If you were feeling a little heavier after watching the latest episode of This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV), you weren’t alone. We knew going into “Songbird Road: Part One” that things were going to be tough for the Pearson clan as they met their Uncle Nicky for the first time, but we didn’t imagine his story would be so tragic.
Thanks to another signature This Is Us mix of parallel present-day storylines and flashbacks, we pieced together a good chunk of the Jack-Nicky story and it pretty much broke our hearts. We learned what happened on the water that fateful day in Vietnam, why Nicky was sending Jack postcards, and what led to Jack telling his family that the one person he was trying harder to protect than anyone else on the planet was dead. Let’s break it all down, shall we?
Our worst fears were confirmed when we learned that Nicky did kill that little boy in Vietnam, only the situation wasn’t quite what we thought. He didn’t mean to kill the kid, he was just being really, really irresponsible. Sure, fishing with grenades seemed like a grand idea at the time. Fun, even. But when the little boy wanted to throw the grenade himself and tried to snatch it from Nicky, the thing fell into the boat and a language barrier prevented Nicky from getting the kid to jump out.
To be honest that was probably the most difficult scene we’ve ever had to watch on this show (yes, even worse than Jack’s death), and it’s hard to believe the writers went there. But when you think about it, it was going to take a really, really awful event to have Jack disown his little brother, and the death of a child—especially one that Jack had worked so hard to save—is definitely an event that fits the bill.
Still. Years later Nicky tells the present-day Big Three that he’ll never forget the haunting sound of that boy’s mother realizing her baby was dead… and neither will we.
— Justin Hartley (@justinhartley) January 22, 2019
What makes the entire story even sadder is that despite Nicky’s mental illness and what the scene looked like at first glance, he really, truly did not mean to kill that child. It was an admission he never got to make to his brother either, first because he was in shock, then later because Jack just wouldn’t listen.
Obviously a heavy episode tonight. It wasn’t just about what happened to Nicky but about decades of regret, and pain, and the awful story two brothers carried home with them. Everyone blows me away in this one. I’ll put my cast (and guest cast) up there with anyone. #ThisIsUs
— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) January 23, 2019
We’ve always seen Jack as this great father and husband. One with demons, to be sure, but someone who would be there for his family, no matter what. So it didn’t just rock Rebecca’s world to learn about Nicky’s existence, it rocked our worlds too. Had Jack just listened to his brother—really listened—he may have found it within himself to forgive. Things between the two of them could have been so different, and that’s also tragic.
It certainly makes you think about the power of forgiveness, at any rate. And maybe letting go of any grudges we’ve been holding onto in our own lives…
Despite the tragic narrative of the entire episode there was one positive takeaway, and that was Kevin’s memory of Jack telling him to learn from his father’s mistakes. So while Jack turned right out of that convenience store parking lot, Kevin turned left and headed back toward the sardine can of solitude Nicky had called home for the past 40 years, despite Nicky kicking them out.
— michael angarano (@MichaelAngarano) January 23, 2019
They arrived just in time, too, as Nicky faced his demons in the form of the bottle and a gun. His guilt over never getting to tell his brother that the boy’s death was an accident was real, and he wasn’t sure if he could live with himself as a result.
That made the moment when Kevin placed his hand on his uncle’s shoulder an optimistically uplifting one. Tess predicted that Randall might bring someone else home, and she was right. It looks like next week, in “Songbird Road: Part 2” Nicky is going to meet the rest of the Pearson clan—including Rebecca, who is now woke to her first husband’s demons and questioning whether she could have done more to help him get past that darkness.
Maybe she’ll get her answer through talking to Nicky, maybe not. What we do know is that Nicky’s present-day addition means more unlocked Pearson memories and a new connection to Jack that we haven’t seen before.
And so, despite the tragedy of it all, we’re looking forward to seeing how that plays out.