On Tuesday's episode, the Fox medical drama flashed ahead several years -- a little over three to be exact -- in the closing minutes, surprising viewers with an unexpected time jump that followed a large family-style Halloween feast at Conrad's home. The reveal happened when Conrad entered his daughter Gigi's room, only to show her years older. The decision to fast-forward several years was, from the producers' perspective, needed following the devastating death of Conrad's wife, Nic (the since-departed Emily VanCamp), just episodes prior.
"Conrad losing Nic is a terrible tragedy and we felt like if we were going to tell a true story of grief, it would last for a really long time. And I don't think we wanted to spend multiple episodes, 10, however long it takes for a man to lose the love of his life and the mother of his 9-month-old child. We felt like we would play the loss and the grief and the, 'What the hell just happened?' for a couple of episodes, and then do the time jump so we could find Conrad recovered, on the brink of, ready for whatever new version of his life there would be," co-showrunner and executive producer Peter Elkoff tells ET. "It was really to avoid a prolonged grieving story because we wouldn't want to shortchange it and have him suddenly, three episodes later, without jumping time being like, 'No, I'm fine now.'"
"The reason why we ended 5x05 the way we did, with this little moment of like, 'Oh my god, she's four years old! It just jumped!' was because we're off for a week and it just felt like it would be a great sort of exciting 'Oh my god, they've jumped!'" Elkoff added. "But we don't show any of the changes people have gone through in those four years. We're just saying, 'When you come back next week, things are going to be different.' We thought that was a great way to get people excited [and] ready to come back when the show came back. The larger decision [was] we didn't want Conrad in grief for multiple episodes and secondarily to give the little break something exciting on the other end for the audience."
With the three-year time jump serving as a bit of a reset for The Resident as it navigates uncharted territory moving into the middle of season 5, ET hopped on the phone with Elkoff to break down what this new beginning means for the show, the dramatic changes that are afoot for Conrad and the other characters and why he felt this was creatively the best route.
ET: Why did you decide that a three-year time jump was a good amount of time to have passed?
Peter Elkoff: Well, two reasons. One, just really basic logic. If we have this really long period of time, people are going to be noticeably older in a way that is no fun for anybody. Because... It just felt like, "Oh, do I look that different than I did three years ago? Not really." But we could have fun with hair and beards and other things. Secondarily, if you go for a year, it's just not enough. You need multiple years, but too many years, and there's so much you have to [address]. How do you tell the stories of what happened in those intervening decades? Whereas three years you can kind of allude to the changes in people's lives in conversation. You don't have to do flashbacks, you can catch people up, like, "Hey, I remember when you went and did that." We felt it was a good, just enough [amount of time] so that also coming back in episode 6, things could be different. And things will be different when the audience comes back. In episode 6, the world's going to look a little different. People's lives are not exactly as they were and I think that's really exciting.
I think it's really important to do for shows, whether they're in their fourth year, fifth year or sixth year. It's always around the time where you need to shake something up a little bit. [Episode] 5 is a great episode. The story of how Conrad comes to that dinner idea at the end, I think it's really fun and emotional. And I think it sort of led to that little time-cut moment at the end in a really organic, cool way on Halloween. And Bell, facing the danger that he did, feeling sort of like a young man and then behaving in a way that perhaps wasn't so responsible. I think all of that stuff really worked out nicely. When we come back in [episode] 6, everybody's lives will have changed in different ways. Within the hospital and outside the hospital, our characters will be living differently than they did in episode 5. We felt like emotionally, the characters have changed some; someone's point of view towards someone else might be different. We'll have a new romantic couple within the story at episode 6 after the time jump. Then in episode 7, we have a new character, a doctor, who's going to come in and really stir things up. That character will be connected to multiple characters within the show.
With this time jump, you're essentially kind of kick-starting a new chapter for the show within the current season. How are you guys viewing episode 6 on? What has the time jump allowed you to really explore or do that you felt, had the time jump not existed, the show would have been saddled with?
We're going to have several characters in the show who will, as we move through the season, become possible romantic foils for Conrad. And I think our audience will really love it because there are three different people who could potentially wind up with him at the end of the season. We're going to keep sort of crossing them through his stories and we're going to make it look like in one episode, "I knew it! I know it's going to be her." And then you're like, "Wait, I don't think it will." You're going to get this really fun soap to follow of trying to figure out who Conrad ends up with. So that was one thing that we couldn't have done without the time cut because the audience wouldn't have accepted him. Three years later, you understand, yeah, it's time for him to find a partner. But three weeks later, it's not [acceptable]. And we've put little wrinkles in other characters' lives that would have needed time to develop. One of our characters, I'm not going to tell you who, will have written a book and become a celebrity in a way. It's really interesting how people react to a little bit of public notoriety.
So very much a reset back to those signature The Resident stories.
Yes. The season will feel, after the time jump, a lot like a classic Resident season. If you remember season 4, we really dealt with doctors as heroes post the pandemic and we didn't have a bad guy or a bad element of medicine that we normally do. We're going to get into a little bit of the thriller arcs that we used to do. Then we're going to, in the second half of the season, post the holiday hiatus, we're going to start looking at a story of Medicare fraud and how that presents challenges and dangers for our characters. With the twists brought on by the time jump filtered through it, it'll feel like a classic Resident season.
Within the show's narrative, there is a very significant time jump in terms of the characters' lives, but for the viewers, not much time will have passed since Emily's character was killed off. Was there some worry or hesitation of introducing the prospects of romance again for Conrad?
Yeah. I mean, we had to do that. We have to accept that. We need our soap. People are experienced at watching television and they know that your lead characters need soap material, need partners, need romance. I think putting in that time jump will make it a little bit easier for them. And we're not going to put Conrad in a relationship until the very end of the season, so they'll have a little more time. They have a dalliance here or a dalliance there, but as far as his emotional commitment to anyone, that won't occur until [the end].
With the time jump, are you looking to answer some of the questions that people might have with flashbacks or are you staying away from that device?
As of now we're staying away from it. We figured out a way in organic conversation to talk about the past so that you understand. People can sort of say, "A couple of years ago I was feeling this and now I'm feeling this..." We talk about it, but we're not doing flashbacks right now.
Is there anything else you wanted viewers to keep in mind following this intriguing twist?
We have Devon and Leela, and we'll have a new romantic couple at the hospital. Bell and Kit will become, while they won't be married, they will be together. And that's going to bring a lot of happiness and joy to our fans. We love them together and we love seeing how they interact. It plays into a lot of hospital business, as well as the personal lives that they lead. That's really going to be a real bonus for the fans. [The twist] gave us freedom. There'll be a couple of moments, five or six, when people will gasp. But happily.
The Residentreturns Tuesday, Nov. 2 on Fox. For more, watch below.