The newest episode of This Is Us didn’t end with any cliffhangers, but after last week’s episode we’re not sure we could’ve handled any more. From learning that Jack received his signature necklace from a woman in Vietnam to Beth losing her job and Kate’s pregnancy rollercoaster, we needed a bit of a break.
But that doesn’t mean there’s any less to worry about for the Pearson clan. Kevin and Zoe are off to Vietnam to uncover answers the entire family may not be ready for, an emotionally-exhausted Beth is about to embark on a new political venture with Randall, and Kate is grappling with the excitement and concern of her maybe-baby and Toby.
With a third of the season already behind us, executive producer and co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker called us after a nine-day shoot in Vietnam and gave the scoop on what happening next. Get ready.
Glamour: Let’s talk about the necklace that Jack gave Kevin as a teenager. Kevin knows that it was given to Jack by this woman in Vietnam, but that’s if the necklace even belonged to the woman in the first place, right?
Isaac Aptaker: Totally. Yeah, he’s making a little bit of a leap there.
Glamour: One of my theories is that Nicky was actually involved with this woman, and Nicky gave the necklace to her, but when Nicky dies, she gives it to Jack.
IA: Hmmm, very interesting. Yeah, I mean, anything is possible. So far all we know is what Kevin knows, which is that this necklace was very important to his father, and eventually bequeathed to him is on this woman’s neck, and it’s very mysterious and opens up quite a lot of questions. So Kevin is determined more than ever to get some answers.
Glamour: When are we going to see this woman next?
IA: We’re sort of…at the end of the episode, as you see, we’re sort of fully launched into this story, so we’re going to pick right back up with Zoe and Kevin going to Vietnam in our next episode.
Glamour: Back in March, I floated the idea by you and Dan Fogelman that there could be a half Pearson sibling somewhere in Vietnam…
IA: Yeah, and I’m reading a bunch of that now out there. [Laughs] The Big Three-Point-Five, some website coined it. I thought that was cute. So yeah, that’s certainly going to be on Kevin’s mind, too, as he’s like, ‘Whoa, was my dad romantically involved with this necklace woman, and do I potentially have a half-Vietnamese Pearson [sibling] somewhere out there?’
Glamour: And see, back in March, Justin [Hartley] made me think I was crazy for raising the possibility of another sibling, and now it’s a possibility!
IA: [Laughs] It’s totally possible!
Glamour: You just returned from filming episodes in Vietnam. When will those episodes air?
IA: Man, they are so cool. Our first one is going to be the next one, episode seven, so we’re rushing to get those scenes done. We work weekends around here to get things done! [Laughs] That’s the first chapter of Zoe and Kevin in Vietnam, which we shot all around location in Vietnam. We shot scenes from a few episodes there, so [that] takes us up through the middle point of our season.
Glamour: At what point will Rebecca find out about all of this, and how will Kevin digging into Jack’s past affect her?
IA: She’s totally in the loop and he’s not secretly going to Vietnam. Everybody knows. I don’t think he’s like, ‘Hey mom, I think dad may have had a girlfriend over there,’ but she knows he’s off to get some answers. And certainly I think just like our Big Three, she has a lot of unanswered questions about her husband, but she’s also in a lot of ways I think come to peace with that. And having Kevin dig [into Jack’s past] and take these skeletons out of the closet is going to cause some upset as they have to re-examine the father and husband they thought they knew.
Glamour: Let’s move on to Kate and Toby’s baby, or maybe-baby as they call it. Tell me what was behind the decision to have this pregnancy take, considering the doctor cautioned her that she only had a 10% chance of IVF working.
IA: Yes, and so far [the pregnancy] works., but it’s still a long road ahead. We felt like we only have so many characters on our show and we’re trying to show a wide variety of experiences. We felt like even though it wasn’t IVF last year with Kate and Toby, we told the story of the heartbreak of losing a pregnancy, and the [10%] thing felt like it was enough of a chance that it wasn’t so crazy that we’d love to show when IVF does work and a pregnancy hopefully does make it.
Glamour: How many weeks along is Kate?
IA: Our writers assistant diligently keeps track of how many weeks along she is. I can’t tell you off the top of my head, but we have a chart in our timeline in our writers room to keep track of all of this. But it’s a fraught road: It’s a medically-complicated pregnancy because of a variety of factors, and it’s a high-risk pregnancy. She’s not at all out of the woods, and it’s wonderful the IVF did work and she’s pregnant, but there is a long, long road ahead and it is going to be a complicated one for Kate and Toby.
Glamour: Speaking of Toby, you really took your time in tonight’s episode to showcase what it’s like to battle depression…
IA: Depression is so common, and we’ve all either struggled with it or know someone in our lives who has, so it was so important to us to be honest and get this right, and it’s not a story where in one episode someone is depressed and in another episode they pop a pill and everything’s back to normal. It’s a process, and we wanted to depict that process. It’s a real challenge for Toby to get on the right dose and get back on his antidepressants and just sort of get back to the status quo of that guy that we know and love. And for Kate, this episode is so much about her struggle of how she can be the best partner to Toby as he goes through this. Does he need someone to push him? Does he need someone to say take all the time you need? This is all unchartered territory for Kate, too, and she’s trying to figure out the best way to support her husband.
Glamour: Let’s turn to Beth. Is stress purely the cause of what she’s going through right now having lost her job, or is there something else health-wise going on? That’s not to say stress can’t cause health issues, because it definitely can, but obviously fans are still worried Beth is the woman in question that Randall and Tess are going to see in the future.
IA: We never intended for this to feel like a story about Beth’s health and Beth being in jeopardy. [Instead] it’s what happens when this alpha professional shark of a woman, who’s worked at one company and really grown it for her entire career, has the rug ripped out from under her and is all of the sudden unemployed and what that does to your whole sense of self when so much of it is wrapped up in your professional identity. So we see this ripple effect that’s going through her whole personality and she snaps at her kids, which is so, so uncharacteristic of Beth.
Glamour: I’m worried about Beth and Randall’s income, since Randall obviously isn’t making money campaigning for public office, Beth lost her job, and now they have another kid in the house to take care of.
IA: [Laughs] Totally. It’s a fair question. Randall did very, very well at his previous job, and he’s only been out of that for a little over a year, so I think he built up quite a nest egg for them. Beth’s only been unemployed for a matter of weeks, and when you’re let go like that, you do get a severance, and then they also have William’s building, so they are also getting rental income from that property. You don’t have to worry about them yet, but it is something we’ve talked about as Randall embarks on this campaign. What is the financial strain that he’s putting on the family when no one has a 9 to 5 at the moment?
Glamour: Finally, let’s talk about Jack and Rebecca. Dan Fogelman originally teased this super romantic, Ghost-like scene this season that ended up being Jack doing the dishes and Rebecca helping him, but I thought tonight’s scene with the boxing gloves was way more romantic! Are we going to see more of that this season, especially in their courting period?
IA: Oh, totally! That’s our favorite stuff. The show can get so sad because we do take on so much, but we always want to find those moments of levity. And I agree—that one really snuck up on us. In the writing it just felt like a cute little scene, and then in editing when you see Mandy and Milo give it their all, you’re like, ‘Wow, this is really romantic!’ They are so good at playing that and we love giving them that type of stuff. Especially, like you said, when they’re in their twenties and falling in love. We’re diving back into that time period actually in a big way in the next new episode. They have a very romantic one coming up!
Glamour: Yes, milk that sexiness for all its worth! [Laughs] And finally, as we approach the halfway point in this season, what can you say about what’s to come?
IA: The next episode [airing on November 13] is one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever done, and I haven’t even seen the final cut yet cause we’re still editing in the Vietnam pieces. But it’s a really special episode. We’re going to dive back into Jack and Rebecca sort of right where we left them, which is deciding to go to Los Angeles, so it’s a road trip episode where Jack and Rebecca are heading to LA. We are picking up on Jack in Vietnam [also] on a road trip of sorts, and then Kevin and Zoe are not on a road trip, but they are on a much bigger trip as they begin their adventure and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. So there’s a ton of scope to it. We’re in L.A., and we’re in Vietnam in two different time periods, and you don’t see that a lot in one hour of television.