This Is Us initially began with a genuinely clever concept. The series premiere began with "four strangers" who share the same birthday. As fans now know, this was misdirection. The four characters weren't strangers at all. Kevin and Kate were twins, Randall was their adopted brother, and Jack was their father. For Season 4, which is billed as the beginning of the second half of the series, the show once again returns to that "strangers who aren't" idea, with a fantastic twist about Baby Jack that no one saw coming. Warning: Spoilers for This Is Us Season 4 follow.
For the bulk of the episode, the season premiere spends its time either in the past, when Jack met Rebecca's parents, or with three new characters, none of whom seem to be connected to the Pearsons. Two of them got names right away. There's Cassidy Sharp, the army veteran. There's Malik, the young, streetwise Philly kid with a daughter. But the blind man with the adorable dog named Sammy never gives his.
Instead, viewers watched as this nameless guy's life slowly rolls out, from meet-cute to marriage to parenthood, wondering who he is. Little did anyone know these were scenes from the future, and our blind musician was, in fact, Kate's son Jack Damon.
All the signs were there, hidden in plain sight. When the camera first cuts to him in bed, his blonde scruffy look could almost pass for Kevin. Jack is a dog lover like Kate. He's a musician, like his grandmother and mother before him, who complains he'll be stuck in cabarets for the rest of his life, much like they were.
Also, he's a profoundly dorky romantic, like his namesake grandfather. As viewers see, he kept and framed the broken plate that caused him to get breakfast in the diner where he met his future wife, Lucy. And can everyone stop and admire that marriage proposal, complete with Sammy in the little tux? Because, OMG.
He's obviously important. He writes the song with a chorus about "Strangers," from which the episode title comes, after meeting Lucy for the first time. And yet, when the twist comes at the end of the episode, where he turns out to have become a big-time rockstar, introduced as Jack Damon, it's still a shock for the ages.
The genius behind it comes from the end of Season 3, and the way the flash-forward made fans feel like they knew this new Jack, without ever revealing him on camera. After watching that final scene, no one questioned why Jack might need to be driven by Kate to Kevin's house. Honestly, audiences were just glad to hear he made it to adulthood.
When the end of the episode finally came round to the present day, it revealed how the new characters were connected to the Pearsons. Deja and Malik meet-cute. Cassidy and Nicky meet not-so-cute. And Kate and Toby discover that despite the operations their son will spend his life blind. Not fully blind. As Jack himself tells Lucy, he can see shapes, shades of light and dark. But seeing the success that awaits Baby Jack suggests This Is Us' future just got a whole lot more interesting.