Last night's episode of This Is Us could have been renamed This Is Deja. Over the course of the hour, the series traced her life, from her birth to teenage single mother Shauna, straight through to present day, where the Pearsons have brought her and her mother to their house after finding them homeless. This seems like an odd way to spend the penultimate episode, focused on a non-Pearson related character. But it turns out there was one Pearson in Deja's life before Randall. It turns out Deja watched The Manny on This Is Us as part of her latchkey kid routine.
We actually knew this a little, from Deja's interactions with Kevin when he came to visit the Pearson house while she was being fostered there. She recognizes him right away and declares herself a lifelong fan of The Manny. At first, it might seem odd, that unlike the foster family she's been placed with, she's instantly more comfortable with him than anyone else in that house. She also wants to go to his event, the first time she's shown genuine interest and initiative since staying with them.
Randall immediately agrees to take her along. Though the night doesn't go as planned (for anyone), one of the more interesting side notes is that Foster Dad never stops to ask why she immediately attached to Kevin like this. Turns out it's because The Manny was her babysitter.
This is revealed in the scene that ultimately leads to Deja being removed from her mother's care when she attempts to make her great-grandmother G.G.'s jambalaya. As Deja rustles around the kitchen pulling out all the ingredients, the television — her friend and babysitter while her mother is at work — is playing the background. As you can see from the shot above, the show that's playing is The Manny.
If we assume this is around the 6 p.m. hour (with her mother getting off work as seven that would make sense) this is the time of day when many basic cable channels run a couple hour blocks of syndicated programming. The Manny being a 30-minute sitcom, one that's been a hit long enough to hit 100 episodes, would fit the bill perfectly. There nothing about this scene to suggest this isn't Deja's daily routine. Mostly like she has episodes of The Manny playing in the background every day, at the same time, on the same channel, reliable in a way her mother isn't capable of being.
This would explain why she's so instantly comfortable around him. It helps that she's young enough to not quite understand that there's a difference between Kevin the actor and Manny the character. He looks and sounds and makes a few jokey faces like the man she's always loved watching on TV, now here he is in the flesh. Of course, she's instantly comfortable.
It wasn't clear at first how old Deja was in this scene, so I thought that perhaps this even could be one of the episodes we saw Kevin working on in the opening episodes of Season 1 when he tries to quit the show, and can't get out of it. But once Deja turns up in the hospital, and we learn she's around 10 years old, that means the timing isn't right. This would have been at least a year before that.
Still, even though this isn't "two timelines matching up" easter egg, it's still an extremely clever way to insert a member of the Pearson clan back into the show, giving Justin Hartley a cameo in the show he stars in by inserting a cameo within the show he stars in. How meta can you get?