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'Atlanta' Recap, 'Juneteenth': How You Gonna Win When You Ain't Right Within?

By Brian Richards | TV | October 27, 2016 |

By Brian Richards | TV | October 27, 2016 |


Earn gets dressed after waking up in the bed of a woman who clearly isn’t Van, and steps outside to actually meet Van, who is driving them both to a McMansion where a lavish party in honor of Juneteenth is being held.

This Juneteenth party is being thrown by Monique, an upper-class Black woman who takes her upper-class status very seriously (she actually tells several staff members working in the kitchen for her party: “Smile! This is a celebration, not an orphanage.”) and her White husband, Craig, an ophthalmologist who is so hell-bent on showing how much he loves and appreciates Black people and Black culture (he asks Earn why he hasn’t been back to Africa to get in touch with his roots and his ancestry, despite the minor nuisance known as slavery tearing all of that apart), I’m surprised that he wasn’t played by Michael Rapaport, due to Quentin Tarantino being busy.

It soon becomes very clear that 1) Monique and Craig are only married because of what the other provides: Craig gets to say that he has a Black wife, and Monique gets to have money and lots of it and 2) Earn and Van were only invited to this party (which, in Earn’s words, looks like ‘a Spike Lee-directed version of Eyes Wide Shut’) because of Earn having attended Princeton, as well as Monique and Craig’s mistaken belief that the two of them are married. Van simply wants Earn to help her pretend that they aren’t who and what they really are, so that Monique or one of her friends will hook her up with a teaching gig. And in the midst of all their pretending, Earn and Van cross paths with:

- a playwright who has written and directed a new show called “With Tail Between Legs,” about two gangbangers holding a pregnant teen, a pastor, and a drug dealer hostage in a strip club during Hurricane Katrina. And if you’re familiar with ‘urban literature’ with titles such as “Desperate Hoodwives” and the “I Just Wanna Leave This Nigga” trilogy, (and no, I’m not making those up) as well as low-budget, Off-Off-Broadway plays with titles like “Your Legs Are Too Short to Kickbox With God,” (that one I probably made up. Probably.) you know that’s probably the least outlandish plot you’ve ever come across.

- a pastor at a mega-church (who really likes to brag about the fact that he’s a pastor at a mega-church) and his silent, unnamed wife (?) expressing their belief that going to church, managing your money, and looking good while treating your woman with respect matters. (insert many more question marks here)

- three women from Atlanta’s chapter of Jack and Jill, who ask Earn what he does for a living. Earn decides to stop pretending for once and tells them that he does nothing, and that Van is the one who does everything, in terms of making good money, raising Lottie, and just being a wonderful provider/parent/person. Which throws Van for a loop and sends her running to the nearest bathroom to wonder aloud why she is there and having to pretend to be someone and something she’s not.

Earn is also approached by two valet drivers who recognize him as being Paper Boi’s manager and who want nothing more than a hook-up for their own struggling rap careers. (The less said about the valet driver who takes out his sister’s underwear and asks Earn to pass it along to Paper Boi on her behalf, the better. *Sideshow Bob-like shudder*) Monique and Craig enter the room and send the valets outside, but not before Craig finally puts two and two together and also realizes that Earn is Paper Boi’s manager. You can see both Van freaking out about the truth coming out and Monique having many a judgmental thought flash through her head. Despite her jokes about Earn possibly shooting the place up like his cousin, Monique puts them both at ease, explaining how she understands that ‘there’s at least one trifling thug in every family.’

And when even Craig himself is giving you the harshest of “Damn, Gina!” looks after you say something like that, you know you done fucked up.

Earn can no longer pretend and pretty much calls out both Craig and Monique on their bullshit, Monique on being dumb and throwing her dumb parties, and Craig for…well, every single word that’s left his mouth. All Van can do is take one last gulp from her glass of liquor and rush Earn out the door before things get even more heated

As Earn drives home, he tells Van that he’ll call Craig and Monique in the morning and apologize for everything he said. Van, happy and grateful that she no longer needs to pretend any longer, simply tells Earn to pull the car over so she can mount him and so the two can have sex. Which they do.


HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: A couple, and you’d probably drop some F-bombs too if you were in a White man’s house and found a painting of a sword-toting Black man in a fight to the death with a gigantic eagle, for some reason.

ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE?: (looks for the nearest door so he can do an Uncle Phil and do this to Dustin with the quickness)…

TO SUM IT ALL UP: For all of us who wondered why Earn would ever throw away an opportunity like being a student at Princeton so he can work as a manager in the rap game instead, this episode (which is as funny and incredible to watch as every other episode that has aired so far) gave us some really good hints and answers as to the kind of people who Earn would have to spend every day of his academic life around. And considering that he could barely spend a day around Monique and Craig, spending four years with people like them was truly not an option for him. And Van simply proved that living a life where she becomes a Monique or a Jayde in order to be happy is definitely not an option for her either.

Damn, I hate that there’s only one episode left. This show is so good.

This episode of Atlanta was brought to you by “I’m Black, Y’All” by Allen Payne-as-Dead Mike/Euripides from CB4:

Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.