aptaker: It's a little different. We have our propulsive present day narratives that are driving the story from week to week. So there are certain things that the episode has to tackle by necessity of our serialized storyline. We usually start with those and then we decide which past time period we want to revisit and what's going to be the most resonant with what our present day characters are going through.
Now that Randall and Beth know that Malik has a child, it sure seems like a reflection of how Carol wasn’t too encouraging about Randall in the past when he and Beth first start seeing each other, right?
Aptaker: Yeah, we thought that was such an interesting story and it felt like a really, really natural and fun organic two stories to pair together. Randall and Beth having to come to terms with the first significant other one of their kids has brought home right up against what it was like for them when they were introducing each other to the parents.
Safe to say that the Malik and Deja story will continue?
Berger: It will definitely be continuing and we really can't wait for people to see this arc progress. Both Lyric and Asante are just so brilliant, and their chemistry together is unbelievable. So over here we are incredibly excited about what they're doing this season, and we can't wait for people to see.
We got to see Susan dance a little bit in the episode. Is that something you guys have been trying to get to since this whole dance studio opened this season?
Aptaker: Yes, always. Susan really is trained as a dancer. It's so funny because we did the ballet with her in her story last year, and that's the one type of dance that she isn't a total expert in. But she trained for that one, and Afro-Cuban is her absolute favorite and her specialty. So we were like, ‘next time you dance, Susan, we promise it will be something that you already know how to do.’ So we threw her a bone here. But yeah, she's terrific.
And then the big bombshell came at the end of the episode when Kevin announces via phone call very casually that he's married Sophie. Is that going to open up the Sophie can of worms again?
Aptaker: Oh, it'll definitely open up the 1990s Sophie again. We've had that as part of our lore since season one and we've been just waiting until we get to the point in time where Kevin does go off to New York and get married. That one's been in the works all the way since we introduced Alex Breckenridge way back when, and we just had to finally get there on the show.
So what’s coming in next week’s episode since this one teed up a lot!
Aptaker: Next week we're going to directly pick up on that cliffhanger of Kevin leaving that voicemail and dive right into the fallout of Rebecca and Kate learning that he has gotten married at an incredibly young age and what that looks like.
I personally love that timeline right after Jack’s death because it’s such a raw, emotional time for everyone.
Berger: We do, too, and this upcoming week is very special and really fun for us right now. Obviously, all of our big three are fledgling - some of them more fledgling - with these dating and marriage situations, so we've never had those dynamics at play all at once. So there's some really fun stuff that we get to explore this season.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC