- This Is Us -How Vietnam May Connect Laurel's Brother To Nicky On 'This Is Us'
In Tuesday night's Laurel-centric episode of This Is Us, we finally learned the backstory of Randall's birth mother. How she was raised in the well-to-do Dubois family in New Orleans, how close her bond is with her free-spirited Aunt Mae, why she never contacted Randall, and why Hai considered her the love of his life. But there's one part of her family history that I can't get off my mind — how Laurel's brother may connect to Uncle Nicky.
I'm talking about the Chekhov's gun of a reveal that Laurel's brother Jackson was drafted to Vietnam and died in battle. We know his death left Laurel bereft and devastated without one of the only people in the world she felt understood her. But we don't know much more. What year was he drafted? How did he die? Who did he meet while in service?
Vietnam itself has been an inflection point in the NBC drama series, as we've seen over the last five seasons with Jack and Nicky Pearson, and it would make sense with This Is Us' penchant for threading the needle through multiple degrees of separation that Jackson would have crossed paths with at least one of the Pearson brothers.
So how does Jackson fit into the Vietnam puzzle of the Pearson saga? Unless it is a red herring, there must be some meaning. Let's explore:
Did Nicky & Jackson Serve Alongside Each Other?
This idea completely hinges upon what year exactly Jackson was drafted, but it could be the connection we're looking for. In "Birth Mother," we are only told that he was drafted to war and then a few minutes later, we see the morose officers standing in the Dubois' family doorway delivering the dreaded news of his death.
It doesn't seem like Jackson was in Vietnam for very long, but if he was drafted the same year as Nicky Pearson (1970), it's not out of the question that they may have been brothers in arms, or even bunkmates. Is it possible that in their distress from serving in Vietnam, they might have confided in each other about the brutalities they were facing day to day.
Continuing with the theory that Jackson and Nicky may have been in the same squad, perhaps they swapped stories of how close they were with their siblings in households that expected different trajectories for their kids, but were still hot pressure cookers all the same.
Nicky could have revealed his admiration for his "Superhero" of a big brother Jack and relief that he wasn't in Vietnam like he was, while Jackson may have regaled Nicky with memories of his little sister Laurel (who would have at least been a teen it seems by the time Jackson was drafted).
Could Jackson's Death Have Affected Nicky For The Worse?
Another adjacent idea of Nicky and Jackson's bond could hail from Nicky first meeting Jackson as an injured soldier whose wounds he was nursing, and as he healed, they became pals. Think Allie in The Notebook tending to Lon's injuries and the rapport they developed.
It would be a tragedy of a mirror image, but maybe Jackson died after enduring another injury on the ground, and Nicky couldn't save him this time. And feeling so distraught he couldn't aid his dear friend, the loss contributed to his reliance on drugs and disillusionment with his circumstances, leading to him garnering an Article 15 and Jack heading to war to be there for his brother.
Did Nicky Ever Know The Dubois Family?
Although the Big Three never knew about Nicky being alive for years because of the tragic accident that tore him and Jack apart, Nicky potentially could have sought out the Dubois family sometime after his return home from war to remember his best friend.
Of course, if he did end up ever paying his respects to the Dubois family, it's unlikely that he knew that Laurel would end up being the mother to his nephew. (Unless he can tell the future — a real twist for this show.) In that case, it makes the situation all the more heartbreaking to know that the Pearson and the Dubois families could have connected long before the year the show kicks off.
Piecing It All Together
Should Randall and Nicky see each other in the future, it would be cathartic to see all of the possible pieces of the puzzle come together. If Randall is able to open up and share with his family what he's learned about his birth mother — this huge part of his life that has been missing— and Nicky can have the a-ha moment that he actually knew Jackson all those years ago.
Of course, perhaps these two men were just passing ships in the night, without any connection other than the fact that they both served in Vietnam. But I'm going to give This Is Us more credit than that. Every word to Hai's story about Laurel's life was intentional, so don't be surprised if this is just the beginning of Randall's self-discovery journey.