THE STORY SO FAR: Earn and Van are driving up to the town of Helen, Georgia in order to attend Fastnacht, an Oktoberfest-like celebration of German heritage. Once they arrive, Van explains the festivities to Earn and what to expect, including a giant, cackling monster called the Schnappviecher (demon thief) who will be seen walking around, and also that as part of the celebration, someone will be there dressed in Blackface. (Because people having fun by dressing up in Blackface is not just for Halloween, you know) And while Van is explaining all of this to Earn, they are both being stared at and checked out by older White women from behind their windows like so:
Earn and Van are then greeted by Dave and Christina, a married interracial couple who are also there to celebrate Fastnacht. As Van and Christina go off elsewhere, Earn is left with Dave. While the two of them are conversing about Earn’s lack of costume and lederhosen, a random White woman cheerfully runs up to Earn to touch his face and compliment him on how great and convincing his Blackface is, until she realizes that Earn actually is Black. It’s exactly as awkward and embarrassing and uncomfortable as you think it is, and as awkward and embarrassing and uncomfortable as it should be for that random White woman.
Later that evening, Earn and Van are seated in a circle with several others and playing Hootz-Kutz, which is kind of like a cross between Hot Potato and Penny Can. Everyone is having a good time except Earn, who seems confused as fuck about how this game is supposed to be played, and his confusion only increases a hundredfold when he takes the balls that have been passed to him and throws them all in the bag that is on the floor in the middle of the circle. Which causes the music to stop and everyone to go silent as they marvel at his Hootz-Kutz proficiency as if he is The One from The Matrix. Van and Earn head over to the bar to grab a beer and Van strikes up a conversation in fluent German with the barkeep who is also from Germany. The two are clearly having fun conversing with each other, so naturally Earn cuts the conversation short by being a dick and telling the barkeep to shut up already and give them their beer, which frustrates both Van and the barkeep.
As Van is dancing and laughing with some other Fastnacht attendees, Earn is ranting to Dave about Van wanting him to, in his words, be lame by having him dance around to polka music and participate in events such as these. Dave responds by telling him that Van asks him to join her in doing things like this because that’s what women do when they like you. Van then calls Earn so that they can go over some dance moves for an upcoming contest, but Earn delays that by challenging her to a game of ping-pong. Van is reluctant at first, but takes him up on his offer and ends up whooping his ass as if her name is Forrest Gump. Which only gets under Earn’s skin and pisses him off even further to the point where he suddenly turns into George Michael from “Everything She Wants” and admits that he doesn’t want to be there, he really hates it, and is only participating in this because he has to. (Seriously, if a woman ever told me that she’s having my baby and I respond like George Michael with “I’ll tell you that I’m happy if you want me to,” pray for me. Just pray for me. Because I can guarantee that I wouldn’t live long to see the next sunrise after saying that shit). Van tells Earn that she’s more than willing to do plenty of things that she doesn’t like in order to spend time with Earn, such as going to strip clubs and to Paper Boi’s concerts almost every weekend, which Earn tells her to not even talk shit about, seeing as how those concerts held by Paper Boi are what’s paying her bills. And with that twist of the knife, Van lets him know how much of an asshole he is before walking away from him (and from the masked person standing silently beside the ping-pong table who has been observing all of this the entire time, as if he’s auditioning for another sequel to The Strangers).
Van talks to Christina about the fact that Earn is being a “fucking baby” right now, when two of Christina’s friends walk up to them both to say hello. Christina introduces Van to them as “Lottie’s mom” and only as “Lottie’s mom,” which pisses Van off and once the two of them finally get some privacy, Van reminds Christina that she actually knows her first name, so acting as if her motherhood is the only thing about her worth mentioning isn’t something she appreciates. Christina (who is biracial) decides that now is the best time for her to stick both feet in her mouth by saying how good Van is at being a mother to Lottie because Van (who is also biracial) chose Earn and ‘chose’ being Black over being White (because Black women are better at being single mothers/’baby mamas,’ I guess?!), and then points out how Van never spent as much time with Christina and her friends because of the fact that Christina ‘chose’ being White over being Black. Van, who is just sitting back and allowing Christina to have a field day with the shovel that she’s using to dig herself deeper, tells her that she didn’t ‘choose’ anything and that the only reason why she never hung out with Christina and her friends is because A) Christina’s friends weren’t nice to her and B) Christina had a slightly annoying habit of saying things to Van like “I wish I had kinky hair” even though she already does, only she chooses to straighten it. Before the conversation becomes even more heated and awkward, Van notices that her cell phone is missing, which makes everyone else at Fastnacht very happy because that means she’s been chosen by the Schnappviecher. So everyone heads outside with electric lanterns in hand to walk around the neighborhood and locate Van’s phone as well as the Schnappviecher.
Van resumes her conversation with Barkeep and explains to him how complicated things are between her and Earn, and how she slowly feels herself falling out of love with him because of how needlessly difficult their relationship is. Barkeep explains to her that she’d be better off focusing on herself and finding the love she needs within herself instead of expecting to find that love with someone else. All of this is being said in German and with Earn walking right behind them without their knowledge. Van tells Barkeep that she’ll catch up with him as she needs to head into the dark, deserted alleyway and use the bathroom (if Randy from Scream could see this, he’d shake his head in so much disappointment). As Van is handling her business, she hears strange noises close by and while she’s looking around to see who’s there, the Schnappviecher suddenly appears in the garbage bin behind her. Van sees it and reminds us all of why Black people tend not to fuck around in horror films by punching the Schnappviecher and knocking it the fuck out (sadly or not, depending on your point of view, she doesn’t say “Welcome to Earth” right after her punch). As it lies unconscious, she hears her phone go off right besides it, with a text message from Earn saying that they need to talk.
Van finds Earn sitting near the ping-pong table. She is clearly in no mood for any more of his bullshit and ask him what he really wants. When he has trouble answering that, Van tells him what she wants: to be in a committed relationship where she’s valued as an human being and not just as an accessory for him to fuck. And as impressed as he is by her answer, Earn tells Van that he doesn’t know what he wants, but that their current arrangement of casual sex and no commitment works just fine for him. Van tells Earn how tired she is and Earn, being a dude who clearly doesn’t get the point and thinks that she’s referring to her need for sleep, suggests continuing their conversation in the morning. But Van is determined to prove how tired she is of Earn not wanting more from what they have together and challenges him to a game of ping-pong. And if he loses, he only has to see her and interact with her when it comes to either Lottie or money. This isn’t what Earn wants, but he can only prove that by winning the game and beating Van.
And much like Earn’s foot race against Michael Vick, we don’t need to see the end result to know that…
…he doesn’t win.
There isn’t much else for Earn and Van to say to each other after that. There’s nothing to say as they lie apart from one another in bed, nothing to say as they pack up their things and drive back home. All that is left for Earn and Van to say each other when they arrive at her apartment, before they finally part, is for Earn to assure Van that he’ll be picking up Lottie from his mother’s house. And once that is said, Van closes the door on Earn.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: No.
HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: A lot.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: If the masked stranger near the ping-pong table were to make a cameo appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wouldn’t be surprised. He looked creepy enough.
ANY ALIENS AT LEAST?: Does the Schnappviecher count?
TO SUM IT ALL UP: As darkly humorous as the first half of the episode is, with Earn becoming increasingly uncomfortable and upset at Fastnacht and having to deal with all of the German customs that he’s not and doesn’t want to be familiar with, the episode stops being funny and becomes both difficult and heartbreaking to watch, as Earn and Van finally stop being polite and start being real as they finally say how unhappy they are with each other. Van clearly wants more than Earn is willing or able to give, and until that changes, she doesn’t want him around unless absolutely necessary. The final ping-pong game between Earn and Van is obviously reminiscent of the final basketball game between Quincy and Monica in Love & Basketball, but unlike Quincy making it clear to Monica that (SPOILER ALERT FOR A MOVIE THAT WAS RELEASED EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO) that he still loves her and is willing to try again even though she loses, there is no last-minute twist and no happy ending for Van and Earn. Both of them are willing to stand by their words and their decisions until
Earn one of them decides to step up and change things for the better, all that we’re left with is the episode’s final shot of Earn walking away and Van engulfed in shadows and accepting that what she wants is something that Earn isn’t capable of giving her.
And this tweet about Earn certainly doesn’t help, and only makes one shake their head at how accurate this possibly is when it comes to Earn:
the blackest thing about #atlantafx is earn's undiagnosed depression.— Scott Heath (@rscottheath) March 23, 2018
Such a fantastic episode, and a fantastic showcase for both Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz.
This episode of Atlanta has been brought to you by “Love Ridden” by Fiona Apple:
And by “Die Eier Von Satan” by Tool: