Before the premiere of “A Father’s Advice” this past Tuesday, we were warned that we were going to get a huge clue about what happened to Jack, but I don’t think that anyone was actually prepared for it when it happened. We knew it was coming, but the way that the show moved into the scene and delivered the reveal was utterly gut-wrenching. They were right though, we did get a huge clue.
We learned that at some point in the future after Rebecca tells Jack to get in the car, the Pearson’s house catches on fire. How far in the future we don’t know and whether or not this is the way Jack died we don’t know either. We do know that the kids were 17 when Jack dies, right about the age that they are now, and that this night of the house fire will shake the Pearson family to the core no matter what.
However, in addition to that revealing the house fire, the writers also put in so many other clues for us to dissect. Let’s take a look!
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT JACK’S DEATH SO FAR:
- The kids were 17 when he died
- Kate somehow feels responsible
- A house is most likely involved
THE OMINOUS START
The end of the Season 2 premiere episode showed Rebecca finding out about Jack’s alcoholism. Determined to figure things out as a team she convinces him to get in the car so that they can go home. Once there, she turns to him and says:
Then the camera spins around and we are looking a different Rebecca, a future Rebecca, as the second half of her sentence finishes up.
A fan of TV, not just a This Is Us fan, knows that anytime someone says something so optimistic it likely means that the complete opposite is going to happen. Well, for this future Rebecca, everything is not back to normal.
THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Rebecca is wearing a Steelers jersey in this final clip, which is a huge touchstone for the Pearson family. They’re all basically superfans (or at least they were in the past timelines). The triplets were conceived during the 1980’s Super Bowl where the Steelers played the LA Rams, they grew up watching the games as a family, and Kate still watches every Steelers game alone with Jack’s ashes.
So, if this is indeed the night Jack died, then it clearly happened on the night of a Steelers game, or perhaps even the Super Bowl, and with the show’s history and connection to the Steelers, it would make sense that they would play a vital part in This Is Us’s most important story. More on that in a bit.
THE BAG OF BELONGINGS
The camera then pans over to this bag of belongings on the passenger’s seat of Rebecca’s car. In it, there is a watch, a wedding band, keys, a notepad and a pen. The obvious assumption here is that this is the bag of belongings a loved one is given when someone passes away at a hospital. Now, if Jack had indeed died in the house fire that notebook would not be in that condition at all if it was on his person at the time. However, it’s possible that Jack could have inhaled too much smoke from the fire and even though he made it out he still could have passed away from this at the hospital, which would leave most of these things in good shape.
Another theory could be that somehow Jack was responsible for the house fire and decided that he needed to go check himself into a rehab facility. These could have been the things that Jack was not allowed to keep with him or was encouraged to leave with Rebecca, which means that Jack could still be alive when the house goes down.
Also, the notebook is from Jack’s work!
RANDALL AND KATE
The scene then cuts to Randall and Kate who are completely devastated and crying at Miguel’s house. There are a ton of clues to break down in this scene. Let’s go!
First off, Kate has a dog in her lap. If you recall in one of the episodes in Season 1, Jack tells Rebecca that he wants to have another kid. When she tells him no, he sets his mind on a dog instead. In a 2016 interview with EW that I remembered reading and just relentlessly dug back up, Creator Dan Fogelman had this to say: “But in terms of having another baby, it could come up back earlier. In terms of them ever revisiting getting a dog, it actually could wind up becoming a very important part of the story, long down the road.”
So, Fogelman says the dog could be a very, and I repeat very, important part of the story long down the road. This leads to the important point that Kate feels guilty for Jack’s death. Could she have done something that left the dog trapped inside? Or did she find a stray dog that she begged to let her parents keep and it gets trapped inside, leading Jack into the burning house? Definitely worth the thought.
Randall’s got a girlfriend! I can’t really theorize much about this except for the fact that when this girl enters the scene we all better buckle up because there will be a tough road ahead. It’s not really related to Jack’s death, but it’s worth noting that Sterling K. Brown said that he pushed for the writers to show the flashbacks where Randall and Beth meet. “Very often, you choose somebody who looks like your mom, but Randall makes this conscious choice to be with a black woman, and I really want us to explore that.” This period of time where Randall is dating a white girl could measure up nicely with that storyline.
Randall’s also holding something. It definitely looks to be a photo album and I find it so endearing that Randall was the one who thought to save their memories. I wonder how the book of poems by Dudley Randall that William gave to Rebecca who later gave to Randall makes it out?
In “A Father’s Advice” Kevin tells Toby that Kate was the one who told him that their father died. Kate follows up this line of “We need to find Kev.” with “He needs to hear it from me.” Now, this definitely leads us to assume that she needs to tell him that Jack died, but the episode also focused a lot on how close their bond is and how they tell each other everything first, so it could just be a misguiding and in fact all she has to tell Kevin is that their house burned down.
Kevin is somewhere making out with this girl, who looks like Sophie, but it could be someone else? Dan Fogelman technically said it was Sophie, but I don’t know what to believe anymore!
This is the girl that he was kissing in the past timeline in the episode.
They then pan down to show that Kevin is in a cast, which is another huge clue that will give us the warning that this episode is on the horizon. I guess it is a safe assumption that he is kissing Sophie because the biggest signature on his cast is signed with an ‘S’, but in the top corner of the cast there is a signature and a flower drawing by someone named Daisy so maybe that’s important. It’s reaching, but I’m in this deep already so why not? Another thought, will this injury be what prevents Kevin from playing sports again and finding drama?
REBECCA AND THE HOUSE
We then come back to Rebecca who has pulled up in front of the house. As you can see above there is a registration sticker on the front of the car that says 1998. Now, that seems like a glaring clue and certainly not an oversight on the writers part.
Typically that date shows when the registration expires so it’s safe to say that this accident took place before September 1998. Nowadays these last one full year, but it could have possibly been biannual in the 90’s? I tried to look it up but couldn’t find anything. The reason that I’m even bringing this up is that the Steelers played in the Super Bowl in 1996.
The show tends to stay pretty vague with giving us the year of things, for instance, in the past timeline of tonight’s episode Rebecca took the kids to go see a Tom Hanks movie and in the 1990s Hanks did 12 movies. Since she did make a point to tell Jack that she looked at Hanks and thought “he’s not that great…you’re better than him” it could lead us to think maybe she was talking about 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle or maybe 1996’s That Thing You Do!
So, whether or not this is the night that Jack actually dies remains to be seen, but at least we can put the timeline somewhere in the late 1990’s that this traumatic event happens to the Pearson’s. Kevin has said that the kids were 17 when Jack died and they all look about the same as they did earlier in the episode, so I would put them at about 15ish in that timeline with about two years to go before this night.
She then looks over and we see the house – the mailbox out front confirms that it is indeed the Pearson’s that burned down.
What are your theories about Jack? Sound off in the comments!
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.