When Beth and Randall flew to Las Vegas last week to partake in some fun and frivolity to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Kate and Toby, a jackpot of emotions came rushing to the surface.
At a Magic Mike Live-set bachelorette party, of all places, the happily married couple clashed nastily over lingering concern for the well-being of Deja (Lyric Ross), the guarded foster child who bid farewell to Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) to return to her birth mother, Shauna (Joy Brunson). That was a move that not only crushed Randall, a.k.a. the heart, but, as we learned in this episode, also Beth, a.k.a. the head. Finally allowing herself to commune with her heart side, Beth instructed the driver of their car home from the airport to pit-stop at Shauna’s apartment, where she and Randall discovered something grim: Mother and daughter had been evicted and were now living out of a car.
Much like last season’s episode that drilled down on two characters who you didn’t know that well — Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) and the fireman who found baby Randall — Tuesday’s installment, titled “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life,” boldly gave us fuller Deja view; it built off that cliffhanger and delved deeply into the poignant past of Deja (while weaving in similar life moments experienced by all Pearsons via bursts of flashbacks). Viewers discovered that she was born to a 16-year-old mother who was plainly not ready to be a parent, and who was supported by a grandmother who passed away when Deja was 3, truly descending their lives into paycheck-to-paycheck uncertainty. When her mother was battling issues of addiction and responsibility, Deja was dispatched to an unsavory foster home where she witnessed abuse. And when she was finally able to return home, Deja was soon sent back into the system again, as Shauna went to jail for possession of a firearm that wasn’t hers. This is when Deja, whose hair had been falling out from stress, briefly entered the orbit of the Pearsons before, as mentioned above, she returned home to Shauna. But as the bills piled up — and her mother used the money that Randall gave her to pay the heating bill on bailing her boyfriend out of jail — eviction was inevitable, sending them to sleep on the streets.
Near the end of “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life,” we returned to the cliffhanger of “Vegas, Baby,” as Randall and Beth decided to take Deja and Shauna to their house. Shauna, who’d previously fought territory/custody wars with Beth and Randall, now was resigned to reality, and seeing Deja happy and acting like the kid she should be — surrounded by stability and love in the Pearson home— brought her to a painful realization. She tearfully told Beth and Randall that she couldn’t spend the night — and that she couldn’t take Deja with her, leaving the Pearsons seemingly charged with caring for this lovely, guarded, traumatized foster child once again.
How will Deja process the disappearance of her mother (again)? What lies ahead for the Pearsons? Water that hibiscus droopus, grab your nearest copy of Goodnight Moon, and read on as This Is Us standout Susan Kelechi Watson breaks down the Deja drama over the last few weeks — and what’s to come.
To see what Jack looks like as an old man in the season finale, click here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In last week’s episode, Beth revealed to Kate that her concern for Deja was taking its toll, saying, “I’ve been trying not to think about her but I can’t. I just keep wondering: Is she okay? Is she cold? Is she stressed? Does her science teacher no how smart she is?’” And yet she butted heads with Randall over his concern for Deja. Why had Beth been sublimating so much of her worry for Deja? Why didn’t she open up to Randall? Did she feel she had to balance his heart with her head — and that it was just too painful to acknowledge those feelings?
SUSAN KELECHI WATSON: I felt like they had agreed to let Deja be in the care of Linda [Deba Jo Rupp], the woman who looks after her in the foster care. We had agreed that she was going to be with her mom, and so that was hard for Beth to do. So it was painful for him to keep bringing it up, and she’s trying to use this vacation as a moment to let go, and just have some fun — to take a break from it all. She’s been on a ride with this family from William [Ron Cephas Jones] on, you know what I mean? And this is the first step away that they’ve been able to get, and so she just really wanted to live in that for a little bit — a world where none of that exists and I can put it somewhere on the back burner and I can just let go and enjoy myself because of the pain of it. But the whole time she’s really wiling out because she can’t forget, so she keeps trying to do things to make herself forget, but it’s always there.
Which I loved, because I feel like we do that so often in our own lives. I have been around people at the heart of their party, and they’re trying to run away from something. And that was the moment that Beth was in. In the very beginning, when she and Randall are talking about it when they’re packing, and she’s saying to him, “We’ve said that Linda would handle it and if she needed us, she would call. She hasn’t, we haven’t heard anything, it is what is.” It’s a way not to be cold, but to say, “Hey, we agreed this is what we were going to do and she’s going to live her life.” Because it’s very hard to have one foot in each place.
Her business partnership with Randall, by the way, has clearly has been more stressful on her than he knew — and it’s been taking its toll on her. What can you say about their business moving forward?
I think it’s going to be good. She knows the ins and outs of that type of business more than he does, being an urban planner, knowing what goes into those types of contracts and investing in those types of buildings and communities. And as we saw a couple weeks ago, he was trying to get ahead of the game before he knew how to play it. We’ve also invested in a building that’s not necessarily going to make money. We did it to invest in a community, and it’s a building that has a lot of problems. So it’s going to take some getting used to because she has a partner who that’s not necessarily his field but is learning, but also she’s now out on her own, not under another moniker. She’s not working for somebody, so there’s the pressure of that. Anytime anyone starts a new business, it’s really difficult. It’s all new, and there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that has to go into it, so doing that at the same time as fostering on the heels of losing William is just a lot to take on. So, you know, a relaxing weekend in Vegas would have been nice. [Laughs]
Speaking of Vegas, not everything that happens there has to stay there. What was it like for you to film at Magic Mike Live? You were on the stage, a half-naked guy suspended on cables above you. Any observations you’d like to share?
Ummm … yes. [Laughs] What I’d like to share from my point of view, the view was amazing. We had such a good time. Those guys are so talented. That show is not just, you know, men stripping in a Vegas strip club. No, they are playing instruments, they’re doing songs, they’re doing dances, full-on choreography, there’s humor. It’s like a really great show. Of course, we went back and saw it for ourselves. We had to kind of do the research, you know what I mean? What good actor doesn’t?
There’s stuff that you didn’t see it that was actually cut. He actually took me into the air with him, and we did this whole aerial thing that made its way to the cutting room floor. But what did you see was the beginning of that, was him descending upon me to then pick me up and take me into the air with him. Unfortunately, I was the one who got picked to do all this stuff, but sometimes there are work days that are harder than others, and you just have to roll with the punches.
Will that footage surface one day on a DVD extra?
Maybe. [Laughs] Can you imagine? This Is Us: The R-rated version.