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Remember last week when Randall had a really hard time getting his stuff together before the birth of his first daughter, Tess? Compared to this week’s episode of This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV) that was a much, much different man. The man we saw emerge in this week’s “The Most Disappointed Man” was a full-on Papa Bear, and he wasn’t ready to let anyone mess with his daughters–foster or otherwise. We suppose that’s what a decade-long time jump in the storyline will get you.

But we digress.

If you tuned into the latest episode of the family drama, then you know it was one of the most emotionally charged installments to-date, thanks to a little 12-year-old character named Deja and the adults in her life who are responsible for her.

Side note: to be fair the episode was also crazy emotional thanks to the William flashback storylines and the judge who didn’t want to grant Rebecca and Jack custody of Randall, but there’s something extra sad about Deja’s plight in the current storyline these past few episodes. Your heart can’t help but break at what she’s gone through.

First of all, it’s important to note that the actress who plays her, Lyric Ross, has never really had a major role. Sure, she’s appeared in small bits on Chicago Fire and Sirens, but this eighth grader has never really acted before. That’s kind of amazing when you think about how she’s now going toe-to-toe with Sterling K. Brown who just won an Emmy for his role as Randall, right?

You don't want to mess with Papa Bear Randall on 'This Is Us'
NBC

The second thing to note is that this week’s episode really dug into Deja’s sad past, which includes a mother who has been in and out of jail forever, and whom Deja loves beyond all else. Why else would she save up her allowance money so her mom could get the things she needed? This is a girl who has been around the [jail] block. Even more importantly, those aren’t the actions of a 12-year-old, those are the actions of a little girl being forced into adulthood way too early. And Randall picked up on that.

Instinctively, Randall “Randalled-out” (thanks for the new nomenclature, Beth!), first at the social worker and then at Deja’s mom herself when Deja’s mom opted-out of the visit with her daughter. To be fair, the mom didn’t want her daughter to see her face all beat up, and we can understand that. But that doesn’t make it any less of a heart-breaking situation now does it?

Because now, what’s Randall supposed to do? Deja’s mom does want her back, and legally Randall doesn’t have a ton of rights. He wants Deja to be happy and is supportive of her mom calling her collect so that they can catch up, but what about the long-term? Suppose that Deja’s mom gets out of jail and then what? Will she go on the straight and narrow, or will Deja end up in another foster home where the parents beat her or are emotionally abusive?

That’s why it also makes sense that Randall wants to protect Deja and give her the life he thinks she deserves. So his threats of protecting Deja from her mom are pretty real at this point, and set up the story for a very long and lengthy legal battle. He’s become a true Papa Bear, if you will.

It’s the long-burning stories like this that keep us so invested in the series, isn’t it? Because of course while all of this was going on, Kate and Toby also began to embrace their pregnancy (and had a real proposal!), William turned his life around thanks to one kind judge, a young Randall was adopted into a white family despite a black judge’s better judgement, and Kevin took a turn for the worse in terms of his pill addiction.

You don't want to mess with Papa Bear Randall on 'This Is Us'

Yeah, we all needed a bar of chocolate and some tissues after that.

Something tells us that next week we’ll dig even more into the Kevin of it all (the episode is titled “Number One,” after all), but until then, we’re almost scared to see how this Deja storyline winds up. Fingers crossed that with only three episodes left until the midseason break it’s a happy ending, but with this show you never really know. Hence all the Kleenex.

 

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.