"It's only been three hours," but Deja's sudden appearance in Randall and Beth's home might have turned their entire universe upside down. Randall's been confronted with something he can't study for, can't train for, can't conquer by supreme effort of willpower: a damaged human life. But what happened to Deja on This Is Us?
It's been three weeks since the taping of The Manny, and Randall and Beth have been on eggshells waiting for the first foster kid to come through the system and land in their house. And then it happens, no file, no paperwork, no help from the social worker. Just, here's the kid, have fun!
Randall has all these ideas he got off of chatrooms and the internet. We'll repeat our names a lot. We'll draw her a picture, we'll give her a tour of the house, all amazingly cluelessly tone-deaf stuff for a kid who comes from abject poverty suddenly thrust into the most bougie of situations on this show. (At least the ones that don't include Ron Howard anyway.)
And then she shows up. And she's nothing like they expected. She doesn't talk, she doesn't smile, she doesn't want to be there. She doesn't want to learn their names. She wants to go home.
It's upsetting watching the Pearsons fail at this girl so hard, they seem completely unable to put themselves in her shoes. The kids want to send her back and get another one. Even Beth, who walked into this so bravely can see that privacy is what the child needs, and starts unbagging her sad little shopping bag of belongings... only to find cigarettes.
The ensuing fight is telling. The kid flips and screams, Beth is helpless on how to handle it and then Randall walks in, and Deja cringes as if she expects a full body blow.
That's the moment you can see Randall wake up.
The Randall flashbacks tonight were all about him trying to find his birth parents, back during this crucial final year of Jack's life. He posts a want ad in the paper, and gets a letter with a woman's handwriting. We know this can't be real, his mother died in child birth, and he didn't meet William until last year.
That intense longing to find parents is the memory that Randall plays on when talking to Deja, trying to get her to come out of her shell. She's clearly a damaged girl, presumably beaten by father figures, and repeatedly abandoned by her mother, as much as she denies the latter. "She goes to jail, she gets out, she comes for me."
Randall wants her to embrace the possibilities this world has opened up for her, the crazy one with the alarms on the doors that confounded William, and where all the good children get their iPad time. It's what happened for him, even as that ringing in his ears to find his birth parents never quieted down all the way.
We don't know what was in that file that Randall and Beth get after Deja's been with them a couple of days, but it's bad. Whatever her mother did, it seems like she's not coming back any time soon.
And it's not going to be as easy as one little speech, beautiful as it may seem. It took Randall until adulthood to appreciate the crazy white folks who raised him, and the world he benefited from. Deja is barely 12. All she knows is that these people are telling her mom's not coming back this time.
A ball of fiery rage has moved into their house. How long until the flames climb the walls?