‘This Is Us’ Season 3 Finale: The Reason for Pin the Tail on the Donkey and More Flash-Forward Answers

The This Is Us season 3 finale answered a lot of questions — but also created some new ones in the flash-forward scene. Fans finally got confirmation that the “her” referenced in the future scenes was Rebecca and finally got a glimpse of her condition in the very end of the episode.

It certainly provides plenty of opportunities to continue to tell the story of how the family got to this place when we catch up with these characters in This Is Us season 4.

This Is Us - Season 3 finale
The cast of This Is Us | Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via GettyImages

Fans have had theories about Rebecca

As the season progressed, there were many theories floated about what happens to Rebecca and, most recently, many fans believed that she was showing signs of dementia. During the hospital waiting room scenes in the episode where Kate went into labor, many people noticed something was “off” about Rebecca and believed she might have been exhibiting some early signs of dementia.

In the final moments of the This Is Us finale, Randall has to tell Rebecca who he is, but the answer isn’t yet clear about whether Rebecca has Alzheimer’s or has suffered some other memory loss.

In an interview with The Wrap, when asked about Rebecca’s condition, co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger noted: “We aren’t revealing exactly what it is. But obviously it’s a very somber gathering, obviously we’re seeing a very different Rebecca than we’re used to seeing and we’re going to be giving those answers as we move forward.”

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What’s with the Pin the Tail on the Donkey game and chalk?

The significance of the Pin the Tail on the Donkey game has kept fans plenty curious and it’s not clear the significance yet of it or the sidewalk chalk that Toby brings. It’s clearly not a happy occasion that they’re gathering for, so the inclusion of these childhood items seems strange.

When asked what they could share about these items, co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker told The Wrap: “Very little, except that we have a plan and it’s all going to make sense in the grand scheme of thing. But yes, if right now you’re watching and scratching your head a little bit about why they are bringing kids’ party games and chalk to this pretty somber gathering of a very old, sick Rebecca, you should be confused. It’s a good confusion.”

Additionally, Aptaker told TV Guide: “It’s not supposed to make sense just yet, but if people trust us, we do have a plan. It will all be explained.”

One fan theory that’s been discussed on Reddit is how the Big Three played Pin the Tail on the Donkey before on the show, as one person noted: “Someone pointed out that the kids played pin the tail on the donkey on their birthday when they were younger. The entire series started on their birthday and in the flash-forward they have the game with them as adults. I think it is possible everyone gathering to say goodbye to Rebecca may not just be a random point in the future, but maybe the last scene of the whole series. If it happens to be on the birthday of the Big Three, then we’ll have come full circle.”

Notice the Pin the Tail on the Donkey in the background of Season 1, Episode 13, when the kids want to break from their traditional joint birthday parties and have their own.

Where’s Miguel? Where’s Kate? Why is Nicky by Rebecca’s side?

There were other questions that came out of the This Is Us finale, including who was and wasn’t there for this gathering. Kate was noticeably absent, but perhaps referenced by Toby, Miguel is nowhere to be seen, and Nicky is surprisingly at Rebecca’s bedside.

Aptaker told TVLine that they can’t reveal whether or not Toby was referring to Kate, sharing, “That’s another one where we were incredibly careful with our language.”

As for Miguel and Nicky, Aptaker revealed that there is definitely more to be told about these characters: “What happened to Miguel and where he is in the future is a bit of a longer-term mystery for the show. But we’re going to be getting back into the Nicky story pretty quickly [in Season 4]. We love Griffin Dunne so much… and we just loved his dynamic with Justin [Hartley], Mandy [Moore] and the rest of the family. So we are going to be exploring how Nicky goes from the man who said, ‘I can’t have you in my life right now. Please just leave me [alone] in [my] trailer out in the middle of nowhere’ into this person who is obviously connected enough to the family in the future to have this very special place by Rebecca’s bedside. So that is going to be more immediate for us. And the Miguel [mystery] is more bigger picture.”

Interestingly, when asked if they could reveal if Nicky and Rebecca’s relationship is romantic or platonic, Berger noted: “We can’t at this time.”