The Pearson kids finally meet their uncle, and he’s got one hell of a story to tell. Nicky explains what went down in Vietnam on the Jan. 22 episode of ‘This Is Us,’ and it will break your heart.
After the war and after he’s started a family, Jack begins getting postcards from his brother, who is signing them off as “Clark Kent.” He always leaves his return address: 2125 Songbird Road. Jack never returns Nicky’s postcards, even though Nicky’s notes get more and more urgent. It isn’t until one says “last one” that Jack even pauses.
Jack goes to Nicky’s trailer in the middle of nowhere. “How’d you get my home address?” Jack asks right off the bat. “You can’t write me at home.” It’s extremely tense between them. Jack tells his brother to “take care,” but he just can’t leave. He didn’t come this far for nothing. Nicky gives Jack photos from Vietnam, and they begin to warm up to each other.
In the present day, the Pearsons gather round to talk about Nicky. As much as Kate tries to find away around it, Kevin stresses that Jack knew Nicky was alive the entire time. This is the first Rebecca is ever hearing of Nicky being alive. Jack kept this from her over the course of their entire marriage. Kevin is going to Bradford, where Nicky lives, and Randall is as well. Rebecca doesn’t want to go. Kate is hesitant as well, but she can’t resist.
So, the Pearsons go on a road trip. They just can’t get over why Jack told them that his brother was dead. Kate is really caught off guard that her father lied to her. Meanwhile, Rebecca is not handling the news well. Later, Rebecca tells Miguel about Nicky. She’s frustrated that she didn’t ask Jack more questions all those years ago. Now she’s looking for the truth.
Kevin, Randall, and Kate pull up to Nicky’s place. Kevin knocks on the door, but Nicky walks up behind the Pearson trio. “Does Jack know you’re here?” the older Nicky asks. All of the Pearsons are shocked at his question. Kate tells Nicky that Jack is dead. Nicky asks when Jack died. His brother’s been dead for 20 years, and he didn’t even know it.
The Pearson kids don’t waste any time asking Nicky the tough questions. At first, he wants them to leave, but Kate refuses. Nicky eventually sits down and talks to them. “Your father tried to clean me up. It didn’t work,” he tells them. When asked why his dad told them that he had died, Nicky says, “He should have never have come from me.”
Back in Vietnam, the mystery woman’s little boy comes over to Nicky and tries on his glasses. Nicky takes him fishing, using hand grenades to kill the fish in the water. They’re having a lot of fun, until the little boy tries to grab the grenade. Nicky drops it. Nicky yells at the boy to jump off the boat with him, but he doesn’t. That’s when the explosion happens. Jack swims out to Nicky. When Jack looks at the destroyed boat and sees the boy’s flip flop, he thinks he knows what happened. Jack thinks Nicky killed the boy. “I’m done,” Jack screams at Nicky, who is catatonic. Nicky is sent to a psychiatric facility after the incident.
When Jack visits Nicky years later, he refuses to talk about Vietnam. Nicky tries to tell Jack what really happened that day, but Jack doesn’t want to go back. “I’ve moved on,” Jack says. And he means it. “Did I ruin your life?” Nicky asks before Jack walks out the door. Jack replies, “No, Nicky. I have a good life.” Jack shows him a picture of his family. Nicky thinks there’s no place in Jack’s life for him anymore. He thinks he’ll mess up Jack’s perfect life and family with his problems, so he lets Jack go. He promises Jack he won’t write anymore. Jack walks away, and they never see each other again.
The older Nicky admits that his memories of Vietnam are fading, but that boy’s mother is burned into his memory forever. He tells the kids that Jack “saw everything in black and white. That’s why he had two lives… He walked away from the first life, and once Jack picked a direction, he never changed the course. He put the war behind him. He never looked back.” But Jack almost turns back towards Nicky all those year ago, but he ultimately stays on his path. When Jack gets home, he nearly confesses everything to Rebecca, but he holds back. Why, Jack, why?!
Nicky also asks the Pearson kids how Jack died. When he’s told Jack died of a heart attack, Nicky is shaken and asks the kids to leave. Is it because he knows about Jack’s heart condition? Kevin, Randall, and Kate leave Nicky’s place. They’re just about to go home to Pittsburgh, but Kevin can’t leave Nicky behind. “I can’t leave him like dad did,” Kevin says. They all go back and find Nicky with a gun. “I never got to tell him,” Nicky cries. “It was an accident.” Kevin puts his hand on uncle’s shoulder. Nicky Pearson isn’t going to be left alone this time.