Friday, November 15, 2019

This Is Us 4.07: “The Dinner and the Date”

“You’re lucky. You have all these connections. You walked up in here and everyone said hello. That’s so dope.”
– Deja

This week is all about awkward dinners. In the past, Jack has invited Randall’s black teacher, Mr. Lawrence, to dinner. In the present, after a school skipping incident, Randall and Beth invite Malik and his parents over for dinner. The motives behind the meals are different but I think in the end they both ended up working out like they were supposed to.

In the past, Jack is feeling really threatened by Randall’s relationship with his teacher. I don’t think it’s a malicious thing but he feels like he’s been the person his son turned to with questions his whole life and now Jack doesn’t know how to answer the more complex questions Randall is raising. But Mr. Lawrence seems to have a real connection with Randall. But Jack isn’t the only one who is a little nervous and off their game. Mr. Lawrence is trying to impress Jack, too and he ends up just running off on tangents that only he and Randall understand. Kevin is his decidedly annoying self for most of the dinner. First he complains about how hungry he is and how boring the dinner is and then when Jack tries to sort of “compete” with Mr. Lawrence by saying he wants to take the whole family to a cultural festival that celebrates black artists, Kevin gets really into the awkwardness. But Rebecca reminds Jack that Randall will always choose him but if Jack makes him pick, he’ll resent Jack. I have to admit this reminded me of a plot line in One Upon a Time. In the end, Jack and Mr. Lawrence come to an understanding that they can both offer Randall different things to enrich his life and help him find his identity as a person of color in the world.

Before the dinner with the present-day Pearson clan, Malik convinces Deja to skip school so he can show her “his” Philadelphia. You can tell Deja isn’t totally comfortable ditching class but she goes with him anyway. He takes her to his favorite cheese steak place where one of the sandwiches is named after his grandfather. He’s greeted by everyone in the place and Deja can’t believe how many connections he has. She’s never been in one place long enough to become a regular somewhere. So, Malik takes her back outside and introduces her again to everyone. He then takes her to see some cool street art and a garden. But, when they end up at a park, she starts to get nervous. Especially when Malik holds her hand and it looks like he wants to kiss her. She’s understandably concerned that he’s trying to put the moves on her and she is not about that. She has plans for her life that don’t include any big derailments like an unplanned pregnancy. She also doesn’t trust that when Malik shows interest in her or calls her beautiful that he’s being truthful and not working an angle because that’s all she’s known her whole life. She watched her mother be lied to by men all the time. I’m really glad they addressed her concerns about the relationship rather than her just accepting it without comment. Malik understands and he tells her that he’s being truthful and that he’s only had one girlfriend (his baby mama). That clearly didn’t go as he expected either. Deja says she wants to go back to school but Malik convinces her to let him take her to one more place. During their city wandering, she mentioned that she’d gone to Philly as a young child with her mom and grandmother and all she remembered was Christmas lights reflecting on water when it was warm out. Malik understands the reference and brings her to the spot. They share a kiss and it seems like they are going to fight for their relationship.

That fight is made decidedly more difficult by both sets of parents who aren’t happy about them cutting school or lying or sneaking around. Randall wants to get Malik’s parents into his and Beth’s boat of keeping the kids apart. Beth initially says they should be open to them as people and see what they’re like. But, that’s going to be hard to do when Malik’s parents aren’t trusting of Beth and Randall either. His dad seems a little chiller but his mother isn’t impressed with Randall’s success and wealth and that his family is white. Beth has lots of wine ready but Malik’s parents don’t drink. I will say that Annie calling it like it is (saying it’s weird that Malik has a baby and that they’ve not been to church in ages) was refreshing. I like that they just give her no filter and she says what everyone else is thinking. I do hope as the show continues we get to see her grow and develop more. But she is pretty cute. All of her adorableness isn’t enough to make the dinner less awkward. I did find it interesting how this dinner was all about class while the dinner in the past was all about race. Beth gives Malik’s mom a tour of the house while Randall and his father chat and Beth is really rubbed the wrong way when Malik’s mom comments on Deja’s past and what Malik has told them about Shawna.

Things come to blows when the baby starts crying and Malik goes to take her for a walk. Beth banishes the girls upstairs (though you knew that it wasn’t going to keep Deja from listening in) and the families come to blows. Beth and Randall don’t want Malik to drag Deja down into her old life. While I can understand their concern, especially knowing that Malik made choices that led to him being a teenage father, his parents also had a good point about them not seeing the straight A student and kind boy that he is. They point out that Malik’s dad was in a gang but he got out of the life and he’d never let his son end up involved in that type of situation. I think they need to take a little of their own advice and see Deja for the bright, mature you woman she is and not the daughter of a drug addict. Beth and Randall have fought to give Deja a more stable life and maybe they are a little threatened by that. Deja ends up interrupting and says that she’s sorry she’s disappointed everyone but that she’s not sorry for liking Malik. In the end, the parents agree (if a bit quickly) to supervised visits. Beth and Randall then ask Deja to tell them about Malik, since they didn’t really get to know him during the dinner. The way she talks about him, you can tell she really likes him. She says that he makes her feel like herself. I do hope they make it. I’m sure there will be lots of ups and downs along the way but that’s what This Is Us does best. They give us real people living real lives. They don’t’ shy away from hard topics.

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