This Is Us was advertised all week long as the episode that would answer all of our questions, and boy, did it ever! Airing right after the Super Bowl instead of on its usual Tuesday night didn’t seem to lose the show any viewers because everybody wanted to stay awake to see what happened!
After last week’s cliffhanger, we all knew this episode would be the one where Jack dies. This episode picked up right where last week’s ended, with the Pearson’s house on fire. My heart was in my throat as I watched Jack wake up and see the smoke coming from behind the closed door and then immediately leap into action to begin saving his family members one by one.
Randall was closest to Jack and Rebecca’s bedroom, so Jack made his way to him first. Once he was safe with Rebecca, Jack took a moment to give instructions to Randall – including telling him to get his mom to safety even if he has to carry her out the window – and to get a few breaths of clean(er) air. In that time, the flames grew quickly and it was fairly evident it going to be a bigger struggle to get to Kate.
He made it there, however – as we knew he would – and Kate was absolutely hysterical. The actress who plays young Kate, Hannah Zeile, knocked this entire scene out of the park. She made the panic and fear Kate was feeling come across as genuinely debilitating. Once Jack opened Kate’s door to get back to his bedroom, I honestly thought they were screwed. I had no idea what Jack was doing when he grabbed the mattress from Kate’s bed. My first thought was that he was going to throw it out the window to break their landing, but when he didn’t put it down and started walking towards the door, I finally got it. Using the mattress to shield both himself and Kate from the flames was genius on his part and I was impressed with his quick thinking in such a scary situation. I was waiting for the floor to give out or something as he made his way back to the bedroom, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one totally cringing when they kept showing his fingers burning.
Now all together, Jack makes another quick decision and ties bedsheets together to use as a rope. The Pearsons make their way out the window and onto the roof. Jack uses the sheets to lower everybody down to safety one by one, and just when we think the entire family is going to make it out of the fire with nothing worse than smoke inhalation and Jack’s burned hands, we hear Louie, the family dog, start barking.
Kate hears Louie as well and starts screaming for him, asking him to come outside the house. Of course Jack being Jack can’t leave the dog inside to burn and turns to his family to say, “I think I can get him.”
As a wife and mother myself, Rebecca yelling at Jack desperately not to go back inside the house was very, very relatable and real. Knowing this episode was going to be the one where Jack dies, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see the house go up in flames once he was back inside and the rest of the family was safe. But that didn’t make it any easier to watch, either. Both kids and Rebecca started yelling and crying, and I was right there with them with tears streaming down my face all by myself in my living room.
It absolutely was a surprise when the front door of the house opened up and Jack came waltzing out with a bag in one hand and Louie in the other, and just like that I was crying tears of happiness instead of sadness. But even though he didn’t die in the fire we still know that this is the episode where he dies, so as a viewer, there was still a major sense of unease knowing what was going to happen but not knowing how.
While Jack gets medical care in the ambulance, Rebecca looks over to see Randall and Kate looking at their house as it’s consumed by flames. Rebecca tells them, “It’s just a house,” and I couldn’t have agreed more. After feeling like she lost her husband and the father of her children only a few minutes ago, I completely understood that line. Sure, losing your house and all the memories inside of it is hard, but it’s nothing compared to losing the love of your life.
Thankfully, after all of the pain and emotions of the Pearson’s house fire, we flip back to the present where we see Randall being goofy and overly positive wearing a “Hot Dad” apron and preparing for a Super Bowl party. He explains his behavior by saying, “Kate wallows. Kevin avoids. But this is my dad’s favorite day, and I celebrate him. That’s how Randall rolls!” After such a heavy opening to the show, Randall’s positivity and his hilarious interaction with Beth were a welcome change of pace.
Beth and Randall’s youngest daughter, Annie, runs into the kitchen to announce her new pet lizard, Mr. McGiggles, has smiled. I wondered about the relevance of the lizard, but it’s discovered pretty quickly when a few minutes later, the Super Bowl party is in full swing and Annie announces Mr. McGiggles is no longer in his cage. Beth runs to hide in the kitchen, wanting to get away from the lizard that’s seemingly crawling around somewhere in the house, and runs to answer the phone while she’s in there. Once she ends the call with the telemarketer, she takes a step and there’s an audible crunching sound. The expression on her face was absolutely priceless, and when she looks down and sees she’s found Mr. McGiggles by stepping on him, I burst out laughing. Of course, my laughter in that moment was nothing compared to when she goes to find Randall to explain she found the lizard in the kitchen. Randall looks hopeful until Beth shakes her head and says, “He ain’t giggling now.”
That was without a doubt the line of the night, and even thinking about it again now has me cracking up all over again. I think Beth is one of the most underrated characters on this show, but she’s by far one of the funniest, and she makes me laugh every single episode. I also found myself giggling (probably inappropriately) at Randall delivering a eulogy about a lizard that he was holding inside of an old glasses case.
We flip back to see Jack and Rebecca at the hospital where the doctor explains Jack has soot in his lungs and they’ll have to run some tests to see the extent of the damage. We’re treated to some cuteness between Jack and Rebecca, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who couldn’t fully appreciate it because it was pretty obvious this was going to be the last time they spoke to each other. When Rebecca said she had to leave to make a phone call and she’d get something from the vending machine on her way back, the sense of foreboding that followed her leaving the room after Jack told her, “You’re in front of the TV,” was real.
The entire scene of the moment Jack actually died was shown impeccably. We see Rebecca on the phone with the hotel as machines start beeping in the background. Nurses and doctors go running behind her, and as a viewer, we know what’s going on while Rebecca is completely clueless and holy moly, was that hard to watch!
The denial Rebecca felt when the doctor came to tell her Jack had a heart attack and didn’t make it was entirely believable. Mandy Moore, who plays Rebecca, delivered that perfectly, and the moment when she bit into the Mars bar in her hand like the doctor was obviously out of his mind had me choke out a sob. She goes storming into Jack’s room, saying, “Babe, you won’t believe -” before she stops mid-sentence as she gets a glimpse of her husband dead on his hospital bed. We never see anything more of Jack than the reflection of him laying on the bed on the door behind Rebecca, but we didn’t need to. Rebecca breaking down at the reality of her husband’s death, falling to the floor when her knees gave out, and sobbing in absolute silence was a breathtaking scene. Mandy Moore managed to rip the heart out of every single viewer without making a sound, and mark my words, that woman’s winning a mountain of awards for that scene alone.
As if that wasn’t hard enough to watch, we see Rebecca’s story continue as she crosses the lawn to Miguel’s house where the kids are waiting for her. She tells Miguel that “something awful” happened to Jack, and explains the heart attack he had. She manages to keep it together, and explains to him that they need to be strong for the kids, and if he can’t do that, then he needs to take a walk until he can.
When she tells Miguel, “I have to go ruin the rest of their lives,” it hit me like a ton of bricks. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to know you’re about to deliver news that will both cause your own children so much pain and alter the rest of their lives just like that. The expression Mandy Moore managed to put on Rebecca’s face – conveying the heartbreak, grief, and devastation that was just barely masked by the necessary detachment in order to be strong for her children – made a very unattractive sob rip from my chest. Mandy Moore completely nailed every second of this episode.
Peppered throughout these major plot points last night, we had several other smaller scenes as well. We watched adult Kate rewatch the tape of her singing that Jack saved from the fire over and over until it got stuck in the VCR. Toby managed to find a guy who could fix it, and even got it put “on the Cloud” for her so she’d never lose it. There was a nice moment between them afterwards where Kate describes how even in the worst moment of their lives during that fire, her dad still went back inside the house to get Louie for her because he couldn’t bare to let her down. She tells Toby how alike he and her dad are, and tells him, “You never gave up on me. You made me believe in me,” and I was crying along with her all over again because that’s pretty much the definition of love right there, isn’t it?
Adult Kevin and his mom share a couple of nice conversations this episode as well. Rebecca explains how every year on the anniversary of Jack’s death, Jack sends her something that makes her laugh, and I gotta tell you, I love that idea. It seems just like the Jack we all know and love to do something – even from beyond the grave – to make Rebecca laugh instead of cry on the anniversary of the day he died.
We see Kevin go to his dad’s favorite tree and try to make amends. He apologizes for the last thing he said to him before he died and for not being the kind of man he knows he would have been proud of. It was interesting to hear Kevin talk about the issues he’s had with addiction and comparing them to Jack’s alcoholism. He even admitted that he isn’t dealing with it as well as Jack did, and I thought that was significant considering how hard of a time he gave him for it when he was a teenager. Justin Hartley did a fantastic job of emoting all of the right feelings through his nasally almost-crying voice without actually shedding many tears and he had my heart going out to Kevin every time he was on screen. Of course, we got the laugh “from Jack” (according to Rebecca) when Kevin calls his mom and after an emotionally charged conversation, he admits he’s not entirely sure he’s at the right tree.
One thing that happened which I wasn’t expecting this episode was a glimpse into Kevin’s daughter Tess’s life as an adult. We were teased near the beginning of the episode with a young boy about to meet his foster family for the first time, and I’m sure everybody thought Beth and Randall were going to get him. But instead, we find out at the end of the episode that the lady placing the boy with a foster family is actually an adult Tess! We even got a glimpse of an aged Randall, which came as a total surprise to me! And of course, it raises the question, will we see more of The Big Three aged the same as Randall? I’m guessing it’s pretty likely, and I have to say, I was not expecting that at all and I’m really looking forward to seeing it!
All in all, the episode was an emotional one for This Is Us fans everywhere, as we knew it would be. I can guarantee I wasn’t the only one going to bed late last night with puffy eyes and a stuffy nose thinking about Jack Pearson, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one who will think about The Pearson family on Super Bowl Sunday even long after This Is Us is off the air.
Tune in tonight for another new episode of This Is Us!