Dateline: Venice, California. Some ruthless bug has totally sidelined me. Symptoms include fever and coughing, paranoia and lassitude. Not wishing to become the Typhoid Mary of Brothers & Sisters, I have banished myself to home, and I am going quietly mad in my exile. What is the evil genius, Dr. [ Greg] Berlanti cooking up in my absence? Is Balthazar Getty running naked through the hallways? Is Ron Rifkin trying to seize control of the whole show? Will Touchstone fire me and have my house burned down? Has ABC kidnapped my dog Trip and put him on Dancing with the Stars? All these fears and I've only been out of the office for two days. The idle time has given me room, however, to daydream about where the show is headed, some of the issues we are exploring, and how we're doing it:

1: Growing Up In America Now. What is it like? To go from the idyllic and safe American childhoods so many of us had to a vastly more dangerous world. Take Justin [ Dave Annable], drug-addled, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Afghanistan. He has lost himself within a false and impossible perpetual youth, living a Californian golden boy's dream gone bad. I see such potential in him, so much humanity and goodness ahead. But in order to have a future, he's going to have to go on what in Latin is called a Hegira - a flight to escape danger - and he will learn that this flight is as much an internal journey as it is external. In this Sunday's episode [10 pm/ET, on ABC], the first half of a two-parter entitled "Mistakes were Made" (Part 1 was written by Craig Wright and myself, 2 by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim), we explore the aftermath of September 11, and how that day affected the Walkers. The day when everything changed for all Americans, whether we recognize it or not. A day when young Americans had to begin to grow up, to accept that our lives are political, there is no escaping that, and to look within, to shake off the luxury of merely being part of a distracted consumerist generation.

2: Money and Privilege in America Today. The Walkers have been blessed. I often say that the show is about a family that "had too many blessings, and has now lost them, and has to get them back." Nora has pretty much articulated this line. One of the factors that makes me nervous about the show is all that luxury. I don't want it to be just a wet-dream of lifestyle, big rooms and good taste. In order for the show to resonate, there has to be some challenge to the comfort of the Walkers. And so the story of the business is in some respects the story of corporate malfeasance and its effects on all of us. The company must survive, not just for the wellbeing of the Walkers, but for the people who depend on Ojai Foods for their livelihood, their pensions, their children's college funds and their health insurance. Perhaps most important, they depend on the company as their proxy for the American belief system &mdash in which hard work is rewarded.

The Ojai Foods story is supposed to be fun and complex and mysterious, but it's also informed by my awareness of the effects of the Enron, Adelphia and Worldcom scandals on innocent, hardworking by-standers. Hopefully the company will come through its troubles intact, but in America today, we just don't know. I find it interesting to write about money and how it causes trouble in a manner unlike anything else. Expect big battles and struggles at Ojai Foods, expect power grabs and deception.

3: Finally, Brothers & Sisters is about how we define and redefine family today. Expect us to go deeper into exploring the re-invention of the American family in the 21st century. Divorce in America is rampant. It's hard to love and to be loved; the available list of distractions grows exponentially every day. You can watch TV, become a sex addict, drink, be a workaholic or a celibate monk. But Brothers & Sisters proposes that there is great comfort and safety to be found in the warm embrace of a family, the place where you are known, and finally, where you are accepted and forgiven - where you are loved. The betrayals exist. And so does the love. Someone is gay and that is simply part of the fact of who they are, not a scarlet letter or source of shame; someone is a favorite child, someone is not, but they all battle their limitations and learn from one another. They come together. They laugh. They fight. And they love. As the great poet W.H. Auden wrote, "We must love one another and die." And that's what the show is about; none of us live forever, and the only thing we can control is how we lived, and how we loved.

We at Brothers & Sisters are deeply grateful that audiences are watching and growing every week. We knew there was a place for what we do. The show can be funny, it can be emotional, but we are committed to never condescending to our audience, and never underestimating the intelligence and generosity of that audience. We think we're going to be around for a long time, and that the Walkers' journey mirrors our own in this new and exhilarating, frustrating century.

P.S. Just got back to the office. Nobody even missed me.