This Is Us loves itself a slow burn mystery, but not this time.
Just two episodes after we learned that Jack's little brother not only survived the Vietnam war but is still alive, we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened there and how we got to Nicky living in secret in Pennsylvania. Now that Kevin and Zoe have his address and the knowledge that Jack had known his brother was still alive, the secrets are all going to come out.
"So next week, everything is going to be answered about Nicky," showrunner Isaac Aptaker told E! News. "We're going to tell exactly what happened with him and Jack, why Jack said he was dead when he wasn't, what everyone knew when... It's such a cool episode, and it has so many answers, and that's when people are going to be really satisfied."
"This is the opposite of a slow burn," he continued when we were honestly a little shocked. "This is exactly what happened, this is everything I need to know, a packed hour."
While Aptaker couldn't tell us what role Nicky will play on the show going forward, but he could say that what we'll learn about Nicky will put Jack into a whole new perspective.
"This explains a lot about Jack," Aptaker says. "I think after next week, it adds a whole layer to the character, and all of a sudden parts of him that were always shrouded in mystery or where you suspected there was some darkness or some untold history there but weren't quite sure what it was, all of a sudden that will make a lot more sense, so I think it really brings the character into focus in a really interesting way where all of a sudden, this amazing dad Jack and this little boy Jack and war Jack, all of them coalesce into one person after we learn this piece of the puzzle."
Tonight's episode was also heavily focused on the end of Randall's campaign for city council (in Pittsburgh, which is not where he lives) and his fight with Beth. Over the course of the seven weeks the story covered, they made up, but then there was the bombshell in the final moments of the episode: Randall won.
Now, what was a difficult campaign to get through becomes Randall's life, and he and Beth have to figure out how to make things work around it.
"In one sense, it's all he's wanted all season, and in another sense, it's a total surprise," Aptaker says. "Perhaps the last thing that his family and his marriage needs right now is for him to become a public persona, a political figure somewhere that's an hour and a half drive from his home."
Randall and Beth's facial expressions there as the news came in were pretty indicative of the fact that this is actually some terrifying news for the two of them, and Aptaker credits Brown and Watson's acting for conveying "a million thoughts racing through their head."
"It's just such a question mark of, how are we going to handle this?" he says. "And I think that's really what the next batch of episodes for that family are going to be about. We have a wife at a total crossroads in her career and figuring out what she wants to do for herself. We have a young girl who's just declared that she's questioning her sexuality, we have an adopted daughter who wants to reunite with her birth mother, and then now we have [Randall], who's just accepted this massive job in a career he's never worked in before, pretty far from home. So it's just going to be about how do they really try to maintain everything that's so special and amazing and close knit about their family while enduring quite a lot of obstacles."
Many fans have wondered about Randall and Beth in the future, when Beth, Randall, and Tess are all on their way to visit "Randall's mother" with a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, when Beth and Randall seem mysteriously icy towards each other, but it sounds like that mystery is very much a slow burn.
"We will be going back their this year, but not a ton," Aptaker said. "But not a ton, and I don't want to say when. ... But whenever we go there, the impact is significant."
While Randall and Beth are worrying, Aptaker says there's not much to worry about when it comes to the two other current couples, Kate and Toby and then Kevin and Zoe.
Kate and Toby spent the episode preparing for the baby, and Aptaker says they're in a "really good place."
"I think they're finally in a happy chapter of their marriage...a place where they're finally feeling optimistic about their pregnancy and excited to start a family. So not every storyline on our show can be fulled with strife and negativity."
Kevin and Zoe, while a much newer couple, are also in a pretty good place after working through some of their issues tonight and learning to communicate with each other, so really all we've got to worry about is Beth and Randall.
"You can only worry about one couple at a time," Aptaker joked.
We'd rather worry about no couple at all, but that would be a boring TV show apparently.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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