Warning: Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Tuesday’s episode of “This Is Us”, do not proceed. If you have, you are free to continue…
On Tuesday’s episode, titled “The Car,” reality began to set in for Rebecca and her kids, Randall, Kevin and Kate, as they mourned the sudden loss of Jack at an emotional service, where Randall and Jack’s best friend, Miguel, spoke. But for most of the funeral, Rebecca remained numb. The lead-up to the service was equally heart-wrenching, with Kevin fussing over his tie, Kate declaring that she was giving up her dog, Louie, and Randall getting rejected when he offered to help Kevin with his tie.
But one of the episode’s most heartbreaking moments came at the end of the episode, when Rebecca took the kids to Jack’s “favourite tree” (more on this later) after the funeral and wake to spread his ashes like he wished. Rebecca eulogized her late husband the only way she knew how, with a memory of one of Jack’s most endearing weaknesses: his penchant for predicting what would happen at the start of a movie. “Somehow, he was always right. It’s like he could see things before they happened. He could see you three before you happened. Thank God he did.”
Then the mood turned sombre and that’s when the tears began to flow, as Rebecca told her kids what she hoped for them post-Jack. First, Rebecca addressed Kevin and Randall, telling them to be good to each other, something Jack wished for before he passed: “Your only job is to go on dates, hang out with your friends and your sister. I wouldn’t protest if you wanted to do your laundry every now and then. But that’s it, OK?” Even more poignant of a moment considering how fraught Kevin and Randall’s relationship was until just recently.
Then, Rebecca spoke to Kate, who blamed herself for prompting Jack to go back to the house to save Louie. “I know no matter what I say, no matter what anybody else says, you’re going to blame yourself for your father going back into the house to get Louie,” Rebecca said, stopping her daughter when Kate shook her head, adamant that she was the cause. “Listen to me. Because it was not your fault, do you hear me? He was a grown man, Kate, who made a choice, and if I have to spend the rest of my life making sure that you know that, then I will, OK?”
Afterward, Rebecca, Randall, Kevin and Kate spread Jack’s ashes by his favourite tree. But Rebecca wanted one final moment with Jack at their spot, dismissing the kids to the car. “We’re going to be OK, babe,” Rebecca said, looking up at the sky as if speaking to Jack’s spirit. “I promise you, we’re going to be OK.”
It all back to the day Jack purchased the family’s Wagoneer years prior, when he explained to the car salesman why he wanted that car specifically and not one from the used car lot. He wanted a family car that would retain all “the battle scars,” so that at the end of the day, every mark, scratch and dent marked a pivotal family memory. But mostly, Jack envisioned the station wagon as being a car that would keep his family safe — no matter if he was with them or not. “I want my kids to be OK. I want my family to be OK. Can you help me take care of my family? Because I see it so clearly. I see my family OK in that car.”
Excuse us while we cry ourselves a million rivers.
One of the saddest developments? Jack had surprised the family with tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in Red Bank, New Jersey, on Jan. 31, 1998, which turned out to be the day of his funeral. (In the recent past, Jack educates Kate, who skips school to go to an Alanis Morissette signing at a record store, on Springsteen in the car.) And Rebecca and the kids decide that Jack would’ve wanted them to go to the show.
But there were so many important Jack-related revelations from Tuesday’s episode that we had to discuss them all. Below are the most crucial developments that will definitely leave you wanting more.
The Story Behind Jack’s Favourite Tree: The tree was first introduced in the season one episode “Memphis,” when Randall told a dying William that the spot was Jack’s “favourite park.” It reappeared in Sunday’s Super Bowl episode, when Kevin had a heart-to-heart with Jack at that exact spot. We finally got the origins of why that particular tree meant so much to him. Not surprisingly, the reason had nothing to do with him and everything to do with Rebecca.
Rebecca had a cancer scare one year and she was nervously awaiting the results of something she found in her ear that caused her doctor enough alarm that she had to undergo tests. Jack, noticing his wife’s restlessness, takes her to the spot — even though he had never been there before that moment. “Why is this your favourite tree?” Rebecca asks Jack as they sit on the bench, counting the minutes away. “Cause it’s where you find out you’re OK,” Jack answers. At that exact moment, Jack’s beeper goes off and they run to the nearest pay phone and sure enough, he was right. Rebecca was fine. When Rebecca asks Jack why he chose this particular tree, he had the sweetest answer: “Closest one to the pay phone.”
The Reason Why Jack Was Cremated: Jack and Rebecca had one of the most difficult conversations anyone could have with their loved ones, much less their significant other: what to do when they die. As the couple sit in the car one evening, Jack begins what is one of the toughest chats they must have shared. “You’re going to live forever,” Jack tells Rebecca, almost as if he was foreshadowing his own death. “That means I’m going to go first.” When Rebecca tries to stop him from going further, Jack continues on. “We don’t have to talk about it,” he says, making sure to tell Rebecca not to bury him if he dies. “Don’t put me in the ground, OK? Let me be outside.”
The Story of What Happened to Jack’s Brother Nicky: It was a surprise when, in the season two episode “Brothers,” we discovered that Kevin and Randall weren’t the only Pearson brothers — that Jack had a previously unknown younger brother named Nicky. So, what happened to Jack’s brother? While speculation ran rampant that Nicky may have died while serving in the Vietnam War, his fate wasn’t confirmed until Tuesday’s episode. After another vicious Kevin and Randall fight, Jack aimed to give his teenage sons a reason for his disappointment. “My brother and me? Inseparable when we were your age.”
The fact that Jack brought up his family, much less his brother, was a surprise to Kevin and Randall. “Our dad was a drunk. Mom was depressed. Nicky was my best friend. We went to war, and he died — not exactly fun to reminisce,” Jack said, revealing his brother’s fate. “My brother and I, we had to look out for each other. No one was going to do it for us. You two, you’re lucky. No one’s forced you to have each other’s backs. So, you’re either gonna to fix this stuff that’s broken between you or you’re not, and that’s up to you, and I hope you do because your mom and I, we’re not going to be around forever. When we’re gone, the two of you and your sister are the only people on this planet who will be able to look back and remember all the stuff that’s happened to you. That might not seem like a big deal now, but trust me when I say it, it is.” Brutal stuff, but necessary for a father to say to his bickering sons.
The Return of Dr. K and His Words of Wisdom: Thank God for dear Dr. K! The doctor — now remarried! — who helped deliver Kevin and Kate returned to pay his respects to Jack, and he shared an endearing secret to Rebecca about the superhero facade Jack often wore. “The man I knew, the one who used to drop by my office from time to time, he had a whole lot of fears,” Dr. K shared with Rebecca. “A new father is the most fearful creature alive, and he was no exception. He fears about his wife, about his children, about being able to keep them happy and healthy and safe. But he did a pretty good job taking care of his family, didn’t he? And so will you.” It took Dr. K’s famous lemonade speech from the pilot for Rebecca to start to come around on the idea that maybe things would be OK.
After the post-Super Bowl episode, Milo Ventimiglia opened up about filming the heartbreaking death scene in the hospital, when Rebecca saw her husband’s lifeless body in bed after succumbing to a heart attack due to complications from smoke inhalation. Mandy Moore revealed during the “This Is Us” after-show that she was unaware that Ventimiglia would be present for the scene.
“I know how I am in regards to moments of experience, especially in moments of experience between Jack and Rebecca, and I wanted to… not throw a curveball for Mandy, but I wanted to be there,” Ventimiglia told ET during a call on Monday. “It’s one thing to have to act alone, it’s another thing to take the history that she and I have worked on for two years and be a still, lifeless body there in front of her. I was ultimately hearing her break and fall into a million pieces. That might have been the hardest thing to film, because I had to lay still, but because I was listening to my friend crumbling.”
Ventimiglia also revealed why he “wasn’t present” the day Jack’s funeral was being filmed. Brief snippets from the funeral had been teased in a handful of episodes over the show’s two seasons.
“I definitely wanted my presence to be felt and I didn’t want to distract or make anyone second-guess their decision because I was there just as me, Milo, because I wanted to watch the performance. But my heart breaks for the family, for Rebecca, for Kevin, for Kate, for Randall,” he said. “Here is a family who have lost such a large part of who they all are as a group, and the idea of moving forward and moving on is something that’s hard to bear. They are a strong family, and that’s one thing that Jack’s given them is strength, so my heart breaks, but at the same time, I don’t worry about the Pearsons at all.”
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