[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday'sepisode of The Family. Read at your own risk.]
Where there's a Willa, there's a way to pass off a complete stranger as your brother.
After last week's reveal that Ben (Liam James), who was held captive with the real Adam by Doug (Michael Esper) in the bunker for 10 years, was an Adam imposter, Sunday's episode of The Family shed light on exactly what Ben and Willa (Alison Pill) did to pull off the pseudo-return.
In flashbacks of the days leading up to "Adam'''s return, we see that the real Adam got sick and died off-screen outside of the bunker. After fighting off Doug, Ben escapes and goes to the Warrens' house, where he tells Willa his and Adam's traumatic history. Because Claire (Joan Allen) has an event that night, Willa wants Ben to hold off going to the police, but after Claire delivers a moving speech about the sanctity of family, Willa comes up with a ridiculous idea: Ben should pretend to be Adam. She spends a whole day Adam-fying him in a motel, but comes to her senses when John (Rupert Graves) tells her he and Claire are going to divorce because it's "time to move on." Unfortunately, Ben doesn't feel the same way. After Willa drops him off at a bus station with $10,000 in cash, he "returns" the next day as Adam.
In the present, Ben returns home from the hospital and gets enveloped in a tense hug by a very peeved Claire, before sneaking off to the aforementioned motel, where he has hidden the wads of cash.
What is Ben up to? Will anyone else find out who he really is? Where the hell is his family? Creator Jenna Bans answers our burning questions.
First of all, can you confirm that Adam is dead?
Jenna Bans: Yes, he is dead. In the writers' room, we knew for so long Adam was dead and that it wasn't Adam [who came back], but we didn't have a name. So we were calling the real Adam Radam and the fake Adam Fadam. It was terrible. So we finally gave fake Adam a name: Ben. We're going to find out a lot more about Ben himself and his true identity and where he comes from, what the nature of his relationship was with Adam, what their life was like in the bunker.
Are we going to meet Ben's family?
Bans: Yes, we are. I can confirm that the key he took has something to do with that. The key has something to do with where he comes from and that is coming up soon.
Is that what he's using the money for?
Bans: No. The money actually comes back towards the end. ... I love when he's looking at the money because it makes you question his motive. Is he with these people because he's longing for a family? Is he longing for this emotional connection with them or is it something more insidious? And the money takes the story to a different place in the last couple of episodes.
So what are his motives? He could've gone anywhere, especially after Willa gave him the money, but twice he went to the Warrens' house.
Bans: We'll answer why he didn't necessarily have anywhere else to go. He's spent 10 years with Adam, who was basically his brother at that point, and I think his motive when he comes to the house is simply to say, "This is where we've been for the past 10 years." The fateful moment is running into Willa at the gate. And Willa, ever the master puppeteer, knows her mother has this huge speech coming up ... so she puts him away for a day, which gives her the time to come up with this idea.
It's an insane idea.
Bans: It's a totally insane idea. A lot of the writing staff was like, "Well, it's Ben's idea, right?" What we came to that made it more interesting was, no, Ben never intended for this to happen. When Willa changes her mind, it's only then that Ben is like, "Wait a minute, you kind of got me used to the idea and it kind of sounds awesome and it sounds like everything I don't have in my own life." ... I guess it's a two-hander. She chickened out and he pulled the trigger. They're bound by this terrible idea. In [Episode] 8, you'll see why he didn't go to this own family and this is why he pulled the trigger on the idea too.
How will this affect Willa? She was cowering underneath a desk for literally a day last week after Bridey (Floriana Lima) showed her the paternity test.
Bans: Willa is having a nervous breakdown. She's someone that ... has a lot of control issues and feels her best when she has all of those ducks in a row. Bridey figuring out the paternity test — not even the whole story — was the first chink in the armor of everything unraveling. People are going to find out what she's done and she didn't event want to do it. Alison Pill really rises to the occasion performance-wise. In [Episodes] 8 and 9, we introduce a whole new question about Ben and that rocks her world. For all of her faults, I really do believe Willa loves her family. She's trying to hold them together and feeling so guilty about the decision she made at 13 when she took her eye off her brother.
It's ironic because she had this idea borne out of guilt and now she's guilty of something much worse.
Bans: Totally. She has done something even more terrible to her family. What I think is really fun to watch is it doesn't have the exact ramifications you think it would have. It's a terrible thing, but it has some positive effects on their family.
I thought Joan was great when she was walking to the kitchen and you have no idea what she's going to do, and she just hugs Ben. What's Claire's plan now? Is she thinking it's better to have a fake Adam than no Adam at all? Is she keeping up with appearances because she can't afford to rock her campaign?
Bans: I think it's both. When Willa says to her, "It's not your son, but your son's dead. This is the closest thing we have to him," it's a crazy statement, but it rings true. This boy knows more about their son than they ever did themselves. That's hard to wrap your head around as a mother, but there's also the fact that it's really late in the game to come out and say, "Well, we were mistaken. This isn't our son." [Laughs] Claire doubled-down on the image of him for her politically. I think she also feels terrible for Ben. She's very angry at Willa, but I don't think she's angry at Ben right now. When I first saw the cut, I had never seen such a warm and cold moment at the same time. It's like the warmest hug and the scariest hug. There's something so hollow and vacant in her eyes and the way she locked in on Willa.
Does Ben know that he responded to being called Ben at the hospital or was he too drugged up to remember that?
Bans: I don't think he remembers that. We were trying to imply he was heavily sedated. But at the end of [Episode] 7, there's that scene with him and Willa in the hospital, where he asks her, "Where's Mom?" and she's acting strange. So he feels something is up. I think he also feels something strange in Claire's hug. That's something we explore at the top of the next episode — this very fragile dance they're doing. He doesn't know for sure that Claire knows it's not him, but he has a feeling. She's not going to say anything, but now they're two strangers living in this house pretending they're mother and son.
It goes back to her speech. She said she would've chosen the familyshe had if given the chance. Now she's choosing to adopt this kid in a way.
Bans: Yeah, that hug is definitely the choice of "I'm going to double-down on this lie that my daughter has brought upon on us," and I think you're right. It's emotional, but it's also practical for her at the same time. We'll see Claire regret this decision and feel trapped in it.
Will anyone else find out? Danny (Zach Gilford) was the one who was suspicious from the start.
Bans: Yes, they are. We'll see Danny and Willa repair their relationship, [but] there's this dread hanging over it that he's going to find out the truth at some point. That's going to hit the audience hard and him hard.
Is the world going to find out?
Bans: I will say this: In an episode coming up very quickly, Claire basically tells the world. Whether they believe it is something you're going to have to watch to find out. She definitely tells the world and that's kind of a shocking moment too.
The past two episodes were light on Hank (Andrew McCarthy), though he almost committed suicide in this episode before Adam's return. What's coming up for him?
Bans: Hank becomes important in how Adam was kidnapped. ... He has culpability in that. Hank actually becomes a great asset for Nina (Margot Bingham) in terms of how Nina figures it out, how Doug did it and nailing him on evidence. Hank becomes this unlikely source of inspiration for the police, and we see it in flashbacks and present day as they figure out his connection to Doug back in the day.
Did Doug kill Adam? We don't know what he did when he took him out for presumably help. He said he did everything he could. He could've done everything he could to kill him.
Bans: Exactly. He was very evasive. As time goes on, we will see just how hard it was for Doug to have two 18-year-old boys in there. I think Doug didn't really think about his horrible, disgusting plan. "Great, I have two boys in a bunker." But boys grow up. So yes, he chose his words very carefully there, which leads us to wonder just exactly how Doug got rid of Adam.
Are we going to see that?
Bans: Well, we're not going to see it, but we're definitely going to find out exactly what happened. ... To me, the show starts now. Once we know who Ben is, we can explore the dynamics of these people. Once other people know who he is, it gets really interesting.
The Family airs Sundays at 9/8c on ABC.