If you would like to read my review of the last episode, click here.
Synopsis: A young Jack makes a decision that will impact the course of his life. (TVGuide)
Writers: Dan Fogelman & Tim O’Brien
Director: Ken Olin
Running Time: 45mins
Airs: Tuesdays at 9pm on CTV (Canada)/NBC (United States)
Finally, the episode we had known was coming since last season! This week, This Is Us takes us back in time to Jack’s time in Vietnam, and also introduces the adult version of his brother, Nicky. There was a lot to process in this episode because not only did it give us more insight into Jack’s time in Vietnam, but it also took us back in time to the days when his father wasn’t a drunk, and explains the progression of his downfall.
Given that Jack and Nicky’s upbringing was in an abusive home, this week’s episode explained why the brotherly bond was so tight, and why Jack felt such a need to protect his little brother in any way possible. It also explains why (after Nicky presumably dies) Jack doesn’t mention him much given that he was probably devastated from the loss.
This Is Us starts off circa 1971 as Jack is seen in a helicopter in Vietnam and moments later we see him walk up to someone and say, “Hello little brother”. The episode then goes back three weeks in time and Jack is seen with his group as they make their way through the jungle terrain. One of his comrades, Robinson, is set to leave in 90 days and can’t wait to go home so he can ambitiously take Willie Mays’ position as the San Francisco Giants’ center fielder. If you recall, Robinson is the same guy that Kevin reached out to via email. See how everything is connecting together?
Unfortunately, later that night, the group is ambushed and Robinson winds up losing one of his feet. 90 days came a whole lot sooner as Jack reassures Robinson that things will be okay, and he now can go home sooner than he anticipated. As Jack and Robinson say goodbye, Robinson holds Jack’s face in his hands and suddenly our hearts sink to the floor because this is the gesture that is carried on from Jack to Randall. Seriously, This Is Us will be the emotional death of us all.
Another flashback goes back in time to 14 months prior in which we learn that Nicky is already in Vietnam, and Jack hasn’t enlisted just yet. He was considered to be ineligible because he has an irregular heartbeat, but in an attempt to go protect Nicky, he convinces his doctor to help him enlist anyway.
During the episode, when the flashbacks take us back even further, we see the moment Nicky learned he was being drafted. The drafts were announced via live broadcast and by birthdays. While Jack reassured Nicky that he wouldn’t get picked, it wasn’t long before October 18th was announced.
Jack intends on getting Nicky across the Canadian border so he can escape and run away from being drafted. However, Nicky decides he isn’t going to run and leaves a note for Jack saying that he has to be the one to save the day now because Jack has always been the one to–his personal Superman.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of this week’s episode is when the flashbacks take us to the day Nicky was born. Their father was a sweet guy and not yet the abusive, alcoholic man we see later on. In fact, it was their grandpa who was the drunk and didn’t seem to care much for Jack or his father, or the fact that a new grandchild was on his or her way.
There’s a sweet moment after Nicky is born when Jack’s father tells him that his only job is to protect his younger brother. Sigh. The episode ends right where it started with Jack and Nicky in Vietnam.
Will we learn more about their relationship? Or will that come to light after Kevin inevitably goes there himself? We can’t wait to learn more, because this is a new angle to This Is Us that is even more exciting than anything we’ve ever seen before.