In the fall midseason finale, This Is Us revealed what is probably the biggest secret so far in the show’s history — Nicky, Jack’s brother, is alive. He didn’t die in the Vietnam War. He has, for all intents and purposes, been just on the other side of the state of Pennsylvania. And you know what? Jack knew Nicky was alive on This Is Us, and that bit of knowledge has long-ranging implications for the show.
Kevin’s “good morning, Vietnam” tour gave him the knowledge that his dad’s brother was not killed in action, as Jack and family lore was so quick to proclaim, but it wasn’t until Kevin went through a box of his father’s Vietnam War mementos that Kevin realized that not only was Nicky much closer than anyone realizes, but his dad was also in on the disappearance.
Jack has postcards to him signed “CK,” and they seem to match the “Clark Kent” nom de plume that Nicky assumed after leaving battle. Viewers saw Nicky in his home in the mid-season finale, but Kevin and the rest of the Pearson clans know virtually nothing about their uncle, back from the un-dead. Kevin has an address, and the rest? Well, you know This Is Us will trickle it all out over the course of the season.
That said, why would Jack lie to his family about Nicky being alive? There are a few possibilities.
1. Jack Was Still Protecting This Brother
This is the most likely option, because Jack was obsessed with keeping Nicky out of harm’s way. I mean, he literally joined a war in order to keep Nicky safe, because as his “big brother,” that was Jack’s duty. Jack is big on martyrdom, but if there’s one thing he knows, it’s honor and family. If Nicky deserted or somehow left the armed forces under less-than-desirable circumstances, he would be using a fake name.
At least for a little while. Those postcards could mean that Nicky was telling Jack he was safe, and Jack was keeping the secret because if he didn’t, Nicky could go to jail. Telling people Nicky died is a surefire way to get any lingering questions squashed.
2. Jack Was Ashamed Of Nicky
This seems unlikely, given Jack’s devotion to family, but Nicky went pretty far off the rails at the end of the war. He was dabbling in drugs, he was fantasizing about killing civilians… it was pretty dark. If Nicky did something that Jack was ashamed to talk about, Jack telling people he was dead is a somewhat easy solve on a dark period of his own family history.
3. Jack Didn’t Know Nicky Was Alive
Red herring alert! Maybe those postcards were a mystery to Jack. Perhaps he didn’t know who sent them! This Is Us has tried to trick fans on more than one occasion, so let’s not be surprised if this whole “Jack knows” thing is totally faux.
Of course, this reveal leads to more questions. How much did Jack know? Did Jack talk to his brother at all? Does Nicky know that Jack is dead? Does Nicky know that he has a niece and two nephews? Nicky’s story is important because it shows what war can do to men. Anyone who has been in battle can tell you that. Now, we must learn how this major secret will affect the Pearsons and how it will, if it does, change Jack’s own legacy.