It’s the episode before the season finale and it could go two ways: 1) pull a Game of Thrones and be the lynchpin of the season or 2) filler leading up to the finale. Spoiler alert it’s option two and with that exciting intro let’s get into it.
Who: Me and my mom because it’s not reality tv and she’ll watch it with me
What: This Is Us
Where: my mom’s couch
When: So long ago at this point I don’t remember
Why: see “who”
The episode starts with a montage of women giving birth. The women in question: Rebecca, Deja’s mother Shauna, Randall’s birth mother, and Beth. Why? I do not know. It’s not the mother’s day episode.
At the hospital, 16-year-old Shauna is reluctant to hold newborn Deja, claiming back pain, which her grandmother (Pam Grier!!!!!) quickly identifies as being symptoms of pining for an errant boy, not childbirth. Pam decides it’s time for some real talk about being a parent which basically includes “grow up and put your kid first” thus setting the stage for us to know Shauna does the opposite. Where’s Shauna’s mom? No one seems to know.
Cut to Pam Grier walking in on three-year old Deja playing with a brooch and teddy bear. Did I mention that it’s midnight and that Deja’s alone in the apartment? Yeah, not good. Pam pulls out Goodnight Moon and we get another montage, this time featuring Pam, Randall, pregnant Rebecca, and young Jack and his brother all reading the book aloud to various children both born and in utero. This puts Deja to sleep so Pam can smoke and moodily look around the apartment.
Shauna gets home from a house party and Pam reads her the riot act about caring for Deja and contributing to the household. Pam tells her she can’t carry this burden for her forever which is of course a set up for her eventual health crisis happening in 3….2…..1.
ANOTHER montage, this time of our favorite people crying: Randall holding his birth father William’s hat and crying, Rebecca at Jack’s tree crying, William crying at his mother’s empty bedside. Shauna gets into bed with Deja and in between tears, rhetorically asks what they’re going to do now that their great/grandma has died. Deja’s solution? Read Goodnight Moon.
Breakfast montage! Deja cooking alone at the stove, Tess, Annie, and William scrambling eggs, and Rebecca, Kate, Kevin, and Randall rolling dough. So much domesticity! Back to present-ish day: Deja and Shauna are getting ready for school/work (it’s a little difficult because their water’s been cut off) and it’s Shauna’s birthday. Deja has plans to make her mom dinner so she tells her to come straight home after work. Well, we all know that’s not going to happen. Deja however does not, so she heads home to make some recipe written in her great-grandmother’s handwriting. In a very nice touch, she has Kevin’s tv show “The Manny” playing in the background. I see you NBC prop and set department. Four for you. Back to cooking: Deja sits down on the kitchen floor with a can of tomatoes and the rustiest can opener. Oh no this will only end in blood and tears. Wait for it…… yup she’s just sliced her hand open and of course Shauna’s not picking up her phone.
Deja goes to the hospital to get her hand sewn up and has her first conversation with Linda from Child Services. Shauna shows up at the hospital smelling of alcohol (because she’d been at a bar with some coworkers celebrating her birthday instead of going straight home like she promised) which leads us to Deja sleeping on the couch in Linda’s office. Oh Shauna.
Deja is placed in a foster home with another young girl named Raven. Their foster-father is THE WORST and our first interaction with him is his threatening to throw Raven out the upstairs window unless she turns off her music and gets to school. Raven opens the window and stands next to it–girl I admire the dedication to further enraging your temporary father figure but this will not end well for you. Deja makes a similar point on the way to school, but Raven’s all whatever when he’s drunk he’ll hit me anyway. Oh girls. They shift their attention to a school dance that’s coming up and Raven decides that they should steal makeup from the corner store. Deja’s a good girl and balks at the suggestion, but follows Raven’s lead anyway.
The girls go home and have clearly yet to discover the wonders of the YouTube makeup tutorial but try their hand at contour anyway. The shop owner Mr. Baldwin comes over to the house to tell foster dad he believes the girls stole from him, and all hell breaks loose with, you guessed it, another montage! Foster dad hits Raven, Jack’s dad hits young Jack, older Jack punches out a guy who was hitting on Rebecca.
Linda comes over to do a house inspection and Deja asks when she can go home. We learn that Shauna’s been in and out of treatment for a year (likely for drugs as Deja says her mom only starting using because she missed her), so Deja’s been in care for at least that amount of time. As Linda turns to leave, Deja tells her their foster-father hits them and both girls are taken from the home. Raven’s not grateful to be out of that house, she tells Deja she’s been in so many different beds since the age of nine she’s lost count and that house really wasn’t so bad because at least they had each other. Now, they’ll get separated. Raven’s advice is once Deja finds a bed she feels safe in, she should hold onto it for dear life.
Linda eventually brings Deja back to Shauna after an unknown amount of time and woooo! Another montage! This time of doors opening so exciting: Shauna opens her door to Deja and Kate opens her door to Rebecca after the miscarriage. Only two? I feel incomplete. Shauna’s happy to see Deja and casually mentions that a friend of hers from rehab will be joining them for dinner. Deja was obviously hoping it’d be just the two of them but Lonzo shows up and Deja is not impressed with his stories about the Dominican Republic. She wants to know if he has a job and what his intentions are. Lonzo tells her he’s employed and really likes her mother and hopes she’ll give him a chance. Yeah, this wont end well.
Oh in the very next scene, in fact, we learn that Lonzo made a poor investment with Shauna’s money and that he’s drinking. Cut of course to montage of Jack and then Kevin drinking. I mean it’d been at least five minutes since a montage don’t want to lose that momentum. Deep sigh: Lonzo has a gun in the house and his friends use the place as a crash pad which causes so much tension. While at drill team practice after school, the police show up to get Deja and bring her to Linda because, of course, her mother was pulled over and they found the gun in her car. That’s how Deja ends up with Beth and Randall.
Montage of Deja’s stay with Beth and Randall: cutting her hair, bonding, etc. before Shauna shows up to take her back. Deja’s obviously happy to be back with her mom, but understandably wary based on her past actions. The good news? Lonzo is out of the picture. As just another example of how Deja cares for her mother, she makes her a home bank out of a shoe box so that the bills would be paid on time (flashback to Jack paying the bills). And it seems to work well for a time…until it doesn’t. Deja goes to Beth and Randall for money to pay their gas bill, which she dutifully puts in the box, but lo and behold the money vanishes and their landlord evicts them. Where did it go? Shauna decided to pay Lonzo’s bail instead of making sure she could afford her home. Deja brings her things to a pawn shop and contemplates selling her grandmother’s brooch (montage of Jack putting his necklace on young Kevin and older Kevin moodily playing with it), but she decides against it. Shauna and Deja go to sleep in their car, and because this is a tv show, Randall and Beth find them almost immediately.
Deja and Shauna go back to Beth and Randall’s for the night and Shauna watches Deja just be a kid: laughing with Annie and Tess, watching a dumb movie, playing Uno and she realizes it’s the first time she’s ever seen her so relaxed. After a heart to heart with Beth, Shauna decides to leave Deja with them, but not before we get our last montage of a variety of the cast sleeping in different beds. So deep.
What was the point of this episode? Did we learn anything we didn’t already know? Why did we need so much background on Deja? What was with all the montages? Did Goodnight Moon sponsor them? Can Pam Grier be in all the shows? So many questions very few answers.