[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from "This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life," Episode 17 of This Is Us Season 2.]
Every action, every event, every moment on This Is Us leads to another important piece in the Pearson puzzle—sometimes it just takes longer for those pieces to be uncovered.
The showrunner previews a lighter end of the season.
This week, in "This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life," Déjà's story starts at the very beginning. The episode begins with scenes of her entrance into the world, as well as Rebecca (Mandy Moore) giving birth, Randall's biological mother giving birth, and the home birth we saw Beth and Randall experience in a flashback earlier this season.
Moments after giving birth, Déjà's mother Shauna (Joy Brunson) is reluctant to hold her new baby. Her grandmother, played by the iconic Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, The L Word), wants Shauna to take her role as a mother seriously and bond with Déjà. In the next scene Déjà is found by her "Gigi" alone in the apartment they all share. Apparently, Shauna went out, proving that her motherly instincts haven't caught on.
When the maternal "Gigi" tucks Déjà in, she asks what book she'd like to read before bed, and the little girl's response is Good Night Moon. This simple response connects her to the Pearsons once again as we see Rebecca reading the same book to the Big 3 and young Jack reading it to his brother, Nicky. Shauna's return to the apartment is met with a barrage of questions, but the grandmother tries her best to carry the weight for all three of them. This is what makes her eventual collapse and death as they carry groceries all the more tragic.
Without a voice of reason anymore, Shauna and Déjà make do until one fateful day when Déjà makes her mother a birthday dinner. Pulling out her Gigi's jambalaya recipe, she starts cooking while home alone, a scene which is juxtaposed with the Pearsons and William (Ron Cephas Jones) teaching Annie and Tess, as well as Rebecca cooking with her kids. Déjà cuts her hand trying to open a can and rushes to the hospital. When Linda (Debra Jo Rupp) the social worker arrives at the hospital, viewers could see where this was going.
Shauna had been out drinking after work and her phone died, so by the time she shows up to the hospital, she's already lost her daughter. Déjà is then placed with the Millers and their other foster daughter Raven (Ciera Hart) who is both wise and a bad influence. She instigates the abusive Mr. Miller so he won't hurt Déjà, but she also steals makeup from old Mr. Baldwin's shop. The ensuing violence against the young girl mirrors that of Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) father in fragmented scenes.
Linda asks Déjà if she's okay at the Millers, and when she tells her the truth she knows she'll lose her new friend Raven. They'll be split up when they're placed somewhere else and Raven was tired of changing beds—she said she'd lost count about how many she'd slept in when she turned 9.
But instead of being placed with a foster family, Déjà is sent home to her mother—her relief reminiscent of Kate's (Chrissy Metz) when Rebecca showed up at her door post-miscarriage. However, Shauna has a new boyfriend, Alonzo. Things turn from looking up to looking way down, with drunken disputes—alternated with cuts to Jack and Kevin's abuse issues—and Shauna eventually being busted with Alonzo's gun in her car. Déjà finds out about her mother's arrest at an important drill team practice when the cops show up, which guides her to Beth and Randall's front door.
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Viewers are then refreshed with what they'd already seen with Déjà, but this time in a new light. When Annie (Faithe Herman) and Tess (Eris Baker) offer their room upon Déjà's arrival, she's reminded of Raven's words on beds. "You're a good person I think, Déjà," said Raven in her memories. "But you need to listen to me. The next time you find a bed that feels even a little safe, don't blow it." So even with Déjà's reluctance in the earlier part of the season, this history sheds new insight on her true feelings about the Pearsons.
Finally fans are given a glimpse into what Shauna and Déjà's lives were like leading up to the car scene last week. The mother and daughter, determined to do better, put aside money for bills and seem to have a system. But when they're short, that's when Déjà seeks Beth and Randall's help. The money that was meant to go towards their heat though is suddenly needed for rent, but Shauna gave it to Alonzo because she felt guilty about him being in jail.
Desperate, Déjà tries to pawn some clothes and valuables, but when she's told that they don't take those kind of items, she almost sells her "Gigi's" broach, which she played with earlier in the episode. Her reluctance shadow's Kevin's (Justin Hartley) despair when he left Jack's necklace inside the house of his former classmate. So she goes home defeated, and packs up with Shauna eventually meeting the point in time where viewers saw them last week.
Of course, Randall and Beth invite the women home, offering beds, food and comfort. It's Shauna's observation of Déjà with the Pearsons that gives her the realization that her daughter may be better off without her. In a small moment with Beth, Shauna reveals that she'd never seen Déjà the way she'd been as they watched movies and played games that evening, and Beth asks what she means. Shauna's never seen her daughter living "like a kid," so she knows what she must do. But before that happens, Randall and Déjà have their heart to heart.
The actors follows co-star Mandy Moore's lead with a makeover.
She tells her former foster dad, that she didn't know what he meant when he said that she reminded him of himself, but when she thought about how "everyone goes to sleep at night—everyone in the whole planet. All these people... people I'll never know. Some are poor, some are rich, some sleep in beds, some sleep on the floor, but at the end of the day, everyone sleeps." She could find that déjà-vu as Randall had once called it. Déjà has found her safe bed and she knows it, which makes her mother's choice to leave her with the Pearsons right.
As the show preps for it's finale episode next week, it will be interesting to see how Déjà will be incorporated with the Pearsons Kate and Toby's (Chris Sullivan) impending wedding, because in many ways she was part of the family all along. But there's plenty to look forward to—with glimpses at little-seen timelines in this episode, hopefully the writers are planning something special for the Season 2 ending.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC