Ron Batzdorff/NBC
TV Show
November 07, 2017 at 10:00 PM EST

Young William says he’s the most disappointed man you’ve ever met. But speaking of disappointment, Kevin’s up there, too.
I know, right? Great transition!

He is in a spiral of self-loathing, going so far as to sabotage his relationship with Sophie. “I’m saving 40 years of disappointment with me,” he told her. At some point, Jack tried to stop stuffing his feelings down and open up to Rebecca and to get help. How close are the floodgates to opening for Kevin? Have we hit rock bottom yet?
Yes, we are very, very close to rock bottom with him. These painkillers, he’s fallen in love with them because they allow him not to feel, and that’s episode 3 with Kate when Sylvester Stallone started to crack him open and he’s so, so scared of that, so he’s just running in the complete opposite direction by numbing himself. But he’s realizing that it’s starting to have a pretty intense impact on the relationships in his life. He’s just able to hide it from Kate in that scene. If he stayed there much longer, she would have realized something is up. And now with Sophie, this is really his way of saying, “I’ve already ruined your life once. I cheated on you and got divorced, and it took you a long time to bounce back from that again. And I can’t do that to you again.” And I so love in Justin’s performance there, you can tell he’s setting her free, and all you want him to do — and all he wants to do — is admit to her that he has a problem. But he can’t bear to bring her down into his spiral with him and mess up her life yet again. So he’s setting her free by breaking her heart, and it’s really painful.

She’s a nurse! He’s sweaty and erratic. Why isn’t she recognizing the signs of addiction here?
[Laughs.] I know! He took a red-eye and he’s been running around the city all day, and I think she can definitely sense that he’s off, but in that short interaction, where clearly he’s going through something, I don’t think she’s jumping to the place of, “Oh, you’re addicted to pills!” There’s a lot of extenuating circumstances there for why he’s acting so weird. And honestly, I do think she thinks that he’s potentially drunk in that scene. The last time she saw him, he went on a little bit of tear at her benefit.

Meanwhile, Randall is perhaps uniquely qualified to see both sides of the parenting coin, having benefitted from two people who stepped in when his biological father couldn’t do the job, but he also experienced the value of a connection with a biological child when he reconnected with William. As he says, “I think about William missing me, needing me.” Twenty-five percent of foster care situations have a goal of adoption. Did Randall and Beth perhaps fast-forward prematurely to that outcome because of Randall’s history?
Right. And also because of the connection. She hasn’t been there that long, but they’ve been through a lot with this girl. They’ve had some really loaded moments and they’re falling for her, and it’s scary to think that there’s this other person out there who she’s lived with for 12 years who wants her back. … He’s someone who all of last year struggled with not knowing his biological father, and now here he is in a situation where all of the sudden, he’s trying to decide whether to allow contact between Deja and her biological mother. And what’s so interesting to us and complicated about the foster-to-adopt system, and we had speakers come in when we were plotting out the season to talk to us, is the goal is reunification with the birth parents. So you have families opening their homes to foster kids and falling in love with them, but at the end of the day, that thing you’re trying to achieve is the birth parent completing their treatment plan and being able to regain custody of their child. So it’s just a really, really difficult position for Randall and Beth to be in, and they are all over the map in this episode. First, Beth is the more mature one and then she gets really fiery, and then Randall comes around, and I think that just speaks to how complicated this situation is when you’re entrusted with the responsibility of a young girl.

By giving Shauna his number to set up the call for Deja, did Randall just change their M.O. with Deja? He’s more open to facilitating a connection between them than he was at the beginning of the episode.
Yeah, I think he’s taking a half-step toward that…. He’s willing to allow contact and realizes: Who is he to prevent these two people from communicating? But I don’t think he’s necessarily ready to say that Shawna is a fit parent for Deja.

Toby and Kate have decided against a courthouse marriage and Toby wants to do it right for Kate, which included asking Jack’s ashes for its blessing. Can we expect to see a wedding later this season? Is that something you can commit to?
I can’t commit to later this season, but I can definitely commit to giving people a really big, satisfying Pearson wedding. The back half of the season will start to really build momentum and head toward that.

The urn is totally going to be at the wedding, walking her down the aisle, isn’t it?
[Laughs.] That’s something we talk about all the time! Can we do a father-daughter dance with an urn? Whether or not it’s through the urn, Jack will definitely be a huge part of this wedding.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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