This Is Us season 2, episode 17 recap: Deja’s big, amazing, beautiful life

Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village
Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village /

Ahead of the Season 2 finale, This Is Us pauses to get know Deja’s story a little better before she rejoins the Pearson family. But will it be for good?

Well, that was a very special episode of This Is Us we won’t soon forget. Following Randall’s wary feelings about Deja’s current circumstances and future, the tearjerker diverges from the narrative to provide some necessary insight into Deja’s story and journey. She had an entire life of ups and downs before she entered the Pearsons’ orbit, and it’s made her the person she is today.

In the episode titled “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life,” which was a phrase spoken by Randall prior to Deja’s tearful goodbye, This Is Us starts at the beginning of Deja’s life and takes us through the highlight reel of experiences that led to the Pearsons. For better or worse, Deja endured these hardships to find her true shot at happiness. Does that chance include living with Beth and Randall? Let’s dive into the episode with five things we learned about Deja.

Deja was independent at a young age.

Deja’s mom, Shauna, gave birth to Deja as a teenager, and they lived with Shauna’s grandmother. Shauna depended on the help with Deja, but sometimes the responsibilities slipped through the cracks. One night, Deja’s great-grandmother returns home from work to find a four-year-old Deja home alone. Shauna had tucked her daughter in and left for the evening. It’s a harrowing glimpse into the future of struggle for the mother-daughter duo.

Unfortunately, Deja’s great-grandmother passes away, forcing Shauna to fend for herself. Deja doesn’t have the luxury of being a child and mourning the loss. Instead, she comforts her grief-stricken mother by reading Goodnight Moon. Apart from being an episode centered on Deja, This Is Us employs a beautiful visual device like a flashback/clip show hybrid with glances at similar moments in Pearson history. It’s a reminder of the universality of the human experience.

Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village
Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village /

An injury took Deja away from her mother the first time.

When Shauna’s birthday rolls around, Deja vows to prepare her mother a home-cooked meal to celebrate. It’s the least she could do… it’s not like a Deja pulls her weight at home. (Kidding, of course. Deja takes care of her mother, though it should be the other way around.) While watching The Man-ny, Deja preps the meal but cuts her hand badly on a manual can opener. Their water has been turned off and Shauna doesn’t answer Deja’s call. A trip to the ER also earns a visit from Linda the social worker.

Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village
Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC/Ron Batzdorff, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village /

Deja shoplifted and exposed her first foster father.

After Deja’s hand injury, she was placed in her first foster home. She becomes fast friends with Raven, another resident of Mr. Miller’s home and an unfortunate veteran of the foster system. On the subject of the school dance, Raven convinces Deja to shoplift makeup from the drug store. But the owner knew something was up and tells Mr. Miller, who hits them in response. Deja reports his abusive behavior to Linda, much to Raven’s chagrin; she wanted to stay together.

Shauna’s boyfriend was bad news.

Back with her mother, Deja doesn’t trust Shauna’s new boyfriend, Lonzo, from rehab. But he charms her with kind words and empty promises. Before long, Shauna and Lonzo’s relationship turns sour as he begins drinking again. He brings a gun into their home, which ends up in Shauna’s car during an inopportune moment when she gets pulled over. Shauna’s arrest lands Deja in the Pearson home, where she hears Raven’s advice about safety ringing in her ears. Finally, she rests easily in a stable home.

Next: This Is Us season 2, episode 16 recap: What happens in Vegas…

Deja’s mom can’t keep failing her.

We know what went down while Deja was in Beth and Randall’s care, and we shed all of the tears when she returned to her mother. But what happened from the moment that car pulled away? Well, even with a home bank system in place, Shauna can’t adhere to any semblance of stability, using the money from the Pearsons on Lonzo’s latest bail. Deja tries selling clothes but refuses to sell her GG’s brooch (flashback to Jack’s necklace!), though it’s no matter. They’re evicted.

Beth and Randall take them into their home, and Shauna sees firsthand how happy Deja can be when she feels safe enough to be a kid. She laughs with Tess and Annie, eats dinner with the family, and enjoys a game of UNO. When Deja requests to sleep in her old room, that seems to flip a switch in Shauna. Deja delivers a soul-crushing, Emmy-worthy monologue as Shauna leaves her daughter with the Pearsons. She knows this is for the best.

What did you think of the latest episode of This Is Us? What do you think will happen next in the Season 2 finale? Sound off in the comments, and be sure to keep the conversation going over on Twitter at @thisisuscrying!

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.