Warning: Spoiler alert! Did you watch Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us? If not, stop! Believe me, you will be crying like the Pearsons are after that Pittsburgh Steelers loss. If so, you may proceed.
One more Jack question has been answered on This Is Us-- and it’s a doozy.
It’s been well-established that the beloved Pearson patriarch is no longer alive in the present day, but after 13 episodes, the when of it all was finally revealed in a flashback montage on Tuesday’s episode. At least one tangible answer was given in regard to the mystery of his death: Jack died when Kevin, Kate and Randall were teenagers.
How did it all come to fruition? In the episode, Kate takes part in a drum-therapy class at an adult weight-loss camp and it’s through the teacher’s directive to dig deep that she conjures up heartbreaking memories of the past -- from the moment her friends abandon her at the pool to the time Jack unsuccessfully tries to cheer her up at her Madonna-themed 10-year-old birthday bash to, finally, her father’s memorial service.
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At first, though, it’s unclear when the funeral takes place, with Kate’s memory haphazardly flashing to instants and key things at the service: Rebecca’s coveted moon necklace from Jack; The Big Three’s polished dress shoes; a framed photo of Jack (most likely from the ‘90s); the urn containing his ashes. It’s in the last flashback montage, however, that offers the full picture: a teenage Kevin, Kate and Randall standing alongside their mother, heads bowed, grieving their father’s death as the pastor speaks.
Prior to the episode, clues had been neatly dropped throughout the season, but nothing placing a firm timeline on Jack’s death. Case in point: In the sixth episode, “Career Days,” Kevin vaguely hints that his father’s death took place “a long time ago” and that he “couldn’t eat for a month” afterward. Kevin is also noticeably crestfallen when he learns from a widower that her 15-year-old son is struggling to mourn the loss of his dad, almost confirming that he had gone through a similar experience.
“The needle we have to continue to thread is sparsing out information,” creator Dan Fogelman said of Tuesday’s monumental episode. “There’s a hinge in this family, and it’s the before with Jack and the after. That’ll be interesting in future seasons as we go forward to show where that hinge was, what happened to the family before and after.”
“You’ll learn when … and then, much later, how,” he promised, speaking more directly to Jack’s death, adding that “hopefully that’ll take many, many episodes.” With one of the questions answered and at least two more seasons to go after this one, looks like we’re in it for the long haul.
Finding out when Jack’s death took place wasn’t the only surprise.
Things seemed relatively cut and dry when it came to Kevin’s current romantic dilemma, stuck in a love triangle with polar opposites, Olivia and Sloane. But it turns out, that’s simply not the case. After getting romantic advice from Toby (choose between the two women and profess your love to her!), Kevin follows his orders -- only it isn’t Olivia or Sloane on the receiving end of his big, grand gesture. It’s … Sophie?
But wait, who’s Sophie? Turns out, she’s the same Sophie who was Kate’s BFF when they were 9-10 years old and for whom Kevin specifically threw his Princess Bride-themed birthday party. Why? “I love her,” a young Kevin professes to Rebecca and Jack, both slightly stunned at his love confession.
In the present day, Kevin confesses his love to Sophie (played by Alex Breckenridge) in his own uniquely Kevin way, adorably fumbling his way through his rom-com finale speech, telling her he fell “head over heels” the first moment he saw her, that he “should’ve never let [her] get away” and that when she left more than a decade ago, it was like he “lost his arm.” “I really want my arm back, because I never stopped thinking about it -- not ever,” he declares.
“Kevin, my ex-husband [who] I haven’t seen in 12 years just shows up at my doorstep unannounced. I’m not exactly sure what you want me to say,” Sophie, dressed in royal purple scrubs (does she work at a hospital?) tells Kevin, denying her former beau the opportunity to come inside. “OK,” Kevin concedes, pleading with her to at least “think about” giving him another chance, which she ultimately does.
It’s a surprising wrinkle to Kevin’s life story, which -- up until this point -- seemed the least complicated compared to his siblings, Kate and Randall. Now, more questions arise from the revelation that he and Sophie married young, and were last in contact when they were around 24. Are Kate and Sophie still friends? Did Kevin and Sophie’s marriage, or the fallout, affect Kate’s friendship with Sophie? When did Kevin and Sophie get married? Were their nuptials met with mixed reactions? What caused them to divorce? When did they get divorced?
“We have a lot [of twists]. Our theme is, life will surprise you a little bit,” Fogelman said of the show’s penchant for throwing curveballs at the audience. “What’s surprising for the audience is the order in which we choose to tell this story. We know where this series is going and how we’re going to keep people on their toes.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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