Spoiler alert: This post discusses plot points from the Tuesday, Oct. 9, episode of NBC's This Is Us.
Fresh Air host Terry Gross guest-starred Tuesday on NBC's This Is Us, and one of the first things we learned in an hour that also had Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) talking about maybe running for Philadelphia City Council — more on that later — is that Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) doesn't listen to NPR.
Color me unsurprised.
In the season's third episode, which brought the show to film at Philadelphia's WHYY studios in late August, Kevin's on a publicity tour for his new movie and invites the woman he's still awkwardly introducing as "my … Zoe" (Melanie Liburd) to tag along for an interview.
When she demurs, the conversation goes like this:
He: "Nah, it's fine. I mean I'm sure it'll be boring, anyway. It's with some NPR guy named Terry Gross."
She: "Terry Gross is not a man, Kevin. She is a goddess."
He: "Really, you know him? Her?"
Zoe does, and quickly decides to join him, after all, and later proceeds to geek out upon meeting Gross. .
How, she asks, "are you so good at finding the essence of people?"
"Oh, I guess I'm a curious person, and I try never to underestimate people," replies Gross.
And then we see the interview, which I guess you could say did get to the essence of Kevin.
Noting that the Ron Howard movie in which he's starring has him playing a soldier, she asks him if he was able to draw on his father's experiences in Vietnam, and he has to explain that his father died when he was 17.
Are we supposed to believe that Gross, famous for doing her homework, didn't know that? Or is she just trying to get him to open up? It's not clear. (Given how much time This Is Us has devoted to the Pearson siblings losing their father when they were 17, it's hard to imagine anyone, anywhere, not knowing.) But as Gross persists in asking about Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his time in Vietnam, what is clear is that this interview is going to be the spur that will lead the previously incurious Kevin to begin looking into another piece of his father's past.
What made Gross, who also played herself in a cameo in the 2011 film The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson, decide to appear in the NBC hit? "I agreed to do it because it's a great show, I thought it would be fun (it was!) and 'Terry Gross' is the role I was born to play," said the radio host in a reply relayed through a WHYY representative.
Now back to Randall, who flies back and forth across the country in the course of the episode, visiting hospitals on two coasts in the process.
After dropping in on his sister Kate (Chrissy Metz), who underwent egg-retrieval surgery, he was back in Philly to check on a young mugging victim in a continuation of a plot line from the Oct. 2 episode, "A Philadelphia Story," which introduced Rob Morgan as City Councilman Sol Brown. Randall, frustrated by conditions in the neighborhood where he owns the apartment building in which his late biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), once lived, talks with his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) about possibly running against Brown.
Setting aside that Beth was just laid off from her job — they pack a lot of plot into an hour of This Is Us — how exactly would this happen?
Is Randall, who appears to live in North Jersey (one enterprising writer for the site Popsugar pegged the location as Alpine, Bergen County, based on a postcard Beth received in the first season) planning to uproot his family to establish residency? Can we help them find a house?
Could This Is Us, created by Penn grad Dan Fogelman, finally turn out to be all about …us?