‘This Is Us’ 2×03 Review: ‘Deja Vu’

Nothing in this life is perfect. There is no good without the bad. And there’s no bad without a little bit of good.

Such was the theme of This Is Us’s latest hour, titled “Deja Vu,” where we got to experience the highs and lows of life, in the case of Randall and Beth’s new foster child, Jack’s struggle to open up to his wife, and Kevin’s struggle with his repressed emotions regarding the death of his father.

This Is Us is so breathtaking because it’s so simplistic yet so real in its undertakings. There’s nothing flashy about how it carries itself. It doesn’t rely on action sequences or forced drama. It’s very open and honest about situations that other shows might shy away from because it’s harsh in its truth. But This Is Us doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths. It embraces them. It’s a beautiful representation of the human spirit.

This episode really tackled some nice emotional aspects connected with communication. We had in the flashbacks Jack struggling to be true to his word and talk about his struggles with alcohol addiction. He couldn’t really open up to Rebecca, and he didn’t know why. We had Kevin, who we finally got to see open up — in how he was repressing his emotions — about just how much he’s still hurting from his father’s death. We had Randall and Beth, who were struggling with understanding their new foster daughter and the baggage she carried with her. But at the core of all of that is the theme of communication.

Communication is freeing. It’s healthy. It’s how we work through our issues. It’s how we don’t let our issues get the better of us. It makes us feel less alone in a world filled with seven billion people.

Let’s break this episode down further:

Randall’s Deja Vu

NBC

In choosing to adopt, or in this case foster, a new child, for Randall this was all about honoring his fathers and the wonderful life they made possible for him. He wanted to help a child the same way Jack helped Randall. Certainly, Randall never envisioned bringing an older child into the house, but that’s where we find ourselves.

Randall Pearson is someone that won’t undertake something unless he knows for certain he’ll succeed. He’s someone that likes to be very in control in situations. A baby, you can control from the get-go. A grown child, not so much. It’s very much a wild card. So it took Randall some time to really get used to the idea. But when we find him in this episode, he’s not only used to it, he’s excited about it.

Then we meet Deja.

First, she’s unresponsive. This is brand new to her. She was just pulled from her mom and thrown into a house of strangers. But when Beth finds cigarettes in her bag, we finally get to see Deja react. Her and BEth go at it, and then we see Randall come in and Deja literally flinches back. Obviously, there are some unresolved and unknown issues stemming back to Deja’s relationship with her father or a boyfriend where we can only assume a man has hurt her. It’ll be interesting to get to know this girl better as the show stretches on.

Later, Deja has a moment with the girls and we finally get to see Deja the kid, and she’s pretty cool. Just seeing her interact with the girls really gave you feels as you can anticipate where this relationship might eventually go. How several months, a year from now they’ll be like sisters. Or not. But it’s a nice thought.

This storyline paralleled flashbacks where a teenage Randall was still attempting to find his birth parents. We saw him meet up with a woman that claimed to be his mother, clearly wasn’t, and the emotional toll that took on him. We saw in the present as Randall recognized that Deja, who already had a birth mom, was struggling with perhaps betraying her mom. Randall, growing up, loved his parents. But he also wanted to find his birth parents. There’s nothing wrong with having an extended family.

This entire storyline is really opening up this show in a new way. We’re going to get to explore not only how Randall and Beth and the girls handle this, but we’re going to get to know Deja and the terrible things she’s gone through. And we’re going to pray that Randall and Beth can give her a better life. That she’ll let them.

Jack Opens Up to Rebecca

NBC

The path to recovery is a lot easier said than done. Not that it’s impossible, but it’s a process. And that’s the process that we’re getting to see in the flashbacks this season.

The difference between the first time Jack was struggling with his alcohol addiction versus this second time is that he kept his emotions bottled up inside. He believed he could do it alone, so he elected to keep it from his family. Only, we saw how that worked out.

So this second go-around, Jack has made a commitment to be open in his communication with not only Rebecca but his children. Instead of tackling things alone, he’d talk through his issues to help maintain a healthy foundation. Only the problem for Jack in this episode was that he was finding it difficult to talk to Rebecca about his journey.

So there was this awkward tension between the two for most of the episode as Rebecca tried to “Jack Pearson” the one and only Jack Pearson with a romantic night out. Only Jack wasn’t that into it because he was so far in his head.

The old Jack would’ve said it was nothing. That everything was okay. But this Jack actually made a proactive attempt to open up to Rebecca about the difficulty he was having opening up to her. He pinpointed the source of that struggle as being forced in his recovery to relive the very worst of his life. People told him that in order to fix himself, he’s got to sit in all of the “ugly stuff” of his past. And it was crushing him. He didn’t want to feel broken.

So Rebecca delivers a classic line about Jack being the “strongest person I know” when he couldn’t believe it himself. But the thing is, Rebecca believed it for both of them. And that’s enough.

After the ice was broken, it was like Jack just opened up like a flower. “I miss talking to you, and I’m not ready to stop yet.” And so they talked.

And so Jack Pearson did better by himself and his family this second go around, which I’m convinced is going to make his death even more gut wrenching when it happens. Because it (probably won’t be, maybe will be) related to drinking.

Like Father, Like Son

NBC

One of the important aspects of Jack Pearson’s death on this show is the effect that it’s had on each of the Big Three. We’ve gotten a glimpse at how it has affected Kate — to the point where at one point she couldn’t even talk about it until some counseling helped her open up to the grieving process.

Now, we’re getting a glimpse into how Kevin is dealing — or hasn’t dealt — with his father’s death. And my, oh my, if Kevin isn’t a replica of his father. (See above section.)

In “Highs and Lows,” we found Kevin filming on his new movie alongside the legendary Sylvester Stallone. But it was an unlikely (sort of) friendship between Sylvester and Kate that prompted Kevin’s emotional breaking point. We really got a glimpse in this episode about just how much Kevin has pushed down the pain of his father’s death.

Kevin is someone that doesn’t really like to show weakness. So he masks it, much like he has done since he was in high school when it comes to that traumatic event that rocked his world. This episode really enlightened us to just how bad things have gotten, to the point where it was affecting Kevin’s work.

After Sylvester mentioned his conversation with Kate and expressed his condolences for his loss, you could see an actual shift in Kevin’s demeanor. He became statue-like as the walls went up protecting his emotions. And it spilled over into his work, where he couldn’t remember any of his lines as he was getting flashes of memories with his dad. Now that there was a personal connection here — where Jack was a huge Stallone fan, and the Big Three watched all his movies again and again — it was becoming a distraction.

There’s only so long you can push emotions down before they come spiraling right back to you. Just because you push them down doesn’t mean they’re resolved. Sure, things might be okay for a little bit. But eventually, you have to deal with your pain and grief and whatever emotions you’re feeling.

Kevin kept insisting that he didn’t have any emotions to let out. That he was fine. And clearly, he wasn’t. In fact, the constant denial actually ended up doing more harm than was necessary. All Kevin needed to do was open up. To talk about what he was feeling, what he’s been feeling since he was a teenager.

But Kevin didn’t do that. And so he lashed out. He wasn’t his best self, both personally and professionally. He hurt himself emotionally and physically, as during the big action sequence he was overcome with such emotion that his bad knee — the one we glimpsed with a cast during Jack’s “death” in the premiere — was hurt in the process.

But it was the final shot — and voiceover from Kate — that really left a lasting impression:

“He’s just like you,” Kate says to her “dad,” as we get a visual of Kevin taking some pain medication for his knee injury.

Could there be an addiction threat brewing? Addiction does run in the Pearson family, after all. And Kevin keeping his feelings about his dad — and potentially about his knee — as we know from Jack’s track record is only going to make things worse.

This Is … 5 Thoughts on “Deja Vu”

  1. Was that final shot in this episode foreshadowing an addiction struggle for Kevin this season?
  2. Is it just me or anytime we get a surprise William cameo in an episode that I actually feel emotionally taken aback. Like the tears instantly want to fall. God, I miss William so much.
  3. Kate’s fangirling over Sylvester Stallone, followed by a sort-of friendship with him is every fangirl’s dream.
  4. This whole foster child storyline is going to be so damn emotional and so damn feels worthy. I cannot wait for this to unfold in its entirety.
  5. The parallel between Randall’s life and his new foster child Deja’s life was really nicely done. What a conversation that was.

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

Alyssa Barbieri

Senior Managing Editor

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment. Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes. Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters. TV Editor and Sports Editor. I write about DCTV, This Is Us and so much more. Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.

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