ALL ABOUT DEJA (THIS IS US RECAP)
Let me begin by saying that the first quarter of the episode was the most poignant episode of 16 and Pregnant I’ve ever seen. Gone are the Big Three (for the most part), Mommy and Daddy Pearson, Wallflower, The Tobes, Bio Dad, and the whole lot of them. Today, we’re focused exclusively on Deja’s backstory and it begins in a hospital room with a young Shauna AKA Deja’s mom, who is the granddaughter of legendary, iconic, ass-kicking Jackie Brown. Shauna is a teen, has just had a baby, with a dude who is nowhere in the vicinity. She does not want to hold the baby but Jackie Brown has seen and done too much to let her get swayed by Shauna’s juvenile excuses. “I know you’re only 16, “says Brown, dreaming of sweeter days in Madrid, using up all of Ordell’s money to finally get the kind of life she deserved. That is all long gone. She now has to help raise this child of a child.
It’s Jackie Brown that takes care of Deja in those early years. She’s the one that tucks her in bed while Shauna is out She reads to her. She drags a long puff off a cigarette to tell 19-year-old Shauna that she is a former flight attendant who stood up to a black-market gunrunner, so she’s been through too much bullshit to put up with hers. Why isn’t she raising this child? Shauna breaks down to share her own broken dreams. Jackie Brown consoles her, understands her heartache. “I can’t carry this for you,” says Jackie Brown, feeling death approaching after an entire lifetime of outsmarting it. “Not forever.”
Jackie Brown dies in front of her beloved great-grandchild and Shauna, with a whispered prayer that they obtain the strength she always had.
A few years later, Deja is the kind of 12-year-old that wants to surprise her mom on her birthday. Shauna appears to have her life a bit more in order. She has a job, albeit the kind that provides no benefits and pays minimum wage. She walks her daughter to school. They laugh, they giggle, and they promise to spend Shauna’s birthday together. Deja wants to show her mom how much she means to her by cooking her dinner while mom’s away at work. A knife slips and cuts her hand deep, so deep that blood is oozing out of all sides on what I can only assume is a metaphor about the metaphorical passage of girlhood to adulthood that your first period represents. No? Anyone? Moving on. Deja calls her mom to no avail and finally makes her way to the emergency room herself.
That 70’s Mom appears and she is no longer as harmless as we were led to believe. When Shauna rushes into the emergency room to explain her phone died during some birthday drinks, That 70’s Mom doesn’t even let her near Deja. That’s all That 70s Mom needs to take Deja away from her mother, even though there are white children running around this country unvaccinated and on a diet consisting only of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and positive affirmations. Sounds about right.
Deja is placed in a home where she meets her foster sister Raven. Their Foster Dad is basically every dude that has ever argued that the AR in AR-15 doesn’t stand for “assault rifle” but for “ArmaLite rifle” and that’s why snowflake liberal can’t have an opinion about guns, free speech, the sun, favorite ice cream flavor. He threatens to throw the girls out the window because of their loud music. He beats Raven up after she’s caught stealing make up from the corner store. Deja points out, “he’s never beaten you that bad before” but Raven is hardened. This is what she’s learned to endure.
That 70’s Mom does another house inspection and Deja asks when she’ll finally be allowed to go back home. The answer is: once her mom is out of treatment. Deja retorts that she’s only in treatment because of the psychological toll of having your child ripped from you. Linda can tell something’s wrong and that’s when Deja admits that the foster dad hits them.
Back in the group home, Raven is pissed and Deja doesn’t understand why. Raven responds that she’s already been in too many different beds now they run the risk of being separated, which is so sad that I can’t even bring myself to make a joke about bed-hopping and other inappropriate thoughts that come to mind when I hear the words “too many beds.”
Finally, Deja returns home. Shauna has invited her “friend” from rehab to have dinner with them. Deja is not happy with him and, frankly, neither am I. She asks the very Latino-looking Alonso if he has a job, which already puts her above the average Bachelor contestant. He does, he’s a mechanic. He asks her to give him a chance. Deja decides to do so but that’s because she’s not as aware of the terrible representation of Latinos in the media. I’m not as generous.
We see a montage of Alonso embodying every freaking Latino stereotype that you can think of: he peppers his speech with little salsa moves, he greases back his hair. He also drinks, yells at Shauna, comes off as aggressive and scary. He has a gun, even though gun ownership is most common among Republican white men and actually few Hispanics do. But sure.
Both Deja and I start to lose our hair at the same time.
Alonso gets worse. He now has friends over, mooching off Shauna’s hard-earned food, watching sports instead of being productive members of society. Let’s face it; with Raven’s ominous warning about how bad it can get and the way-too high instances of sexual abuse in the US, this was all set up to make us fear for Deja. Alonso even approaches her and gets maybe a tad too close for comfort, but all he does is ask if she needs help with the dishes. Deja storms off, an option I wish I had but my recaps must go on.
Officers show up right as Deja is about to do her drill team solo.
That 70’s Mom informs Deja that Shauna has been arrested because they found Alonso’s gun in her car. No point in trying to tell the police that it wasn’t her gun to begin with. We’ve seen this play out too many times. This is the catalyst that brings her to Randall and Beths’ home and where she remembers Raven’s words of wisdom: Once you find a bed that’s a little safe, don’t blow it.
Adult Ines spends most of her evening overanalyzing shows like The Bachelor, Real Housewives and, yes, This Is Us as a form of relaxation. It sounds a little counterintuitive, putting way too much thought on what is supposed to be mindless entertainment, but it works for her. Cause Adult Ines, and hell even Little Ines and Teen Ines, has a tendency to be too engaged and concerned with this fucked up world. Adult Ines worries about the current administration, so intent on diminishing the quality of life of any group that isn’t white, straight, male Republican. There have been times when Adult Ines lies awake at night, thinking about nuclear warfare and creating survival strategies. She worries about access to reproductive care, equal pay for women, the environment, police brutality, the volatile market. And because she is a Peruvian immigrant, she worries a lot about the Latino community, who is constantly under attack. She curses ICE, frets over DACA, rants about the persistent economic marginalization of Latina women, screams at the racist president. Because she is also someone who cares deeply about the arts and believes strongly that it has an impact, she also obsesses over representation.
When it comes to Latino representation in the media, it’s not good. To begin with, there’s so few of them. Despite comprising about 18% of the US population, they only accounted for 5.8% of speaking roles on TV. When they do appear, it’s cringe-worthy. Latinas are more likely to be shown nude or partially nude in film than any other ethnicity. A quarter of the Latino characters on TV are shown participating in criminal activities, in total. When immigration storylines are shown on TV, they tend to be centered on some sort of crime. In those storylines, 50% of Latin immigrant characters were depicted as being criminal 69% (nice) of maids on TV and film were Latina.
Adult Ines knows all this and it bothers her in a constant simmering, pulsating basis. It doesn’t usually boil over. But there’s something about this week that got her too emotionally invested in Latino representation. Maybe it’s the fact that so few people tend to give a shit about the 171% increase in arrests of non-criminal undocumented immigrant. Maybe it’s the fact that Latina women make 55 cents for every dollar a white dude makes. Maybe it’s the fact that a Mexican immigrant won Best Picture and people scoffed at it, as if it was expected. Newsflash: the number of Latino directors is so small, they’re considered statistically insignificant by several studies on the subject of director demographics.
So when Ines sees Alonso on TV she suffers a rage stroke and blacks out. She can barely follow the rest. Something about money problems, Deja and her mom trying to get money, the eviction, Randall and Beth finding them in the car. She fades back into consciousness.
Deja and Shauna are taken in by Randall and Beth, where they watch TV. Every indication of safety is there: family laughter, throw blankets, popcorn. There’s no real plan at the moment, other than offering Deja and Shauna a place to stay the night. Deja asks if she can sleep in her old room. While she disappears upstairs, Beth and Shauna start to bond the way most women who grew up in the 90s bond: by lusting over D’Angelo. (“How does it feeeeeeeellllll?” Hmmmmmm hmmm good.) Shauna admits to Beth that she’s rarely seen her child act like a kid. She starts to cry, saying she failed Deja and she cannot keep doing that to her. From the morning Deja was born, Shauna has cooed, “What would I do without you?”, realizing now that it was a burden too big to put on a little girl.
Back upstairs, we find out one vital piece of information: THE BEYONCE PLANTS ARE ALIVE. Sweet, sweet Randall has been taking care of them all this time. Deja begins opening up to him. This is how we know she fits in with the Pearsons: She gives one long speech about how everyone sleeps at night and it’s supposed to be making a profound statement about humanity like, I don’t know, at the end of the day, everyone closes their eyes? In any case, the whole situation makes her really tired. Same.
At the end of the episode, though, we know what’s about to happen. For Shauna is standing by the door, bags packed and ready to go, as Randall and Beth give ominous stares.
Reasons to Lust After Milo
Interspersed throughout the episodes were previous scenes from the show, relating the many commonalities that Deja already has with the Pearson. In one of them, a drunk Jack is about to take a whiskey shot. Be still my heart.
Old habits are hard to break.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
Man, oh man, Shauna breaks my heart pretty much every time she’s onscreen.
Deep Quote of the Week
“Deja: Oh my god, you're still so corny.
Randall: Like I'm on a cob, baby.”
It’s not even deep. I just happen to like dad jokes.