[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “A Million Little Things” Episode 3, “Save the Date.”]
“A Million Little Things” creator and executive producer D.J. Nash knew he was taking a chance when he introduced the character of Katherine (Grace Park) as a cold workaholic. “When I was talking to Grace about this role, I said, ‘In the pilot, we’re not going to understand her. But in Episode 3 we will.’”
That risky investment paid off in Wednesday’s episode when it produced the opportunity to create unexpected empathy for both parties, especially Delilah (Stephanie Szostak), otherwise known as the mistress of Katherine’s husband Eddie (David Giuntoli). Furthermore, Katherine upends the scorned-woman trope when – instead of devolving into a vengeful caricature – she has a calm and heartfelt conversation with Delilah, who also happens to be her friend. The women are reeling from the affair’s sudden discovery, but they’re also grief-stricken from the suicide of Delilah’s husband Jon (Ron Livingston). “I came here today to yell at you,” Katherine says, “but I can’t because I think you’ve already paid the ultimate price.”
“In the pilot, we had to compromise [Katherine] a little bit so we didn’t hate Eddie too much,” he said. “But our show is built on card flips, and so just when you think Rome [Romany Malco] is gonna kill himself, Jon does. And just when you think Eddie’s having an affair with the guitar student’s mom, it turns out to be Delilah.”
In this episode, Katherine starting rounding out her character by revealing her side of the marriage. “She goes on a journey where we really understand the plight of this working mom,”Nash said. “She wants to take care of her kid, but does she do that by being home, or does she do that by working?”
News of the affair also has a ripple effect on the group of friends and appears to hit Gary (James Roday) the hardest on what turns out to be his saddest birthday ever. Turning 35 was already shaping up to be a bittersweet affair, especially when Jon’s surprise gift — sending Gary, Eddie, and Rome to Bruins hockey fantasy camp for the day — is still put into motion.
“You learn a lot about Gary in Episode 3. We learned that his parents’ divorce obviously affected him in relationships, and we learned that he had that faith in relationships restored with Jon and Delilah’s marriage. And so, now [after news of the affair], it’s been challenged again,” said Nash.
“I also think the effect that cancer has had on him is profound. He is an actuary. His whole life is in valuing someone’s life with an insurance company, where you put a monetary value on someone’s life. That was a deliberate choice in career for him. He probably goes through life with a chart of, ‘This is what someone’s worth, this is what this is worth, this is what this is worth.’ That whole definition of what life is worth has been challenged by the loss of his friend. And we will find just how much Jon helped him beat cancer. Part of what’s tough for Gary is, ‘My friend helped save me, but I wasn’t there for him.’”
The elaborate birthday celebration represents Jon’s selflessness, which may not have been an asset. “What we will come to know about Jon is that Jon was really so busy saving everybody else, he forgot to save himself,” said Nash.
Nash confirmed a couple of subtle clues Jon left behind. The first is that at the fantasy camp, each of the men had jerseys personalized with their last names waiting for them, including one for Jon.
“There is a jersey there, so was he supposed to be there, or not? We don’t even ask that question in the episode, but that will prove relevant later,” said Nash. “And we will come to know that the birthday plans were something he had planned, but that actually his secretary Ashley had implemented the plans. Also, I’m sure as social media has suggested, that everyone has a pretty good sense of who they think Ashley [Christina Ochoa] is, and we are going to flip that.”
Nash also confirmed that Jon killed himself on Oct. 12, which makes it two years and two days after he updated his life insurance policy.
“You may ask this question: Why is the date later than when the series started? It’s because of when hockey season starts,” he said. “We brought it to the future a little bit, and also because our show does not take place over a ton of time. Like, sometimes episodes are a day later.”
The next episode of “A Million Little Things” will dig deeper into Delilah’s backstory. “Episode 4 brings a character in, which is Delilah’s father, who is dealing with the mid stages of dementia, which is loosely based on my dad. Gerald McRaney comes in to play Delilah’s dad. We also will look back through flashbacks to the three stages of Jon and Delilah’s marriage, where we see them in a great state, and then in a more troubled state, and to some hints of what was going on behind the scenes.”
Although Nash understands that many viewers are drawn to the gradual unspooling of clues, he hopes viewers keep in mind that understanding suicide, not trying to create a big mystery, is the show’s goal.
“That’s definitely our plan, to have you getting clues and figuring stuff out,” he said. “But even though there’s a mystery element to the show, this is a character piece, and authenticity as the most important thing. As we’re looking at a suicide, we don’t want to make it simply a mystery because we want to be authentic to what someone who chooses to take his life might be going through.”
”A Million Little Things” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.