Warning: This story contains plot details from Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, “The Last Seven Weeks.”
The numbers were there after all! In a political upset for the ages — or at least one that will be talked about in a small pocket of fictional Philadelphia for a while — Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) overcame tremendous odds to triumph over incumbent Sol Brown (Rob Morgan) and become the 12th District’s new city councilman, though more important, he’d recently become a husband who did not have to sleep on the couch anymore.
In the winter premiere of This Is Us, titled “The Last Seven Weeks,” the perfectionist sibling in the Big Three verbally sparred with his wife, Beth, about his diminished role in the family. (Her: “You cannot audiobook your way through our daughter’s life”; Him: “You’re mad that I have something I care about and you don’t.”) Later, he received some handy deathbed-smile-test advice from Rev. Hawley (James Moses Black) and reflected on his heart-to-hearts with his now-deceased father, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), which reinforced to him that family was paramount, as was focusing on the One Who Brings Out All Your Good Stuff. And then viewers watched Randall pass up a sure-fire, low-road way to win the election, apologize to his family for not prioritizing them, and offer to drop out of the race, only to have the MVP named Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) redouble the efforts to help him finish strong in the election, which he more than did.
Elsewhere in the episode: Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) unsuccessfully tried to buy back Toby’s Star Wars figurine collection from a college dude but successfully built a nursery for their impending baby boy; Beth’s cousin Zoe (Melanie Liburd) moved past her fears and trauma so she could move in with Kevin (Justin Hartley); and Kevin decoded a postcard from Bradford, Penn., that was sent to Jack seemingly from his not-so-dead brother, Nicky. Let’s throw our Stamos keychain on the table, grab a glass of Chardonnay, dig into a slice of boo-berry pie, outbid someone on eBay for Chewbecca stuff, and catch up with the man who often winds up victorious on awards show stages — and who ended this episode by uttering “I won” in semi-disbelief — Sterling K. Brown.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congrats on that shocking win. So, what does this mean for the family? It’s a two-hour commute each way to the district, and Randall is only going to have step up his game from here.
STERLING K. BROWN: It means that big decisions have to be made for the family. Randall, in his zealous naiveté, he wants to be of service, he wants to help, and that’s the only thing that matters to him in the beginning. He sees a district that’s being underserved and he feels that he can do a better job, so he runs, not taking into full consideration the level of upheaval that it may cause to his own personal life. And there is personal upheaval that ensues… and that’s all I can say about that. [Laughs]
Sol doesn’t just fade gracefully into the background, does he?
I’m not 100-percent sure what the transition of power looks like, and whether or not he fades to the back graciously or something antithetical to that. That’s a good question for me to ask; I should go to the writers’ room and find out.
At the end of the episode, Randall tells Beth, “I won.” Couldn’t you also see him saying that same line if he lost, just that he was referring to his lot in life and the fact that he won his family back?
That’s really good, man! I could. It’s interesting because we shot that ending a few different ways. And I’m not even exactly sure what the tone is in the one [that aired], because it may have changed. We shot it with Randall happy, we shot it with Randall shocked, we shot it with Randall sort of betwixt and between, like, “This is good, right?”… There was no losing, to your point. There would have been the winning of the election and the time invested in seeing something through, or there would have been a return to being with his family, which he was beginning to lament throughout the course of the episode. And I have to say before you even ask the question because I anticipate it: My favorite scene is Beth and Randall in the bedroom when she decides to tell him, “You are the man that I married. You are a great man, and you have to see that.” Just gorgeous. I think Susan Kelechi Watson is absolutely destroying it this year, and she’s the best scene partner a brother could ask for.
She’s fantastic. But I’m also wondering: Was part of Beth’s turnaround perhaps her thinking that he probably wouldn’t pull it out and she just needed to help him through these last few weeks of the election?
Right. We’ve said that from the beginning that Beth and Randall go through some things from the onset of the season, and now we’re about to get into the nitty-gritty of it all. [Laughs] Randall actually winning the election is a launching point for them trying to figure, “Okay, what does our marriage look like now? You traveling back and forth four hours a day. Me, Beth, alone with the kids, me trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my life” — because she’s got a bit of a hole inside of her that she’s looking to fill — and how all of these things add up to one of those marital disputes that we all know and recognize but definitely do not love.
They seem to close the gap of their divide in this episode, to some extent, but you’re saying that they’re not out of the woods yet, correct?
I’m saying they close the gap. They get on the same page. She supports him like she always does, but the question of “What next?” looms heavily.
After some clashing between Randall and Beth, this episode ultimately released some tension and anxiety for fans who worried that they were on the downward spiral toward divorce. You know that if these two were ever broken up, fans would show up with pitchforks outside the This Is Us writers’ room. What were you hearing from fans over the hiatus — and were you ever worried for Randall and Beth?
Immediately after the airing of [the fall finale], people were like, “If Randall and Beth don’t make it, I’m done.” My sister texted me and she goes, “Hey, Sterling. Another great episode. Please tell the writers not to break up Randall and Beth. That would be an absolute wrong turn.” [Laughs] Like, in the most polite terms possible. I had watched the episode before Sue, so she watched it live, and she was on Twitter, and she’s like, “The fans ain’t having it. They don’t like it. They’re upset.” Even my wife was like, “Oh, goodness. Are you serious? Are Randall and Beth not going to make it?” She said, “If Lucious and Cookie are together, and Randall and Beth can’t go through this? You better get it together!” It evoked a very severe response. There was no lukewarmness with regards to what happens to the future with Randall and Beth. Which I’m touched by. I’m happy that the fans are as invested in our union as we are invested in our union.
Kevin made progress in his search for answers about Jack by confirming that his uncle didn’t die in Vietnam, and might even be alive. This seems to be a family reunion not to be missed. What should we be bracing for when the Big Three — and Rebecca — come face to face with Nicky [the older version played by Griffin Dunne]? How damaged from the war and isolation is Nicky?
Boy, it’s nothing that we could have ever anticipated. You find out these things about your father who you put up on a pedestal. And then you come to find out that the brother that he’s referred to his entire life, that he said passed away in the war, may actually be alive. And so there’s a real questioning of like, “How much did you know about this person?” And that he purposely didn’t share the beginning of his life, or his life up to a certain point, with his children in the way that they could understand, or that they felt illuminated. He kept them in the dark. We will find out what exactly is the reason why he was so private about what transpired in the war.
Finally, what’s your one-sentence tease for next week’s episode?
The Big Three go on a journey of self-discovery that leaves them with more questions than answers.