'This Is Us': Parents Squabble & Young Love Blossoms in 'The Dinner and the Date' (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 7 of This Is Us, "The Dinner and the Date."]
The latest episode of This Is Us introduced three separate stories to viewers featuring one past timeline and two parallel present timelines.
Awkward dinners, amazing adventures and insecurity abounded in "The Dinner and the Date." Below, we're breaking down the major plot points from the pivotal installment.
Plus, the Pearsons prepare for Randall's teacher dinner.
Deja Feels Like Herself
As teased in the promos, this episode featured a plotline focused on Deja (Lyric Ross) and Malik (Asante Blackk), as they spend the day together in Philadelphia. The episode opens with them riding on the public bus, and as they approach school they discuss cheesesteaks, with Malik hyping one particular establishment — Max's.
When Deja claims she's only been to tourist spots, Malik suggests skipping school for a day out in the city. Reluctantly Deja agrees and stays on the bus with him. She reveals she had been to Philly once before with her mother and GG (Pam Grier), but her memory was foggy, only that she remembered seeing "Christmas" lights when it was warm outside.
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As they roam the streets, Malik brings her to Max's for a sandwich, and she recognizes that people know him around town and she claims she's never been anywhere long enough to be a regular somewhere. He pulls her out of the shop only to reenter the building — it's then that he introduces her to everyone inside, and when they greet her back, she can't contain her smile.
Next they enjoy a mural on the side of a building and a garden before heading to Rita's for a custard. The sweet treat sparks Deja's memory and it's clear through a flashback that she remembers having the same thing long ago as a child. As their day continues, Malik shows Deja his favorite spot in the park and when he lays down in the grass, she agrees to settle down beside him.
While things were going nicely, they quickly turn tense when Malik takes Deja's hand. She sits up and says she can't before asking to return to school. When he asks her what's wrong, she tells him that she's overwhelmed by the way he makes her feel and she doubts she'd be able to recognize that he's playing her or not due to the fact that he has experience.
In an effort to prove his loyalty and devotion to her, Malik tells Deja he has one more spot he wants to show her. Approaching the next destination, Malik keeps Deja's eyes covered before lifting his hands to reveal a row of houses with lights all over them along the waterside — the "Christmas" lights she vaguely remembered from her childhood. When she becomes speechless, he asks if he did something wrong, but it's clear he did everything right and the two share a sweet kiss. She later tells Beth and Randall that when she's with Malik she feels like herself.
Could the blossoming relationship turn sour soon?
Elephant in the Room
Interspersed with the other present timeline story is the realization that Deja got caught skipping school and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are going to deal with it the only way they know how. They originally didn't want Deja seeing Malik at all, and in order to get on the same page the parents invite Malik and his family over for dinner.
Randall is determined that they'll come to the agreement that the kids shouldn't see one another, but Beth pushes him to keep an open mind. Just as Deja's asking them to take it easy on Malik, the doorbell rings. The entire Pearson family greets Malik's, but are shushed immediately because he's brought along his baby daughter Janelle, which as you can imagine doesn't ease any of the tension.
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While everyone settles in, Beth veers off with Malik's mother Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and Randall heads to the kitchen with Malik's father Darnell (Omar Epps). During his talk with Darnell, Randall feels like he's finding his open mind in regards to the situation as the man tells Randall his son never makes the same mistake twice. Meanwhile, things don't go great when Kelly implies that Deja is damaged to the point where it's her fault that the kids got in trouble for skipping school.
Suddenly, the genial mood has shifted, and when the women come back to the dining area, Beth asks Randall for a word alone in the pantry. She chugs back some red wine from the bottle as she warns Randall an ugly side of her is about to come out. When Kelly asks to say grace before eating, Randall obliges, but not before his daughters question why they have to.
Tense conversation turns startling when Janelle starts to cry and Malik gets up to comfort her. Tess (Eris Baker) wants to help and so does Deja, and the situation leads Beth to tell her girls to get upstairs, dinner's over. That's when real talk begins and the parents open up about their concerns, namely Beth over the "elephant in the room" — that Malik has a baby.
Darnell gets up from the table and shows off his tattoos. He tells Beth and Randall that he earned them and that his son may have made some bad choices, but he hopes people would see him for the straight-A student that he is and the kindness in his heart. But the Pearsons worry about Deja's lying, as they tell Malik's parents that she hadn't lied to them since she's been in their care. Interrupting the conversation is Deja, who comes down the stairs to apologize for skipping school and making the wrong choice, but she tells them all that she doesn't regret liking Malik and calls their day together her best ever.
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Once Malik and his parents depart, Beth and Randall tell Deja that they came to the understanding that she can hang out with Malik under parental supervision. In an attempt to better understand the boy, they ask Deja to tell them about him and she begins by revealing Malik's love for cheesesteak sandwiches, and then goes on to say how he makes her feel at home. And suddenly the tension melts away.
In a plot continuation from the prior episode, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) get ready to welcome Mr. Lawrence (Brandon Scott) — Randall's (Lonnie Chavis) teacher — and his wife for dinner. It's clear from the start that Jack's aiming to impress and Rebecca worries aloud that Jack has become preoccupied with a desire to get to know Mr. Lawrence.
He denies this and they go to greet the couple, who as they're leaving their own apartment, the teacher questions whether he should bring Randall a book. Once they arrive, Jack greets them at the door and they go on a tour of the home. Randall is openly excited and he shows off his books in his room. Jack notes he made the bookshelf for Randall's library, while Mr. Lawrence notices the young boy has copied his own method of shelving books in order of publication date.
Plus, prepare for parallels between the Deja-Malik and Beth-Randall relationships.
As the evening carries on it's clear that Jack's competing for his son's affection while young Kevin (Parker Bates) continuously makes remarks that only heighten the tension like, "Can we eat already" or "This is boring." Rebecca reprimands her husband for his behavior and tells him that in a competition, Randall will always choose him, but the situation doesn't improve too much before the Pearsons are bidding the Lawrences farewell.
Giving Jack a look, Rebecca hints that her husband should follow the teacher out, and so he does. Jack apologizes for the awkward evening and reveals he's out of his depth. Mr. Lawrence's remedy? Langston Hughes. The teacher gives Jack a book of the writer's poetry and says perhaps that will help him in understanding where Randall is at. Later that evening, Randall opens up to Jack about his favorite poem from Hughes, and it nearly brings the man to tears. Randall asks if they can read the book together sometime and Jack happily agrees. Now all we need to know is whether or not Randall keeps in touch with his favorite former teacher.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC