Over a year ago, our favorite This Is Us character, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), met his untimely demise in the season two “Super Bowl Sunday” episode of the hit NBC series. Sure, the loss still feels fresh (especially since the This Is Us timeline jumps around so much), but for some fans Jack’s death is still an enigma. You see, more than a year and a half after the devastating episode that finally revealed how Jack died, people are still avidly Googling, “How did Jack die in This Is Us?” Maybe they’re behind and trying to catch up on the series or maybe they’re emotional masochists reliving the pain for the fun of it. Either way, it seems prudent that we spell out how the Pearson patriarch met his maker.
So, how did Jack die? Long story short: cardiac arrest due to smoke inhalation from a fire caused by a Crock-Pot. Yikes.
It all started with a faulty (potentially evil) Crock-Pot, which Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack were gifted by their previous next-door neighbors, Sally and George. While packing up their house to move, George realizes he and Sally no longer need the Crock-Pot. So, he heads over to young Jack and Rebecca’s house to offer it to them. They gladly accept the hand-me-down, which George is sure to point out has a fussy switch.
Fast-forward about 17 years later and the Pearson family members are basking in a post–Super Bowl haze. Randall (Nigel Fitch) is somehow still hungry, so he heads to the kitchen to get a snack. Jack hears him and goes to check on his son. They chat for a bit and after Randall returns to his room, Jack sweeps the floor, does the dishes and turns off the Crock-Pot before heading to bed himself.
True to ol’ George’s words, the Crock-Pot flicks back on in the middle of the night, causing a dishtowel, then the kitchen curtains to catch on fire. Before we know it, the whole Pearson household is ablaze.
Once the smoke becomes palpable, Jack is startled awake and rushes to get Rebecca, Randall and Kate (Hannah Zeile) out of the house. (Kevin isn’t home.) Jack heroically gets his wife and children to safety, but, as they look at their burning house, Kate screams that their new dog, Louie, is still inside. Jack hears the dog barking and, against Rebecca’s wishes, decides to rush back into the fire.
Not only does he successfully retrieve Louie, but he also manages to collect family albums, Kate’s audition tape for Juilliard and everyone’s respect before the Pearson house completely burns down. But we’re not in the clear yet.
The fire department comes and Jack and Rebecca go to the hospital so Jack can have his wounds dressed and undergo a checkup to make sure he’s all right. The doctor says that although Jack inhaled a good amount of smoke, he appears to be in good shape. Jack apologizes to Rebecca for not picking up batteries for the smoke alarm and she goes off to make hotel reservations for the family since their house is clearly no longer inhabitable.
And then it happens: While Rebecca is at Miguel’s (Jon Huertas) house checking on the kids, Jack goes into cardiac arrest from the previously mentioned smoke inhalation and dies. Yes, just when we thought maybe Jack’s impending death was some big ruse by the This Is Us producers and maybe he wouldn’t pass away after all, it really happens.
At that point, Rebecca is just as shocked (but probably more so) than us, and refuses to accept that her husband is dead. She continues eating the candy bar she just purchased and it isn’t until she sees her husband’s lifeless body that the magnitude of the situation really sets in. With nothing left to do, Rebecca goes to Miguel’s home once more and breaks the news to him. He’s gutted, understandably, but she tells him they have to be strong for the kids. Then, she does the hardest thing she’ll ever have to do and tells her children, Randall and Kate, that their father is dead. (Kevin is still at a party in the woods with Sophie, so Kate tells him later.)
What most viewers, including this editor, found so frustrating about Jack’s death is that it was preventable. Had Jack unplugged the Crock-Pot instead of flipping the switch to off, it probably would have never happened. Hell, if he and Rebecca had replaced the Crock-Pot once they could afford a properly working one, then they’d still have their storybook romance and dream home. Also, if Jack hadn’t gone into a burning house to save the family dog and family mementos, he probably wouldn’t have inhaled so much smoke and would have lived to see another day. But, of course, these things did happen and our favorite TV dad is no more.
Even though we’ve known Jack would die basically from the beginning of the series, the news isn’t any easier to take. All we can say is rest in peace, Jack Pearson, you gem, you.