This is Us season 3, episode 4 recap: Vietnam


This week’s This is Us was all about Jack and the rest of the Pearsons before Rebecca and the Big Three.

The scenes played as a preview for this week’s This is Us after last week’s episode promised to be memorable. I’d say this episode was very memorable, but not for only what I expected it to be.

I thought we would get an entire episode in Vietnam. I thought we would learn more about his time there and why he doesn’t want to talk about the war. I knew we would get a glimpse of Jack’s beloved brother, Nicky. But I never expected to get so much about Jack and Nicky’s relationship.

What we got last night was an onion episode.

We started with Jack finding his brother Nicky (played by Michael Angarano) in Vietnam. We peel back a layer and find out how he learned where his brother was in Vietnam.

Once we peel back the next layer, we find out how Jack ended up in Vietnam. Layer by layer, the show revealed more to us as they peeled back every layer until finally, we arrived at the birth of Nicky on October 18, 1948.

Three weeks earlier

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Before Jack finds Nicky, Jack, who is a sergeant, is ambushed, leaving one dead and his best friend there without a foot. His best friend is most likely the man Kevin emails during last week’s episode.

In a touching moment, Jack’s friend tells him to remember to breathe and puts his hands on either side of Jack’s face. If this looked familiar, it’s because Jack used the same technique on Randall.

After the attack, Jack’s unit is assigned to a safer post guarding a small village. He asks his commander if he could check on Nicky, who is stationed not far from the village.

14 months earlier

The reason why Jack is so worried about his brother is that Nicky sent the family a letter saying how he wasn’t in the greatest state of mind. The army demoted him for “reckless endangerment,” and he said he didn’t care if he died.

As if Jack couldn’t be any more amazing, he enlists in the unpopular war after already being cleared by medical that he couldn’t serve because of a heart condition. His doctor tells him how to trick the recruiters into thinking he’s healthy enough to serve. Side note: Could the heart defect be a contributing factor into his death and why he died so suddenly after seeming fine seconds before?

December 1, 1969

It’s the day of the Vietnam draft lottery. For those of you that might not know, anyone born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950, were required to register for the draft. All 366 dates of the year were printed on pieces of paper and drawn in a randomized order. The lottery was televised.

Nicky had a bad feeling about the lottery, but Jack and his mother assured him that he has always been lucky and he would be fine. Jack and Nicky decided to watch the draft from a bar, watched in horror when October 18 was called fifth – Nick’s birthday.

Jack ensures Nicky he could take him to Canada to dodge the draft. They almost make it to the border, but Nicky sneaks out in the middle of the night when they stop to sleep in a motel for the night. He leaves Jack a note that tells him it’s his turn to be Superman and we assume leaves for Vietnam.

14 years earlier

Jack and Nicky are kids playing football in the yard. Jack accidentally hits Nicky in the face with the ball, which breaks his glasses. The boys figure their father will be furious, but Jack assures him that he will protect him.

Nicky seems down on himself that he always needs Jack to protect him. But because Jack is perfect, even as a kid, he tells Nicky that he’s Clark Kent, a tough guy in disguise.

Later that night, when Nicky is awakened by his father screaming at his mother, he goes down to protect her, sans glasses. And just when you think their father would hit him, Jack appears to offer more protection. Their father cowers away, and his mom replies, “I promise he wasn’t always like this.”

Seven years earlier

The final layer of the episode is peeled back, and we reach Nicky’s birth.

Jack’s parents arrive at the hospital with toddler Jack in tow. Jack’s mom suffers through labor with a nurse who proceeds to tell her that the 18th is a lucky day. Although Jack’s father wants the baby to be born on his father’s birthday (October 19), Jack’s mom isn’t a fan and would rather the baby of his or her own special day.

We see how Jack’s grandfather isn’t a great guy, but we also see that Jack’s mother was right, the boys’ father wasn’t always a jerk. He didn’t even drink. He was almost kind.

When Nicky was born at 11:58 p.m. (UGH), Jack’s father holds him while they look at baby Nicky and all the other baby boys born on October 18, 1948. As Jack’s father tells him how his job is to protect his younger brother, it hits you that all those babies were drafted that day and were most likely serving in Vietnam. Not so lucky of a day, after all.

Next. This Is Us reveals Beth’s fate and more season 3 news. dark

This episode was so different; it gives me hope that it will never jump the shark. This is Us is one of the best shows on television because it’s an inventive way to tell a story. People love it because they can connect with these characters. The more we learn about them, the more we care about them. It’s a deeper look into humans and how one event, one touch, one phrase can alter one’s life or sends them on their journey.

Well done, Dan Fogelman. You continue to surprise me every week.

We don’t have all of the answers about Jack’s Vietnam experience (yet), but what do you think happens to Nicky? Let us know in the comments.

Read last week’s recap.