SPOILER ALERT: This article includes details about tonight’s midseason finale of This Is Us.
It wouldn’t be a Pearson family Thanksgiving with joyous smiles, celebratory laughs and a shocking reveal that will annihilate all your emotions. As the NBC drama reaches its season 4 midpoint, we were treated to some heartbreaking news that will certainly alter the future of the Pearsons — specifically Rebecca (Mandy Moore). By the end of the episode, you may have been in tears or just frustrated that we have to wait for answers, but either way, it will stir the soul.
The episode titled “So, Long Marianne” follows the typical emotional time-traveling trajectory of a This Is Us episode and it filled with familial moments that range from the joyful to the downright devastating. As the Pearson family preps for Thanksgiving at Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) house, some loose ends are tied up and more are unraveled.
Kevin (Justin Hartley) introduces Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) to the Pearson family fold; Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) butt heads about Kate lying about baby Jack eating solid foods for the first time; Beth struggles with Deja’s (Lyric Ross) mom coming to Thanksgiving dinner; Tess (Eris Baker) looks to Kevin for advice about coming out; Randall bonds with Nicky on a road trip back to their old house to retrieve lost Thanksgiving decorations and in a flashback, we see how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and young Nicky (Michael Angarano) celebrated Thanksgiving in their dysfunctional family which involved five pounds of shrimp cocktail. Finally, Randall and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) attempt to reconcile after the last episode when he was worried about her health, well-being and general behavior — which is the pulse of the episode.
True to This Is Us fashion, problems get resolved but it doesn’t take long for other issues to sprout up. The family takes well to Nicky and he opens after waxing nostalgic about the fond Thanksgiving memories he had of Jack, presenting the family with the new tradition of serving five pounds of shrimp. Tess comes out on Instagram with the help of Kevin and Beth realizes that she is a good mother to Deja despite her insecurities. As for everyone else, Kate admits that she hates “Crossfit” Toby and just when she thinks she is getting over it, she reads a text on his phone from a woman from his Crossfit group that makes her question the integrity of their marriage.
The biggest reveal involved between Randall and Rebecca. After arguing before Thanksgiving dinner, Rebecca takes a walk to cool off and after she’s gone for a long period of time, the family wonders her whereabouts. Throughout the episode, we see that her memory is fading and she ends up at a restaurant feeling frantic and lost. By the end, we see her being driven back to the house in a police car — but when she arrives its not Randall’s house. In fact, it’s not even the same time period where we first started. Turns out those sneaky This Is Us writers pulled a fast one and brought us to two points in time in the last five minutes of the episode.
When we see Rebecca exit the police car, she’s at what seems to be Kevin’s house in the near future for the Big 3’s 40th birthday celebration. In this new point in time, Kevin has a pregnant fiancee (although we don’t see her) and he and Randall aren’t speaking.
In the present, Rebecca returns safely on her own to Randall’s house after everyone was worrying about her. She says everything is fine but in a private moment with Randall, she something is wrong and she needs to see a doctor…and that’s where the episode ends.
As usual, this midseason finale left us with a lot of questions so we asked show creator Dan Fogelman all about everything: What’s with Rebecca’s memory? Who is Kevin’s pregnant fiance in the future? Is it Cassidy? Will we see more of adult Jack? He divulged as much as he could — including some juicy teases — without revealing too much about what to expect at the end of this season.
DEADLINE: The big reveal was Rebecca’s heartbreaking memory decline. Has this always been a reveal that has been in the works and have you been leaving us bread crumbs?
DAN FOGELMAN: We haven’t definitively diagnosed anything yet. We are certainly in the early, early days and there’s a long journey ahead. There’s a definite plan in place that we have been working on very carefully in terms of whatever is going on with her.
We obviously play a lot with time on the show and at the end of this episode, we obviously jumped forward nine-ish months…ostensibly you’re getting a glimpse of where we are going to be in the season premiere.
DEADLINE: Will Jennifer Morrison return as Cassidy? And what can you divulge about her relationship with Kevin?
FOGELMAN: Honestly, I can’t talk about it a lot without giving too much away. I think it’s fair to say she’s played a gigantic part in Kevin’s story. This chapter has been one of the formative chapters in his life. Whether it’s the end of her journey on this show has yet to be determined, but no one really ever goes away forever on our show.
DEADLINE: Could she possibly be the mother of the Kevin’s child that we saw in that flash-forward?
FOGELMAN: We love the actor and Kevin’s character and there have been many people who have been in and out of his life romantically and friendship-wise that are all possible mother to his baby — it’s an answer that should be gotten by the end of this season.
DEADLINE: Speaking of, will we be get more flashforwards in the second half of season 4? We see adult Jack briefly in the episode, but can we expect to see more of him?
FOGELMAN: You’re definitely going to be seeing more of him. The premise of the show is to play in time and tell full story of this family generationally. While in the first three seasons we have often gone backwards we are also able to go forward a little bit. This episode did something new for the first time as we jumped forward almost a year — not a massive jump, but just a little jump into the future. So now you understand that the rest of our season will catch us up to the moments we see in flash-forwards at the beginning of next year. It’s our way of showing a full picture of a family three generations in time. We’re not scared to go backwards…but we’re not scared to go forward either.
DEADLINE: Was there a certain theme that you wanted to explore and unpack in this season that hasn’t already been fully explored in the previous seasons? There seems to be a deep-dive into parenting this season.
FOGELMAN: One of the things that we were excited about this season is the fact that the age of the Big 3 children during that 12-year-old period is similar to the age that Tess and Deja are at in Randall’s own family. You’ve also got Kate having a baby for the first time and you got Kevin talking about the possibility of becoming a father. So families, starting families and being at the midpoint in a family is very much in the air in all of our storylines.
In the first seasons of the show, it was easy for us to tell a present-day story and see how the childhood of the characters reflected on it. Now we are actually able to attach things thematically and say “This is not just a story of how Randall’s childhood as an adult, but its talking about the thematics of parenting that may have affected Jack and Rebecca as parents and now may affect Randall and Beth as parents.” That’s interesting to have in our tool belt.
DEADLINE: For this midseason finale, did you fit everything you wanted into this episode?
FOGELMAN: One of our challenges is that when we have a lot of stories to end or provide midpoints, is how to get that into 42 minutes of screen time which we are bound by. It was an exceptional script from one of our writers who has been there from the very beginning. K.J. Steinberg has taken a huge leadership role in our room. It was one of those scripts that when you read it, you were like, “This really does an incredible job of servicing all these characters and stories in one coherent and cohesive episode of television.”