Warning: Stop! If you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, back away from the computer. If you have, you may now proceed. (For Milo Ventimiglia's thoughts on the big reveal, read ET's exclusive interview.)
This Is Us finally addressed one of the biggest mysteries of the series, and the reveal was absolutely devastating.
At the end of Tuesday’s episode, we finally got the answer to this looming question: What happened to Jack (Milo Ventimiglia)?
The revelation of Jack’s death comes about in an unexpected way: through a conversation Kate (Chrissy Metz) has with Toby (Chris Sullivan), after he unknowingly disrupts her sacred Sunday ritual of watching football alone in her home.
When Toby concedes that he’ll never bother her on Sundays during football season, Kate begins to open up why she values the weekly tradition. As a kid, she and her dad, Jack, bonded over watching the Pittsburgh Steelers together -- a ritual she kept up with until she moved to Los Angeles as an adult.
According to Kate, the father-daughter duo did reunite to watch the Steelers’ 2006 Super Bowl victory, but it’s unclear whether Jack was already dead or if he was still alive for that special moment. (The Steelers also won the Super Bowl in 2009, so did Jack die within those three years?) “It’s just what I do now -- I watch the Steelers and I watch them with my dad,” Kate says, getting noticeably downcast as she recalls fond memories from the past.
Toby, completely unaware of Jack’s fate, innocently tells Kate, “He sounds like a cool guy. I’d like to meet him sometime.” “OK,” Kate says, before taking the urn containing her dad’s ashes from the mantle and introducing Toby to Jack. “I know it’s going to be a little creepy but uh… Jack.”
In a separate moment, across the country in suburban New York, Kevin (Justin Hartley) has a revelatory moment with his nieces, Randall’s young daughters, when he shares with them a colorful painting he made as a visual representation of what he believes the play he’s starring in to be about: life and death.
“My dad, he’s not with us anymore. He’s not alive, but he’s with us, with me, every day,” Kevin remembers, referencing his father for the first time in present day. “It all just sort of fits somehow, even if you don’t understand how yet. People will die in our lives, people that we love -- in the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now.”
“It’s kind of beautiful if you think about it, the fact that just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting. I think maybe that’s the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no you, or me, or them, it’s just us,” he continues. “And this sloppy, wild colorful, magical thing that has no beginning, it has no end, it’s right here. I think it’s us.”
The mystery of Jack’s whereabouts became a looming question for NBC’s breakout freshman drama once it became increasingly clear that the character was missing in action in the present day scenes, prompting fans to act as amateur sleuths, poring over every minute detail, moment and line that may have served as telling clues.
Theories were wide-ranging, from some fans correctly positing that Jack was no longer on this Earth to others believing a more intricate reality, that he had Alzheimer’s and therefore, was a shell of himself. Really, though, the hints were right under our noses, all the way back to the first episode, when Kate tellingly says to Kevin, “Remember what Dad used to say?”
Ventimiglia jumped on the phone with ET to talk about Tuesday’s heartbreaking episode, admitting that he cried “three times” while watching it and had this to say to fans who may be unhappy about Jack’s demise. “Just stick with it, because Jack’s not gone,” he said. “He’s just a memory.”
For more on what Ventimiglia had to say about the big Jack bombshell and what that means for the series, read ET’s exclusive interview here.
What are your thoughts on Jack’s ultimate fate? What are your theories on when and how he died? Share your theories in the comments below and on Twitter by tagging @etnow!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
For more on why This Is Us star Chrissy Metz is one of ET's breakout TV stars, watch the video below.