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Break out the tissues, NBC’s freshman phenom This Is Us has another standalone episode coming Tuesday and it’s going to rate a level 10 on the tear scale.
When viewers last left Randall (Sterling K. Brown), he wasn’t in the greatest place. With pressure at work mounting, the worsening condition of his newfound biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), weighing on him and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) having to go out of state to help her injured mother, Randall’s anxiety got the best of him during last week’s “Jack Pearson’s Son.”
In the hour’s closing moments, it was Kevin (Justin Hartley) who found his brother curled up in the corner of his office, unable to properly breathe or focus.
When the Dan Fogelman-created family drama returns Tuesday, nearly a week will have passed since Randall’s scary incident, and he now will be ready to prioritize his remaining time with William rather than compete for accounts at the office.
“He had to step away from work; he felt there was a lot of pressure coming with regards to Sanjay (Hari Dhillon) stepping in. And I think he just had to remove himself from that situation in totality in order to focus on what was important, which was his own health,” Brown tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He also recognizes that he only has a limited amount of time with William remaining. He doesn’t know exactly how long, but he knows it’s limited. And so he needs to take advantage of that time while he can.”
The result is another standalone episode, which finds Randall and William hitting the road to visit Memphis for a tour of where William grew up. The previous bottle episode of the series, “The Big Day,” aired in January and went back in time to focus on Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) and the day The Big Three were born. “Memphis” travels back even further, to the early 1940s and William’s birth.
The episode features the introduction of several new characters, including William’s cousin Ricky (Atlanta breakout Brian Tyree Henry), and the return of Jermel Nakia as young William. It also has a strong musical influence and includes an original song written specifically for the series.
To hear Brown tell it, the episode is a chance for Randall to meet some of his extended biological family and understand his past as well as share several father-son bonding moments and light touches of humor.
“Randall doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who is prone to taking many vacations. He probably has to take one a year with the family or whatnot, but taking sick days so to speak is not his speed,” Brown says. “But he recognized it was important and when he was able to clear his headspace and have some time alone with his father he recognized what his priority was, and that’s spending time with this man that he brought into his life.”
“Memphis” marks the third-to-last episode of the show’s breakout freshman season, and its second standalone episode. Digging into fringe characters and their pasts is a format that creator Fogelman tells THR was part of the show’s original appeal for him, and something he plans on implementing more of during the recently announced second and third seasons.
“If we think we can do it well we’re going to do it. It’s always been part of what I thought would be interesting about the show,” he says. “We have this unbelievable ensemble and any single one of them or two of them can take over an entire episode. It’s a good way of keeping the audience on its toes and making sure things don’t get stale.”
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC. Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below and come back to THR’s The Live Feed after the episode for more on the big episode.
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