Since the very beginning of This Is Us, fans have understood the explanations for certain Pearson family mysteries are a long game. In fact, we learned Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) is unquestionably currently dead in late October 2016. We're now into November 2017, over a full year later, and viewers are barely any closer to knowing what happened. So, it’s no surprise This Is Us has taken its time explaining how Jack’s wife Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) ended up marrying his best friend Miguel Rivas (Jon Huertas). At long last, the NBC tear-jerker ended the speculation on the older couple’s romance with Tuesday night’s “The 20's.” The reveal was basically the most This Is Us twist.
The episode began telegraphing a possible resolution to the Rebecca-Miguel questioning at the midpoint. It’s Halloween 2008, mere days before Barack Obama was first elected president, and Rebecca is so very lonely. At this point, her husband has been gone for about 11 years, since it seems Jack died in 1997. Rebecca, who seems pretty darn single at this point, starts asking a very pregnant Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson) about making a Facebook account. Beth assures her mother-in-law she doesn’t need to join social media, but Rebecca hints she’s desperate to “stay connected” and join a “community.” Immediately, it sounds like this plan will help her reconnect with people — people like Miguel.
My This Is Us spidey sense proved correct in the installment's final scene, which is where most of the series’ biggest revelations are usually stashed. In the “20’s” closer, Rebecca posts what we can assume is her first Facebook baby photo of her oldest granddaughter, the wonderful Tess. Soon enough, none other than Miguel is sliding into Rebecca’s DMs with a sweet message congratulating the new grandma on her expanding family. “How’ve you been the last eight years?” Miguel adds, revealing he now lives in Houston. Rebecca looks shocked and moved by the message. First, she writes in response, “I’m hanging in there,” before changing the almost-too-honest sentiment to the less intense, “I’m good. How are you?”
Right before these messages take up Rebecca's computer screen, we hear her tell in voiceover newborn Tess, “I thought my journey had come to an end … But maybe we’re both at our next beginning.” Miguel is Rebecca's new beginning.
This fairly innocuous, and extremely respectful to Jack, reunion puts to rest all of the wild fan theorizing as to how Miguel turns into Rebecca’s second husband. When the unexpected reality was introduced in season 1’s second episode, “The Big Three,” it came at a time that suggested Rebecca had possibly left Jack for his best friend due to the Pearsons' marriage problems. The October 2016 episode showed the legitimate strain in the central couple’s marriage during the 1980s, as the first cracks of Jack’s alcoholism started revealing themselves. Miguel, on the other hand, is the one who recognizes how great Rebecca is, telling his best friend, “You wife is the gold standard of wives. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, great personality, greater ass.”
With that kind of rave review, it sure sounds like Miguel might have wanted to poach Rebecca amid the chaos of Jack’s drinking problems. Since fans everywhere love Jack, even with his flaws, it’s hard to trust Miguel with that possibility hanging in the air. Other details sprinkled throughout This Is Us also make this kind of Bro Code violation seem entirely plausible. There’s the fact Miguel is single after his marriage implodes with Shelly (Wynn Everett), the confirmation the Pearson kids go to Miguel’s house when they find out about Jack’s death, and the constantly looming issues in the Pearsons’ relationship.
But, “20’s” all but confirms no such hanky panky went on between Rebecca and Miguel. In an especially moving moment after Beth gives birth to baby Tess, Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) and his mom are alone in the house. Rebecca broke a plate and is overly distraught about the accident because she’s not upset about housewares — she misses her dead husband. “That was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Rebecca says of Tess' birth through tears to her son. “But, also, your dad isn’t here. That’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life: the happiest moments will also be a little sad.” These are the feelings of someone who lost the love of their life and never truly recovered. If Rebecca had started dating Miguel, or anyone, really, after Jack’s death, she wouldn’t be nearly this distressed by his absence. Instead, she would be wishing the new guy was there to enjoy the moment with her.
The only real mystery left now that we can guess how Rebecca and Miguel’s love story began is what happened between the time when Jack died and the couple reconciled with the help of Mark Zuckerberg. As of 2008, it had been eleven years since the Pearson family patriarch’s passing, but Miguel clearly says he hasn’t seen Rebecca in eight years. We can all guess that means he moved to Houston in 2000. So, what occurred in those three remaining years? Did Miguel and Rebecca continue to spend time together while working through their mutual grief? Is it possible Miguel started catching feelings for his late best friend’s wife, pushing him to move over 1,300 miles away from Rebecca out of guilt? Similarly over-the-top family dramedy Jane The Virgin did include a version of this storyline following the death of Michael (Brett Dier), in a far more quirky way than This Is Us could ever allow.
So, like any big This Is Us reveal, we may have gotten the answers to one of our burning questions, but it's only created more.
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