Jack Pearson has always put a great deal of emphasis on family on This Is Us, and most assumed that it was because he didn’t have a great one growing up. His father was an abusive alcoholic, and his mother wasn't really able to be there for him due to the abuse she was enduring as well. Not the best way for a kid to live, but Jack found Rebecca and they made a family of their own. But, in the Oct. 24 episode of This Is Us, the cat fell out of the bag — Jack wasn’t an only child. He has a brother, Nicky. But, since we haven't seen him as an adult, does that mean that Jack’s brother Nicky is dead on This Is Us?
Viewers met Nicky in a flashback of Jack sitting in the car, waiting for his dad to take the two of them fishing. Unfortunately, Mr. Stanley Pearson decided he was “adult thirsty” and stopped into the bar on the way to the lake, and Jack could do nothing but repeat to himself the hope that his father would (eventually) come back. Toward the end of the scene, a head pops up in the back seat, and Jack assures his bespectacled little brother, Nicky, that their dad is coming back and that he’ll never leave him alone. “Don’t worry, Nicky. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere,” he says. Cue the tears. Later, Jack, in the 1990s, finds and gently holds a photo of Nicky and Jack in Vietnam. They must have been deployed or enlisted together, but it doesn’t seem like both Pearson guys necessarily made it back.
The question remains — did Nicky die in the war? Or are he and Jack just estranged from each other? Jack’s insistence that his sons get along sure makes it seem like Nicky is no longer living and that he's wistful for that brother relationship. In the Season 1 finale, “Moonshadow,” Jack is 28, back from Vietnam, and even more angry with his father than he was before. Though it could just be a part of growing up and realizing that Stanley is a negligent, abusive jerk, Jack could also hate his dad because Nicky went to war and didn’t come back and now all Jack has for family are his problematic parents.
There’s another more tragic option to Nicky’s fate, too. In “Moonshadow,” Jack tells a neighbor that he was just a mechanic while he was in Vietnam, but in the second episode of Season 2, viewers got a glimpse of Jack jumping out of a helicopter with an M-16. Because this is This Is Us, all of these details have to be connected, and it leads to another question — is Jack somehow responsible for Nicky’s death? Friendly fire is sadly a thing.
However, this is This is Us, and maybe a big twist is coming that will reveal Nicky is still alive and was just estranged from Jack for unknown reasons. Whether in present day or in flashbacks, I doubt we're done with seeing Nicky. This Is Us producer John Fequa told Entertainment Weekly that Jack’s traumas relate to the way he deals with his family and kids. He said:
“The big thing is that he keeps secrets, that he has compartmentalized and hidden away this part of his life, which obviously was his brother, and it was a big part. Obviously, a major thing happened, some trauma of some sort. And that’s what Kevin is doing. That’s what we’re trying to say with this episode. This life of keeping secrets and evasiveness is exactly the sort of behavior that Kevin is exhibiting. We’re trying to draw the parallels between the good and the bad of Jack, and how it manifests in his children.”
Jack knows the value of having a brother (or sibling in general), and he could feel the way he feels about keeping his family together because he knows that it all could be taken away in an instant. It could lead to the idea that Jack’s bad side is the one that is partly responsible for his brother’s death. Whatever happened to Nicky is on This Is Us, he’s had an immeasurable effect on Jack’s life.