If you're like me, you're not just watching This Is Us for the feel-good family moments and Sterling K. Brown's Emmy-earning performance. These things are obviously factors, of course, but the mystery lover inside of me is also low-key watching this series for another purpose: to figure out how Milo Ventimiglia's Jack actually died.
It was strongly hinted at in the season 2 premiere "A Father's Advice" that Jack died in a house fire. Watching Rebecca (Mandy Moore) drive by the burned-down Pearson home while sobbing was heartbreaking, but in true This Is Us fashion, it didn't even give us a sliver of the whole story.
For this one, you're going to have to go back to the season 1 episode "The Best Washing Machine In The Whole World." The episode uses the Pearson's troublesome appliance to weave together stories about the family, and it's an all-around heartwarming episode — or so it seemed, anyway. Redditor Ashelizabethmoon thinks it was foreshadowing Jack's dark death.
"The small movements of our lives, and how big they can become if little things break the right way or the wrong way — I’ve always been fascinated by [the fact that] you could have met your husband or your wife if you had just not gone that way at the bar that night, or the friend hadn’t wanted to set you up," Fogelman told Entertainment Weekly. "The great things in your life, how easily that sliding door could have gone a different way, as well as the tragedy. That’s part of our story."
How does the washing machine fit into this narrative? Perfectly, explains Ashelizabethmoon.
"At the end of Season 1, Episode 7 "The Best Washing Machine in the World," Kevin - who had just moved to the basement because he didn't want to share a room with Randall anymore - yells for Rebecca, screaming that the washing machine is possessed (signaling that it is not working properly). This scene takes place the night of the football game where Randall and Kevin get into a fight, which is also the day Rebecca first met up with the band. This means the washing machine was malfunctioning around the relevant time frame. It is reasonable to assume that fixing it was not Rebecca's priority given that she was reigniting her music career, and Jack began drinking again at this time. It is also reasonable to assume the family's focus was not on the washing machine once Jack returned home to work on recovery."
The Redditor adds:
"The montages of the Pearsons and washing machines set to Cat Stevens. Standing alone, they were sweet and nostalgic. But imagine these scenes - Jack's promise to Rebecca in the laundromat to buy her a washing machine, Rebecca questioning how they could manage laundry for three infants after their first machine broke, chaos and bubbles spewing from their next washing machine, and Jack and Rebecca admiring the best washing machine in the world - juxtaposed with the aftermath of the fire caused by the machine. Chills."
Ashelizabethmoon also suggests that the fact that young Kevin had his leg in a cast at the point of the fire flashback could mean that he was no longer staying in the basement during that time, as he would be unable to go up and down the stairs. Instead, perhaps he was staying in Kate's room, and Kate took the basement, where the washing machine is located. Perhaps she did something to "fix" the washing machine, which caused it to eventually spark an electrical fire.
Another explanation that Redditor pandymonium87 adds to the thread is that maybe Kevin, in crutches, was staying in the basement — but he snuck out to meet Sophie, and Kate covered for him. Jack, being the heroic guy he is, went to save his injured son, who wasn't in the basement as Kate suggested. That would also lead to Kate's guilt over her father's death, which has plagued her all series long.
We'll have to wait until This Is Us finally spills the details on Jack's death, but this washing machine saga is enough to make me want to go to the laundromat for the rest of my life.