The ‘This Is Us’ Season 4, Episode 17 Promo Highlights a World Where Jack Didn’t Die and We’re Already Broken

A new week, a new heartbreak — that’s the life This Is Us fans know all too well. On Tuesday, March 10, viewers witnessed the beginning of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) inevitable feud as Rebecca (Mandy Moore) came to terms with her diagnosis. Then before credits started rolling, the This Is Us Season 4, Episode 17 promo stunned fans with a teaser previewing a world where Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) didn’t die. And to be honest, we already know the “what-if” episode will destroy us.

[Spoiler alert: This Is Us Season 4, Episode 16.] 

‘This Is Us’ Season 4 reveals Randall imagines what life would be like if Jack lived

Milo Ventimiglia as Jack on 'This Is Us' Season 4
Milo Ventimiglia as Jack on ‘This Is Us’ | Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In the March 10 episode of This Is Us Season 4 — titled “New York, New York, New York” — Kevin and Rebecca head to the Big Apple for the actor’s movie premiere. But before the trip, Randall tells Kevin and Kate (Chrissy Metz) about a nine-month Alzheimer’s trial in St. Louis for Rebecca. Kevin disagrees with the proposal, as he doesn’t want their mother to be gone for such a long period of time. However, Randall thinks this is her best option. 

When Randall arrives in NYC, Kevin asks his brother not to mention the clinical trial until the next day. He wants Rebecca to have a good time and Randall agrees. But eventually, Randall tells Rebecca anyway and the Pearson brothers get into an argument. 

By the end of the night, Rebecca says she doesn’t want to do the Alzheimer’s trial. Instead, she wants to spend the rest of her life enjoying time with her family. Randall and Kevin accept her decision. But the City Councilman isn’t too happy.

At the end of the episode, This Is Us fans discover why Randall is pressing so hard to find a cure for Rebecca — and it boils down to Jack’s death. “I spent the last 20 years wondering if I could’ve saved dad. And now I had a chance to save mom and you blew it,” Randall tells Kevin.

Meanwhile, Kevin tells his brother he couldn’t have saved Jack from dying after the fire. Then Randall says, “Don’t you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if dad hadn’t died? If he hadn’t gone back in for that dog? If our lives would’ve turned out differently?”

Kevin hasn’t. But Randall has “every single day.” Then an altered flashback from the devastating Super Bowl episode is shown. Jack is about to head back into the burning Pearson family home for the dog. But then teenage Randall (Niles Fitch) stops him.

“Dad, if you go back in that house — so help me god — I’ll go through that front door and get you myself,” Randall screams. Then Jack looks at his son and understands. He rejoins his family and hugs them. Jack presumably lives. 

The ‘This Is Us’ Season 4, Episode 17 promo trailer for ‘After the Fire’

If you were in tears by Randall’s image of Jack, stay tuned. The ending of “New York, New York, New York” set up what’s to come in the next episode — titled “After the Fire” — which will air on March 17. In the This Is Us Season 4, Episode 17 promo, the NBC drama revealed Randall’s remarks to Kevin are echoed during a therapy session.

“I wonder what my life would be like if my dad hadn’t died,” Randall tells his therapist. Then shots of Jack flash by. And yes, it’s a little heartbreaking considering what we already know. 

First, Jack gives a toast at Randall and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) wedding. Of course, the speech was given a round of applause and Randall gives his father a hug. Then an older version of Jack is seen and there are glimpses of Kate and Kevin, who appear happier than ever. Kate even has a little girl in her arms.

Finally, the “After the Fire” trailer ends on a gutwrenching clip. Teen Randall appears at William Hill’s (Ron Cephas Jones) doorstep — with Jack by his side. “My name is Randall Pearson. I think I’m your son,” Randall says. Now please excuse us while we cry for all eternity.

The ‘This Is Us’ team teases what happens in ‘After the Fire’

Prior to “After the Fire,” This Is Us introduced fans to Randall’s therapist, Dr. Leigh (Pamela Adlon). Then on Feb. 25, executive producers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker teased what will happen when Dr. Leigh returns for another session.

“We have a therapy episode coming up that really, really dives into Randall’s psychology in an interesting way,” Aptaker said. “We’re bringing back Pam … I don’t want to give too much away about it, but she starts probing into Randall’s psychology and what makes him tick in a really, really interesting way. It launches one of our more out-there-conceptually episodes that we’ve ever done on the show.”

Then on March 10, Berger and Aptaker gave a few more hints about Randall’s storyline as Dr. Leigh comes back in This Is Us Season 4, Episode 17. Aptaker confirmed the episode will “explore a bit of what life may have looked like had Randall acted differently” and Jack survived the fire.

Then Berger revealed how it will tie in with Randall’s therapy session. She said:

We’ve already seen that the therapist knows how to push Randall’s buttons in a big way. She does not mince words, and she’s really good at getting to the heart of the matter with him. So the chemistry and the tension between the two of them is so interesting and so palpable in this upcoming episode. We are exploring these themes of “What if my father had lived, how different would life be?” And that’s all stuff that will be coming up.

But regardless of what happens, it seems This Is Us fans should prepare for some heartache. Following the March 10 episode, creator Dan Fogelman warned fans to “brace for impact.” 

“Guys @SterlingKBrown next week is just… he’s off the charts. This whole cast is crazy. Writers are crazy. @kenolin1 is legit crazy,” Fogelman wrote on Twitter. “Two to go. Brace for impact. #ThisIsUs.”

So stay tuned. This Is Us Season 4 returns March 17 at 9 p.m. EST on NBC.

Read more: ‘This Is Us’ Creator Says the Writers Won’t Kill Off This Character