Previously on Atlanta: A news report reveals that a high-ranking executive at Tesla was revealed to have had family that owned slaves, which resulted in said executive being sued for reparations by the family members of those slaves. It doesn’t take long before more and more white people find themselves being sued for reparations as well once their ancestors are revealed to have been slave owners. One of those white people? Marshall Johnson, who doesn’t take the news very well when he’s served with a lawsuit and told that he’s expected to pay up to $3 million in reparations to a Black woman named Sheniqua Johnson.
THE STORY SO FAR: Earn, Paper Boi, Darius, and Socks (which is not spelled S-O-X, and who has somehow become a member of Paper Boi’s entourage) find themselves on the hunt for Paper Boi’s cell phone, which goes missing after one of Paper Boi’s performances, and which leads them to confront an obsessive hardcore fan of Paper Boi’s named Wiley.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Darius wanting to go on an adventure with map in hand, and explore some unknown rooms in the same building as the music venue, and him becoming more disappointed when it becomes clear that it won’t happen. Paper Boi and Darius’ reaction to when Socks asks them if they want to hit up a strip club, including their fake British accents. Earn and his awkward approach to frisking the child from The Dream Foundation as he’s being carried away by paramedics to find Paper Boi’s phone. Paper Boi: “I would’ve had everything on my phone backed up if it wasn’t for Conspiracy Jones over here.” (“Conspiracy Jones” being, of course, Darius.) Socks describing himself as “the white Liam Neeson.” The entire interrogation scene between Earn, Paper Boi, and Darius vs. Wiley. Earn: “Good cop?” Paper Boi: “Bad cop.” Darius: “Devastated cop.” Folk reminding them all that Wiley is a scared 19-year-old kid, only for Wiley to point out that he’s actually 32. Earn, Paper Boi, and Darius all in agreement that Socks almost let the word “nigga” come out of his mouth. Paper Boi sitting down with Wiley one-on-one to explain why the phone is so important to him and how he’s afraid of losing his voice as a rapper, followed by Wiley singing a song on the guitar that Folk brings to him, and the imperceptible expression on Paper Boi’s face while listening to him. Watching the episode a second time after discovering that Socks is the one who took Paper Boi’s phone, and realizing that he did a lot to point the finger at Wiley in blaming him for Paper Boi’s phone going missing, and would’ve done a hell of a lot worse if he had been allowed in the room with Wiley. Samuel Blenkin’s performance as Wiley, who starts off by having us think that he’s the culprit that has Paper Boi’s phone and is just f-cking with everyone for his own amusement, until we realize that he is simply a socially awkward man who loves Paper Boi and his work, and who is grateful to be seen and heard by him.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: None.
HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: A couple, due to Earn yelling at Wiley to get his ass off the stage, and Paper Boi becoming more and more aggravated in his attempts to get his phone back.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: No.
ON A SCALE OF 1 TO “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH?” HOW WEIRD AND TERRIFYING WAS THIS EPISODE?: I’d say that it’s about a 3, especially compared to the last few episodes this season.
ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE?: One of these days, I really will just lie to Dustin so he’ll stop asking this silly-ass question, but no. (Publisher’s Note: Hey!)
WHERE’S VANESSA DURING THIS EPISODE?: According to Earn, Van has been gone for six days, and hasn’t been heard from since Paper Boi attempted to cut down someone’s tree with a chainsaw. After texting her once again to see if she’s all right, Van finally responds with nothing more than a thumbs-up emoji.
SO WAIT? IF WILEY DIDN’T TAKE PAPER BOI’S PHONE, THEN HOW DID HE KNOW HIS PHONE NUMBER AND ALL THOSE THINGS ABOUT PAPER BOI THAT HE DIDN’T REALLY TELL ANYONE ELSE ABOUT?: Wiley is a Paper Boi stan, and if there’s one thing to be known about stans, it’s that they can and will turn into Sherlock Holmes when it comes to learning more about their favorite celebs, and uncovering information that those celebs really don’t want their fans to know anything about.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: This episode of Atlanta does follow a similar structure to most police procedurals, due to its interrogation scene between the protagonists and Wiley. But the one police drama that immediately came to mind while watching this was Homicide: Life On The Street, and its episode “Three Men and Adena,” in which detectives Pembleton and Bayliss (Andre Braugher, Kyle Secor) spend ten hours interrogating an arabber named Risley Tucker (the late Moses Gunn), who they suspect as being the murderer of an 11-year-old girl named Adena Watson. Despite the intensity of the entire episode, it ends on a note of ambiguity as viewers are left wondering whether or not Tucker really did murder Adena Watson. And though “Cancer Attack” clearly doesn’t reach those same levels of darkness and intensity, it still takes something as simple as the search for a lost cell phone and turns it into a darkly humorous tale that constantly leaves the viewer wondering/fearing what’s around the corner and what could possibly come next. (Which is to be expected from every episode of Atlanta, at this point)
As for Socks and his need to steal Paper Boi’s phone and then dispose of it in the trash? Maybe he did it because he really didn’t like how Paper Boi laughed at him and his suggestion to hit up a strip club. Maybe he did it so that he could strengthen his bond with Paper Boi and company through a difficult and upsetting experience. Or maybe he just did it because he has little to no Act-Right, and because much like Lamilton Taeshawn, he just likes to do bad things. No matter the reason, Socks has earned a level of hatred and contempt that is reserved for only a few other characters on television: Ellis on Smash, Todd on Breaking Bad, Peter Florrick on The Good Wife, and Veronica Mars from the fourth season of Veronica Mars. Either way, seeing Socks hopefully get his comeuppance in the form of a no-holds-barred ass-whooping at the hands of Paper Boi (or getting hit by a speeding bus like Regina George or Todd Mulcahy) is one more reason to continue watching Atlanta this season, which still remains just as terrific to watch.
This episode of Atlanta has been brought to you by “Mr. Telephone Man” by New Edition:
“Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye:
And “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2: