This Is Us Season 2 Episode 17 Recap ‘This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life’

Culture


Tonight’s This Is Us proves once and for all that you don’t need all of the Pearson family in order for this show to break your heart. Randall and Beth aside, the Pearsons appear only in brief glimpses in this penultimate episode of season two, which focuses on Deja (Lyric Ross), her backstory, and on the events that led up to last week’s revelation that she and her mother Shauna are now homeless.

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I’m going to be honest: every single second of this episode rates from one to seven crying emojis. This poor girl has had to grow up way too fast and has been through so much, and by the time she finally ends up back in her old room at Randall and Beth’s, and admits to Randall “I’m really tired,” you’ll be a wreck.

Here are twenty of my thoughts and feelings from “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life.”

1. Shauna was only 16 when she had Deja. The sadness of this is really emphasized by intercutting scenes of Deja’s birth and Rebecca giving birth to the triplets, because as tragic as the loss of the third triplet was, Jack and Rebecca were such a supportive unit to one another, and were at such a solid place in their lives. They might have felt totally unprepared to have children, but it’s night and day compared to poor Shauna, who’s basically still a child herself.

2. We also see Randall’s birth for the first time. We’ve seen his biological mother before, back in the season one episode where she and William meet on the bus in Pittsburgh. Seeing these births alongside each other really sets up Randall’s comparison between himself and Deja later on.

3. I’m gonna need Sterling K. Brown saying “Two little kittens and a pair of mittens” as my ringtone. I’m feeling things here that I don’t think Goodnight Moon is supposed to make you feel.

4. WAIT, is that Jack reading to his mysterious brother Nicky? It has to be. We cut from Jack to a shot of two little boys, one of whom might be little Nicky, wearing glasses.

5. Of course, we all saw the death of Deja’s beloved grandma coming as soon as she was introduced. But that doesn’t make this any less rough. The most upsetting moment: when Shauna is crying and asking, “What are we gonna do now?” and Deja stoically just starts reading Goodnight Moon, like her grandma used to do for her. Even at this incredibly young age, she’s already assuming the caretaking role.

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6. Deja is watching The Manny! She was not just being polite back when she told Kevin she was a fan.

7. There’s so much love in Shauna and Deja’s relationship. It would have been easy for the show to make her a truly neglectful or abusive mom—that would make our feelings about Randall and Beth adopting Deja much straightforward—but instead it’s clear that she really adores Deja, and they do have a close bond.

8. Wow, so this is how Child Services initially got involved? Because Deja had to take herself to the hospital after that cut? No wonder she and Shauna were both so resentful at first.

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9. Deja mentioned her abusive former foster father to Randall earlier in the season. Just as upsetting as Mr Miller himself is the way Deja’s foster sister has adapted to his behavior: “He’s gonna hit me anyway,” she says nonchalantly when Deja asks why she’s always sassing him. “Might as well have some fun before he does.”

10. Deja was doing the best thing she could when she told Linda about Mr Miller hitting them, but now her foster sister is angry, because they’ll be split up: “At least he only hit. We could have stayed in those beds for years—now we’ll get separated. It’s like a storm once it starts, Deja. Bed after bed after bed.”

11. And this is where Deja’s alopecia started. No wonder. My heart.

12. The gun that Shauna was arrested for possessing wasn’t even hers. This is truly a case where learning the backstory completely transforms a character, especially because when she was originally introduced, we were so invested in Deja staying with Beth and Randall.

13. Beth and Shauna bonding is a nice little twist. The dynamic between these two was so adversarial before, and understandably so on both sides, but now Shauna is admitting to Beth that she feels she’s failed Deja. Between this scene, and “The next time you find a bed that feels even a little safe, don’t blow it,” it really feels like Deja is going to find a way to stay this time.

14. Randall. Took. Care. Of. Deja’s. Plants. He made sure they got enough Beyoncé and enough water. This is so sweet, I just cannot.

15. “Hibiscus Droopus.” Honestly, there may come a day when Randall’s dad jokes cross a line into being Too Much, but it absolutely is not today.

16. “What you said before, about you and me being similar…was kind of weird to me, honestly.” Oh, nothing much happening here—just Deja casually giving some notes to the This Is Us writers room.

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17. Deja’s monologue about all the beds she’s slept in reflects what could have been for Randall. Randall was immensely fortunate to be adopted as a baby into such a loving and stable family. Also…Lyric Ross is really nailing this monologue. She’s such an expressive young actress, and never overplays anything even though her arc has been so dramatic.

18. “I’m really tired.” “I know, sweetheart.” I mean, who among us doesn’t want to fall into the strong arms of Sterling K. Brown when the world becomes too much to bear? But, in all seriousness, fully crying at this.

19. Is there any chance Shauna and Deja could end up living in Randall and Beth’s building? I guess not, because Shauna’s in New Jersey and that building was in Philadelphia, where William was living, but… isn’t William’s unit still vacant?

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20. “I have to go, and I can’t take her with me.” Shauna’s perspective has really, really changed in the time that’s passed between “Number Three”—in which she was vehemently refusing to let Deja stay with Randall and Beth—and now. She was understandably resentful before, but now that she’s seen first-hand how happy Deja is in this household, and what a bright future she could have, she can’t take her away from it again. Does this mean Beth and Randall are going to explore a formal adoption?



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