(Spoiler warning: Do not read on if you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, entitled “Brothers.”)
Just a couple of weeks after we finally found how the basics about how Jack died, THIS IS US has thrown a brand new mystery into the equation.
Throughout the episode Brothers, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) struggles to make little Kevin and Randall get along, prompting Rebecca (Mandy Moore) to marvel at what an amazing father he is, practically miraculous, given the strained relationship he had with his own father.
As Jack’s father lies dying in a rest home and he refuses to go see him one last time, the final moments of the episode drops a bombshell: Jack was not an only child, but had a younger brother named Nicky, who he obviously felt very protective over from a very young age. The two even served in the military and went to war together.
Where did Nicky come from, and more importantly, where did he go? In the season and a half of the family drama thus far, there has been no mention of a brother for Jack, and certainly not one that he obviously cared so much for.
A few thoughts on this:
The most obvious theory going forward is that Nicky died in the war and it was too painful for Jack to ever talk about. Given how astonished Rebecca is at his parenting skills, even she clearly knows very little, if anything at all, about Jack’s brother. Whatever relationship Jack and Nicky had, then, must have ended before he met the love of his life, which we know from previous episodes, was not very long after he came back from the war.
A more far-fetched theory that could pay off more later on is that Nicky is still alive, out there somewhere. The kid who played the younger version of the character had thick black-framed glasses, and in a photo of Jack’s battalion, the older Nick was sporting the same style. It seems likely that Fogelman and the writers gave such a distinctive look to the character so we will recognize him immediately if we were to ever see it again, say, on an older person in present day.
What we know thus far is that Rebecca doesn’t know about Nicky as of the Big Three in earlier childhood. Jack doesn’t die until the kids are seventeen years old, so there are still quite a few years for Jack and Rebecca to get into the subject of his long lost brother.
Could something else have torn them apart? Could Rebecca repair the relationship now even though Jack is long gone in present day? Did we miss a totally glaring clue about Nicky that has already answered all this? It’s totally possible and that, of course, is why This Is Us is so compelling.
Back in the summer, Fogelman said: “We have some big whoppers of plot twists and things coming that will take people’s feet out from under them. They’ve been long planned since the beginning days of the pilot. And I think we’re going to do that thing again, where we get people talking about something else.”
He certainly was not lying.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.