You’ve had a week to mourn. (R.I.P., Jack.) And there will be more mourning to come. But right now, it’s time to enter the next stage of our grieving process and turn the page to the next chapter of the Pearson saga. Episode 6 of This Is Us, titled “Career Days” (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT, NBC), won’t be quite as heavy as “The Game Plan,” but it will raise issues of loss and potential for various family members.
“At this point in their lives, they want to explore different possibilities in their careers,” This Is Us executive producer/director Ken Olin tells EW. “They’re all dabbling in different things and trying to figure out what their next moves are. But they don’t know. It’s a little uncertain. It’s moving outside their comfort zones — whether they can and they can’t. That’s what so cool about this episode: ‘Can you take these risks? Do you want to take these risks?'”
“Transitions and decisions,” is how Milo Ventimiglia sums up the journey of Jack in this episode to EW. “Understanding that a simple decision is going to impact someone else’s transition.”
The episode flashbacks to 1988, and we come to see 8-year-old Randall’s (Lonnie Chavis) gifts coming to the surface — even if he doesn’t want them to — while adult Randall (Sterling K. Brown) tries to make peace with the career direction he took after his kids don’t seem interested in having him speak at Career Day at their school.
“Seeing Randall as an adult and how focused he is on numbers and how successful he’s been with his career — it’s something that Jack and Rebecca [Mandy Moore] started to notice,” says Ventimiglia. “It’s getting into the idea of how they’ve treated all the kids the same even though they’re incredibly different. Randall is different than Kate [Chrissy Metz], who is different than Kevin [Justin Hartley], who is different than Randall. It’s going to be the moment where you see the different direction that they’re going in.”
And Jack himself will have to make a key choice in his own career. “I think it comes down to responsibility,” says Ventimiglia. “Jack sees that he needs to provide for his family and not to say that he’s shaking hands with the devil, but he’s maybe putting aside a few of his wants so that he can provide. You know that old idea where there’s a puddle and you’re walking with someone and you lay your cape down so they’re not walking in the puddle? I think Jack’s the cape. He’s going to sacrifice for his family because he loves them.”
Meanwhile, Kevin (Justin Hartley) finds himself in unchartered waters with new Off-Broadway costar Olivia Maine (Janet Montgomery). “This new woman in his life is this sort of enigma; he can’t quite understand where she comes from,” Hartley tells EW. “He’s having trouble accessing his emotions in this play that they’re doing together, and so she decides to do a street-theatre thing with him, and put him in a real situation that’s going to draw these real emotions out of him, in hopes that it’ll translate to being able to have those emotions on stage. And it hits a little too close to home.”
As for Kate, she has a new job, and her new boss is… not another of Toby’s exes, thank the Lord and Terry Bradshaw. A woman named Marin (Jami Gertz) hires Kate (Chrissy Metz) to be an event coordinator. But Marin has also another job in mind for her — namely, dealing with her unruly daughter. “Kate is trying to figure out her life… she’s just hoping to have some normalcy after Kevin has moved to New York,” says Metz. “She does come to find out that she sees a lot of herself in this young kid.”
You can preview a scene with Kate and the new boss right here. Also, EW spoke with series creator Dan Fogelman, as well as cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, and Ron Cephas Jones, about last week’s revelation-stuffed episode, “The Game Plan.” Click on their names for those interviews. For more from the cast, watch their appearance at EW PopFest below.