On this week’s episode of This Is Us, the Big Three have returned from their retreat at the Pearson family cabin to resume their daily lives and fix what was going wrong in their respective realities.
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) took the first step in addressing his mental health when he met with his therapist Dr. Leigh (Pamela Adlon) at her office, where the anxious Pearson sibling had a breakdown and subsequent breakthrough, thanks to wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). Audiences also learned that it was his father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) who introduced him to running as a way to deal with anxiety.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) embarked on a mother-son adventure to Joni Mitchell’s old house after she told him about her new “Carpe Diem Rebecca” mentality upon awaiting for her MRI results for her mild cognitive impairment, which they later find out could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The visit to the music icon’s home was extra special because Rebecca and Jack had failed to find the house during their road trip to L.A.
As for Kate (Chrissy Metz), her marriage to Toby (Chris Sullivan) appeared to be back on course after their weekend apart and Toby learning to adapt after confessing that his son’s blindness made him “sad.” Furthermore, Toby won her over with a grand romantic gesture of transforming their garage into a music studio. And in a heartwarming flash-forward, fans learned how that home studio was instrumental in their son’s life as a musician and successful singer.
The Big Three appear to be heading in positive directions, but longtime This Is Us viewers know that a twisty cliffhanger is usually just around the corner. Metz and Sullivan tell PEOPLE what’s to come in their characters’ relationship, with the actress also teasing why audiences haven’t seen the last of Kevin and Kate’s BFF Madison (Caitlin Thompson).
“I, as Chrissy, sympathize because Toby’s really trying to come to terms with Jack’s diagnosis. It’s still really hard for him. He really does mean well and has the biggest heart, but he’s going through a lot,” Metz says of her character questioning if Toby can be the father that Jack needs.
“The thing that doesn’t really get talked about a lot is that it’s not always a fairytale. It’s not always instant bonding and true love. It’s a huge change in people’s lives, bringing another person into the world,” says Sullivan, who is expecting his first child (a baby boy!) in July with wife Rachel. “People struggle with it and have a hard time comprehending what’s happening. But they’re also under the pressures of everyone around them who tell them how excited they must be or happy they have to be. There’s not a lot of room for people to express difficulties, fear, anxiety, depression and all of those things.”
Amid unchartered territories of parenting a child with special needs, Toby chose to show his appreciation for Kate with a grand gesture, which has become his signature move. “Toby’s love language is acts of service with grand gestures or quality time. It will obviously continue, it’s a big part of who he is,” Sullivan says. “He’s figuring out all the different ways to connect to the family, not just necessarily with baby Jack but for all of them to come together.”
“Him having this beautiful gesture is who he is at his essence. It was important for him to show Kate that he is in this,” Metz explains. Her TV husband hints that the home studio “sets up a lot of fun storylines down the road,” saying, “It was a really great way to connect all of their paths and planting a musical seed.”
But with relationship highs, there are inevitably low moments, too. “Everybody goes through ups and downs, ins and outs. Toby and Kate certainly come through this one and they’re figuring out how to work it out. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be hangups down the road,” Sullivan says.
“Every relationship, every marriage has ebbs and flows. We’re human, we’re having a human experience. We’re imperfect. He’s doing the best he can, as Kate is. He’s trying to make it right but there are twists and turns. What would a relationship be without them?” Metz echoes.
Speaking of the “ebbs and flows” of marriage, Metz and Sullivan reference how Toby’s depression has affected the relationship. “When he’s feeling good, he does these beautiful things. He has to get out of his own head sometimes,” Metz says.
“It’s just a matter of how mindful he is about addressing it and facing it head-on. Not avoiding it or try to go around it,” says Sullivan, who adds that Toby’s depression could “play a factor in the future.”
And just when Kate had a full plate already with her marriage, Rebecca’s ailing health and raising son Jack, her relationship with Madison was affected after Kevin and Madison slept together.
Although a brunch date seemed to smooth over Kate’s annoyance, it could just be short-term.
“We’re going to see more of what that means to Kate and how that might affect their friendship or relationship with Kevin. Of course, nothing is in vain on this show and there’s a reason why it’s unfolding. We’re going to be able to see that,” Metz shares, adding that she’s “excited” for fans to learn more.
“As humans we are imperfect and sometimes we make rash decisions for good or for worst. I’m excited about it, actually. It’s life on life’s terms, which means it’s not perfect. You celebrate the good and handle the not-so-great,” she says.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays (at 9 p.m.) on NBC.