The writers of This is Us are known for throwing mysterious family drama at the Pearson clan, and the latest revelations about what happened between Jack and Nicky are no exception. But if there's one thing fans of the show know, it's that small, subtle hints are sprinkled throughout every single episode, many times foreshadowing what's to come. It turns out that the truth about Jack and Nicky was foreshadowed on This is Us Season 3 Episode 3, but you might not have noticed.
On Tuesday night's episode, both the audience and The Big Three found out that Jack knew his brother Nicky was alive after their time in Vietnam. Not only did Jack know Nicky was alive, but he also purposefully cut him out of his life after Nicky caused a fatal grenade accident that took the life of a civilian boy. But learning this detail from Jack's past was not the first time that grenades were referenced on the show. In fact, the audience first saw a grenade on This is Us in the third episode of Season 3, when Kevin first considered his father's time in Vietnam.
At this point in the series, Kevin's war movie just premiered, and he's being interviewed by real-life radio journalist Terry Gross. Gross asks Kevin about his father's service in Vietnam, and Kevin starts racking his brain for memories of his father talking about the war. The show then revealed a key detail about Nicky's story that no one noticed... until now.
In the flashback, which occurs at 17:26 in Season 3 Episode 3, young Kevin and Jack are in a store picking out a model airplane when Kevin instead sets his sights on some war toys. Right away, Jack is tense and it's clear that seeing his son holding weapons triggers some sad war memories for him. Than, Kevin picks up a plastic grenade. That's right, a grenade, aka the exact weapon that was the breaking point for Jack and Nicky. Kevin pretends to throw it, shouting "Fire in the hole!" and that's what really sets Jack off. Jack grabs the grenade from Kevin and screams at him to stop. Now, in retrospect, it's clear that the grenade specifically reminded Jack of the traumatic accident Nicky caused. It was all there right in front of us!
In the context of all of Season 3 Episode 3, this moment seems like it's just a memory that's there to encourage Kevin to investigate his father's past. In the present timeline of the episode, Terry Gross says, “A lot of men of his generation found the war too painful to talk about except maybe with other vets,” which then prompts Kevin to talk to Jack's fellow vets to find out if his dad saw combat in Vietnam. At that point, neither Kevin nor the audience is thinking about the grenade specifically, and yet that was the most important hint of all in the flashback scene.
Later in the episode, at 27:53, Jack talks to young Kevin about his outburst in the store. He says, "I was in a war. And a lot of people got hurt, so I just don’t think it’s really a fun game to play, is all." Without any other information about Jack's time during the war, it sounds like he's probably talking about his fellow soldiers getting hurt, or perhaps specifically about Nicky getting hurt. But now after Tuesday's episode, it's clear that Jack had trauma specifically about the grenade hurting the civilian boy, and that he was pretty explicitly talking about it in that scene.
The level of detail that the This is Us writers maintain is truly impressive. It just goes to show that you can never watch this show too closely to try to figure out what Pearson drama is going to drop next.