Most people reading this will agree: This is Us is more than a show, it’s a touchstone for us all in grief, parenting, marriage, and issues of identity and belonging. But especially, it’s a touchstone for grief. I was amazed at the comments I saw as I scrolled through my various feeds. A friend who had lost her fiance suddenly said, “I don’t think I can watch (the after-Superbowl episode).” I hope she did anyway, because yes, it was very sad, but these writers shot a rainbow of hope through the whole episode. Hope and redemption–oh, the redemption! (Grown-up Tess, I’m looking at you!)
While we were saying goodbye to Jack, the writers were beginning to move the characters forward in healthy, hopeful ways.
For my family, the fire episode was a little extra harrowing, because our precious nephew and his beautiful family (two great-nieces and one great-nephew) escaped a terrible house fire with their lives on Saturday. It took 35 firefighters to put it out, and the pictures told a tale of horrific destruction. (The photo of our one-year-old great nephew’s crib, charred black, made me go weak in the knees.)
Fires happen. Hopefully, if one good thing comes out of Jack Pearson dying in a fire, it’s people paying closer attention to safety in their homes.
So, back to #Superbawl, the episode where we finally learned how Jack died. I didn’t even know if I would be able to take notes, but I did, and they came surprisingly easy after all:
1. Jack awakens to the smell of smoke and realizes the house is ablaze. There are some horrible moments when it seemed as if maybe none of them would survive, even though we know they did (except for Jack). That harrowing scene where Jack and Kate are stumbling to Jack and Rebecca’s bedroom under a mattress!
2. Weirdly, I kept hoping against hope that somehow Jack would make it, even though I knew he wouldn’t.
3. Jack DOES go in after the dog, and you think, “That’s it, then. He’s gone.” But like a warrior papa, Jack bursts through the door, with Kate’s dog trotting ahead. Jack managed to save photo albums and also–my heart!–Kate’s audition tape.
4. Kate, in current time, is preparing to honor her annual Superbowl tradition–to watch the VHS tape of her dad watching her sing. That tape, now twenty years old, is her most valued possession, so she goes a little nutso when the ribbons get mangled. (I thought of the video I have, of my dad’s last Easter, twelve years ago now, and vowed to have it transferred to a digital format!). Toby to the rescue! “I have a guy,” he says. And he does!
5. Also in current time, Rebecca and Kevin muse about Superbowls past and present. As Randall says, on the anniversary of their dad’s death, “Kate wallows, Kevin avoids and I celebrate!” Because “it was my dad’s favorite day!” Of course, he goes over the top in his Randalling way. There’s plenty of grief in his party attitude, for sure.
6. Back to Kevin and Rebecca, who tells her son that every Superbowl, “Your dad sends me a message, a laugh.” I know from experience that sometimes, our lost loved ones seem very close indeed, and often they feel close on those painful anniversaries.
7. At Randall and Beth’s place, Randall’s Overcompensating Superbowl Bash is in full swing, but wait–where is Mr. McGiggles, Tess’s new lizard? He has escaped from his cage, and it’s all hands on deck to find him until… CRRRUNCH, Beth’s foot finds Monsieur McGiggles. “He ain’t giggling now,” she says. Ha! Randall proceeds to eulogize the lizard, but we all know it’s Jack he’s really thinking of.
(Been there with caged pets! I once chased a cat chasing a pet mouse around my house about eight times before the melee ended, not well.)
8. Kate tells Toby that she needs to wallow and “beat herself up” for Jack’s death on this day every year. Really, once a year, Kate? Poor dear, you beat yourself up hourly!
9. At the hospital in 1998, Rebecca is dazed but confident that she and Jack will be home soon with minor burns to show for their fire. She even tells Miguel as much on the phone. Then–NOOOO!–we see medical personnel running around in a panic in the background, and we know. Jack has died, we soon find out, from complications arising from smoke inhalation. The smoke put tons of pressure on his heart and lungs and in the end, he had a massive heart attack.
Deep sigh. We knew this was coming, but it was ROUGH nonetheless, right?
10. Rebecca, doubled over in shock and anguish, steels herself: She must push through and be strong for the Big 3. “I have to go ruin the rest of their lives,” she tells a devastated Miguel. (We see in Jon Huertas’ face the horrendous loss Miguel sustained in losing his best friend.)
11. In 2018, Kevin goes to talk to Jack at Jack’s tree. “I’m sorry…I am going to make you proud of me.” I lost it here and vowed to have a talk with my own dad soon. BTW, Can someone please give Justin Hartley a nomination or a trophy? He just keeps getting better and better. The good news is, we can see that Kevin is coming back from addiction hell. He’s healing from two decades of regret, suppressing his pain, and unhealthy coping. He is emerging like a butterfly from a cocoon.
12. The Big Three are all emerging, which made this episode so redemptive. I thought of one of my favorite Bible verses: “For those who grieve …a crown of beauty instead of ashes…” Isaiah 61:3. Yes, beauty for ashes was evident.
* Kevin: “Did Dad ever send you that laugh?”
Rebecca: “This year he sent me you.” Beautiful!
* Kate to Toby: “You never gave up on me…You changed my life. (Jack) would have loved you. I love you.” Sigh. Just so lovely.
And my beloved Randall? We get a glimpse into his future, and it still gives me CHILLS!
* Randall, to Tess: “You will always be my number one. You will live with me until you’re 25 and you will have dinner with me in your fancy office and tell me everything.” (Ha! I think that’s what we all want in our relationships with our grown babies!)
Tess: “I like that we do foster care.” LOVE.
We find out that Jordan, the gorgeous little boy looking for a foster family, is not going to live with Randall and Tess as we all thought he would. In a delicious and superb twist, we realize that Jordan exists twenty years into the future, and that grown-up Tess is his social worker. The masterstroke? When 50-something Randall, coming to meet his grown-up daughter for dinner in her “fancy office,” stands next to her and they observe a new family taking shape.
Because of Tess, Deja, Randall and Beth. Because of Jack and Rebecca.
Yes, Jack died, which will never be okay. But we see in this scene that his legacy lives on in the next generations. A granddaughter he never met soaked in her grandfather’s adoptive spirit and made it her life’s work. Jack and Rebecca adopted Randall. Randall and Beth fostered Deja (and may well be fostering her again!), planting a seed in Tess’s heart which would go on to bloom and help form other forever families.
YES! Guys, even though I bawled as much as the next Superbawler, this episode ended up filling me with joy. The writers outdid themselves, and I can hardly wait for tomorrow night’s episode.
What did you guys think?
When did you cry the most?
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