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Can we all agree that This Is Us really knows how to deliver a finale? After taking the first half of the season to follow the stories of Jack in Vietnam, Kate and Toby’s pregnancy (it’s a boy!), Randall’s campaign, and Kevin’s quest to learn more about his father, all of these stories converged in a super intense montage on Tuesday night.

“The Beginning is the End of the Beginning” had it all: flashbacks, flashforwards, an answer to the “Her” mystery and an unexpected reveal, not to mention a huge cliffhanger that saw Jack diving into the water in what audiences assumed was an attempt to save his brother.

As we learned a long time ago with this show though, nothing is ever quite as it seems. So we broke down the episode’s biggest moments and reveals, and offer up our own theories about how things might actually play out when the show returns on Jan. 15.

The explosion

Let’s just start with the most explosive moment of the night—when Nicky reveals to Jack that he isn’t going to complete “the mission” (a.k.a. return home) because he doesn’t want to remember all of the awful things the war has shown him. Following that conversation, Jack can’t find his baby brother and no one has seen him, and suddenly a gunshot rocks the camp.

We don’t see the actual scene play out, but we do see Jack react to something happening on the water. He drops his rifle and dives in with a panicked look on his face in what we’re led to believe is a bid to save Nicky from self-harm.

Our theory: Nicky has gone off the deep end and is on some serious drugs to take off the edge. He’s also made his feelings towards “the enemy” quite clear. Thanks to Kevin’s visit to the same fishing village where his father and Nicky were stationed, we know that no one remembers the woman who gave Jack the necklace. What if Nicky attacked her (or worse, the little boy Jack saved), and that’s actually who Jack was swimming out to try and help?

Future Nicky

As the last few seconds of the finale revealed, Nicky didn’t die in Vietnam like Jack told his family he did. Or at least he didn’t die physically (mentally is another story). Just as Kevin learns that no one by the name of Nicholas Pearson was logged as dying in the war, we flash to a post-war version of Nicky living in Bradford, PA (home of the Zippo, Nicky’s choice lighter). Cue the jaw-drops over this huge cliffhanger reveal.

Our theory: Many fans have speculated online that Nicky faked his own death in order to escape Jack, but that doesn’t sit right with us. Something awful had to have happened between the two for Jack to give up on his brother and tell his family the man died. That leads into our theory above, that Nicky wasn’t harming himself in that final scene, but he was attacking women and/or children as a result of his mental state.

Whatever happened, Kevin now has enough information to start tracking his long-lost uncle down. The big question will be whether he shares this new intel with the rest of the Pearson clan, and how they will feel about Jack’s lie.

CTV

“Her”

Since last season’s finale we’ve wondered who the “Her” that Tess and Randall were getting ready to go see in the future was. On Tuesday night the writers revealed (and later confirmed in multiple interviews) that the character in question is indeed Rebecca.

Our theory: Sure, the characters are headed to visit Rebecca, but is Rebecca actually alive in this scene? What if they’re all headed to visit her grave instead? A morbid thought, but that would very much align with the show’s themes of life and death.

Beth and Randall

Oh Randall, you’re breaking our hearts. He and Beth have been our favourite couple, thanks to their strong partnership and communication, but that all fell apart on Tuesday night. With Deja wanting to visit her mother in Delaware, Tess coming out, and Beth under a lot of pressure to find a new job, Randall still couldn’t concede the election in a town two-hours away that he statistically has no chance of winning.

That’s right, there’s no way Randall will actually win, yet he’s willing to sacrifice his entire family’s well-being to continue trying. Beth has been nothing but supportive to Randall despite all the curveballs he keeps throwing at her (bringing William home, quitting his job, running for a council seat). She even gave him the best pep talk before his debate, despite having just quit the team because of friction with the campaign manager.

But some things are just too much, and by the end of the episode Beth is done. She sets up sheets and a pillow on the couch for Randall and we know we’re leaving these two in a very bad place. Especially when the flash-forward indicates Beth and Randall are estranged.

Our theory: Let’s hope this is another This Is Us fake-out, and that while things between Beth and Randall are rough for now we see them come together again in the future. It’s quite reasonable that Tess would be in contact with Beth if Randall were driving, right?

We like to think the fight in the finale is a precursor to Beth finding her own dreams and finally pursuing them. As we see in the flash-forward she’s presiding over a bunch of ballerinas, and while we don’t know how dance fits into the character’s background quite yet, the writers have promised a Beth-centric episode coming up that will certainly begin explaining all of that.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

But what was up with the Pin the Tail on the Donkey game that Beth promised to bring to Rebecca in the flash-forward?

Our theory: As eagle-eyed viewers noted, that retro game is the same one Rebecca played with Jack and The Big Three on their birthday years ago. Given that this is a family that’s very much about tradition, it’s safe to assume the future date in question is Aug. 31, a.k.a. the main characters’ shared birthday.

This Is Us returns to stream new episodes Jan. 15 on CTV.