Jack Pearson, we thought we knew you.
On what may be the most unique episode to date, This Is Us Season 3 Episode 4 explored bits and pieces of Jack's past from his time in Vietnam to the day his little brother was born.
"Vietnam" was a considerable risk for Dan Fogelman to take. Exploring Jack's past at first seemed a little out of the show's element. However, as the episode progressed it was clear that was far from the case.
"Vietnam" wasn't about war, it was about family, something Dan Fogelman and This Is Us know more about than anyone. The episode was truly a remarkable feat that I can honestly say I've never seen on television before.
Continuously going back in time throughout the episode could be frustrating at times, but it was necessary. Just like Nicky said, starting from the end and working your way up to the beginning is the only way to get answers sometimes.
I wonder if everything would make more sense if you looked at things in reverse. Like if you started at the end, and moved backward and tried to figure out how you got there.Nicky
Before I go any further, I must commend Milo Ventimiglia on his outstanding performance. He got tasked with carrying the entire episode on his back, and he did it remarkably.
As soon as the credits rolled, it was clear another Emmy nomination was on the books for Mr. Ventimiglia.
After the conclusion of This Is Us Season 3 Episode 3, I was super pumped for "Vietnam." Jack has become the most intriguing character on This Is Us mainly because we didn't know a lot about his life pre-Rebecca.
Many of Jack's qualities and mannerisms can be explained now that we know what he was like and what he had gone through in his past, but there is also still so much to explore.
Three people in Jack's life had a significant impact on him becoming the father and husband we know and love, the most obvious person being his little brother Nicky.
Nicky: My own personal Superman.
Jack: I'm just your big brother.
Nicky: And I'm your Lois Lane. Always needing to be saved.
Jack wasn't just a superman for his kids, but his little brother as well. It seems like every decision Jack made was for Nicky, especially the reason for him to enlist.
That's right, Superman Jack wasn't the brother who was forced to enlist; it was Nicky. Jack didn't have to worry about it because of a heart condition.
Speaking of the heart condition, it took me a while to remember that Jack died from a sudden heart attack after inhaling too much smoke. That explains why the heart attack happened so quickly.
Rebecca and Jack never once talked about his heart condition as far as I can remember, so that leaves me wondering if she even knew about it, or if Jack kept it a secret from her. It wouldn't be surprising if he did because Jack was the type of man who wouldn't show his weaknesses.
Jack was willing to do whatever it took to prevent Nicky from enlisting. He planned to take him across the border to Canada, but Nicky wanted to be the hero just like Jack told him he was when they were kids.
Young Nicky: No one tough wears glasses.
Young Jack: What about Superman?
Young Nicky: Superman doesn't wear glasses.
Young Jack: He does when he's Clark Kent.
Young Nicky: Not when he's Superman.
Young Jack: He's a tough guy in disguise. That's you, Nicky. You're Clark Kent. You're CK, tough guy in disguise. Just a matter of time before people realize you're actually Superman.
While Jack could always mask his pain, it seems like Nicky always struggled with the idea of being "weak." I may have misread the situation, but it felt like Nicky held a little resentment towards Jack for always trying to protect him.
Enlisting was supposed to be the one thing Nicky could do without Jack, but Jack decided to enlist to protect him once again. Still, it's understandable why Jack felt the need to enlist after reading Nicky's letter.
It almost read like a suicide note. Did Nicky attempt to kill himself while alone in Vietnam?
Honestly, I would love if This Is Us dedicated an episode just to Nicky. By the time Jack visits him at the end of "Vietnam," Nicky looked so broken. What has he done to get himself in trouble? What kind of situations had he dealt with before Jack arrived? Is he upset with Jack?
I finished the episode with more questions than answers, and I don't think I'm patient enough to wait for answers. How long will it be until we revisit Jack and Nicky's encounter in Vietnam? I have a feeling it might be a while.
Sigh ... Dan Fogelman, why must you do this to us?
Another person who had a profound impact on Jack's life was his father, Stanley Pearson. It turns out Jack's dad wasn't always a terrible father. When Nicky was born, he was a proud, sober papa. Jack's grandfather, though, was a drunk.
Alcoholism may run in the Pearson family, but fortunately, being a crappy dad was a trait that was broken by the beautiful Jack Pearson.
I don't know how Jack was able to overcome all of his family drama and become a great father, but somehow he managed to do it. He really is Superman, isn't he?
While Nicky and Stanley played essential roles in Jack's life, so did Jack's fellow soldier, Donnie Robinson. It's important to have someone you can connect with when you're in such a difficult situation. Donnie was that person for Jack while in Vietnam.
While their relationship got explored only briefly, it was clear Donnie had a significant impact on Jack.
When Donnie was caught in an explosion and lost his foot, Jack was devastated. Seargent Jack Pearson felt responsible. However, Donnie reminded Jack before he went home that it's important not to get in your own head and forget to breathe.
It turns out Jack learned to put his hands on his kids' cheeks and tell them to breathe during a crisis from Donnie.
It's a funny thing that we forget sometimes. We're so scared that we are going to die, we forget to do the thing that keeps us alive. Breathe.Robinson
While this was the last Jack saw of Donnie while in Vietnam, it won't be the last we see of him. Donnie is the man who received Kevin's email on This Is Us Season 3 Episode 3.
He'll hopefully have many more stories to tell about Jack and also provide Kevin with a bit of closure.
Closure is one thing we did not get with "Vietnam." The best thing about this episode is that it didn't give everything away. Bits of pieces of Jack's past were explored, but so many questions were still left unanswered.
When a show leaves you wanting to know more, they've done their job well.
What did you think of "Vietnam"?
How mesmerized were you by Mio Ventimiglia's performance?
How do you think Nicky died?
What else would you like to see explored during Jack's time in Vietnam?
Let us know in the comments below and if you need to catch up, make sure to watch This Is Us online right here on TV Fanatic!
Brandon Viera was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in May 2019..