‘This Is Us’ Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: (Un)Lucky October 18
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
Last night’s episode was all about Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) and his Vietnam story. So, if you’re looking for answers about Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) IVF procedure, Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) impending city council campaign or the “her” conspiracy theory, this is not the episode for you. (You’ve been warned.)
Although the new installment focuses on one story line, the writers didn’t make it easy on us. The timeline unfolds backward, so we begin with the war and slowly work our way back to Jack’s childhood.
Curious to see how he became the flannel-loving man he is today? Here’s what went down in season three, episode four of This Is Us, titled “Vietnam.”
Welcome to Vietnam
Young Jack is taken via helicopter to a camp called Landing Zone Gloria. As he navigates the area, it becomes clear that he’s not where he’s supposed to be. Nevertheless, he keeps referring to a return address on an envelope, which reads Chu Lai, Vietnam.
After asking for directions, he spots a fellow soldier working in the latrines and slowly approaches him before saying, “Hey, little brother.” (More on this later.)
3 Weeks Earlier
Staff sergeant Jack is leading his men through the jungle while trying to avoid land mines, bombs and enemy soldiers.
Despite the danger, one of Jack’s buddies, Don Robinson (Mo McRae), can’t stop talking about trying out to be a professional baseball player when he returns home in 90 days, and we have a feeling this is the same person that Kevin (Justin Hartley) sent an email to in episode three.
After diffusing a land mine, the group heads back to camp to play football. When one soldier bolts to catch a long pass, he’s blown to pieces after stepping on another booby trap.
As if it weren’t bad enough, gunfire starts raining down on camp. When Jack sees a nearby explosion, he drops everything and runs to find Robinson lying on the ground…with a missing foot.
In a total bizarre move, Robinson asks Jack to give him his detached foot, which survived the explosion in one piece. Go figure. He cradles it against his chest before saying, “You’re scared, Pearson. Don’t you ever get tired of pretending like you ain’t plain, flat-out scared?”
When Robinson cups Jack’s face in his hands and tells him to breathe, we cut to Jack doing the same thing to teenage Randall (Niles Fitch).
Right on cue, the helicopter arrives to airlift Robinson, snapping Jack out of his fantasy.
Due to the, um, incident, Jack and his men are reassigned to a small fishing village located near—you guessed it—Chu Lai (the same place as the envelope). When they arrive, they’re elated to see a body of water and immediately jump in. And we can’t help but wonder if the writers were inspired by the lake scene in Orange Is the New Black.
The next day, Jack’s commanding officer arrives via helicopter to check in on the group. Jack wastes no time getting down to business—he says his brother is in trouble, and he needs to hitch a ride on the next chopper. His superior isn’t having it and reminds him that he’s already down two men.
14 Months Earlier
Jack arrives at his parents’ house to find his dad, Stanley (Peter Onorati), passed out in the living room and his mom, Marilyn (Laura Niemi), crying in the kitchen. She’s reading a letter from Jack’s brother, Nick, or “Nicky” (Michael Angarano), who is deployed in Vietnam and needs help.
He explains that he was “Article Fifteen-ed” for being a “reckless danger” to himself, which means he’s holed up in a remote camp as punishment. Nick says he won’t get out of there alive and claims he’s “living in hell on earth.”
At the doctor’s office, Jack is chatting with his physician about Nick’s deployment. When he tells him that he wants to enlist too, the doctor reminds him that he has a legitimate excuse— tachycardia, or an irregular heartbeat. (Um, what?)
Jack dives into a classic speech about how he has one job as an older brother, and that’s to protect Nick. He’s not taking “no” for an answer.
1 Year Earlier
The year is 1969, and Jack is working as an auto mechanic. Nick seems off as he nervously drinks his coffee and watches his brother. He says he’s worried about getting selected in the upcoming draft.
After Jack reassures him that his birthday (October 18) is lucky, they head to a bar to watch it on TV. They cringe as the host states birthday after birthday until pulling a slip that reads: October 18.
When they return home, papa Pearson says nothing but “make me proud, son.”
The next day, Jack and Nick leave for a hunting trip. In the car, Nick is exploring his limited options. When he suggests becoming a doctor, Jack reminds him that “medics get shot too.”
Although he’s terrified, Nick can’t help but wonder what’s next for him. He says he’d do anything to start at the end and work his way backward, so he knows what’s coming. (Hey, we see what you did there.)
They decide to spend the night at a motel, which proves to be a horrible idea. Jack wakes up to find a note from Nick. He thanks his brother before adding, “It’s my turn to save the day now.”
Welp, is someone cutting onions?
14 Years Earlier
Young Jack and Nick are playing catch with a football. When Jack accidentally breaks his brother’s glasses, he immediately assumes big brother mode, saying he’ll take the blame. Nick disses his glasses, and Jack reminds him that Clark Kent (aka Superman) wears specks, making him a “tough guy in disguise.”
Later that night, the boys are listening to their parents argue in the kitchen. When Nick runs downstairs to defend his mom, his dad turns to him and then stops when Jack steps in front of his little brother.
“The three of you deserve each other,” Stanley says before leaving the room.
After a long group hug, Marilyn comments on Jack’s racing heartbeat.
“It always beats fast,” he says. Gulp.
7 Years Earlier
It’s October 18, and Jack’s mom is in labor. When the nurse says 18 is a lucky number, Marilyn admits that her husband wants her to hold out until the 19th because it’s his father’s birthday.
In the waiting room, Jack is sitting with his dad when grandpa Pearson enters. He offers Stanley a swig from his flask, and he immediately responds, “Come on, Dad, you know I don’t drink.”
Right on cue, Nick enters the world on October 18. When Stanley shows Jack the hospital nursery, he explains that all these babies will have the same birthday as Nick.
Flash-forward to Jack approaching Nick in Vietnam, saying, “Hey, little brother.”
Did Jack make the right decision? And how will Nick meet his maker? Guess we’ll have to wait until This Is Us returns next Tuesday on NBC.