Post Mortems
The Family Spoilers

The Family Boss on That Big Adam Reveal: 'It's Not a Bait-and-Switch'

Fans of The Family, there’s something you should know: Series creator Jenna Bans has been holding out on you.

Long before the ABC drama came to fruition, when it was just a story pitched in a boardroom, Bans knew the major twist she’d eventually reveal to viewers: that the returned Adam Warren is, in fact, an impostor, a revelation that was made in the final moments of Sunday’s episode.

But if you’re feeling skeptical about Adam’s paternity-test results — and we wouldn’t blame you, considering they came from a coffee mug and a used Q-Tip scooped from the trash — Bans can assure you they’re totally accurate.

“It’s definitely not a bait-and-switch where we’re going to take it back,” Bans tells us of Adam’s identity. “This is the definitive answer, and the mystery will spiral out from there. If anything, the show gets to be a faster ride after the reveal in this episode.”

For help unpacking Sunday’s eventful episode, we chatted with Bans about what Adam’s impostor status means for the series, the Hank Asher-related secrets that have yet to come to light and the potential relationship that could bloom from Bridey and Willa’s bar kiss.

TVLINE | When you were breaking these first few episodes, how much did you wrestle with whether or not to make Adam an impostor?
We always knew he wasn’t Adam. When the writers first joined me in June and we started the room, that was the first thing I told them. The backstory really never changed from what I pitched to the network, so we knew where it was going. The bigger question — and the one we wrestled with more — was when to reveal it. A lot of writers, myself included, go into it with 12 episodes, and the most comfortable thing to do for a TV writer is go, “OK, we’ll hold it until Episode 11 or 12.”

We did wrestle with whether to do it in Episode 6 or 7, and then one day in the room, we were like, “We’re just gonna say it’s not him, just bluntly at the end of Episode 5.” We almost wanted to play the episode as if you weren’t going to get the answer. Bridey and her editor, Gus, are talking about the fact that she did this paternity test, this really low-rent thing where she stole the dad’s coffee cup and got Adam’s Q-Tip from his room. The grossest version of a paternity test. [Laughs] And then, the way they’re talking about it, you don’t know that the result is going to suddenly come at the end of the episode. We very specifically put that scene with her and Willa toward the end, so you would feel that that’s maybe the last moment in their storyline. And then we go to the moment of [Nina saying], “We’re going to have to use Adam as bait,” and we wanted that to feel like the end. The coda of Bridey walking into Gus’ office and being like, “Oh, by the way, it’s not him” would just be a total curveball for the audience. As we talked more and more about the mystery of the season, it became clear to us that there was more interesting things to do once you knew it wasn’t him. That’s basically the back half of the season, and I actually find it more exciting than the beginning.

The Family SpoilersTVLINE | Can you speak to how this twist will turn some current storylines on their heads?
We’ll see in Episode 7, which is one of my favorite episodes, that you almost see the pilot backwards. You see the pilot again, now knowing it’s not [Adam], and how it all happened, which is really cool. And then the show really becomes about some of the characters who know it’s not him, and they wrestle with that at home. It still has that element of strong family drama. And a new question is raised about Adam and his true identity that makes you very, very interested to hear the answer. It makes the Warren family very, very invested in knowing the truth about him, and that’s the story engine in the back half of the season. But also, Nina will be continuing to go after the pock-marked man, and we’ll also start to wonder just how Hank was involved in the kidnapping of Adam Warren. There’s a lot of juicy mystery threads that come up organically, once we know it’s not him.

TVLINE | I’m very curious to see how Danny will react to the news about Adam, given that he was the only skeptical one from the beginning.
We always loved talking about that in the writers’ room. We were like, “What the hell is Danny going to do when he finds out?” Because you’re right, he called it. He had a funny feeling from the very beginning, no one believed him. He’s not the most respected observer. He does find out, and that’s a pretty amazing scene. It doesn’t happen for a little while, because as we saw in Episode 4, he starts to wonder if he’s maybe he’s just insane and unreliable and a loser. And now that the audience knows it’s not Adam, it’s very interesting to see him with Danny, who’s actually starting to believe it is Adam. He doesn’t find out for a little bit, but when he does, I would say the word to use is “explosive.”

TVLINE | Shifting gears, we also got a lot of insight into Hank’s psychological damage this week, given the lengths he went to to make John look guilty of assaulting him. Will you guys be exploring that a bit more, in terms of how Hank got so tormented?
We definitely are. For me, it’s that he just has an obsession with these people. He sat in jail for 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit and singularly thought of this family for every day of those 10 years. He does blame them for it, and he did commit to the crime but felt he was coerced — so he has a lot of rage issues. [Laughs] And unresolved feelings for this family, which is what drove him to take the bat to his own house and to his own face, really. He has such anger.

What’s so interesting is seeing the audience’s response to him. As a character, he’s an interesting one to have sympathy for. He is a sex offender, and he’s someone that society doesn’t normally look at with pity. But in this case, a lot of our audience is responding with sympathy. We’re really enjoying exploring that and the idea of what makes you a bad person. Is it acting on these horrible urges he has? Or is it just the fact that he has them? Does that make him a bad person? That’s the story we’re telling with Hank, and he has a lot of self-hatred, too, for being what he is and who he is. He’ll wrestle with that for the rest of the season. We haven’t yet come to the end of his involvement with the family and, most importantly, his involvement in Adam’s kidnapping. He is more involved than we know right now.

TVLINE | Can you shed a little light on the Bridey/Willa kiss? Are we to infer that there’s a history between those two women, beyond Bridey’s relationship with Danny?
Bridey has known this family since high school. She was Danny’s high school girlfriend, for lack of a better word. [Willa and Bridey] have known each other forever, and they have that run-in in Episode 4 where Bridey’s like, “You don’t like me very much,” and Willa basically says, “I remember you from high school, and you were kind of weird.” [Laughs] That’s the extent of their relationship. Bridey trains an eye on Willa and has a little bit of gaydar, in that she can tell there’s something about Willa that might possibly be open to being with a woman. And she’s right. Plus, emotionally, you see how shut down Willa is, and that stems from the loss of her brother so many years ago, and the fact that she feels such guilt over it and has since doubled down to make her mother’s life as amazing as she can, politically.

Bridey can see that in Willa, and that’s what that moment is about at the bar. I love that she uses the simplicity of the way Willa’s holding her purse and calls her out on her behavior and her outlook on life. And she’s not wrong. Willa’s response to that kiss — it undoes her in the moment. And if Bridey didn’t completely know, she knows, with that response, that Willa’s gay, and that there’s a vibe between them. That’s definitely something we’ll be playing out, too, over the next few episodes. We’ll really explore it from Willa’s point of view, because for her, this is the first relationship that she’s had with a woman — at least the first substantial one. And we get to see what it does to her emotionally, in terms of her trust issues. Bridey’s good for her in ways like that, but it’s not going to be the most stable of relationships, because this is not the show for that. [Laughs]

The Family RecapTVLINE | Speaking of relationships, John and Claire had a nice moment in the shower together this week.
They did!

TVLINE | Are they going down a path of reconciliation?
You know, we started out the season where things were so bad between them before Adam’s return. There’s so much crap between John and Claire, and so much that’s out of their hands. When a family goes through a trauma like this — there was a statistic that we talked about in the writers’ room, which I don’t have off the top of my head, but a large percentage of marriages crumble after losing a child, and you can absolutely see why. We really wanted to explore that with Claire and John where it felt like all the bridges had been burned between them. And then all of a sudden, Claire, shockingly, is the one who absolutely believes John didn’t [assault Hank] and absolutely chooses her husband and their relationship, almost over her career. Willa says, “It might cost you the race,” and Claire’s like, “Well, then it’s the race.”

For me, that moment in the shower is less about a blossoming romance and more about the respect between two people who have been married a really long time. It’s really about John saying thank you. I love how Joan Allen played Claire in the shower, because for all of the walls that Claire puts up, you can see that she’s completely vulnerable, too. When John touches her, I don’t think that woman has been touched by her husband in a very long time. That scene just makes me want to hug her. No matter what you think of Claire and her motives, it’s so heartbreaking to almost melt at a husband’s touch, knowing she hasn’t had that in so long. There’s a warming between them that we’re going to be playing out.

Did you predict Sunday’s big reveal? How about the identity of Hank’s attacker? Drop a comment below with all of your thoughts on Episode 5.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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56 Comments
  1. SMB says:

    The inclusion of the final scene wasn’t that shocking when we were told at the end of the hour last week that tonight’s episode would have the dna test reveal. I was waiting for that scene all episode tonight. Would’ve been way more shocking if that tag line wasn’t broadcasted last week. But that’s an ABC advertising fail, not on the showrunners.

    • jr. says:

      I was hoping one of the questions you asked Jenna Banes would be, is the real Adam still alive? Will the show focus now, on rescuing the real Adam?

  2. JBC says:

    Good episode. I thought Joan Allen did a great job in that shower scene. I also liked the fact that she believed in her husband. It all came across well. It makes you want to root for that couple now. Also enjoy knowing that Adam is not the real Adam. The writers telegraphed that great through the early eps. Like Danny’s character & even though he is the least respected family member he is very astute in his observations. Andrew McCarthy did a nice job both acting and directing this episode. Keep the mystery coming!

  3. bridyyc says:

    I’ve been very loosely following The Family, deciding if I want to start watching. I saw 3/4 of an episode, thought it was dark, moody, and well acted and I need a new show to watch with Good Wife ending. But with information, I now ask myself why I would want to start watching? Hasn’t the whole premise of the show kind of been thrown into the can?

    • JBC says:

      This is where it gets good. To find out the secrets. They obviously were showing us Adam isn’t the real Adam, so now we have to find out where is the real Adam, what happened to him, who knew about it, who is this kid. Sometimes I think the kidnapper guy is his father, they resemble each other. Anyway, I enjoy the mystery, so there is lots more viewer watching here, at least for me.

  4. James says:

    Absolutely sticking with my post-pilot guess…
    Fake Adam stole Real Adam’s identity.
    Both were abducted and when either Real Adam was killed or somehow got away, Fake Adam used all the information he got from the kid to take over his life.

    • Sheila says:

      And wasn’t that the plot of a Law & Order episode or something?

      • Laurie L. Bowton says:

        There was a Lifetime movie several years ago with a female who returned to a family claiming to be their long lost daughter. She even had a tattoo done to match one she saw on a picture of the girl whose identity she assumed. A sibling knew it wasn’t her because she was involved in the girl’s disappearance but didn’t want to say anything because she would be in trouble. Can’t remember the name of the movie.

    • JBC says:

      Also I think neighbor Hank knows that he is not the real Adam. Lots of twists & turns here. I am enjoying the show.

      • I think Hank did it. And, as he had written on the cake, he has won. He’s out of jail. He managed to cause problems for the father with the fake beating and now, even if it all comes out that he did in fact kill Adam, he’s home free. The verdict is now null. He can’t be charged with the same crime twice.

    • jerrired says:

      Yeah this was my guess on the pilot. They shared that bunker and he decided to take over when Adam died.

  5. Bandslee Lee says:

    Adam was the only character I liked and was rooting for. Now he’s for sure a deceitful PoS too. Tell me again why I should keep watching a show full of characters that are impossible to like?

  6. yes, it WAS a bait and switch, because it was only a PATERNITY test, with zero proof. Adios the family, thats twice in two weeks the writers blatantly lied to the viewers. Back to the walking dead

    • bigdede says:

      Yeah so that means Adam could have still been Claire’s son and we find out later that she cheated and got pregnant by some other guy and that guy is the one who stole Adam. Now that I know Adam is not related to any of them, I’m not interested. There was a case just like this in Texas where some French guy pretended to be the family’s long lost son.

  7. Btm says:

    Quite frankly, I find the whole lot of them loathsome. They have given me no one at all to empathize with, no moral center, no Bobby Ewing to see this through. I’m dropping out.

  8. Taron Wade says:

    I’ve seen so many TV shows and movies that I can tell you exactly how things are going to play out, what the writers and directors are leading you to think or believe based on characters, word play and even camera angles. From the first episode I knew Adam was an impostor and that the sister was using her brother’s alcohol addiction to make him look foolish to hide whatever part she is playing in the “impostor” adam being there. For example when he walked in on her changing and had to remind him “I’m your sister, I’m your sister”. Oh, and the fact that she picked up the dental records.

    I will say I love how they lead us to sympathize for Hank, because yes I would imagine it sucks having a ascribed status attached to your name forever even if you have changed. He was put through a lot BUT I don’t know, the scene that him and Adam shared has me interested into knowing what other connection they have together.

    I’m ranting and could go on forever, but my point is I love this show! So much that I search for sites to watch it the day that it comes out because I don’t have cable and don’t wish to wait around for Hulu to post it. lol

    So thank you ABC!

  9. Imzadi says:

    But if Adam isn’t really Adam, then where is the real Adam? Maybe Hank DID kill him. . .
    And what is up with the real kidnapper? He has a sweet wife and a baby on the way. When he is eventually caught, they will be collateral damage, and I’m not okay with that. Neither she nor their baby deserve that.

  10. DT says:

    What is the point of this show now?

  11. rowan77 says:

    I don’t how big of a reveal it is when it was so heavily foreshadowed starting in the first episode. As soon as the kid asked how you get a boat in a bottle, I knew he was an imposter. That was a neon sign, so I got bored quickly with this show. Which is too bad because I really like the main actors.

  12. liame says:

    People are strange.

  13. Umm says:

    Why so much hate in the comments? I think this show is great!

    • JBC says:

      When I don’t like a show I drop it and don’t comment on it anymore. I think the show is interesting and done very well to keep you thinking. Haters have a right to post but why bother?

  14. sunshine says:

    Throwing in the gay kiss drops a lot of viewers instantly. They can show gay attraction with some restraint, I suppose they think it’s titillating or modern but actually there are still a lot of people who don’t need that in their living room. It’s a very bad idea to pander to the 3% of gay audience and risk the majority who accept gays but don’t want to view the mechanics of it. I automatically drop shows who surprise me with this stuff because now I can’t trust their taste level again.

  15. IJ says:

    I definitely bet on the fact that Hank beat himself up!

  16. smg says:

    How come Hank’s fingerprints weren’t on the bat? And they told us John’s fingerprints were!

  17. kathy says:

    I missed the episode last night, but from what I am getting in this article. It was revealed that he is not Adam through dna testing with the father’s dna. Would’t that just determine that the known father isn’t the father…not that Adam isn’t Adam? I guess I will have to catch up on demand to even see if this is a valid question.

  18. Tera Harris says:

    Hank’s Mother killed Adam to protect Hank from acting on his impulses. In return Hank confessed to protect his Mother. That is why Hank did not tell Claire he was innocent and simply said he could not help her when she asked “Where is my son’s body?”
    My guess anyways!

    • Pat says:

      That is a great guess. Also, Hank has a pair of children’s red mittens. I assume they belonged to the real Adam?

  19. Amy says:

    When Bridey said the “paternity test” wasn’t a match…I thought for sure we’d find out Hank is Adam’s real father. Some crazy liaison 18 years ago. He knows that’s his son and that’s why he is so obsessed.

  20. Astiana says:

    wait so if adam isnt adam then who is he ? is he perhaps working with someone else ? did he just say he was adam to escape the trauma hes been thru and be in a loving home ?

  21. Astiana says:

    wait so if adam isnt the real adam then who is he ? is the real adam still alive? was the dna results wrong ? is he perhaps workin with someone? did he just claim he was adam to escape the trauma he been thru ?

  22. Jolene Wipf says:

    I suspected it might not be Adam but that leads to so many more questions such as what happened to the real Adam? What are the motives of faux Adam? My head is starting to hurt.

    • astiana says:

      ya mine to its all so confusing but it still a good show guess u gotta try and put the puzzle pieces together because their making us wait so long to give some answers

  23. sarah j says:

    I new Adam wasn’t the real Adam from the get go.
    I think that Hank DID kill the real Adam.

    • Tera Harris says:

      I think there is a reason why we are seeing stuff about his Hank’s Mother, why introduce a character if she is not a key part to the puzzle. I stick with my theory that Hank’s Mother killed Adam to stop Hank from his impulses and what was clearly gonna happen between them and in return Hank confessed to the crime to save his Mother like she did him and that is why he could not tell where the body was cause he honestly don’t know.

    • Bandslee Lee says:

      He at least (perhaps unwittingly) played a part in the real Adam’s abduction.

  24. Kim says:

    Really enjoying this show. I’m a tough critic. I felt from begining this was not the real Adam. Strong characters! Can’t wait to see how it plays out..

  25. CallieCo says:

    I love this show and all its twists. The characters are not at all your typical group of people. I don’t really like any of them, but I do like how they all react and respond to each other. My biggest question is; After having your younger son kidnapped, why are you allowing your daughter to ride around town, in the dark, alone, on her bike?

  26. Bandslee Lee says:

    In reading some of the recent press releases, Hank is probably not completely innocent where the real Adam’s kidnapping is concerned. I think he may not be aware that he played a role in the kidnapping, but ultimately I think he will have been an unwitting accomplice. I am saddened that Adam is not the real Adam. Likable characters are hard to find in this show.

    P.S. Claire drinks – more than we know.

  27. Josephine Brown says:

    I like shows like this, but then again i dont. These type of shows get way off topic and the big reveals are silly most of the time. This show is giving me “cloverflied” vibes. The movie about a deranged man who kidnapped a man and a woman because aliens were spraying the air with a deadly toxin. The big reveal was that it was true. It actually was aliens outside 😐 so after fighting the man off who tried to “save” her, she had to fight aliens off as well. I know my comparisons are a little off, but watch the episodes of this and watch “10 cloverflied lane”. I will not be watching. Ill just wait until the season is over and google what happened.

  28. ladyoflzur says:

    Called it on both counts! I’m also sure that Willa is involved in fake Adams appearance. Willa is a super creep! I believe I have most of the shows plit figured out. The only thing I’m not sure about is the depth of Ninas involvement in all of this and why she does what she does. Could Nina be protecting Willa?

  29. ladyoflzur says:

    Called it on both counts. I pretty much have the plot figured out. I’m sure that Willa is involved in the appearance of fake Adam. What I’m not sure of is how Ninas involvement relates to Willa. Could Nina be protecting her?

  30. Deedee says:

    I think the real Adam is still alive and the kidnapper moved him to the bunker under his garage and that’s when the imposter Adam escaped and they won’t let you see him till closer to the finale.