You saw the end of last week's episode. You know the emotional stakes. In the final moment of the third-to-last episode of This Is Us, "Family Meeting," Kevin (Justin Hartley) called his brother, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and told him to return the family mecca, as dying time was nigh for their mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore). And wherever Kate (Chrissy Metz) is — and at least you know she's alive — she's going to want to be there for the grand farewell.
So… what exactly should you brace for? "I don't know if there is a way to brace anybody," Moore tells EW. "I wasn't braced for it. I wasn't ready. I had no idea what I was about to read or what we were all going to endeavor to do. I didn't know how Dan [Fogelman, the show's creator] was going to flesh out the end. I would encourage people to come in with an open mind, and I'm sure they know where this is heading, but I think it's surprising. I imagine that this is very real way for some people to imagine the end of their life."
"There is no bracing," echoes Brown with a laugh. "You know me: I underpromise and I overdeliver. This is gonna wreck people. Just have the tissue, have a little bowl of ice cream saddled up next to you, have whatever, your glass of wine, et cetera. Keep your family close, hug them, hold them, watch it together. There's no preparation."
Preparing to say goodbye this character — wherever it happens over the course of these final two episodes — has been no easy chore for Moore. You probably saw those headlines that she threw up when she read the script for "The Train." "I well up thinking about it," she says. "It was a lot. This episode is definitely a lot more to take in than the actual finale, in my estimation. It's going to be sad to say goodbye to this family and see these characters, but I think there's a lot more wrapped up in 'The Train.'"
Let's turn to the man who wrote "The Train." "People can expect a literal ride," says Fogelman. "I think that it is going to make people cry and be sad and all the things that people attribute to the show. But I do think there's something that will speak to people who have experienced this stuff, which is most of us. And after some time of reflection — and after our finale — it may actually make people feel really good about some stuff they didn't think they'd feel good about. That's my hope. "
"I really found it incredibly beautiful and sprawling," he adds. "Our collective group of writers and actors, they put picture to something that I think a lot of people have thought about."
Or as Brown puts it: "You don't cry on this one, you don't have a soul. This one is a full box-and-a half of tissues."
While you do the necessary stocking up, check out this exclusive clip from the episode, in which Rebecca's aide, Laila (Danielle Larracuente) grimly informs Kevin and Randall that Rebecca probably won't make it through the night.
All aboard "The Train" on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Say goodbye to the Pearsons with EW's special This Is Us edition, available to purchase online or wherever magazines are sold.