This Is Us
Only bread and meat? ONLY BREAD AND MEAT? I don’t care that Deja’s been living in Philadelphia for only a few months. How DARE this TEENAGER besmirch one of the greatest gifts we have on this earth. Cheesesteaks are bomb, and if you don’t think so, you’ve been eating cheesesteaks at the wrong place. Thankfully, by the end of the episode she seems to come around to the wonder that is a Philly cheesesteak (these kids go to Max’s in North Philly, for your reference). A few other things happen, but that’s the most important.
Obviously, I’m joking. Malik also introduces Deja to water ice because he is doing the Lord’s work. Sometimes I honestly get sad thinking about how there are people out there who have never even heard of water ice. I mean, can you imagine?
Okay, fine. I’ll “recap” the “plot” of this “episode” because it’s my “job.” But know that in my heart, all I want to talk about is Philadelphia-based delicacies. Nevertheless! Deja gets this introduction to Philadelphia after Malik suggests they skip school and he gives her a tour of his city. Deja is torn because she’s not supposed to be spending time with Malik and, also, a PSA: Skipping school is bad! But in the end, she just can’t say no to this boy. He’s very charming! It’s possible the Pearson Men School of Charm has a Philadelphia branch.
Their day together in the city is so, so lovely. The world is dark and full of terrors, and this story line provided some hope and love and it was nice for an hour. Deja and Malik run all over Philly taking in murals and the Magic Gardens, and Malik even figures out that the one hazy memory Deja has of being in Philly with her grandma — something she desperately wants to remember — was of Boathouse Row, so he takes her there. But throughout the date, Deja grows increasingly anxious. And when Malik, who has been staring at her like she’s the only person on the planet, takes Deja’s hand as they lie next to each other in the park, well, that’s a little too much. Deja hits the panic button. She explains to Malik that she’s only ever known one man in her life who doesn’t lie (aw, Randall!) and that she’s never had feelings like this before. She doesn’t trust any of it. And, of course, there’s the fact that Malik has a baby and a relationship history. But Malik is honest with Deja, too. Janelle’s mother was his first and only girlfriend. He has no game. He’s not messing with Deja when he says she’s beautiful, and when he says he has feelings for her, he means it. He gets why she would doubt that, but he’s telling the truth. When he brings her to Boathouse Row, that act of caring and thoughtfulness is more than enough evidence for Deja to get over her fears. They share their first kiss. It is very sweet. Best! Day! Ever!
Of course, it is not without consequences. And even more than a day of detention or a week of being grounded, perhaps the worst punishment Deja endures for skipping school and lying to her parents is that there will now be a dinner so Randall and Beth can meet Malik and his parents. What a fun and cool time it will be!
Bless this show for presenting us with family meals only when someone inevitably has to apologize for their actions. It’s the only way to eat in the Pearson universe, apparently. The Pearson-Hodges Dinner of 2019 is no different.
It starts at about a five on the awkward scale when Randall answers the door and is immediately shushed by Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake) because baby Janelle is asleep. Nice to meet you, too! Things go downhill from there thanks to things like Randall having an internal freak-out as he watches Deja hold Janelle. And also that time when Beth and Kelly trade some pretty heated and not at all thinly veiled comments about each other’s children being a bad influence. It all folds into an extremely heated example of saying grace before dinner, which honestly is the best way to say grace.
The tension gets to be too much to not boil over, and eventually the kids are sent upstairs so Beth, Randall, Kelly, and Darnell (Omar Epps) can have some Adult Real Talk time. Beth and Kelly legit almost fight each other. Randall tells the Hodges that they just got Deja out of a really bad situation and they’re afraid that Deja dating someone like Malik will just put her back into it, which, you know, is not taken very well, since it is highly offensive. Then Darnell takes his shirt off. Usually, that’s the sign of a great party, but not in this instance.
No, here Darnell is making a point. He shows them his tattoos, ones he knows Randall was apprehensively looking at earlier in the night, and explains that, yes, he was involved in some hard shit earlier in his life, but he’s made changes. Randall and Beth can choose to see his past mistakes, or they can see him for who he is now. With Malik, they can see him as a teenage father from North Philly, or they can see him as who he really is: a straight-A student and a sweet, sweet boy. They refuse to be talked down to by the Pearsons.
It’s Deja who puts a stop to the madness. She apologizes to Beth and Randall for lying to them (finally!) and to both couples for skipping school. She’s almost in tears! She does, however, refuse to apologize for liking Malik. And she isn’t sorry that yesterday happened, because, she tells them, it was the best day of her life. How can anyone continue to have shirts-off arguing after a speech like that?
Perhaps the dinner is actually a success because, in the end, Beth and Randall come to see Deja, and although she is grounded for a week, they will allow her to see Malik — as long as it is supervised. They also admit that they didn’t really get to know him and want Deja to fill them in. Again, a 14-year-old telling her parents that the boy she likes “makes her feel like herself, like [she has] a piece of home” seems like a parental fantasy, but sure. And so begins the story of Deja and Malik, may it be long and full of shared cheesesteaks.
This Is the Rest
• One awkward dinner just doesn’t cut it these days on This Is Us, so we also get to see Mr. Lawrence (Brandon Scott) take Jack up on his offer for him and his wife, Trish (Skye P. Marshall), to come over for dinner. Jack is overcompensating for his extreme insecurity when it comes to role models in Randall’s life by passive-aggressively talking about deciding what type of wood is best for the bookshelf he built fpr Randall and how Mr. Lawrence could just take his own family to the Taste of Afro Soul festival. Okay, that last one was borderline very aggressive, but still, this dinner is not as bad as the one we just talked about.
• Rebecca calms Jack down by telling him that Randall will always choose him and that having someone like Cory Lawrence in his life is a good thing for their son. That’s rich coming from the woman keeping that giant secret about Randall’s birth father because she’s afraid of losing her son. RICH!
• Jack eventually apologizes to Cory because, well, have you met Jack? He admits that he feels like he’s disappointing Randall by not being able to answer his increasingly complicated questions about his place in the world. Cory admits he also had his back up a bit and only wants to help Randall, who is clearly searching for some answers. Cory gives Jack a copy of Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues — it’s Randall’s favorite, and Jack should read it. That mustache reading poetry is a dream I had once, so this is great.
• Can we get a series about Cory and Trish Lawrence? They seem fun! Additionally, if present-day Randall doesn’t mention Mr. Lawrence soon, I’m going to get so upset. Poor guy already assumes he’ll only be a footnote in the story that is Randall Pearson.
• I can’t with Little Kevin and his crush on the school nurse. Very Kevin. Kevin always tracks.
• Beth and Randall’s huddle in the pantry — in which Beth chugs from her secret bottle of wine and says of Kelly, “This woman’s about to make me come out my spirit” — is my favorite scene of the season. This is why people were so mad about what TIU did to Beth and Randall last season. What a team! Clear eyes, full hearts, open shoes, open minds, you know?
• Dejik is 100 percent a better couple name than Maleja, and I’m glad the former stuck.