Nicky (Michael Angarano) and the young boy who Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) saved from a foot infection — whose mother gifted the elder Pearson with his significant silver necklace — went fishing during the war. Nicky showed the kid how to throw grenades under the water to get fish to come to the surface. The child wanted to try the trick himself, leading to a struggle over a grenade. Nicky and the boy dropped the weapon in their boat, and while Nicky warned him to jump overboard, the kid did not listen, resulting in his death.
Jack took a boat out to survey the damage, and when he realized the child was dead, Jack told his brother he was done with him. Nicky was then sent to “get his head on straight” (i.e. a psychological evaluation).
In 1992, Nicky sent numerous postcards to Jack saying he needed to talk. Jack eventually gave in when Nicky sent a postcard to his house instead of his office. Jack lied and told Rebecca (Mandy Moore) he was visiting a work site out of town.
Jack initially went to Nicky’s to warn him never to send messages to his home again, but Nicky invited him into his trailer. They reminisced briefly before Nicky tried to explain to Jack that the boy’s death was an accident. However, Jack did not want to hear Nicky’s side of the story because he had put the war behind him (something Nicky never learned to do).
Jack assured Nicky that he didn’t ruin his life and showed him a picture of Rebecca and the kids to prove it. Nicky promised Jack he would not write to him again, and Jack, though hesitant to leave his brother behind, did not look back.
When he returned home, Jack admitted to Rebecca that he went to visit someone he knew from the war. All he would say was that they used to be close and they had a falling out, noting that their chat helped a little.
A Father’s Mistakes
In the present, Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) road-tripped to meet a now 70-year-old Nicky (Griffin Dunne), while Rebecca stayed behind, hurt to discover that Jack lied to her and wondering what she could have done to get the truth out of him. The Big Three broke the news to Nicky that Jack died in a house fire in 1998. Nicky initially rejected their inquiries about Jack, but Kate insisted that he answer their questions after Kevin’s long journey to discover more about their father’s life.
Nicky explained that Jack saw the world in black and white and had two lives: one before the boy’s death and one after. He walked away from his first life because he chose a direction and never changed course.
The trio left at Nicky’s urging, but Kevin decided he could not leave his uncle like Jack did. They found Nicky with a gun when they went back to the trailer as he lamented never getting to explain to Jack that the boy’s death was an accident.
This Is Us airs on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
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