Ron Batzdorff/NBC

'This Is Us' Celebrates The Thanksgiving Before Its Biggest Tragedy

Thanksgiving has always been an especially important holiday on This Is Us. In the first season, it was marked by highs and lows, like the creation of Pearson-specific traditions (i.e., Pilgrim Rick) and the revelation that Rebecca concealed Randall's biological father from him for years. Season 3 will tackle another Thanksgiving in the Pearsons' lives, but where exactly does it fit into the timeline? How long before Jack's death is the Thanksgiving episode of This Is Us?

It can be difficult to keep the sequence of events straight on this show since every week it zigzags through time. In one episode, it can jump back to the Big Three's childhood, then zip into the future in the very next scene. But figuring out exactly how much time passes between the Thanksgiving dinner in "18,615" and Jack's death isn't actually very difficult. The trailer for Episode 8 indicates that it happened mere months before his passing, because the Pearson kids are all teenagers about to embark on college. As Rebecca notes, it might be the last Thanksgiving they enjoy while all the kids are living in the house.

Jack died in the early hours of Jan. 26, 1998, right after Super Bowl XXXII. That year, Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 26, per That means "18,615" takes place exactly two months before Jack dies.

That was a particularly fraught period in the Pearsons' lives. Jack and Rebecca were still recovering from a tentative separation (that lasted about a day, but still) that resulted from Jack's alcoholism and Rebecca's renewed focus on her singing career. Miguel had just divorced his wife Shelly, which unsettled Jack and Rebecca amidst their own issues; it also seems to have netted Miguel an invite to the Pearson's Thanksgiving celebration, as indicated by the promo for Episode 8.

Meanwhile, Kevin, Kate, and Randall were all trying to chase their various college dreams and coming up against roadblocks. Kevin blew out his knee during a football game, which ended his plan to go pro. Kate was trying to push past her insecurities so she could attend the Berklee School of Music. Randall continued his lifelong journey of being the most perfect while being under-appreciated by everyone around him. That is, indeed, its own struggle.

However, things had been looking up before Jack's untimely demise. Kevin may have been spiraling a little after his dreams were crushed, but he had been developing a new understanding of just how much his father did for him. Kate was momentarily reassured by Jack, who could get through to her like no one else. And Randall, again, was an angel on earth who enjoyed his very first kiss and was about to attend Howard University.

Viewers have seen firsthand how much the Pearsons' lives were knocked off course by Jack's sudden death. It was hard enough for them to hold it together, let alone achieve the goals they'd set up previously. But the eighth episode of the third season may offer a brief glimpse into a window of time when everything was still okay. While knowing what waits around the corner lends the happy holiday an ominous air, it could still be a respite before the tragedy to come.