Once in a while, something happens on TV that leaves me speechless.
This Is Us Season 4 Episode 7 was one of those times.
This episode was all about connection, and every minute was fabulous.
The parallels between the two generations of Pearson dinners were some of the most well-done segues between past and present in This Is Us' four years, but Deja and Malik's tour of Philly stole the show.
THIS is what a love story between teenagers should look like.
Deja and Malik had some awkward moments while playing hookey, but Deja's problem wasn't with Malik. It was with herself.
Both she and Malik have a past that they are trying to transcend.
Malik is trying to do right by his infant daughter despite his shame over having got his first girlfriend pregnant, while Deja has a ton of trust issues because of her experiences with her mom and her mom's boyfriends.
Malik, I've never liked anyone before. You give me butterflies, the way you look at me. I've never had anyone look at me like that. The crazy things you said to me, are you for real? The man my mom had lied to her. I've only known one man who didn't lie and now maybe I know two. The thing is, you've done this before. You've had girlfriends. You have a baby. So I don't know, are you for real? The crazy things you say to me, are you just running game? I don't know if I can trust you. All I know is that I have plans for my life, real plans, and I should never have skipped school.Deja
Even though those issues made it hard for Deja to open her heart to Malik, it also drew them together.
And when Deja finally not only gave Malik her hand but allowed herself to kiss him, it was a powerful moment.
The more a couple has to overcome to get to that first kiss, the sweeter that kiss is (yes, I'm looking at you, Kevin and Cassidy.)
The moment was made even more special by Deja's memory of her grandmother and mother showing her those same lights that Malik showed her.
Deja's connection to Malik helps her feel connected to her birth family, too. That could be good or bad.
Deja and Malik have a real connection, but Deja's feelings about her birth family and everything that went wrong in her life could muddy the waters.
Malik is going to need to be patient with Deja because of her issues. These two may be teenagers, but this relationship is going to require both of them to grow up because they both have serious stuff to deal with.
Even now, the kids were, in some ways, more mature than their parents.
Kelly and Beth were both in super Mama Bear mode, convinced the other's child was bad news that was going to drag their baby onto a self-destructive path.
It's a miracle that Randall and Darnell were able to stop the women from coming to blows.
YOu can choose to see me as just my mistakes or you can see the man who I am now, just like you can see my son as just a kid from North Philly, a teenage father, or you can see him for what he is, a sweet kid who is trying to do the right thing. But what you can't do is write him off. I'm not having that.Darnell
Of course, Randall and Darnell weren't much better.
The two men could have been friends if things were different, but Randall couldn't let go of his fears for Deja, and the two families' socio-economic differences got in both of their ways.
And yes, This Is Us dared to go there: to suggest that a more well-to-do black couple might have some of the same prejudices against black people from the poorer part of the city as some white people.
That's not something that's often mentioned on television, but as usual, This Is Us went a little deeper than other shows do.
Anyway, I loved Darnell's speech about him and Malik being more than their pasts. And Deja's apology afterward was the icing on that cake, as well as what won Malik's parents over enough to give her a chance.
Randall's comment to Darnell about kids growing up and ceasing to idolize you echoed Jack's sentiments perfectly from years before.
Jack had the Lawrences over partially to get to know them, but mainly because he wanted to stake out his territory and put Corey Lawrence on notice that Randall was HIS son.
Jack took the opposite tack to how Randall and Beth treated Malik's family, though. He tried too hard to be accepting, only drawing the line when Randall wanted to go to the arts festival with the Lawrences.
Mr. Lawrence: I organize my books in the classroom by year, but I should have trademarked it. It seems we have a copycat.
Kevin: Holy crap. He's like a grown-up Randall.
Jack's conversation with Corey out in the yard was all sorts of amazing. I didn't think This Is Us could get any better than this.
Jack stumbled through an explanation of what it was like to be the white father of the only black kid in the neighborhood and Corey shared what it was like to be the only black teacher at Randall's school, and somehow the two men came to an understanding.
Corey's comment that Jack would be part of Randall's life forever was especially poignant since we know that Jack won't be.
I also wondered whether the second half of that statement -- that someday Randall would only barely remember Corey's influence on him -- was significant. Will Randall think of him later in the season as he struggles with his new job or with Deja's relationship with Malik?
When Corey gave Jack the Langston Hughes book so Jack could give it to Randall himself, I thought it was the most emotional moment of the hour.
Then Jack talked to Randall.
That was a beautiful, complicated scene.
I loved how Randall was hesitant to admit that Mr. Lawrence was as cool as he really thought he was and his surprise when Jack wanted to read the poetry book to understand Randall more.
But best of all was Randall's recitation of I Too Am America, which spoke volumes about how he felt about his racial identity and his desire to belong.
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics.
Share in the comments what you thought about Deja and Malik's first kiss, the way their parents went at each other, the Lawrences' visit to the Pearsons' home, and everything else that happened on This Is Us Season 4 Episode 7.
Missed the episode? No problem. Just watch This Is Us online right here on TV Fanatic.
This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.
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