NBC's hit family drama returns for its midseason premiere on Tuesday, with an hour that creator Dan Fogelman called "a really special episode." In the winter installment, titled "Light and Shadows," Randall travels to Los Angeles to be with his ailing mother, Rebecca, while Kevin searches for a new romance and Kate meets Toby's Crossfit friends.
"Our first episode back is a really special episode, directed by our cinematographer Yasu Tinida. It sets up at the end of our episode our second episode back; it starts one of our trilogy sets of episodes, where we have three episodes in a row in the same timeline where each of the Big Three gets an episode. It leads to Sterling, which is our first," Fogelman told reporters at the winter Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday. "It's this intense, very unusual, specialized episode of our show that's about one thing but it's also, in a strange way, about marriage between Beth and Randall. The whole run of the back half of the season, I'm biased, but I'm really proud of what we've done this season and what we've got coming the rest of the season."
Sterling K. Brown also expressed shock over what happens in regards to his character in the winter premiere, saying he couldn't help but say, "Oh s**t," when reading the script.
"[Dan] Fogelman and our writers came up with a storyline that I think is quite compelling and allows us to deliver further into Randall's mental health and how he takes care of himself, what's right and what's wrong about how he takes care of himself and how he could possibly do a better job at that," Brown told reporters. "The show's going along, like, 'Oh it's nice. It's a nice little episode of This Is Us. Oh the Pearsons, I love them so much. They mean so much to me.' And then this moment happens where you're like, 'Oh s**t, this is about to go a little sideways.'"
While secrecy remains at an optimum for This Is Us, one thing is for certain: John Legend will be making a surprise guest appearance on Tuesday's return episode. Seen wearing a tailored suit at the piano in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him moment in a This Is Us promo that debuted during the Golden Globes, even Legend's wife Chrissy Teigen was unaware of his secret visit to the Pearsons' world.
Fogelman also shot down two popular fan theories floating around on the internet -- that the entire narrative of the show is being told to an elder Rebecca and that it's all a vision of the future in Jack's head.
"We don't have anything coming in the end like that," Fogelman said on Saturday. "No, I don't think we're ever going to pull the wool out of what the narrative thread of the story is. Obviously, where we're heading with Rebecca, Mandy's character, this show has always been about time and memory and nostalgia, and when you look back and forward in your family. There are elements of that without the device of the questions you just asked that are coming. But not quite like this whole thing has been in someone's head."
Watch a new teaser for the second half of the season below.
This Is Usreturns Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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