Milo Ventimiglia's character is said to die in Sunday night's episode
In the Jan. 23 episode titled, “That’ll Be The Day,” This Is Us fans learned that a faulty slow-cooker in the Pearson kitchen sparked flames that quickly became a massive house fire, partly due to the battery-less smoke detector that was first teased in the Jan. 16 episode, titled “Clooney.”
From the season 2 premiere, fans were given hints about the aftermath of the fire. The carefully constructed clues: Kate holding a dog, Randall with a red-headed girlfriend Allison by his side, and Kevin nursing a broken leg leading up to the big monumental event. Also, Rebecca wearing a Steelers jersey, representing her husband’s favorite football team.
Let’s start from the very beginning as PEOPLE rewinds back to season 1 of This Is Us to catch fans up on all the clues and story lines uncovered about Jack’s death thus far.
In season 1, episode 5, adult Kate, portrayed by Chrissy Metz, confirmed the major plot line that Jack has in fact passed already as she introduced then-boyfriend Toby (Chris Sullivan) to her favorite sports pastime of watching Pittsburgh Steelers games with her father, whose ashes were kept in a gold urn on her mantle.
While it is clear that Kate had the closest relationship with Jack, in season 1, episode 6, adult Kevin, played by Justin Hartley, revealed that he bonded with his father by building model planes and boats. While he later shared that he had since trashed all his father-son memorabilia, the one item he cherishes to this day is a necklace from Jack. (That piece of jewelry becomes a very important relic and holds much deeper meaning in season 2, episode 8 titled “Number One.”)
The first funeral flashbacks pop up in season 1, episode 13, titled “Three Sentences,” when viewers see Mandy Moore’s matriarchal character Rebecca Pearson consoling teenage Kate (Hannah Zeile), Kevin (Logan Shroyer) and Randall (Niles Fitch) at the service. All four of them were dressed in head-to-toe black, and the mortuary surroundings are decorated with a portrait of Jack, that same gold urn and the booklet from the funeral.
Before there was any sign of a deadly house fire, fans were led to speculate that Jack died while driving intoxicated to Rebecca’s out-of-town singing gig after young Kate encouraged him to surprise her mother — until he made it safely home.
The season 2 premiere was chock full of clues and seemingly set the tone for what to expect and what questions would finally be revealed about Jack’s death. The final minutes of the episode, titled “A Father’s Advice,” showed heartbreaking moments of Rebecca tearfully yelling and beating the steering wheel of the Jeep Wagoneer while wearing a Steelers jersey as the camera panned to a plastic bag on the passenger seat that contained Jack’s personal effects, including a watch and his wedding band. Firefighters and first responders surveyed the damage of the charred Pearson house while Kate and Randall (and his red-headed girlfriend) grieved at a house owned by close family friend and future Mr. Rebecca Pearson, Miguel. Fans also discovered that Kevin was elsewhere with girlfriend Sophie.
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And we’re back to season 2, episode 12, when viewers remembered that Rebecca asked Jack to remind her to buy batteries at the mall, where Jack helped pick out a tuxedo for Kevin’s winter formal and Rebecca delightedly attempted to assist Kate with dress shopping. While all seemed well at the end of their excursion, Rebecca’s memory of buying batteries was cloudy as she asked Jack if they forgot to purchase anything. Jack responded, “I don’t think so,” as the camera zeroed in on the smoke detector in need of fresh batteries.
Now, the dreaded, used Crock-Pot.
While Miguel was the frontrunner for most hated character throughout the two seasons, Rebecca and Jack’s former neighbor George arguably replaced him. In typical This Is Us fashion, fans discovered in a flashback that George offered the slow cooker to the Pearsons when Rebecca was still pregnant with the triplets (including Kyle, who was stillborn, thus leading to the adoption of Randall.) In attempt to clean out his garage, George gave away the kitchen appliance for free, though he warned the couple that “you gotta fiddle with the switch, but it works.”
Those were words to live by as viewers saw Jack cleaning up the kitchen after an uneventful (and his final) Super Bowl Sunday. After wiping up and taping a note for Kevin, the beloved patriarch shut off the slow cooker. Just moments later, tragically, the switch shorted out and caught fire, quickly spreading to the family’s favorite red dish towel that Rebecca received as a Christmas gift from Jack.
And then, there’s the dog: Also in that episode, Kate expressed her “issues” with man’s best friend but ultimately adopted a puppy with Tobey. The most popular theory? That during the blaze, Jack returned to the smoky home to save young Kate’s pet — and died.
Whatever happened, we’ll find out Sunday, when the episode airs after the Super Bowl on NBC.