This Is Us fans didn’t find out the details behind Jack Pearson’s death until the recent “Super Bowl Sunday” episode, but the untimely demise of the Pearson patriarch was referenced as far back as the show’s pilot episode in 2016.
When This Is Us made its debut on Sept. 20, 2016, fans focused on the time-traveling plot twist at the end of the pilot episode. The next week, an older Rebecca (Mandy Moore) showed up at Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) home, but Jack wasn’t with her. Instead, Jack’s best friend Miguel (Jon Huertas) was standing alongside her—and Randall’s kids were calling him grandpa. Fans picked up on the fact that Rebecca was still wearing the moon necklace that Jack had given her three decades earlier, but it wasn’t until a few episodes later that This Is Us fans found out for sure that Jack had died when his adult daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) pulled an urn of his ashes off of her mantle as she watched the Steelers game.
But in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Milo Ventimiglia revealed Jack’s death was subtly referenced in the pilot episode—during a conversation with Randall and his newfound biological dad William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones). In the interview, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman confirmed there was a line from Randall in the original script that was taken out, but William’s response to it was left in. And that one-liner was a major hint that Jack was no longer with us. Milo Ventimiglia explained as follows.
“There was a line between Randall and William where Randall says, ‘Well, my father who’s not around anymore…’ and if you pay enough attention to the pilot, that line was missing. But William still says, ‘He must’ve been proud of you.’ He used past tense. So I’ve known from the beginning, and Dan has always assured me, ‘Now, Mi, Jack is dead, but it doesn’t mean you’re going anywhere.'”
Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed a few other past-tense references to Jack in the This Is Us pilot. In an early scene, Kate said to Kevin (Justin Hartley), “Do you remember what dad used to say when something crappy would happen to us?… You remember. What did he say, about the lemons?”
Jack’s quote about the lemons also came in the pilot episode after his heart-to-heart with Dr. K (Gerald McRaney), who encouraged him to take the sourest lemons that life has to offer and make something that resembles lemonade.
Sadly, fans now know that Jack Pearson died after a house fire when he was just 53-years-old. With his tragic death reveal now played out, This Is Us fans will find out more about Jack Pearson’s backstory when the drama series returns to NBC on Tuesday, February 27 at 9 p.m. ET.