This Is Us went back to the future in Wednesday’s Season 3 finale to resolve a number of lingering mysteries about the Pearson clan, but all we can focus on are the new questions the episode-ending flash-forward raised. And it raised a multitude of them. (Read Kim Roots’ full recap here.) The biggest head-scratcher arrived in the final scene when it was strongly suggested that Jack’s estranged brother Nicky replaced Miguel as octogenarian Rebecca’s primary companion/caregiver. That potential husband swap was the first of several hot topics I broached with exec producers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger during our finale post-mortem.
TVLINE | So, Nicky is at Rebecca’s beside and not Miguel. How quickly will the present-day story begin to shed light on what happened to Miguel, and how Nicky reconnected with Rebecca?
ISAAC APTAKER | What happened to Miguel and where he is in the future is a bit of a longer-term mystery for the show. But we’re going to be getting back into the Nicky story pretty quickly [in Season 4]. We love Griffin Dunne so much… and we just loved his dynamic with Justin [Hartley], Mandy [Moore] and the rest of the family. So we are going to be exploring how Nicky goes from the man who said, “I can’t have you in my life right now. Please just leave me [alone] in [my] trailer out in the middle of nowhere” into this person who is obviously connected enough to the family in the future to have this very special place by Rebecca’s bedside. So that is going to be more immediate for us. And the Miguel [mystery] is more bigger picture.
TVLINE | Can you say if the nature of Rebecca and Nicky’s relationship is romantic or platonic?
ELIZABETH BERGER | We can’t at this time.
TVLINE | It’s interesting that Rebecca is living at Kevin’s house even though she was emotionally closer to Randall. Did Nicky’s reappearance in her life have something to do with which child cared for her later in life?
BERGER | We definitely chose our location carefully. As we move forward with Kevin and Rebecca’s stories, we’re going to be seeing that bond develop in new ways. And it will make the decision [for her to stay at Kevin’s house] really clear by the time we get there.
TVLINE | Randall and Beth are still very much together in the future. Can we safely stop worrying about them now?
APTAKER | We can safely stop worrying about them getting a divorce. The future that we are [showing] is pretty much our final timeline. [That]’s where the series is going to resolve itself. So unless they get a really quick divorce and get remarried again, I think we can say they are very safe maritally from here on out.
BERGER | We’re really looking forward to coming back [next fall] and seeing them as the united front that we love and that obviously our fans love [judging] by the angry tweets that we’ve received over the past couple of months. This was a difficult chapter for them, but they’re going to be back to being the incredible team that we know when we return.
TVLINE | Was there ever any real discussion of having them be divorced in the future?
BERGER | No.
APTAKER | Yes.
TVLINE | Ha!
APTAKER | [to Berger, laughing] There absolutely was — you were just against it!
BERGER | This is what happens when Isaac and I do interviews on the phone [Laughs] I’ll adjust my answer: There was debate, definitely. I think, ultimately, we really do believe that this is a couple that would come through this kind of chapter. It was really important for us to show that even the best of marriages [have] these difficult and horrible chapters, but you can walk through to the other side. Isaac, would you agree? [Laughs]
APTAKER | Yes. We always try to pick the most honest, truthful option for how stories can go, so we absolutely debate every possible scenario. And then it comes down to, “If these were real people what would they really do?” And like Elizabeth said, Randall and Beth have such a foundation and so much respect for each other and just care so, so much about their marriage and their family that they would find a way back to each other.
TVLINE | Kevin has a son — a fairly young son. Is there much significance to him being a late-in-life dad?
APTAKER | Definitely. It really speaks to Kevin’s story over the last few episodes in deciding what he wants his relationship to be like with Zoe. This is a guy who hasn’t had to make a lot of hard choices and hasn’t really thought that much about his life big picture-[wise] because things have come so easily to him. And it’s always just worked out. And now here he is being told by the woman he loves, “You need to decide what’s important to you and what the next 20 years look like because I know what I want — and it does not involve children.” That [breakup] is really crystalizing for Kevin that he really is pretty close to entering his forties and he needs to start making some decisions about what he wants out of his life.
BERGER | And even though you can decide, “I see a child in my future,” it doesn’t mean that you can then control the exact circumstances or the timeline. So we’re going to be filling in those blanks as we move forward.
TVLINE | Why keep the identity of Kevin’s baby mama a mystery? We know Zoe isn’t the mom, of course…
APTAKER | We’re very careful in the future about what little pieces we [dole out]. If you have all of the answers it’s not quite as exciting to watch the trials and tribulations of Kevin trying to figure out who he’s going to win up with, who he’s going to have a kid with. So we felt like just the right amount of information for this episode was that he does wind up having a child and [we decided to leave] the rest a total mystery.
TVLINE | Kate and Toby’s now-adult son Jack is referenced in the flash-forwards. When Toby tells Randall, “I just talked to Jack and they’re on their way,” can you reveal whether the other person he’s referring to is Kate?
APTAKER | No, [we can’t reveal that]. That’s another one where we were incredibly careful with our language.
TVLINE | Randall feels compelled to remind Rebecca that he is her son, which suggests that she has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Can you confirm that?
APTAKER | We cannot confirm that. That’s not exactly what it is. But certainly you are looking at an old woman who is experiencing some type of confusion, whether that’s something like Alzheimer’s or something having to do with old age and being near the end of life.
TVLINE | We still didn’t get an answer to the Pin the Tail on the Donkey mystery. And now Toby is throwing sidewalk chalk into the mix…
BERGER | People are going to have to wonder about that a little longer. It is supposed to be purposely confusing at this point because obviously these are strange objects to be bringing to what appears to be a very somber moment in this family’s history. But we’re going to get more answers on it as we move forward.