For those who made it back from Las Vegas in one piece, it’s time to prepare for the penultimate episode of the season: “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life.”
Tuesday’s installment of This Is Us will shine a flashback light on one character, similar to last season’s episode that drilled down on the widowed Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) and the fireman (Brian Oblak) who discovered baby Randall outside the station. This time, the life story of former foster child Deja (Lyric Ross) — who was last seen sleeping in a car with her mother Shauna (Joy Brunson) — will be unspooled. “We’re doing something really really cool and really outside the box,” This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker tells EW. “[Lyric has] just been so strong for us and we’ve fallen in love with the actor and the character, so we’re doing an episode where we step away from our Pearsons and tell this story from beginning to end of Deja and what led to her coming into Randall [Sterling K. Brown] and Beth [Susan Kelechi Watson] and the girls’ lives.”
What specifically will audiences learn about the fraught bond between mother (who was recently sprung from jail and returned to claim Deja) and daughter (who cautiously but clearly bonded with Randall and Beth in their short time together)? “We’re going to see how it’s a really complicated relationship where there’s a lot of love, but also a lot of angst,” answers Aptaker. “We’re going to see how Linda [the social worker played by Debra Jo Rupp] came into the picture. It’s very exciting because it’s all these characters we’ve come to know, but if you think about it, we really know very, very little. We’ve only heard a couple of things here and there about her situation before. And now we’re going to see the other side of the coin. And like we did with the Big Three trilogy [of episodes that closed out the first half of the season], it will intersect in very cool ways with the story as we know it — and we’ll see where characters were when moments we’ve seen were happening.”
It’s fair to say that Randall and Beth are challenged in processing the return of the foster child they thought they might never see again. “It throws them for a huge loop,” says Aptaker. “They had closed that chapter of their lives. They had accepted that they were probably never going to see this girl again, and all of the sudden she’s back, and they’re yet again having to struggle with: What is our role in this girl’s life? Are we meant to be her permanent guardians or does she belong with her mother?”
While this episode of the NBC family drama spends almost its entirety on this 12-year story, Aptaker says the writers found “a really unique way to incorporate our [other] characters into the episode that I don’t want to give away.”
To read what Chrissy Metz had to say about the Las Vegas episode — and what to expect in the wedding finale — click here.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.