This week’s This Is Us was almost entirely shot from Deja’s point of view. They managed to show parallels between events in Deja’s life – which really is unlike anything else we’ve seen on the show – to similar situations in Rebecca and Jack, Kate, Kevin, and Randall’s lives by inserting clips of flash backs.
As such, the episode starts off by showing us a montage of clips of Rebecca, Randall’s mom, and Deja’s mom, Shauna, giving birth to their babies before we’re treated to a bit of Shauna’s back story, which we hadn’t seen before.
Her mother is in a hospital room with her when she gives birth to Deja, and her mom has to actually convince her to hold her own baby because she doesn’t want to. We learn that Shauna was only sixteen years old when she gave birth to Deja, and from the things her mother is saying, it seems like she’s led a bit of a wild life, but she’s told it’s time for her to grow up now that her baby is here.
Further clips of Deja throughout her childhood show her grandmother coming home after work to a young Deja – maybe six or seven years old – home alone. Deja has a teddy bear in her hands and her grandma sees she’s attached her brooch onto the front of it. She gets into bed with Deja and reads her Goodnight Moon, which she says is her favorite book, and puts her to bed. When Shauna gets home, she explains she was at a boy’s house, and her mom is not at all pleased. After arguing a little bit, Shauna apologizes. Her mom says, “I can’t carry this for you forever.”
Predictably, the next scene we see is Deja, Shauna, and Shauna’s mom in the hallway of an apartment where Shauna’s mom collapses.
We’re shown another montage of clips of the parents dealing with loss: Randall’s father, William, after his mother passed away, Rebecca after learning the third triplet passed away, and Shauna dealing with the death of her mother. She gets into bed with Deja, asking her what they’re going to do now, which Deja answers by beginning to read Goodnight Moon again.
When we come back from commercial break, Deja is a few years younger than she is right now, in the kitchen alone. We’re shown flashbacks to Randall and Beth’s children having a lot of fun cooking with William, and Rebecca and “The Big Three” having fun in their kitchen, which highlights the stark difference between Deja’s home life and the home life of the other children in the show.
Deja’s mom walks into the room, running around, frazzled, because she’s late for work, where Deja interjects to tell her the water’s been shut off. Shauna explains she’s paid on Friday, and to take a shower at the neighbor’s for now. Deja wishes her mom a happy birthday, and even though she’s late, Shauna insists on taking her to school, telling her that it’s her birthday and she wants to do this for her.
Deja asks her mom what time she’s going to be home – “Seven,” Shauna answers. Deja replies with, “Seven like seven, or seven like ten?” – because she wants to cook her dinner for her for her birthday. When Deja gets home from school, we see she has bags of groceries and that she’s going to try making Grandma’s Jambalaya from an old recipe book. The recipe calls for diced tomatoes, so Deja gets a can from the cupboard and works on getting it open. The can opener slips, causing Deja to slice her palm open badly. Honestly, it was a little graphic for me the way the blood was pooling in her palm! She wraps her hand in a dish towel which quickly gets soaked in blood. When she calls her mom for help, it goes straight to voice mail. Deja somehow gets herself to the hospital where she immediately gets her hand bandaged up.
We then get a flashbacks of a young Kate on a stretcher with Kevin by her side, before Linda from Child Services has her first visit with Deja in the hospital. She says Deja told the hospital that her mom was at work, but when they called, she wasn’t there… just as Shauna comes running into the hospital frantically, explaining that she was out for dinner when her phone died.
You could see the hurt written all over Deja’s face because Shauna knew Deja was making her dinner and she went out anyway!
Linda insists on talking to Shauna privately, and Deja watches through a glass door while the two of them argue. The next thing we see is Deja being asked to sleep on the couch at the Child Service’s office while Linda calls around trying to find placement for her.
The next time we see Deja she’s hanging out at a Foster Home with another foster child, Raven, having a dance party that quickly escalates into an altercation between the foster father and Raven. Once Deja and Raven are on their way to school together, Raven asks Deja if she’s going to the school dance. Deja tells her that she has a dress but no make up, and Raven suggests they get it themselves by stealing it. Deja is not down with this idea at all… until she gets called soft, and then she finds herself peer pressured into stealing some makeup from a convenience store. She stuffs a tube of mascara down her shirt while Raven stuffs her bag full. They both walk past the clerk at the front of the store and stroll out of the store.
Once back at home, Raven and Deja get called downstairs by the foster dad and see the store clerk standing there. Once he leaves, the foster dad physically abuses both girls, which is mashed up with a clip of Jack punching somebody in the past. Deja’s trying to fall asleep later that night when she whispers to Raven, “He’s never beat you that bad before.”
Linda comes in to a check up on the foster home, explaining that Shauna’s been in treatment for a year – the only indication we’ve had of how long Deja has been away from her mother. Deja defends her, saying she only uses “that stuff” because she misses her. Linda says she understands, and just wants to make sure that the next time she goes home it’s for good, and that isn’t the case right now.
Deja gets noticeably upset at that, and Linda picks up on it, asking her if everything’s okay where she is. Deja hesitates, but ultimately nods that she’s okay, and Linda goes to take off again when Deja blurts, “He hits us.” Linda stops in her tracks, and the very next thing we see is both girls being led out of the house with their belongings. Raven and Deja end up in a group home where we learn that Raven’s pretty upset about Deja giving up their situation. She explains that yes, they were getting beat up, but at least they had each other. Now they’re going to be split up, and even worse, have to deal with bed after bed alone. Deja falls asleep with tears streaming down her face.
The next scene starts with Linda leading Deja to her mom’s new apartment. Shauna opens the door – looking healthy and well – and a clip of Rebecca standing at an open door after Kate had her miscarriage is added here – and we see both moms hugging their children.
Deja and her mom start cooking dinner, and Shauna says a man she met in rehab wants to join them if that’s alright. Deja says yes, but obviously isn’t feeling it, as we see her grill the guy about where he works and what is job is while he’s trying to flirt with her mom. The guy tries to win Deja over by telling her that he was her age when his mom started dating his step dad and he hated him with a passion. Deja seems to thaw a little when he starts talking like a valley girl… but the next clip we see is the guy opening a bottle of beer and him and Shauna arguing while Deja watches. This is split with a clip of first Jack, then Kevin, indulging in some alcoholic beverages, obviously meant to show how addiction has affected each of the families.
The arguments escalate, including one over why there’s a gun in the house, and we see Deja the first time she notices her hair’s starting to fall out. Then Shauna is looking for her keys again while her boyfriend and his buddies sit on the couch being completely unhelpful. Deja comes out of her room to tell her mom she’ll be coming home late after school and Shauna leaves for work after telling Deja she loves her. Deja’s left in the house with the three men and she starts gathering up their dirty dishes with a glower. Shauna’s boyfriend gets up to help her, but Deja hits him with a hard look before she gathers her stuff and takes off without saying a word.
At school we see Deja stretching for dance class where she’s called up to do a solo when some police officers come into the dance studio. Of course, it has to do with Deja. The next scene shows her pacing in the Child Services office again when Linda comes in, explaining that her mom has been arrested because she was pulled over and a gun was in her car.
That’s when she’s introduced to Randall and Beth. While she’s lying in bed, sharing a room with Tess and Annie, we get another flashback to Raven at the group home, telling Deja, “You’re a good person, I think Deja, but you need to listen to me. The next time you find a bed that feels even a little safe, don’t blow it. She’s obviously thinking about that as she settles in for sleep that night.
We get another montage of significant moments Deja spent at Randall and Beth’s right up until the moment she leaves. On the car ride home with her mom, Shauna tells Deja her boyfriend is gone, it’s just them, and they’re going to get it right this time.
Fast forward to a scene with her mom looking over her bills while she smokes a cigarette, and Deja coming in with a homemade piggy bank – a money box, she calls it – that they can use to save money. They pay their bills together, counting cash and putting it in envelopes, and we see a clip of Jack also writing checks and paying bills – looking far less distressed than Shauna, who’s obviously trying to hide that from Deja.
We see Deja go to Randall and Beth for money and then going home to put the cash in their money box. When her mom comes home she hears her arguing in the hallway with the landlord who tells her she either pays the rent by the end of the day or they’re gone.
Deja goes to the money box to see what’s there… only to find it empty. When she asks her mom about it she says they had bills and she had to help with Lorenzo’s bail since he’s locked up and it’s all her fault.
Deja is in her face immediately. “What is wrong with you? It’s always gonna be something, isn’t it?”
“You need to watch your tone. I’ll figure this out. You don’t have to worry,” her mom tells her, but Deja isn’t buying it anymore than the rest of us are and she walks out on her mom to call Randall in Vegas. She gets his voicemail, so in desperation, she stuffs everything she has into bag to try and sell it a pawn shop. She doesn’t get anything for the clothes she has, so she pulls out the brooch that used to belong to her grandmother. We see a clip of Jack putting his necklace over a teenage Kevin’s neck, the moment Kevin lost that as an adult, and how poorly he dealt with it. Thankfully, Deja decides to keep the brooch and that’s when Randall calls her back from Vegas.
The next scene shows Deja starting to pack up the apartment into garbage bags and boxes, and her and her mom leave while the landlord and a police officer stand in the hallway. They stuff as much as they can into their car, and it turns out that’s the night Randall and Beth find them, which is where the last episode left off.
Deja and Shauna get brought back to Randall and Beth’s, and she is obviously not pleased about it, though she cracks a smile when the kids come running in and hug her. Randall passes out drinks and gets the girls to leave so he and Beth can talk to Shauna in private. Shauna explains their situation is just temporary, and the Pearsons offer up their house for the night. Shauna disappears to shower and Beth and Randall exchange a look. We get a quick glimpse of the Pearsons eating dinner with Shauna eyeing them all – especially Deja – happily. While Beth starts making up the couch for Shauna, Deja asks if she can sleep in her own room and takes off upstairs, leaving Beth and Shauna alone.
After a bit of girl talk, Shauna opens up to Beth and says she’s never seen Deja acting like a kid before tonight. Shauna starts getting emotional while she talks about how she knows Deja is a special kid, and that she knows she failed her but that she can’t keep failing her.
Randall finds Deja in her room who’s surprised Randall kept her plants alive the whole time she was gone. She says the one plant is looking a little droopy, and Randall cracks a dad joke, saying it’s a new species of plant – hibiscus droopus, which makes Deja cringe at how corny he still is. To which, of course, Randall replies, “Like a cob baby!”
He checks to see if she’s okay and Deja starts talking about how many beds she’s slept in, which is scary to think about because the number’s really high. She asks Randall if he remembers when he said she reminds him of himself. She thought it was weird at first because they seem so different. But then she started thinking…
“Everybody goes to bed at night.” We see a clip of the Pearson’s all smushed into one bed. “Every one in the whole planet. People I’ll never know. Some are poor, some are rich. Some sleep in beds, some sleep on the floor.” We see a clip of Rebecca sleeping on the floor with a young Kevin. “But at the end of the day, every one sleeps.” She says she guesses if you think about it hard, everybody’s got stuff that’s hurt them, too, and things that make them feel better. She looks at Randall and admits, “I’m really tired,” before she starts crying. Randall gathers her into his arms to comfort her.
When he comes down the stairs, Shauna has her bags in her hands, and tells Randall, “I gotta go, and I can’t take her with me.” That’s where the episode ends.
I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. Lyric Ross, the actor who plays Deja, is only fourteen years old, and she not only carried that entire episode – she killed it. The cast of This Is Us is packed full of amazingly talented actors and she proved this episode that she can unequivocally hold her own when compared to them. The episode not only filled in a lot of blanks about Deja’s past, it was captivating as well, and one of my favorites of the whole season.
Next week is the season finale, and it looks like it’s going to feature Kate’s long-awaited wedding, which I am sure is going to make us all blubber again! I know I’m not the only one looking forward to it!