THE STORY SO FAR: Darius is at a hardware store, picking up some supplies, including a red trucker cap with a Confederate flag that reads “SOUTHERN MADE.” He also buys a red magic marker and uses it to alter the hat so that it now reads “U MAD?” He climbs back into his U-Haul truck and continues driving to his destination, a large and beautiful mansion. After being buzzed in, Darius parks and climbs out of the truck to walk into the mansion, which has its door unlocked, lights off, and no one in sight. And suddenly out of nowhere, asking about Darius’ musical preferences while driving, appears Theodore “Teddy” Perkins, owner of both the mansion and the multicolored key piano being given away for free that Darius is there to pick up. The nicest and most effective way to describe him is that he physically resembles Michael Jackson if he decided to raid Hugh Hefner’s wardrobe.
As they sit down to discuss the reasons how Darius learned about the piano (Internet message-board he regularly chats on) and why he wants it (it looks cool and it’s being given away for free), Teddy explains that the piano belonged to his brother Benny Hope, a famous but reclusive musician who also lives in the mansion and suffers from a skin condition that makes it impossible for him to be exposed to sunlight. He offers Darius a portion of the soft-boiled ostrich egg, or ‘owl’s casket’ as he calls it, that he is about to consume. It is quite large, quite unappealing to look at (especially judging from Darius suppressing the urge to vomit the longer he looks at it) and looks more and more, with each blow from a small hammer that Teddy uses to crack it open, as if a Facehugger is about to leap out at any given moment. After Teddy gets up and leaves to get the glass of water that Darius originally asked for, Darius browses through the mansion’s library andwe suddenly cut to a panel of surveillance monitors, showing that every room in the mansion is being watched. And so is Darius.
Darius heads upstairs to follow the sounds of a piano being played. As he approaches a closed door where he assumes the music is coming from, Teddy opens it from behind and asks Darius not to make too much noise as Benny is sleeping. Darius is able to sneak a peek inside the room and sees that no one else is in there and also an empty wheelchair positioned in front of the multicolored key piano. Darius then heads outside to call Paper Boi, who is with Earn and Tracy picking up some fast food at a drive-thru, and all three of them are convinced that 1) there actually is no Benny and Teddy is making him up and 2) Teddy is a serial killer and that he needs to get the fuck out of there ASAP. Oh, and Darius telling them that he looks like he looks like Sammy Sosa left in the dryer doesn’t help. And to think that if Darius had invested in Bitcoin, he could’ve used that and called up a chimichanga-loving mercenary with a mouth to hire for protection, and none of this would be happening.
Darius heads back upstairs to see Teddy, who is in another room of the mansion that’s been converted into a gift shop/trophy room in honor of Benny and his accomplishments, and he intends on doing the same with the rest of the mansion. Case in point, the two of them head to another room (Teddy’s favorite, in fact) dedicated entirely to his and Benny’s father, who is represented by a faceless mannequin wearing a suit. Teddy explains the rigorous training that he and Benny were put through by his father: piano playing for three hours a day, twice a day, with exams given on Sundays. And failure to pass those exams resulted in physical punishment. Darius is shocked that anyone would treat their kids like this and also can’t believe that Benny remains unbothered when looking back on all of this. From Benny’s point of view, both he and Teddy were being trained to not just be great at piano, but to be great at life. Because according to his father (who he believes to be just as great a father as Joe Jackson, Marvin Gaye Sr., Earl Woods, Richard Williams, Matthew Knowles, the father of Emilio Estevez’s character from The Breakfast Club, the father of Prince’s character from Purple Rain, Olivia Pope’s father from Scandal, Raylan Givens’ father from Justified, all of the fathers from Lost), great things come from great pain.
After making it very clear that Darius has no idea what Benny has been through and can’t possibly understand any of it, enough that he loses his temper at Darius, Teddy gives him the documents that he needs to sign in order to take ownership of the piano before angrily storming out of the room so he can send up the elevator for Darius to transport the piano (which has a single drop of blood on one of its keys) to his truck. Once Darius loads the piano onto the elevator, he presses the button for the first floor, only to have it bring him all the way down to the basement. As he looks around to see what is down there, Darius hears some very loud squeaking noises approaching him from behind. Fortunately, it’s not the puppet from Saw riding a tricycle, but is actually Benny Hope in his wheelchair, although it’s somewhat hard to tell due to the wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, ski mask, and robe that he’s wearing. Benny takes the small chalkboard that he’s carrying and writes for Darius to read: “Teddy kill us both. Gun in attic.” When Darius asks why Benny can’t just get the gun from the attic himself, Benny simply points to his wheelchair. (Well, ask a silly question, Darius, and you’ll get a silly answer). Darius agrees to help him, he just has to load the piano into his truck first and then he’ll come back into the mansion to help Benny murder his brother in cold blood.
Unfortunately for Darius, his plan to load the piano, jump into the truck, and bounce like a check from Toys ‘R Us hits a very large hurdle due to the fact that Benny and Teddy’s car is parked right behind his truck, preventing him from leaving. As Darius heads back inside, he hears a loud thudding sound, followed by more piano playing. He heads upstairs and sees a projector screen that is showing old home movies of young Benny Hope being lectured and yelled at by his father as he is training on the piano. Not surprisingly, Teddy is sitting in the corner watching these home movies, and when Darius asks where the nearest bathroom is, Teddy tells him that it’s down the hall … right next to the attic.
Which is where he just came from, and found the double-barreled shotgun that Benny was referring to, and is now pointing directly at Darius. He orders Darius to put his phone down, but continue holding the fireplace poker that he armed himself with before heading upstairs. It will make Teddy’s plan to accuse Darius of being a home invader who broke into the mansion and killed Benny look so much more convincing. The two of them walk back downstairs and Teddy orders Darius to handcuff himself to the chair. And this is the conversation between them that follows:
Darius: “You know, uh, not all great things come from great pain. Sometimes it’s love. Not everything’s a sacrifice.”
Teddy: “Sacrifices are necessary, Darius.”
Darius: “Maybe. But your dad should’ve said ‘sorry.’ I’m sorry. Shit, I went through daddy shit myself. But when you’re young, you try to just…make it be OK and say that everything’s gonna be fine. And that’s just … you don’t know the difference. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to grow up and repeat the same shit over and over again. It’s like there’s a ‘What If’ factor. What if you would’ve been great at something else. Or if you would’ve seen the love instead of all the other shit like, like Stevie.”
Teddy: “I’m sorry?”
Darius: “Stevie Wonder.”
Teddy: “Stevie had his own … sacrifices. He was blind.”
Darius: “Yeah, but he wasn’t blinded. He saw through his music.”
Teddy: “That’s beautiful. But wrong.”
Which is when both of them find themselves distracted by the sound of the elevator coming up and the doors opening. And out comes Benny, whose shirt is covered in blood. Teddy is in complete disbelief about what he’s seeing and exclaims, “Benny…you’re alive!” in the same tone of voice that Dr. Strangelove used as he expressed disbelief about the fact that he could walk. That disbelief is short-lived, as Benny picks up the shotgun that Teddy placed on another chair, points it at him, and shoots him in the chest, killing him instantly. Darius apologizes for everything that Benny had ever gone through, but Benny is more focused on having Darius hand him the fireplace poker on the floor. Which he does, but instead of using it to try and get Darius freed from his handcuffs, he props up the shotgun to aim at his face and uses the poker to squeeze the trigger to blast himself in the face.
The police soon arrive to investigate the crime scene, gather evidence, and bring both Teddy and Benny’s bodies to the coroner. Darius is seated in the truck watching all of this, and also sees the multicolored key piano being removed from the mansion and taken into evidence before starting up the U-Haul truck and driving back home. And upon first glance, it’s easy to think that Darius is sad and disappointed about the fact that with everything he’s seen and everything that he’s been through, that he couldn’t even get to take the piano home with him. But after everything he has seen, everything he has been through, and everything he knows about that piano and all of the physical and emotional suffering that resulted from two children trying to master it, and trying to earn the love and approval of someone willing to withhold it and express punishment instead … why would he even want it?
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: None
HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: A couple, mostly from Paper Boi and Darius.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: I think even a cameo from Jar Jar Binks would’ve been welcome to help lighten the mood of this particular episode, although Darius saying that Jay-Z is practically 65 years old as proof that rap music has outgrown its adolescence was definitely a nice touch.
(I would go into further detail as to what a hilarious relief it was every time we saw and hear from Paper Boi, especially when Paper Boi made it clear that he didn’t give a fuck about getting extra fries with his meal after he discovered how and why Sammy Sosa has been a nationwide laughingstock, but this recap has gone on long enough and is about to surpass Stephen King’s Under The Dome in page length, so let me wrap this up).
This episode of Atlanta has been brought to you by “These Three Words” by Stevie Wonder: