‘This Is Us’ Season 3, Episode 11 Recap: Just in the (Uncle) Nick of Time
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
Last week, on season three, episode ten of This Is Us, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) won the city council election and Kevin (Justin Hartley) found out that his Uncle Nick (Michael Angarano) is alive. Episode 11, titled “Songbird Road: Part One” shows the Pearsons grappling with Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) longtime lie and the uncle they never knew they had.
Here’s everything that went down in season three, episode 11 of This Is Us.
We begin with a montage of Jack receiving postcards from Nick in an attempt to reconcile. Most are sent to his office from the titular “Songbird Road” and signed “Clark Kent.” But when one arrives at his home reading “Last one,” he grows worried and tells Rebecca (Mandy Moore) he’s going on a day trip. Unfortunately, he doesn’t reveal the real reason for the road trip and instead tells her he’s taking a look at a lumberyard his company is “contracting up in Trenton.”
As he drives to Bradford, he remembers the Nick who used to dream of living next to a lake and owning a boat. When he arrives, however, it becomes clear Nick’s dreams didn’t come to fruition. He lives in a small disheveled trailer and looks worse for wear.
Nick and Jack reminisce about their days as kids before Nick tries to broach the topic of Vietnam. Jack says he “doesn’t want to go back there.” Despite Nick’s protests and attempts at an apology, Jack tells him he can’t talk about it and asks Nick to stop sending letters to his home. He turns to leave, but before he does, Nick asks, “Did I ruin your life?” Jack stops and says, “No, I have a good life.” He shows his brother a photo of his family, the only act of forgiveness he’s currently capable of.
Nick tells him he has a nice house and that he won’t write him anymore, before he starts vigorously cleaning up to hide the shame of how his own life turned out.
When Jack returns home, he tells Rebecca he lied about where he went. But instead of owning up to the fact that his brother is alive, he just says he saw a friend from the war who is having a rough time. She asks if it helped and he says he isn’t sure. She goes on to tell him there are people he can talk to about his war demons, but he quickly excuses himself and says it’s good to be home.
In present day, Rebecca tells Miguel the kids found Nick and details are forthcoming. He asks if she’s OK, and she replies she wonders if she could have done more. She chastises herself for not asking Jack more about his experience in Vietnam. Miguel says even he didn’t know him completely after 20 years of friendship. He muses there was a darkness inside him he tried to hide from her and the kids. She solemnly replies she used to love that answer, but now she just wants the truth.
The Big Three
After finding the postcard, Kevin tells Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall and Rebecca that he’s planning to visit their uncle. Kate, who’s pregnant and in college, is reluctant, but Randall is totally gung-ho. Ultimately, Kate agrees to join her brothers, but Rebecca has no interest in getting mixed up in this and is emotionally struck by the whole ordeal.
Later, they arrive at Nick’s (played by Griffin Dunne) trailer and knock, but no one answers. Soon after, however, he finds them loitering in front of his place. The Big Three introduce themselves and he asks if their dad knows they’re here. They regrettably tell him Jack has been dead for decades and head inside to get to the bottom of things.
It’s slow going at first and when Kevin finally brings up the subject of Jack and Vietnam, Nick immediately grows upset and tells them to leave. But Kate says no, and eventually Nick begins to open up about his painful memories.
Nick tells them he was drafted and then Jack enlisted to be close to him. Nick admits he quickly became an addict and slowly broaches the subject of the boat.
It started, he explains, when he was sleeping on a Vietnamese beach and met a young local boy. They decided to go fishing on the lake and Nick attempted to introduce the child to his method of fishing: throwing grenades into the water and waiting for the fish to float to the surface.
It worked the first time, but on the second attempt, the boy reached for the grenade and it fell to the floor. Nick yelled at the child to jump off and get in the water, but he didn’t move because he didn’t speak English. Nick jumped off the boat and the boy was left for dead.
Upon hearing the explosion, Jack and several others rowed out to find Nick experiencing shock and tinnitus. Nick looked around, but all that was left of the boy was his flip-flop. Jack told Nick he was done trying to help him. Then, it was up to Jack to return to shore and tell the boy’s mother—who just so happens to be the woman with the necklace.
Nick was promptly shipped out for mental health reasons. Now, in the present, he admits he’ll never forget the mother’s face and worries she’ll be the last thing he sees before he passes.
With Jack’s big secret revealed, there’s one thing left to explain. He asks how Jack died and it’s Randall who tells him about the fire and the heart attack. (Damn you, Crock-Pot!) With that news, Nick tells the Pearsons he’s going to call it a day.
On their way back, Randall buys road trip snacks and Kevin decides that he can’t leave Nick in a “leaky sardine can” like their dad did. So, they return to Nick’s trailer. They knock, but there’s no answer and when they open the door, Nick is sitting at the dining room table with a gun in front of him. It appears Kevin, Kate and Randall caught him at just the right time.
“I never got to tell him it was an accident,” Nick says before breaking down.
The Big Three are ready to work Nick into their family fold, but will old wounds heal as fast as they’d like? We’ll have to wait and see when This Is Us returns next Tuesday, February 5, at 9 p.m. PT/ET.