'Atlanta: Robbin' Season' Recap: "Crabs In A Barrel"
THE STORY SO FAR: Tension between Earn and Paper Boi continues to grow, as the two of them search for an entertainment lawyer to represent Paper Boi while also preparing to go on an international tour with Clark County. Earn is also forced to deal with the growing possibility that Paper Boi will fire him and hire another manager, most likely Clark County’s manager, Lucas.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE: Seeing Earn having to scramble in accomplishing so many things for both himself and for Paper Boi. From attending parent-teacher conferences with Vanessa about Lottie in which they both learn how incredibly gifted she is and how their teacher desperately wants them both to get her the hell out of that school so that she can learn at a better one because, in her words, “if I see a steer smart enough to get out of the pen, I’m gonna leave the gate open” to helping Paper Boi decide which entertainment lawyer he wants representing him and looking over his contracts until he finally orders Earn to get him a good Jewish lawyer instead to having to help Darius renew his passport the day of their international flight, to making sure that the movers who are transporting all of their things are actually doing their job, to being reminded by Paper Boi to get rid of the golden gun that was given to him by their Uncle Willy so it doesn’t cause them any legal trouble down the road. This is probably the busiest and hardest we’ve ever seen Earn on the show and we also get to see how it works in his favor (finding an Orthodox Jewish-run agency that handles immediate passport renewals for rappers and their entourage members who procrastinate) and how it doesn’t (being reminded how expensive it will be to give Lottie the education she deserves, and how that revelation - along with Earn’s continued reluctance to be the partner she needs and wants him to be - cements Van’s decision to take Lottie and move in with her mother).
Earn’s conversation with Darius as to whether or not Paper Boi is going to fire him. Darius tries the best he can to calm Earn down, but he also reminds him that Earn’s failings as a manager can and do affect Paper Boi, and that Paper Boi can’t afford such failures while he’s trying to establish his career. Earn may be slowly learning to become a better manager but as Darius points out, learning requires failure.
Earn asking for brutal honesty from the passport agency representative as to whether or not he would be better off hiring a Jewish entertainment lawyer over one who is African-American, and being told that because of systemic reasons, any Jewish lawyer he hires is going to have more connections and will be able to get more shit done than a lawyer who is African-American. Again, for systemic reasons.
The unspoken tension between Earn and Paper Boi that only grows as the episode progresses, and by the time Earn, Darius, and Paper Boi arrive at the airport to meet up with Clark County and Lucas, the episode becomes as unbearable and terrifying and difficult to watch as “Teddy Perkins,” because you just know that Earn, throughout all of the activities that have been keeping him busy all day long, forgot to properly dispose of Uncle Willy’s golden gun from his backpack. And by the time they reach the metal detectors and they prepare themselves to be searched by TSA agents not named Rod…and you see Earn come to the same realization that the viewers do, and your stomach ties itself up in so many damn knots even more because you know that nothing good is about to happen…
And yet, somehow it does. Beyond all possible belief, it does. Because Earn somehow manages to slip the golden gun from his backpack and into someone else’s, and he, Darius, and Paper Boi are able to board their flight without dealing with any bullshit from the TSA. And Paper Boi, seeing and knowing what Earn did, tells him how much he appreciates that, and that it lets him know from that point on that Earn knows exactly what it takes to be his manager and look out for him when no one else will. Because as Paper Boi tells him: “Niggas do not care about us, man. Niggas gonna do whatever they’ve gotta do to survive, because they ain’t got no choice. We ain’t got no choice, either. You my family, Earn. You the only one that knows what I’m about. You give a fuck. I need that.”
And after everything the two of them have been through, from having each other’s backs in middle school against anyone who would bully them and make them feel as if they don’t belong, to the recent cracks in their personal and professional relationships because of Paper Boi’s doubts as to whether Earn could be the manager he needs and wants in his career and his life, that exchange solidifies it and any remaining doubts as to whether Earn and Paper Boi are still family and have each other’s backs are gone.
(Their doubts about Clark County, however, and whether or not he’s someone that should be trusted or underestimated only increase by a thousandfold as he casually reveals to them that the golden gun found in his backpack resulted in Lucas being detained by the TSA, as he apparently ended up taking the blame for Clark County despite the fact that Earn put it in Clark County’s bag. His only regret is not that his manager is being held in custody by a federal agency, but that he didn’t get to keep the gun that got his manager in the first place.)
It also helps that Tracy isn’t there to fuck things up with his bothersome presence, as he’s too busy knock-knock-knocking on Paper Boi’s door and demanding to be let in so he can kick it with his girl, all while being completely unaware that Paper Boi will be gone for the next couple of months and that he now has to find someone else’s couch to crash on. To quote one Mr. Nelson Muntz:
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE: It probably inspired She Who Shall Not Be Named to do a “woman’s edit” of this episode for further shits and giggles. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: None whatsoever.
HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: About a couple
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: Nope.
DOES DONALD GLOVER AT LEAST WEAR ANY CAPES? No, but if you want to see him rock the hell out of a cape, you’re just going to have to buy a ticket to go see Solo: A Star Wars Story next week.
ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE?: No, and if you want that particular itch to be scratched, see answer above.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: There are and have been only so many ways that I can praise everything about Atlanta with each episode that airs: from the writing to the direction to the cinematography and the performances by both the regular cast members (Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, and Lakeith Stanfield) and by guest stars such as Katt Williams as Uncle Willy, Robert Powell III as Bibby, RJ Walker as Clark County (yoo-hoo!), and even Michael Vick). This season finale gave me no reason to deviate from that praise as it did a fantastic job of bringing this season to a close and wrapping up the “Robbin’ Season” that it was focused on. When Atlanta wants to be funny, it’s hilarious and when the show wants to make you nervous, it can and often does rival any horror movie out there as it will have you inching forward in your seat with each minute that passes as you wait impatiently to find out what happens next. As much as I look forward to another season of Atlanta, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Glover decides to pull a Ricky Gervais and end the show after two seasons and walk away due to either his increasingly busy schedule (which is obviously what kept him from working on Deadpool: The Animated Series for FX/Marvel) or his desire to possibly end the series on a high note and move on to other things.
Whatever Donald Glover and FX decide to do next, they (as well as the cast and crew) can all look back on the work that was done to make Atlanta and be proud of everything they’ve accomplished. Because this season was just as amazing to watch as last season, if not more so, and this show reminded us with every episode that it pretty much leaves every other comedy on television in its dust.
See you next season, unless Dustin decides to stop having me recap Atlanta so that I can recap Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing instead. In which case, my ass will be in jail for happily setting all of his baseball caps on fire, and any future Atlanta recaps will be brought to you by…oh, let’s say…Jodi.
This episode of Atlanta was brought to you by “Rosa Parks” by OutKast: