This Is Us wasted no time getting back to the jaw-dropping moments it does so well in its mid-season premiere. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
After a very poignant Thanksgiving episode that saw Rebecca’s memory troubles worsen, the series picked up with the Pearsons celebrating Christmas and New Years with mixed results.
In the episode—titled “Light and Shadows”—Kate blasts Toby for talking about her to Lady Kryptonite and his CrossFit group over text message. Toby stammers but says he and Kate were in a weird place, so he had to vent. He apologizes and says he and Lady Kryptonite—whose real name is Cara—aren’t close. “I promise you have nothing to worry about,” he says. “I wouldn’t look you in the eye and lie to you.”
OK, so maybe Toby wouldn’t look Kate in the eye and lie to her, but it turns out he would almost certainly keep information from her. In fact, Lady Kryptonite made a move on Toby, but instead of telling Kate, he just switched gyms to avoid her. (Insert face palm here.) Kate wants to know why Toby didn’t come clean earlier, and he says because there was nothing to worry about. (Toby, do better.) Kate says she’s feeling her husband pull away, and he confides that it’s because he can’t look at baby Jack without feeling sad. “Sad that he’ll never see the ocean, or never know what it will be like to watch Star Wars,” he reveals. So he pushes himself to the extreme at the gym and vents to other people so he doesn’t bring down Kate.
They end up having an honest heart-to-heart, but Kate can’t help but feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Still, they get a moment of relief when baby Jack reaches for the palm-tree party lights after Toby’s Jimmy Buffet-themed surprise birthday party, indicating he can differentiate between light and dark. Toby is thrilled, but according to executive producer and showrunner Isaac Aptaker, the happiness of the moment won’t last. More on that later.
Kevin—newly single (although was he ever really with Cassidy?)—hires a matchmaker, but after three failed dates, gives up. It’ll happen when it happens, he says. Cut to a meet-cute with Lizzy (hi Sophia Bush!), who seems pretty damn perfect until it’s revealed she’s married, and Kevin Pearson was her free pass. (Insert face palm. Again.) On the positive side, we get a private concert from John Legend, and see Justin Hartley in ultra-romantic mode. Oh, and just when Kevin gives up on romance—again—Sophie calls. (Yes, as in Sophie, his ex-wife who is supposedly engaged to someone else).
Meanwhile, Randall flies out to Los Angeles after sending 47 emails to get Rebecca into a last-minute appointment with one of the best doctors to help diagnose her memory problems. Miguel is still reluctant to believe anything is wrong with his wife, but when the results of Rebecca’s memory and spacial tests are analyzed, it’s clear he can’t deny her new reality anymore. While it’s too early to assign an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the doctor tells Rebecca, Miguel and, Randall that she has inconsistencies with spacing and numbers and trouble remembering phrases. Rebecca begs Randall not to tell his siblings until they know more.
Randall returns home to Philadelphia, and checks in on a sleeping Beth and the kids before going downstairs to get a glass of water. He turns the corner and sees a man standing in his kitchen holding a knife. And as if the wind was just knocked out of us, the episode ends.
Overwhelming, right? That’s why we got on the phone with executive producer and co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker to help us break it down, and hopefully calm our nerves. Read on.
Glamour: How prepared are you for the onslaught of fans worried for Randall?
Isaac Aptaker: I don’t know. [Laughs] We’re never quite prepared, but we sort of knew what we were getting when we had our beloved family man face to face with an intruder holding a knife in his kitchen, so yeah, I think we’re as prepared as we can be!
Did you ever think about having this episode be the fall finale? Because talk about a cliffhanger.
IA: No, I think that would be a little too long to wait [to find out what happens] to someone in mortal danger. We never want to be cruel, so I think a week is the perfect amount of time.
How soon into the next episode will we find out what happens with Randall and this man in his house?
IA: It’s not going to be a waiting game. This is our most to-be-continued direct pick-up that we’ve ever done, so we’re going to jump back in next week right where we left off and find out what happens to Randall. And we’re launching into a trilogy of episodes [starting next week], which we haven’t done since season two, where the next three episodes will be about a different sibling, following them over the same week in time. So Randall is first up, and we’ll see right away what happens to him and that intruder.
Sterling K. Brown said we will examine more of Randall’s struggle to maintain his mental health, but obviously a situation like this—no matter what the outcome is—won’t help. What more can you say?
IA: I think that intruder is coming into his house at a time where Randall’s plate and brain are so fully loaded, on top of having the crazy job and what’s going on in his immediate family, he now has Rebecca and her well-being and he takes that so seriously. That L.A. trip is so important to him. He’s returning home from Los Angeles after having gotten this really confusing and ambiguous, but not positive, news about his mom. And then this is just the last thing he needs on his plate, this very physical menace.
Switching gears, let’s talk about Kate and Toby. Will we meet Cara, otherwise known as Lady Krptonite?
IA: Maybe! I don’t want to give anything away, but I know that’s something people are eager to find out who is this woman.
Is she still a threat? It seems like Toby has done his best to distance himself from her, but obviously she sounds very into him.
IA: Yeah, I’d like to think we should believe Toby. He’s a trustworthy guy and he really loves Kate. That said, there’s always that lingering doubt and a little bit of trust issues that something like that brings up—when you find out that your partner is talking about you behind your back to a group of people, including this woman, who is eager to rush to his aid.
At the end of the episode, Toby is elated that Jack responds to the lights and can tell the difference between between light and dark. Things seem stable for him and Kate, so is this the end of their immediate troubles for now, or will something else arise?
IA: No, I think it’s the start of much bigger problems. Toby did the exact right thing that you would do when someone crosses a line and things go from a friendship into potentially a romantic relationship: he told Kate about it. But then it immediately segues into a much bigger problem, which is the deeper-seeded reason for why she felt this distance from him. And that is he’s just having this incredible inability to feel joy when he looks at his son. All he can see are the downsides of Jack’s blindness, and he’s having such a hard time buying into what it means to be the parent of a blind child, whereas Kate is all in and determined to give this baby the absolute best life that he can have. So there’s this fundamental disconnect in their parenting styles. At the end of episode, Kate’s realizing that Toby is so excited by this little glimmer of hope for Jack’s sight that he’s really only able to feel joy when he believes that there’s a possibility his son is going to have vision, and Kate knows that’s not the case.
Let’s talk about Kevin and the exciting new romance he seemed to have embarked on with Lizzy, only to find out she’s married. Is this the last we’ve seen of Sophia Bush as Lizzy, or might she be back?
IA: She might be back. We’re huge Sophia Bush fans, and she’s on our other show we’re doing for Disney Plus. She’s doing an arc there, and we’re just charmed and enamored by her performance that we asked, “Hey, do you want to do our other show, too?” And luckily it was a pretty good ask. It was, “Hey, do you want to come to the Hollywood Bowl and watch John Legend sing and be kissed by Justin Hartley?” It wasn’t like we were asking her to do manual labor. We were lucky she agreed! But they have such great chemistry together. That said, what a devastating end to a seemingly perfect love story where she reveals that she’s married. So it seems like there’s some immediate obstacles to them ever being together in a real way.
Later that night, Sophie pops up on Kevin’s caller ID, which is so interesting. Will we find out what’s up with that in the upcoming episode centered on Kevin?
IA: Yeah, exactly. Sort of all of our cliffhangers in this episode will be answered in the trilogy episodes. With Randall, it’s who is this man in his house and what plays out there. For Kevin, it’s what is that Sophie phone call about? And for Kate and Toby, it’s how does she deal with this very scary bomb he’s just dropped on their relationship and their family?
My theory about Sophie is that she heard what Kevin did for Lizzy with John Legend, and wants the same but with Billy Joel, since her fiancé is a big fan of his.
IA: [Laughs] She heard about John Legend instantly, and was like, “Wait a second! I put in my time…” Kevin got them front-row seats to Billy Joel, but it wasn’t quite a private concert at the Hollywood Bowl!
On a more somber note, let’s talk about Rebecca. I myself am going through the devastation of watching a family member live with dementia. Seeing the details in which you’re approaching Rebecca’s still-undiagnosed condition speaks to the importance of telling these stories on television. How are you approaching the minute details of her condition, and her overall storyline for the rest of season four?
IA: We’re just trying to be really accurate. So to the scene where Rebecca gets the diagnosis, we actually have this really wonderful neurologist, Dr. Shahed Toossi, who spent the entire day with us doing everything from actually filling out that memory test that Rebecca takes to making sure the clock was drawn sort of accurately for someone with Rebecca’s condition to talking us through the blocking of how a doctor would deliver news like that, that’s very loaded and emotional, to a family. It’s the kind of story where you don’t get immediate answers. It’s not like there’s a very simple blood test and they can give you an instant, definitive diagnosis to what’s going on. It’s much more of a watch and wait. It’s much more frustrating in flow. We know this is something that touches a lot of families and a lot of lives, and we’re just trying to tell a really honest version of the story.
When can we expect Kate and Kevin to find out, and how will that change things?
IA: I think that Rebecca is very mindful of her children and their different temperaments and when it will be best to deliver this news. For Kevin in particular, he isn’t even a year sober and is sort of fragile and has a tendency to be self-destructive when he gets hit with troubling information, so I think he’s the one she’s the most worried about telling. At the same time, Rebecca knows what it’s like to keep secrets certainly more than anyone else, and I don’t think she wants this to fester with just her, Miguel and Randall for too long.
And ironically, Randall is the one who doesn’t live in L.A. with her, whereas Kate and Kevin do.
IA: Right. She needs to be leaning on the people who are physically close to help her through this. It’s not realistic for overburdened Randall to hop on a cross country flight every time she has an appointment.
But it sure is sweet.
IA: They all love each other.
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