Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Tuesday's episode of This Is Us.
That's one mystery solved.
On Tuesday's episode, titled "Katie Girls," This Is Us revealed the identity and backstory behind the mystery man who showed up at Rebecca's door at the end of the season three premiere. As we presumed, the blonde mustached guy, Alan Phillips (Hunter Parrish), was an ex-boyfriend from her past -- and his timing couldn't be worse for Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who pulled up only moments later intending to return Rebecca's jacket from their first date the night before.
"Alan?" Rebecca (Mandy Moore) says when she opens the door, her shocked reaction saying it all. "What are you doing here?"
Apparently, Alan just couldn't quit Rebecca. He confesses that she's been on his mind the past three years and that he's even come close to writing and calling her, even though she asked him not to, alluding to a bad breakup between the two. "The truth is, I've never seen anyone like you and I never will again," Alan says, a line he used to charm a younger Rebecca during their first fateful meet-cute in a woodshop class when they were in school.
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During a lunch with Alan's parents, Rebecca learns that Alan -- then a writer in London for the Telegraph newspaper -- had a whole plan to win her back, only he didn't know if it would actually pan out. Luckily for him, it did. "Your generation... you walk away from a perfectly good life for a feeling," Alan's mom, Lois (Jane Kaczmarek), says. This line will come back later.
Lois is clearly a fan of Rebecca's, sharing that she knew Rebecca wasn't just any girl the moment she turned Alan down when he proposed they move to England, which must have been the cause of their breakup. "When you asked her to move to London with you and she turned you down cold. She wanted to find her own path and not follow some guy halfway around the world, and I said good for you," Lois says, agreeing with Rebecca's decision.
When Rebecca shares her dreams of moving to Los Angeles so she can try and get a meeting with Reprise Records, the record label Joni Mitchell is on, Alan shuts down the idea, proposing instead that she think of diverting her dreams to New York City so he can go with her. Red flag? "I promised myself I wouldn't ask you to move to New York for at least a week," Alan says later. Red flag, for sure. "I do want to get out of Pittsburgh and like you said, New York does have soul...," Rebecca compromises, her mind wandering back to her first kiss with Jack in the car.
A timely trip to the market for some celebratory champagne brings Jack and Rebecca together once more, only this time, it's under less than ideal circumstances. Rebecca's about to head to the Big Apple and Jack's just... hanging out. When Rebecca confronts him about not dropping by her house, Jack reveals that he did -- except Alan was there. "We dated for three years a long time ago and I had no idea that he was coming back," Rebecca begins to explain, before Jack tells her she doesn't need to explain herself. It's not like they're not dating or anything. When she tells him about her move to New York to live out her dream, she asks Jack if he has a dream, too. This brings him pause because, as he says, no one's asked the question before. His dream is much simpler: "A decent job, a wife, a family, a house that feels nothing like the one I grew up in."
After their chance grocery store moment, Rebecca suddenly has second thoughts about being with Alan, confiding in his mom about "someone else," aka Jack, who's been in the back of her mind, even though she barely knows a thing about him or his past. Just that he's a Vietnam War vet, his home life seems less than ideal and he doesn't have big dreams. "I know next to nothing about him... I think that he would be good to me and support me but I have no way of knowing for sure because I don't even really know him. We've spent all of four hours together. But... I have a feeling," Rebecca says with a sigh, a callback to Lois' poignant observation earlier in the episode. Bye Alan, we barely knew ya.
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So when Rebecca pays an impromptu visit to the home Jack has his mother temporarily staying at while he deals with his alcoholic dad, Rebecca assures him the guy he saw her with on her doorstep was from a "previous life," an indication that she's ready to explore this romantic possibility. Their evening isn't the stuff of storybook romances by any means -- Jack spends most of the time quietly washing the dishes -- while they wait for his mom to return from her walk so he can introduce her to Rebecca. But it's sweet nonetheless.
While they dry off the last of the dinnerware, Rebecca makes an impulsive decision. "Let's go for a drive," she proposes. "Where do you want to go?" Jack replies. "Los Angeles." "Yeah... let's go to Los Angeles." And so begins the Jack and Rebecca love story.
Before Tuesday's episode, ET asked Moore about Alan resurfacing in Rebecca's life all these years later and the challenge that presents for the beginning of Jack and Rebecca's relationship.
"I think Rebecca was clearly surprised when she opened the door. I don't think she was expecting him, so that hints to me that it's not a current beau," she said following the season three premiere-ending scene. "And I don't think she's the type of girl who would go out on a date with another gentleman if she was currently with somebody. They seem to know each other very well if he felt obliged to step in front for a kiss and he brought flowers."
Showrunners Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker also noted that it was important for viewers to understand that Jack and Rebecca's romance, which, at times was presented as a fairy tale, didn't begin that way.
"We're really excited to see these early chapters of their love story that we've never seen before. They're such an incredible couple and they have this incredible chemistry that you could assume that it was smooth sailing from moment one," Berger said. "That's not usually the way life goes. We wanted to share that these two had some bumps to overcome as so many people do before ultimately ending up together."
"It's an interesting flip on your traditional romantic comedy, where we know the end of their story but we don't know the journey, and the journey is so exciting and interesting to us," Aptaker said. "We love seeing how unexpected and different ways life takes them before they wind up starting a family together."