This Is Us just revealed more details about the Pearson family's past and present.
In the post-election episode, titled "Changes," Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Madison (Caitlin Thompson) tried to figure out their "non-traditional" engagement as they learned more about each other and their pasts, including her struggle with bulimia and body weight changes during pregnancy.
Nearby, in San Pedro, California, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) — who appeared to be in a positive place in their relationship — took a big step in their adoption journey by meeting pregnant single mom Ellie (Annie Funke), with whom Kate quickly bonded over a shared love of Pittsburgh and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who closed in on his search for a Black therapist, and his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) dealt with the aftermath of their daughter Tess attempting to stand up to a teacher, an incident that stirred up what Beth described as "teen attitude."
Speaking of puberty, audiences were taken back to the past when the Big Three were teens. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and "cool mom" Rebecca (Mandy Moore) braced for their kids' hormonal changes. While Rebecca was there to support daughter Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak), who tried to get over her first crush Stewart, the matriarch may have been oblivious to son Randall (Lonnie Chavis) facing his first sense of racial consciousness, and Jack appeared to have missed son Kevin (Parker Bates) showing the first sign of a behavioral pattern.
Lastly, we can't forget the most intriguing twist of the episode: the introduction of a Vietnamese grandfather (Vien Hong) and his granddaughter (Brandilyn Cheah), who talked about his love for someone "very special" to him — the same person who inspired him to learn how to cook. Turns out, the mystery woman was Randall's biological mother, Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes)! At the end of the episode, an old photo showed the couple in a loving embrace. But viewers are still left with the question of whether or not Laurel is still alive in Randall's present timeline.
Like many fans stewing over that ending, we can't help but be like the curious young girl and ask many questions. Luckily, Sullivan spoke with PEOPLE and answered some inquiries about Kate and Toby and their adoption journey with Ellie.
PEOPLE: Viewers find out about Ellie's backstory and why she is placing her baby girl for adoption. (Her husband Doug, who is their daughter Willow's father, died of cancer and, soon after, a Match.com date-turned-one-night stand got Ellie pregnant.) Ellie, Kate and Toby seem to have bonded fast and are even more hopeful following a great first meeting, but we both know that This Is Us has its fair share of twists. Should fans be worried? Are there bad times ahead?
CHRIS SULLIVAN: That's the interesting part of this show, it portrays the cycle of life in a way that, I think, is very realistic and very optimistic. There will always be good times and there will always be bad times. They will always rotate around each other. I think the challenge is to figure out how to enjoy the benefits of having made it through the dark times into the light and then preparing ourselves when they return because they always do. It really comes down to how we hold them and how we address them when they arise.
Toby called himself the "blame piñata" during the diaper fight, in front of Ellie. As she points out, "You could tell a lot about a couple by how they fight and recover." But Kate brought it up again, later on. Were they putting on a happy front because Ellie was there? Is this a minor argument that could become a part of a bigger issue for them?
As it stands right now, it just is what it is. It's a moment where they meet some friction in their relationship and they deal with it as best they can in front of somebody else in a pretty vulnerable moment. I think that's an interesting idea to promote because my wife Rachel and I do our best to share with our friends not just the happy upbeat connected version of our relationship, but also the things that we struggle with and the conflict that we have. We are painting an even picture of what we go through as a couple. I thought it was an interesting way to talk about that in that scene. I don't know if there is anything impending or worrisome behind it.
Chrissy recently spoke with PEOPLE and teased that the coronavirus pandemic throws a bit of a wrench in Kate and Toby's adoption process. Will the pandemic be at the forefront of this entire season or just the first few episodes?
The characters on the show have become extensions of people's families. It only seems appropriate for us to address the things that people are going through. People are going to feel seen and heard, they're going to feel like we were in their homes. We as actors and the writers have all been going through the same things, so now hopefully we will have some catharsis and get a chance to talk about it through the show.
Toby struggles with his mental health and audiences have seen him cope with his own ups and downs. Will his mental health be affected by the pandemic?
I don't know if the writers are going to address it in that fashion. But Toby's mental health struggles are only struggles when they are addressed. When things start to get a little hairy is when things get ignored and compartmentalized. But once he turns and faces them, and shares them with the people that he loves and asks for help, everything seems to work out.
As a new dad (he and wife Rachel welcomed their first child, son Bear, on July 30), have you connected with Toby, who is also a new dad, even more?
Becoming a new father has changed the way I relate to everything. My world has been blown wide open and I have been given the opportunity to reevaluate my relationship with everything, and that includes my relationship to Toby and the show. It's a pretty exciting time in my heart.
In Ellie's last scene with Kate and Toby, she tells them: "I have a strong feeling about you guys." Can you share anything about what's to come in Kate and Toby's adoption process?
I don't think you can assume anything with This Is Us (laughs). Even being on the inside of This Is Us I can never assume anything with the show. Even we've been surprised by our writers after we think things are going to go one way. That's kind of the wonderful thing about this show. No matter how things turn out, they seem to turn out okay — good, bad or otherwise.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC.
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