1. Arts & Entertainment

Our Super Bawl: 'This Is Us' finally reveals how Jack Pearson died

"This is Us" aired "That'll Be The Day" episode on Sunday night featuring Milo Ventimiglia as Jack. (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
Published Feb. 5, 2018

Washington PostWipe away those tears, pour in those eye drops and consider calling in sick to work. After two seasons of clues and flashbacks, This Is Us fans finally learned how beloved patriarch-perfect-specimen-of-a-husband-and-dad Jack Pearson died.

The NBC drama revealed the exact circumstances surrounding the death of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) in its post-Super Bowl episode. Ads during the big game teased a "historic episode" and instructed viewers to "set your DVR for extra time."

While This Is Us is primarily a cathartic cry-fest about a family's complex relationships, it's sort of become a whodunit as writers kept weaving in bits and pieces about what happened to Jack. All along we know the event was so traumatic for the Pearson family that they hardly ever talk about it. (Spoilers ahead)

The last time we saw the Pearsons, a faulty slow-cooker caught fire and set their house ablaze. Sunday's episode jumps right into the action: Jack wakes up, notices smoke, opens the door and sees a giant fire roaring. And while everyone in the house gets out, Jack ends up suffering greatly for it.

Jacks wakes up Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and the pair goes straight away into action to get everyone to escape the house from the couple's bedroom window. Jack manages to get Randall first. Then he goes for Kate, who is freaking out. By this point, the fire has grown in intensity, but her bedroom window is too high. The only way across the hall to the other room is for Jack to shield them with a mattress, and he burns his hands like crazy in the process. (Kevin, as you recall, is out hanging with his girlfriend, Sophie.)

Jack gets his family to safety on the lawn, but before he joins them, Kate goes into hysterics over her dog trapped in the house. As probably everyone watching at home yells, "NO!", Jack gives that Jack look and heads back into the house. Why? "I love the girl that loves the dog," he offers later as an explanation.

For a nerve-racking moment, the blaze intensifies, and we think that's it. But not yet. The man made it all the way downstairs, got the dog, collected a pillowcase full of sentimental items and ran out of the front door.

Of course, we know we're not in the clear. Medics and doctors keep reminding Jack he seems fine but he inhaled a lot of smoke. Rebecca seems to take the prognosis on face-value, but something about her husband's demeanor lets on that maybe he knows something she doesn't. They joke in the hospital, talk about how they both forgot to get those smoke detector batteries and then Jack tells Rebecca how much he loves her: "I still got the only thing I ever needed."

Since this is 1998, Rebecca books a hotel by pay phone in the hospital, and calls Miguel to check on her kids. Meanwhile, she is entirely oblivious to what's going on in the background. Nurses and doctors run around as Rebecca gets a candy bar from a vending machine. She's utterly stunned after the doctor approaches her.

Jack, the doctor explains, inhaled a lot of smoke, which put a terrible stress on the lungs and his heart. He went into cardiac arrest. "It was catastrophic," the doctor says. "I'm afraid we've lost him."

Rebecca can't process the news, and thinks the doctor has gone mad. She runs into Jack's room to tell him about it but finds him on the hospital bed and we watch Mandy Moore take her character through several stages of grief in a matter of moments. The rest of the episode shows how Rebecca had to break the news to her children, and her trying to stay strong for them.

So, okay, who's to blame here? The slow-cooker? The lack of smoke-detector batteries? That dog? Those sentimental keepsakes? (Everyone, please check your smoke detector batteries right now, thanks).

Milo Ventimiglia tweeted "Hope everyone is feelin ok. Was a tough night. But I was happy to be with these 3 (Logan—Shroyer you were missed bud). .ThisIsUs. MV"

The episode also shows how each member of the Pearson family today spends their Super Bowl Sunday, the anniversary of Jack's death (although "pushes up glasses", it's not the literal anniversary since the date of the Super Bowl changes each year. Moving along).

They're all grappling with his passing. Kevin pours out his heart to his dad, asks for his forgiveness and tells Jack he wants to make him proud. Kate watches the tape Jack filmed of her singing. "He died because of me," she tells Toby. "Because in the scariest moment of our lives, he couldn't bear to disappoint me." And Randall, in Randall fashion, wants to make Super Bowl Sunday a joyous occasion because it was his dad's favorite day.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman tweeted, "My mom died 10 years ago, unexpectedly. It's the hinge upon which my life swings. Jack's death is the Pearson hinge."

He continued: "We look back. We move forward. That's our collective journey. Sad? Yes. But when you look through a wide enough lens — it's also outrageously beautiful."

We also got another surprise at the end, with Deja returning to Randall and Beth. And the little boy looking for a foster home? It turns out his social worker is adult Tess (yes, Randall's daughter), who apparently was very inspired by her parents' example with fostering. We even got to see old Randall, who shows up to her office.

This Is Us returns Tuesday night.


  1. Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from HBO blockbuster "Game of Thrones." AP
    The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience and the Who come to town, plus a ‘Greatest Showman’ sing-along at Tampa Theatre.
  2. In this Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 photo, Esme Goldman, 13, streams an episode of the '90s sitcom "Friends" via Netflix in her bedroom at her home, in Pasadena, Calif. “Friends” marks its 25th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 22 and the quintessential 1990s sitcom has attracted a new slew of viewers who are barely half that age. Tween and teen girls in particular have embraced the show with huge enthusiasm, taking a show that belonged to Generation X and making it their own.  (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    “It is old but you can’t tell that much when you’re watching,” said 15-year-old Sammy Joyce.
  3. "House Hunters," shot at a home in the Bayshore Beautiful area.  (Times | 2007) Tampa Tribune
    Whang, 57, was also a comedian and actress.
  4. On Saturday, Disturbed will perform at Amalie Arena in Tampa. TRAVIS SHINN  |  Warner Records
    The Bucs Beach Bash goes down in St. Pete Beach, Disturbed plays Amalie Arena and the Dance Hall Festival continues at the Studio@620.
  5. Visitor Sara Crigger of Nashville views the Dali masterwork painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" (1969-1970) this month with the aid of the Dali app on her smartphone. "Using this is like holding an art history class in your hand," Crigger said. The "Visual Magic: Masterworks in Augmented Reality" exhibit runs through Nov. 3 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    With augmented reality, 19th century prints, bronzes and food photography, a well-rounded experience awaits.
  6. Salman Rushdie is the author of "Quichotte." Rachel Eliza Griffiths
    The acclaimed author will talk about the book at Tampa Theatre on Sept. 25. | Review
  7. Aaron Shulman is the author of "The Age of Disenchantments." Ecco Books
    The author is reading ‘City of Quartz,’ a history of Los Angeles.
  8. A man takes a picture of a sign at the Little A'Le'Inn during an event inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Rachel, Nev. Hundreds have arrived in the desert after a Facebook post inviting people to "see them aliens" got widespread attention and gave rise to festivals this week. JOHN LOCHER  |  AP
    The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
  9. A scene from a balcony cabin on a 2017 Alaskan cruise. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it for the rest of your life.
  10. Evander Preston inside his gallery Evander Preston Contemporary Jewelry Design in Pass-a-Grille. The portrait of Preston (left, top) was done by Adam Turkel. The carved wooden sculpture of a white dinner jacket to Preston's right was done by Tampa artist Fraser Smith. Preston died on Sept. 14. Times (2007)
    His gallery and his eccentric presence have been a constant in the St. Pete Beach area for decades.