Does Black-ish Season 1 Stereotype African Americans?

Reviewing the hillarious Black-ish season one revealed a sense of honesty and laugh out loud humor that unites us by deconstructing stereotypes.

Black-ish season one is like getting an MBA in Black-ish ideology. More than just Black culture, the issues of assimilation that Andre's family deal with are a part of every foreign culture's struggle to adapt to an ever changing society that tends to stereotype our differences.  Ironically the battle to maintain identity, for Andre, is more often an individual and inward focused endeavor, than something that those around him see or feel.

Pilot

The pilot episode of Black-ish starts with the main character Andre Sr. (played by Anthony Anderson) waking up in bed and musing on his own blackness. He then introduces us to his mixed-race wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who he describes as "pigment challenged." She’s a doctor. As he wanders through the house, he tells us that they’re lucky, they have a great house, four great kids, and his own pops who finds himself at their house more often than not. It’s a far cry from Andre Sr.’s poor childhood. "For a kid from the ‘hood,'" he says, "I’m living the American dream." The American dream apparently comes complete with a vast walk-in closet filled with all kinds of different sneakers and baseball caps. The closet presents a bit of a stereotype, especially considering that Andre Sr. is a high-powered business man and has little use for sneakers and hats.

"Sometimes I worry that, in an effort to make it, black folks have dropped a little bit of their culture and the rest of the world has picked it up...they’ve even renamed it urban," he tells us. In the urban world Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke are RnB gods, Kim Kardashian is the symbol for big butts, and Asian guys have mastered every move on the dance floor. All of these things used to be the black peoples’ territory. While he doesn’t want to go back to the days of being "the scary black guy," he has to admit, it did kind of have its advantages. People feel more free to walk all over him now. Hearing Andre Sr. remember the past fondly, despite recognizing that things are changing for the better, brings an interesting perspective to the situation.

Black-ish - The Complete First Season

Rainbow turns up and, after saying good morning to all, congratulates her husband on his soon-to-be-announced promotion to Senior Vice President at the advertising firm where he works. His pops chimes in to say that he’d be President by now if he’d only joined the black firm like he suggested, and Rainbow returns that he might be, but for half the money. Pops says, "So it’s a black company, you gotta make an adjustment for the Negro inflation tax." Andre Sr. replies that it’s all about breaking down barriers. He’ll be the first black SVP. At this point his son Andre Jr. turns up, they do a complicated fist bump thing, and it’s off to work and school.

At school, Junior mentions that he needs to be there early for tryouts, and Andre Sr. advises him to try to lock down the position of point guard. No, Junior says, he’ll be playing field hockey, not basketball. Andre Sr. is horrified that his son would even consider playing a "woman's sport" and not basketball, which he himself played in high school. Junior points out that he’s not very good at basketball and all his friends are playing field hockey, but Andre Sr. remains angry, and gets even more annoyed when his son gets out of the car and does a complicated handshake with his white friend, who calls Andre Jr. "Andy." Junior tells his dad that he likes being called Andy because it makes him seem more friendly and approachable. Andre Sr. drives away while his son is still talking. Andre Sr. strides into his workplace with a smile and is greeted by all the black employees (there are so few that they feel like a family), who are delighted to see one of their own moving up the ranks. He happily imagines that his coworkers are comparing him to Jackie Robinson.

Upstairs, he says hello to his assistant Kris, giving him a complicated handshake. He explains that he does the handshake with Chris because he is such a great guy that Andre considers him "an honorary brother." He asks Kris if he ever wanted to play the same sport as his dad did in high school. Sure, Kris replies, his dad was a field hockey god! After Kris leaves, another white guy, Josh, calls "Yo, doctor Dre!" Josh is not an honorary brother, and receives a cold response from Andre. Josh says he’s working on a Folgers copy and asks how Andre Sr. thinks a black person would say "good morning." Kind of like that, Andre Sr. says. This interaction highlights the difficulty Andre Sr. faces in maintaining his black identity while trying to fit in at a primarily white company. While it is ok to have a special handshake that is reserved for fellow "brothers,"Josh comes off as racist for asking how a black man would say "good morning."

At the meeting that afternoon, there’s a clear division between lower management (which is fairly diverse) and upper management (which is not so diverse). This division has invoked a sort of "us vs. them" mentality within the lower management. This is why Andre Sr.’s promotion is so important. When the boss, Mr. Stevens, begins to announce the promotion, Andre Sr. happily crossed over to the other side of the table...only to freeze when he catches the tail end of the speech. Instead of becoming SVP of an existing division, he is being put in charge of a new "urban" division. He’s stunned. Did they just put him in charge of marketing to black people?

During dinner at home, the whole family toasts Andre Sr.’s promotion, although pops says Andre Sr. has only made it up to head puppet of the white man. Andre Sr. says he does kind of feel like a puppet, he didn’t want to be the first black SVP, he wanted to be the first SVP who happened to be black. Rainbow points out that Obama is the first black president and it doesn’t make him any less presidential. He’s not the first black president of the urban United States, her husband retorts. In the midst of this conversation, Pops announces that he only came over for fried chicken, and accuses Rainbow of baking her chicken because fried chicken is "too black" for her.

In bed, Andre Sr. looks at pictures of the kids and disconsolately says they’re his urban family. Rainbow tells him to stop wallowing in his pity party. She goes through the same thing as a female doctor, and Andre Sr. just needs to keep it real. The conversation devolves into an analogy of O.J. Simpson, and the couple gets into an argument over his innocence. Finally, Rainbow gets Andre to admit that he might be overreacting. The next day, Mr. Stevens stops by Andre Sr.’s desk to express his excitement for his upcoming presentation, then reminds him to really put his "swag" on it and "keep it real." Andre Sr. asks him what he means by that and is given a confused look. "Be honest, be smart, be you...what did you think I meant?" Mr. Stevens clarifies.

When Andre Sr. arrives home, he heads into the kitchen to greet his wife and encounters his two youngest children, who say a friend asked them out for a play date. When he asks them which friend, they describe her clothes and even her smell, but don't mention her race. It hits Andre Sr. that they’re talking about the only other black kid in their class. When he asks they say yes, but they think of her other facets before her blackness. Rainbow’s happy about that but Andre Sr. is disgruntled. Junior then arrives accompanied by his white friend Zack, who plunders the family fridge for grape soda, which further upsets Andre. Sr. It is interesting, however, that Andre Sr. is upset by Zach's grape soda stereotype but not by his father's fried chicken stereotype at dinner the night before.

Junior made the field hockey team and says that, after talking to the guys, he’s decided that for his next birthday he wants a Bar Mitzvah so that he can have a large party. They aren't Jewish, but Zack knows a rabbi who can push through a quick conversion. Disbelieving, Andre Sr. asks if he’s really willing to forsake his own religion for the sake of a party. Junior says he is, and also says that this will eliminate the Andy/Andre stress, because he’ll have a new Hebrew name. He’s thinking "Shlomo." Andre Sr. yells for him to shut up, then demands a family meeting.

At the meeting, Andre Sr. says that he may have to be "urban" at work, but he still needs his family to be black. Not black-ish, but black. He says that they’re not going to play by anyone’s rules but their own, they’re going to keep it real, and if he hears anyone call Junior anything except Andre he’ll back them over with a car. He tells Junior to forget the Bar Mitzvah, and that when he turns 13 he’ll become a man too, a black man, and Andre Sr. will throw him an African rite of passage ceremony. The little kids have new rules, too. They must now mention relevant races when they describe their friends.

Rainbow tries to escape the conversation by saying that she needs to go mentally prepare for a surgery the next day, but her husband informs her that she doesn't have the only important job, and that she started the "keeping it real" thing anyway. He decides he's going to keep it real with his presentation the next day, and cuts together clips of black-related violence with the tagline "Los Angeles, keepin’ it real." Everyone’s confused, except Mr. Stevens, who’s angry.

Later in the backyard, Andre Sr. gathers a whole bunch of African-related things and attempts to conduct a rite for an unwilling Junior. Pops asks what he’s doing, and Andre Sr. tells him that it’s their culture. No, pops says, they’re black. Just black, not African. Rainbow comes out and interrupts the ceremony, and Andre Sr. follows her inside to defend himself. She explains that she called him at work that afternoon and found herself redirected to corporate security where she was questioned about his mental state for half an hour.

Andre Sr. admits that Mr. Stevens was very much not amused by his presentation, and they’re taking the weekend to decide whether he’s still a good fit for the company. Rainbow’s horrified, exclaiming that there’s no winning with him. He’s upset that they gave him the job because he’s black, but would have been equally irritated if they’d given it to a white guy. She says that she doesn’t know what issues he’s working through, but he needs to stop torturing everyone else and get over them.

Later on, Junior comes over to talk to Andre Sr. while he's shooting hoops. He says that he knows Andre Sr.’s concerned that his son’s turning into a white kid, but he’s not, he’s just trying to figure out who he is so he can be himself. Andre Sr. tells him that he realizes that is must be difficult to feel like the different one at school, but he needs to also hold onto his culture and realize how special it is. Junior replies that he’s a ninth grader playing varsity and that means something. It’s all part of his plan—he and his friends are hoping that, if they can get their foot in the door with other jocks, they can really get in there and make some noise. Junior then admits that he does wish he could play basketball, but he's no good at it.

After Junior goes inside, Andre Sr. sits down with his pops and asks how he kept it real when they were kids. Pops says he didn’t. He kept it honest. Andre Sr. asks if he’s really screwed this up, and pops responds that screwing up is part of fatherhood. What's really important is learning how to fix things. He advises Andre Sr. to think about is if what he’s doing is right for who he is. Andre Sr. thinks a moment, then says that if Junior wants a Bar Mitzvah, he’ll throw him a Bar Mitzvah. He and pops fist bump.

While the episode ends on a hopeful and positive note, it seems that the Pilot episode of Black-ish seems to perpetuate stereotypes in several places. The kids don't seem to be stereotyped at all, but the adults have some flinch-worthy moments. Despite his backlash against situations where others stereotype him, Andre Sr. can come across as a personified stereotype in places. Rainbow fits the mold of the sitcommother perfectly. She is the beacon of calm and reasonableness in the sea of chaos. This is somewhat disconcerting when taken from the perspective that Rainbow is the "least black" member of the family.

The Talk

Andre has to give Junior "The Talk" in season 1, episode 2 of Black-ish.

The second episode of season one of Black-ish, "The Talk," begins with parents Andre and Rainbow going through their overstuffed garage. They find the twins’ old onesies, a big box of Andre’s old hair products, and Andre Junior’s old baseball mitt. Nostalgically, he says that he can remember the moment when he realized that Junior would not make him a proud father on the baseball field. Despite that, Andre still uses the glove as an excuse to quit garage-sorting, and head off to find Junior and play catch. Unfortunately for both Andre and Junior, he barges into Junior’s room without knocking, catching his son masturbating. Junior is mortified and hides while Andre quickly covers his face with the glove and backs away. Later, Rainbow tells Andre that gave everything to the gardener after he’d bailed on garage-sorting. Andre tells her about his encounter with Junior, and is amazed to learn that Rainbow not only already knows about this, but has given Junior "the talk."

Andre is hurt that Rainbow didn't include him, and she reminds him that he’s very uptight about that kind of thing. Andre comes from a prudish family, and walks around his own house wearing his towel chest-down. Rainbow, on the other hand, comes from a house of borderline nudists, and wears her towel only around her waist. Andre gets defensive, and Rainbow argues that her parents talked to her openly about everything, so she did the same with their kids, and that’s why the kids feel comfortable going to her. Stung, Andre points out that Zoey, the eldest, hasn’t talked to Rainbow for a month. Rainbow assures him that she will if she needs to, unless Andre wants to talk about her menses with her. Andre heads out right away to get into the sex-talk loop with Junior, but ends up chickening out and sneaking away before Junior notices him. In the car on the way to Zoey’s school, Zoey talks on her phone about a number of seemingly huge personal problems, but insists that everything is fine whenever Rainbow asks about it. Rainbow tries hard to encourage her daughter to talk to her, but Zoey takes off as soon as she can, and Rainbow’s left sighing in the car.

At work, Andre runs into his boss in the bathroom, and, while they’re washing up, his boss asks what’s going on in his life. Andre asks his boss how he’d given his son the talk. He says all he did in that case was repeat what his dad had told him: "out of state, out of mind." Andre admits that his own father had never given him a talk-in fact, he hadn’t even seen his dad without shoes until he was 30. His boss assures him that he’ll figure it out, he always does, then gives him a comforting clap on the shoulder. That evening, when Rainbow goes into Zoey’s room to put away her clean clothes and Zoey finally confides in her mom about her troubles, However, Rainbow’s so busy thinking of her victory in gaining Zoey’s confidence that she ends up totally blanking on her daughter’s actual words. When asked for advice, Rainbow splutters that it’s a very complex problem and she’ll have to get back to Zoey on the answer, then flees.

Preparing to go upstairs and talk to Junior, Andre takes a series of deep breaths and cracks his neck. Pops catches him, and Andre fills him in on the sex talk situation. He then asks why he’d never gotten a talk. Pops reminds him that he’d gotten a box of condoms left in his room. Pops says the whole open dialogue thing with your kids is unnatural. He asks Andre to point out even one line in the Bible where a kid talked. Andre decides that nobody is helpful so he’ll just have to go it alone. To this end, he knocks on Junior’s door and gives him a countdown to entrance, hoping to avoid another awkward situation. Junior tells him to just come in and apologizes for their previous encounter. Andre replies that it's ok, it’s what men do, and Junior is a man. He tells Junior that they’re going to have a sex talk. Not just the birds and the bees, but a real man-to-man talk. To prove that he’s not as uptight as everyone thinks he is, Andre whips off his shirt, confusing Junior. Andre tries to retake control, declaring that he and Junior are going to be talking next-level stuff. Junior is happy with this and promptly asks his dad what it’s like to have sex. This proves a little too next-level for Andre, who quickly moves their talk into things like proper body spray application. He tells Junior to take notes.

Outside Junior’s door, the six-year-old twins, Jack and Diane, are wondering what exactly this "talk" that they’ve heard their parents chatting about is. It’s got to be something interesting. They finally decide that they too want the talk, but aren’t quite sure how to get it. Jack theorizes that Junior might be getting it because he’s always in his room with the door closed. The twins head into their room, close the door, and wait for the talk to come to them. Andre continues to dish out more dating advice than sex advice. Junior appreciates this, but says that he’d also like to know some other stuff. He’s heard some people talking about "oral," and asks Andre what that is. Dismayed, Andre tells Junior that he should probably steer clear of oral [NSFW] altogether and then slides back over to dating advice. For one thing, when meeting girls, Junior should always take his least attractive friend along as a wingman. For another, when on a date, he should never pick a movie that’ll make him cry. Andre finishes with "good talk, son," and makes his escape.

After his day of "dishing out sweet knowledge" to Junior, Andre lies comfortably in bed being smug at Rainbow. Andre decrees that she can apologize to him. Rainbow wants to know what she’s apologizing for. He tells her because she didn’t believe that he was capable of having a sex talk, but he was. Smiling, Rainbow asks what they’d talked about. The fundamentals, Andre replies, such as signature fragrance, fly outfits, and how to navigate urban terrain. Rainbow points out that it sounds like he was teaching Junior how to be a pimp. No, Andre corrects, not a pimp, a player. "So basically," Rainbow says, "our son experienced a heart-to-heart with Ice-T." Andre protests that he’d had the sex talk with Junior, shirt off. When Rainbow asks why he was shirtless, he replied because he's free. Rainbow laughs. Andre sulks.

The next day, Rainbow’s in the kitchen when Zoey wanders in. Quickly, she tries to trick Zoey into repeating her story by asking pointed-yet-incomprehensible questions with her mouth full. It doesn’t work. Partially grossed out and partially weirded out, Zoey leaves, just as the twins pop in and ask straight up about getting the talk. Rainbow ignores the twins, sighing that she’s trying to be a better mom and listen more while exiting the room. The twins decide to take drastic measures: one of them will be very good, one will be very bad, and they’ll see if that hastens the process. To settle the argument over who gets to be the bad one, Diane produces a coin and suggests that they flip for it. Heads she wins, tails he loses. Jack enthusiastically tells her to bring it on, then gets confused as to exactly which outcome he’s hoping for. Diane grins wickedly.

Andre’s still feeling pretty smug about his "talk" expertise when Junior stops by and asks to continue their talk, because he has got some follow-up questions. For instance, he’s heard kids at school talking about a position called the "triceratops," and he’d like to know what it is. Andre looks it up on Google, and is horrified at the result. Andre gets so uncomfortable that Junior decides he’d be better served going to Rainbow instead. Desperate, Andre promises he’ll tell Junior everything if he'll wait an hour. After Junior agrees and takes off, Pops is happy to inform Andre that he hates to say "I told you so," but he’d just openedPandora’s box and had a triceratops jump out. He walks away snickering. Hearing Zoey continue to angst about her problem, Rainbow convinces her that sometimes it really helps to go through the problem out loud from the perspective of the other person involved. Zoey does this, but unfortunately Rainbow is once again so busy being self-congratulating that she misses the whole thing again. She tunes back in just in time to hear Zoey confide that she’d never told anyone the last bit before, then ask what Rainbow thinks. Rainbow freezes. While Rainbow's ineptitude at listening may be mildly unrealistic, it's interesting to see her break the infallible-mom sitcom stereotype and become a more well rounded character.

Andre's continued talk with Junior makes him even more uncomfortable. He asks Andre about manscaping, tells him about awkward fantasies involving the lunch lady, wants to discuss sudden waves of emotion that make him cry after orgasm, and how Helen Mirren really "gets him there." At this point, Junior isn't asking questions and is just over sharing. Andre feels powerless to stop what he started. He decides that the only solution is avoidance. To that end, he makes sure that he’s either absent or asleep any time Junior looks like springing anther sex conversation on him. Eventually, Rainbow finds him hiding on top of the machines in the laundry room, watching The Godfather on his phone. After he tells her he's hiding from Junior, she sympathizes, admitting that she’d completely blown two whole chances to become Zoey’s confidante. Parenting is hard, Andre agrees, then suggests that they both stay in the laundry room for the rest of the week. Rainbow’s cool with the idea, and suggests filling their time by folding clothes. Andre immediately chooses the lesser of two evils. Time to go talk to Junior.

Both parents end up confessing: Rainbow tracks down Zoey and confides that she was so excited about the talking that she’d completely missed what Zoey was actually talking about. Zoey’s already figured this out, but has ended up talking to Pops, who’d dispensed some surprisingly great advice. After she leaves, Rainbow asks Pops what they’d talked about. He says that he really doesn’t know either, he’d just listened, then given her some generic advice in a deep and soothing voice. In short, he’d "Morgan-Freeman'd" her. Rainbow’s amazed. Meanwhile, Andre tells Junior that the casual sex talks must stop. Although he loves him and he’ll always be there for him, Junior should only go to dad for the big things, leaving Rainbow to hear the play-by-play. Mind you, Andre will be happy to talk about anything really important. These conversations are both very heartfelt and effective. Andre in particular is far more sensible in this episode than he was in "Pilot."

Afterward, Pops catches Andre in the kitchen and says that he’s been watching him trying to connect with Junior for the last couple of days and it’s embarrassing. Andre asks if he’s saying that he regrets never having had the talk with Andre, so that Andre would have the tools to have the talk with Junior. "But you’re proud of me for trying," Andre says. Pops smiles and walks away, pausing at the door to reply, "Every day." Proud of himself after experiencing two moments of real personal growth with Junior and Pops, Andre decides to take it to the extreme and becomes a nudist. Even Rainbow wants him to cover up, but he’s dedicated to nakedness, and declares his intention to go outside in the buff to get their paper. Rainbow suggests that he grab the mail while he’s out, then heaves a long-suffering sigh.

While things simmer down with the adults, the twins bemoan the fact that they’d gotten even less attention by specifically trying to get attention. Jack eventually suggests that they give each other the talk. Diane points out that they don’t even know what the talk’s about. All they know is that you have to lower your voice and sound serious. He can do that, Jack assures her, then begins, "Diane, I’d like to talk to you about the difference between jam and jelly. Now, I think..." This is as far as he gets before Diane cuts him off, says, "Let me stop you right there. You’re boring me," and runs away. Jack is abandoned in a sea of toys. This episode is much better than the first in terms of stereotyping in that very few of the issues are racial. Andre has let go of his issues about "being black enough," and is making an effort to be a bigger part of Junior's life.

The Nod

Andre explains the significance of "The Nod" to Junior in season 1, episode 3 of Black-ish.

The third episode of season one of Black-ish, "The Nod," begins at school with Andre helping carry Junior’s Hobbit-themed replica into school, accompanied by Zoey, who is trying hard to pretend that she’s not related to Junior and his aura of nerdiness. When the guys walk past another black dad and his son, Andre and the father nod significantly to each other. Junior doesn’t. Junior’s not even sure why he would nod, because it’s not like he really knows either of them. Andre promptly drops the replica in disgust at his son’s ignorance. At dinner that night, Andre and Pops lecture Junior about nodding, insisting that "the nod" is the universal acknowledgement of the black community and a basic primal thing, comparable to men scrunching up their faces when they see a woman with a big butt.

Junior remains somewhat baffled (as does Rainbow, who is present for this conversation), but Andre and pops tell him sternly that these things are "basic black" and must be adhered to. Still confused, Junior heads off, and in his absence Andre despairs that they’d fought too hard for Junior’s generation, leaving him nothing to struggle for. Rainbow reflects that maybe this is a good thing, but guys respond with a resounding "no!" The show seems to be slipping back into the path it traveled in episode one, where the biracial Rainbow presented a voice of reason while the black Andre is overdramatic and constantly flip-flopping regarding racial stereotypes.

The episode then moves on to the twins, who are making posters for career day at their school. Rainbow sits down with them to check out what they’re making, and Jack is only too happy to show her a drawing of him performing at the Rose Bowl and then demonstrate his dance moves. He explains that he wants to be a teen sensation. Rainbow is more intrigued by Diane, who appears to be drawing test tubes. Rainbow becomes hopeful that her daughter wants to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor. Diane quickly corrects Rainbow, telling her that that they’re actually energy drink cans, and she wants to go into advertising like Andre. She thinks that being a doctor involves, 1. way too much school, and 2. wearing way too many unfashionable sets of scrubs. Rainbow pleads with her to change her mind but Diane remains firm.

At work, Andre begins to feel like maybe he made too big of a deal out of the whole nodding thing. However, he quickly receives some unexpected validation in the form of a new hire. They nod, then quickly launch into a closer greeting, complete with complicated handshakes, manly hugs, and "brother" declarations. Andre feels like Junior would benefit from this kind of brother-to-brother connection. After going through the list of Junior’s classmates and finding only one black kid, Andre tries to take a more proactive approach. He begins driving around in the car, asking any black boys he encounters if they’d like to come back to his house for snacks. Again, Andre seems to have slipped into his old trope of trying too hard to cling to his blackness and interfering with Junior's life because of it.

Rainbow suggests that Andre stop the cruising before he risks getting arrested and check out alternatives, such as the social club for black families that she’d picked up a pamphlet for. He’s skeptical, but decides to call them up. They send over some representatives, but the representatives decide that Andre and Pops are not cut out for the social club's standards. However, another opportunity presents itself the next day when Charlie approaches Andre in the restroom, breaking all rules of urinal etiquette by taking the urinal beside Andre’s and then chatting while making eye contact. Still, Andre ends up confessing all of his Junior-related woes. Charlie suggests that he make Junior understand "the struggle" by taking him on a tour of the "hood."

Meanwhile, Rainbow brings Diane to work with her to further encourage her to become a doctor. Diane is far from fascinated, claiming that Andre's job is far more interesting than IVs and vital sign monitoring. Rainbow gets a call to a patient and is forced to leave Diane in the care of an awkward male nurse, who fails miserably at entertaining her. Diane tells him that he’s a "man with a woman’s job" and heads off to the bathroom. This sexism is oddly out of place, seeing as Rainbow does not seem sexist, and Diane has given no indication that she believes her mother is a woman in a man's job. Diane sees a patient being whisked by on a gurney and runs after them. She ends up in an area of the hospital with bleeding and severely injured patients and finds Rainbow standing covered in blood as the monitors behind her indicate that the patient is no longer living. Horrified, Rainbow asks Diane how much she saw, and gets the reply she was hoping not to hear: "All of it."

Andre takes Junior by a graffiti-covered Boys and Girls Center, which contains a big gym that he used to hang out in all the time as a kid. This place, he says, will teach Junior everything he needs to know about "the struggle," and will also teach him important lessons about togetherness-a pick-up basketball game is the definition of instant camaraderie. Junior’s not so sure, but Andre insists that he get out there and play, so he starts off a warm-up routine with some Pilates. Andre buries his head in his hands. When Junior finally makes it out onto the court, he gets pummeled. He tries hard, but his own game is pretty much ended when another guy scores and jumps up to swing from the hoop, and Junior is taken out by a crotch to the face. That night, Andre and Rainbow compare their respective parenting failures, and agree that they’re horrible at the whole business.

The next day, Rainbow tries to talk to Diane about what she’d witnessed at the hospital. Diane describes everything she’d seen quite seriously, and exclaims that it had been awesome. The gruesome injuries had been "sweet," and she’s even more enthused that sometimes people die, and it can even be the doctor's fault, or people can die and nobody knows whose fault it really is. Rainbow reluctantly confirms this to be the case, and Diane happily announces that she definitely wants to be a doctor now. Rainbow is unsettled, but not so unsettled that she’s not also triumphant about Diane’s decision. In the Andre department, Charlie reveals that his son is Junior's age, and Andre happily invites them by for dinner. Charlie and his son Eustace arrive bearing both flowers for Rainbow and fast food, which confuses Rainbow, seeing as she is hosting a dinner party. The awkwardness is broken by Andre, who tells Junior to "go kick it with your new black friend." The boys disappear upstairs.

The adults sip wine downstairs as Charlie over shares about his ongoing divorce and the sexual problems it has caused him. Andre is dismayed, and Rainbow fights to remain polite. Charlie continues to over share as he demands a bathroom, and Andre directs him upstairs. After Charlie exits, Rainbow attempts to disguise her horror and comments that he seems "nice." However, the facade quickly disappears and Rainbow expresses her discomfort. Andre admits that it has been bad, but says he feels that showing empathy toward him is part of "the struggle." If this is what it takes to get Junior a black friend, so be it. This attitude changes instantly when Charlie happily runs downstairs in a pair of sneakers from Andre’s prized collection and starts chatting about how nice they are while Andre cringes at Charlie’s lack of socks.

Finally fed up, Andre bursts into Junior’s room and asks Eustace to leave with his father. Junior asks him to hang on, they’re working on fixing his Hobbit replica and are on the verge of a major breakthrough. After Andre tries yelling, Junior decides that the best comeback is none at all and completely ignores his dad while he and Eustace carry on discussing model updates. Andre finally realizes that "the struggle" really comes in a lot of different forms, and that Junior’s is just different than his own. Still, he thinks, no matter what your fight, you still need your community, and you need to recognize your own community. Back at school, Junior is walking in with Andre when he sees a geeky-looking kid carrying a stack of books. They give each other the nod. Junior's community exists, it just isn't the one Andre has been pushing on him.

In an ending scene, Andre and pops sit out on a park bench with Junior and teach him how to do the face-scrunch when he sees a hot curvy woman. They focus on joggers. Andre and Pops end up declaring Junior to be a natural, and then comment on how they’d reacted upon first seeing the super-hot Rainbow. All three guys laugh. This scene seems to combine the racial stereotypes that have been presented throughout the series with a sexism that has been absent up until this point. The watching of female joggers is presented as a good and "basic black" male activity. The show seems to have flip-flopped between perpetuating racial stereotypes and being able to overcome them. Overall, this episode has perpetuated more than it has overcome.

Crazy Mom

Andre becomes a "Crazy Mom" in Episode 4, season 1 of Black-ish.

The fourth episode of season one of Black-ish, "Crazy Mom" begins with Andre thinking about how difficult it is for black people to get credit for anything throughout history. He reflects that this pertains especially to him, in the here and now, not being able to get credit from his wife. He’s loaded the dishwasher, and Rainbow is just not particularly impressed, even when he tells her that he’s a modern man who can bring home the bacon and clear the pan. Rainbow retorts that she’d cooked dinner, helped the kids with homework, made them lunches for school the next day, and was just on the phone talking a medical student through a procedure in Spanish. Andre’s still pretty smug about his dishwasher loading skills, but mentions that, with his new role at work, he might not be able to "step up" as much. Rainbow informs him that there is actually no possible way for him to help out less. She knows that they both have big jobs, but when she gets home she has to launch into another huge job and Andre just plays video games. He denies this, until his tablet buzzes with the news that he’s just won a new game time record with four hours and 13 minutes.

Twins Jack and Diane pop up just then and tell Rainbow that they need 23 cupcakes for school the next day. Rainbow’s none too joyous with the prospect of more work, and is further annoyed that Andre hasn’t even noticed all the kid-problems she deals with every day. Andre then offers to take over children duties for the next week. Rainbow’s only too pleased to accept, although Andre’s dad Pops is clearly disapproving. Andre ends up bringing cupcakes into school for the twins and everyone’s surprised and happy to see him. The moms present tell him what an amazing father he is, the kids are delighted at the prospect of store-bought cupcakes, and Andre himself is bathed in a glow of self-satisfaction. He’s feeling pretty good about his new parenting efforts. At home, Rainbow’s slightly less delighted to find her usually organized fridge in shambles. Andre stocked it, but he didn’t pay attention to where things belong. He’s even put some chips in there. Almost physically pained by the sight, Rainbow calls into the office and gets them to push back her appointments so she can sort it out.

Meanwhile, Andre shows up to a meeting late at work, citing kid stuff, and everybody there is quick to praise him for his hands-on parenting. Seconds later, a harried-looking mom turns up to the meeting with the same excuse but, instead of being supportive, the management is merely exasperated. The boss informs her that a little heads-up would be better next time, and even Andre tells her that she’s "better than this." While this portrayal seems quite sexist, the men in the show seem to be legitimately oblivious to their conflicting attitudes. It is possible that the show is pointing out how some men really do have this double standard and are entirely unaware of it. Upon returning home, Andre excitedly shows Rainbow all the congratulatory texts he’s been getting from the class moms. Rainbow’s in the middle of saying that it’s a bit of a big response for a simple cupcake tray when they walk into the dining room and see the table. Jack and Diane have brought back bunches of handmade cards from the class, thanking Andre and calling him "Cupcake Man." Rainbow is rather upset that he’s a hero for buying liquor store cupcakes, but she wasn’t even acknowledged when she made green eggs and ham quiche for Dr. Seuss Day. Andre knows that this is the point where he should assure Rainbow that he appreciates her, but instead tells her that not everyone can be Cupcake Man and breaks into song and dance with the twins.

In the morning, the kids are thrilled to have dad make them chocolate chip pancakes. Andre tells them to not make a big deal of it when Rainbow comes down. When she does, he apologizes to her for getting caught up in the attention, and she tells him that it’s all right, she was just frustrated and feeling like moms do everything and are never recognized, but suddenly it’s a big deal if a dad helps out. With a bit more time to think it over, however, she’s realized that she’s got a very helpful husband and she’s happy to have more time to enjoy herself. Before she leaves, Rainbow shows Andre some school forms for the kids that need to be filled out and offers to do them. He tells her that he’s got it. Pops, however, criticizes Andre for straying from traditional gender roles. He thinks that neither Rainbow nor Andre will be happy with this new arrangement. Andre insists that he’s fine. This is a nice change of pace for Rainbow and Andre. Often in Black-ish they’re presented as rivals, on opposite sides of a debate, and it’s good to see them being more in touch as a couple. Pops continues to be sexist (and doesn’t address the fact that his wife, presumably, was a homemaker as opposed to Rainbow’s career as a doctor, thus making the traditional gender roles in his marriage work far better), but Andre doesn’t cave to him.

The next day, Andre hands in the forms at school and feels somewhat let down at the lack of accolades. He follows the teacher into the classroom and says hi to the kids, hoping for more Cupcake Man enthusiasm, but they’re not interested if he’s not actually bearing desserts. Upon learning that the class topic is Harriet Tubman, Andre tries to step in and repeatedly offers his assistance as an actual black person, although the teacher points out that, not only is she a doctoral candidate in American history with a focus in the Civil War, she’s first in her class and published on the subject. She brushes him aside and turns to hand out papers to the class. As he exits, a wild-eyed mom attaches herself to his side and remarks that his cupcake glory hadn’t lasted long, then describes her first time doing something for the class. She’d made homemade cotton candy and had been so overwhelmed with praise that she’d quit her day job, only to find that, the more she did, the more she was taken for granted. Andre awkwardly says that he’s sorry to hear it, but ignores her warnings.

While Andre ups his determination, Rainbow’s feeling out of the loop. She’s busy explaining risks to a patient when eldest child Zoey calls her to ask about a forgotten gym bag, then, as Rainbow offers to help, quickly apologizes and says she’ll phone Andre. Rainbow, and her patient, are rattled. At home, she tries to interact more with the kids, but the twins already had homework help from Andre, oldest boy Junior doesn’t want to play, and Zoey thinks that her offered girl-to-girl talk would be "gross." After making the rounds of the kids, she finds Andre in the kitchen and attempts to seduce him, only to see that he’s hand-grinding corn meal for the following day’s Harriet Tubman presentation. He’s feeling the pressure to do something awesome. Rainbow tells him that it looks great, but continues her seductive efforts until he finally informs her, exasperated, that he’s busy baking. Both parents seem frustrated with their unfamiliar roles here, but are successfully working within them. Black-ish is doing a great job of defying stereotypes here.

The next day, Andre's cornmeal debut doesn't go well. The teacher dismissively tells Andre to put his cornbread on a side table, all the while celebrating another dad who’d made kettle corn. He’s swarmed by kids, and, at the side table, Andre is feeling extremely frustrated. Things get worse during the actual presentation, which features an actress playing Harriet Tubman talking about "her" backstory. Andre complains about the other dad’s kettle corn to everyone nearby. The real Harriet, he thinks, would never allow such a loud snack on the underground railroad. He ends up drawing the attention of the teacher, who tells him to be quiet as he’s ruining the experience. He retorts that she’s the one ruining it by allowing off-topic snacks and misinformation, like Harriet being a spy. The teacher insists that Harriet was a spy. The argument escalates, eventually involving the actress (who fiercely defends her story), and eventually Andre’s asked to leave.

When he gets home, Andre sets about writing a strongly-worded letter to school administration, comparing himself to Harriet Tubman. In the middle of this Rainbow gets home and asks what had happened at school. Andre, still angry, tells her all, declaring that the teacher had probably written the information herself when Rainbow cites the kids’ study materials as proof of Harriet Tubman’s spying. Oh my God, Rainbow says, he’s become the crazy mom. Andre replies that, if anyone’s crazy, it’s Rainbow, what with sitting on Zoey’s bed and trying to have a girl-to-girl talk with her. Rainbow tells him to stop changing the subject, they’re discussing his "praise junkie" ways. Andre strikes back by calling her a control freak, then claims that he’s being abused for working hard "just like Harriet Tubman" and leaves.

Andre’s sitting outside, feeling down, when Pops turns up and asks what’s going on-he can hear the commotion from the guest house, and he’s trying to entertain a lady friend. Andre tells him that Rainbow’s being unreasonable. No, Pops says, she’s not, she’s just being a mom. The problem is that Andre’s trying to be a mom too and getting all crazy. Andre admits that he knows it, he’s messed up, and he’s just going to go talk to Rainbow. Pops strongly recommends against that course, thinking that it’ll remove whatever dignity Andre has left. Instead, Pops advises that talking is overrated, and the way he sees it is that crazy got Andre into this, and crazy can get him out. Andre’s not quite sure what he means, but decides to have a go at it anyway. The next morning, Rainbow’s in the kitchen first. Andre strategically sends the kids in. First are the twins, who plead for Rainbow to make them healthy oatmeal instead of Andre’s dessert-y pancakes. Then there’s Junior, who tells Rainbow that he’s looking forward to spending more time with her. Lastly, there’s Zoey, who gives her mom a halfhearted hug and invites her to come sit on her bed later.

After the offspring parade, Andre wanders in. The kids quickly clamour for Rainbow to take them to school, talking of their deep love for her slow driving and books on tape. Andre tells them gently that the whole point of the week was to give Rainbow some time off. Everyone looks at her. Rainbow, however, is not fooled. She informs Andre that he could’ve at least had the kids rehearse more. Andre owns up to everything, and they end up having a great conversation where Andre admits how difficult her work is and his own love for being a little more celebrated for his contributions, and Rainbow tells him that she really had missed doing the little things for the kids. They smile. Andre assures her that he appreciates everything she does. Rainbow tells him that she appreciates everything he doesn’t do. They laugh and share plans for Rainbow to finally carry out her seduction of Andre later.

That evening, they snuggle together on the couch drinking wine, and, after Rainbow remarks on how nice it is, Andre offers to wash the dishes. "Offering to wash the dishes?" Rainbow teases, "You’re trying to seduce me, Mr. Johnson." "I am," he murmurs, and they lean in for a kiss. Crazy Mom is one of the best episodes so far in the realm of banishing stereotypes, and it’s nice to see the family working together as a family. Andre and Rainbow clash a bit, but they’re primarily good with each other and the tensions are mostly natural. Andre spends a lot of time attention-seeking, but it’s not presented as a terrible thing, just a quirk, and anybody would be disappointed at a sudden loss of adulation. Rainbow gets antsy and frustrated, but, again, it seems natural. With her personality, she’ll always want to be in the driver’s seat. When things don’t work out, they’re resolved quite maturely, and both partners are supportive.

Crime and Punishment

Andre, Pops, and Rainbow debate the proper punishment for Jack's crimes in Season 1, Episode 5 of Black-ish.

Episode five of season one of Black-ish, "Crime and Punishment," starts off with dad Andre standing before his youngest son, Jack, holding a belt. Jack’s wearing about fifteen layers of clothes and looks scared. Narrating, Andre says that he’s about to whup his son, and each whuppin’ comes with stages. This one began with Jack being a complete jerk. Flash to mom Rainbow, a day or so ago, freaking out in a store because Jack is missing. She’s terrified, convinced that he’s been kidnapped. Unbeknownst to her, he’s just hiding in a clothes rack, having fun listening to her melt down. Eventually he’s found, and Rainbow tells him sternly that Andre will spank him when they get home. She’s in such a state that she accidentally steals a clutch when they leave, then yells at security that it took them forever to find a little black boy but they’re there all quickly when she mistakenly shoplifts. Rainbow's use of the race card here is troublesome, seeing as there is no evidence that the guard's failure to pursue Jack was race-based and she could have easily proven her point without mentioning race.

When she gets home, she calls Andre at work and he insists that he won’t spank Jack. He tells her that his dad used to spank him with a Hot Wheels track for sport, and he thinks that, if Rainbow wants Jack spanked, she should do it. She says that he’s the spanker in the family. Andre points out that he only spanked Junior was one time, and only because Rainbow was eight months pregnant and had said that doing the spanking would send her into labor. The emotional pain of the spanking had put him in bed for three days. He can still recall Junior’s face, and he can only hope that, for his son, the memory has faded. Not so much. "It was the Thursday of a leap year," Junior proclaims dramatically to all the assembled kids, "the air was crisp, the sky was blue, and the belt was black." Jack jumps. Zoey, the eldest, tells Junior not to terrify Jack, but Junior says that he should be scared, it’s scary.

Junior then says that it isn't scary for him anymore, because he is too old to be spanked. Just then, Pops appears, and informs Junior that, as long as he has an ass, he’s still in the window. Pops tells the story of how he’d even spanked Andre when Andre had gotten home from college. Zoey puts in that ages shouldn't matter anyway, because nobody spanks their kids anymore. This is Pops’ cue to frighten the kids further, as he tells Zoey that she thinks she’s safe because she’s a girl, but whuppin’ doesn’t discriminate. At work, Andre, still unsure, asks his boss and co-workers how they feel about spanking. They’re in favor, blaming a lack of physical punishment for everything bad happening today and declaring that kids nowadays need it. All right, Andre says, he thinks he’ll spank. Everyone immediately becomes horrified that he would consider doing such a thing to his own child, especially to Jack, who they all love. His boss even thinks that doing so would make Andre "some kind of monster."

Andre starts to wonder if he actually is a monster for thinking of spanking his kid, and turns to Rainbow for her opinion when he gets home. She thinks that it’s their decision. Andre’s still not pleased with having the punishment burden thrust upon him. He says that if Rainbow wanted to beat Jack so badly, she should’ve just done it at the store-after all there were shoes, hangers, and belts all readily available. Rainbow protests that there were people everywhere. Andre retorts that she should’ve just used a dressing room. In her opinion, he’s just saying that because he doesn’t want to be the bad guy, which Andre readily admits. He believe that he can accomplish the same end result by giving Jack a serious talking-to. After that, Diane, who’s been listening in, runs back to her and Jack’s bedroom and tells him the good news. They high-five. The replacement of the word "spanking" with "beating" here is troublesome, but it seems that Andre started using that word to make the action sound worse and therefore deter Rainbow from making him punish Jack.

In the morning, Pops cheerfully asks Andre what he should wear to the whuppin’, and is disappointed when Andre says that he’s just going to talk to Jack This resolution does not last long. A minute later, Rainbow comes into the kitchen asking where Jack is. He’s vanished, and the whole house ends up searching and panicking. Just when they’re at the end of their tether, Jack jumps out of a cupboard, laughing at them and their inability to find him. Andre’s so angry that he takes out his belt right there and intends to whip Jack immediately, but he’s stopped by Pops, who tells him that he can’t do it before Jack goes to school. The beating’s on pause. Andre growls to Jack that when he gets home from work he’s going to whup Jack’s behind, and Jack can think about that all day. The other kids are frozen. Rainbow drags Jack off, and Pops fondly says "that’s my boy!" to Andre.

As Andre plots what he’ll do when he gets home, the kids get together and plot to stop the whuppin’. They decide ultimately that the path to success is having Jack be so cute that he melts Rainbow’s heart, forcing her to pardon him. While the kids set their plan into motion, Andre tries to stay on-topic at a company meeting but is persistently side-tracked, as everyone wants to know if he’d spanked his kid. Andre tells them that he intends to that very night. They’re all very much against it, even telling him that they’d taken a vote yesterday while he was asleep. Devoid of company support for the spanking, Andre’s banking on having Rainbow behind him. Unfortunately for him, she meets him at the door, wild-eyed, saying that he can’t spank Jack. "Who got to you?" Andre asks, suspicious. Rainbow says no one, but we get flashbacks to her day, where Jack had first offered to help around the house while dressed in a tiny suit and bow tie, later asked to look at his baby pictures while cuddling on the couch, and finally hugged her, complimented her cooking, and told her that he loves both it and her. Rainbow tried desperately to resist his cuteness, but ended up looking into his eyes and losing the battle. "You can’t look into his eyes!" Andre despairs. Rainbow pleads for him to not beat Jack. Andre says that they must. Otherwise, the kids will never learn and they’ll think of their parents as weak. Rainbow reluctantly agrees. Despite the controversial topic, this is a very good pro-con discussion between Andre and Rainbow.

Diane, who’s been watching again, runs off to tell the rest of the kids. The whuppin’ is a go. Junior quickly blames Jack for not being cute enough. "Impossible!" Jack retorts. Junior, increasingly paranoid that he’ll be next, asks what they can do. Zoey has an idea. Meanwhile, Pops calls Andre over and gives him the Hot Wheels track that he used to beat him with, confiding to Andre that there’s nothing better than beating somebody with what they love. He wants Andre to use it on Jack. Andre points out that Jack doesn’t play with Hot Wheels, but Pops insists he take it anyway. After that, Andre and Rainbow try to harden their hearts and plan their operation. They’re heading to Jack’s room when they find their way barred by the rest of the kids, who announce that, if Andre wants to beat Jack, he’ll have to beat all of them as well. Andre’s quick to tell them that he’s absolutely okay with that and will certainly do so if Jack’s not in Andre and Rainbow’s room in five minutes. He snaps his belt threateningly. The kids back up.

After Andre’s threat, Zoey, Junior, and Diane tell Jack that they’re being forced to sell him out. Without their support, he turns to his best shot: padding. Jack puts on all the clothes he can find while, in his own room, Andre tries to select a good whuppin’ outfit and decide on a belt. Finally, they’re both ready. When Jack arrives, Andre tells him to go in, then closes the door and has a quiet conversation outside with Rainbow. He no longer thinks that he can do the deed. She agrees, saying that she doesn’t think they should reintroduce whuppin’ into the house. Andre asks what the worst thing that could happen if they didn’t whup him would be, and they have a shared vision of a homeless Jack, pushing a shopping cart with a dog tied to it. Looking into the camera, he says, "I’m homeless because you didn’t whup me." Rainbow asks what the worst thing that could happen if they did whup him would be, and they have another vision of homeless Jack, this time without the dog, saying, "I’m homeless because you whupped me." Rainbow votes not to whup him. She thinks it would be nice for him to have a dog.

This turns into a debate until Pops butts in to ask why they’re stalling. Andre protests that this just isn’t who he is. Pops grabs the belt and declares that he’ll whip Jack for them, then snaps it and says that Rainbow should go get the other kids to watch. As he turns to head into the room, Andre stops him and takes the belt. He says that he won’t let Pops spank his son, he’ll go do it. This brings us back to the episode’s opening scene. Andre narrates, "So this is where we started, I’m about to whip my kid because I love him and I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. Wait a minute, how messed up is that?" He looks at Jack, then the belt, and drops it, telling Jack to sit down. Andre explains how scary it is for everyone when Jack hides and how he can’t do it anymore. Jack says that he understands, but Andre catches him glancing around the room for hiding places and calls him on it. "I’m really disappointed in you, Jack." Suddenly, Jack starts tearing up. "I didn’t mean to disappoint you, Daddy!" he cries, and runs sobbing from the room and into the arms of Pops, who’s horrified and bursts out, "I told you to spank him, not crush his spirit!" The other kids all see a weeping Jack and assume the worst. Junior runs off to clean his room as Zoey frantically compliments Andre. Left alone, Diane says disappointedly that she now owes Pops $50. She’d bet that Andre wouldn’t go through with it.

Andre smiles as he hangs up his belts, pleased to learn that his opinion is a much more powerful weapon. Rainbow’s proud of him, and Andre thanks her, then states that spanking is not for them. Rainbow feels the same. "Well," says Andre, "not unless Jack pulls another stunt like that. Then I’ll light that ass up." In an ending clip, Pops has laid out a bunch of kitchen tools and is going over their possible spanking applications with Diane. Overall, this episode was an interesting and relatable ride, following the common modern parental dilemma of whether or not to spank children. Andre and Rainbow have good discussions, both uncomfortable with spanking but believing that it should be done, and they end up with a far better outcome than they could’ve hoped for with physical punishment. Pops, meanwhile, is very much a standby of the old guard, but (although he’s usually an over the top character) seems excessively over the top here-he appears to take real joy in beating children, which is both repulsive and strange in a man who seems very fond of his grandchildren.

"Crime and Punishment" is certainly the most controversial Black-ish episode so far, especially due to the scandals at roughly the time of its airing. Around that time a prominent black athlete was criticized for whippings to a child that caused that child to be sent to hospital, with a number of defenders claiming such ‘whuppins’ (although not to such lengths) an integral part of their culture. While others condemned the practice, it was covered extensively in the news and Crime and Punishment sparked even more discussion, especially with their usage of the harsh words "beating" and "whuppin" and the discussion of a child being struck with a belt, shoe, hanger, or track as opposed to the bare hand of a traditional spanking. "Crime and Punishment" is one of the better episodes of Black-Ish so far. It really covered a controversial topic quite well, even if the essential message was almost buried in shock baiting.

Prank King

Andre defends his title of "Prank King" in Season 1 of Episode 6 of Black-ish

Episode 6 of Season 1 of Black-ish, Prank King, begins with dad Andre, who loves Halloween. He loves everything about it, the decorating, the candy-but especially their family tradition of pranking. He and Rainbow prank the kids by dropping a fake baby. Zoey, the eldest child and most promising prankster, pranks middle child Junior by constructing an olive oil slipway. But, although the rest of the family tries, Andre is the one and only (and loudly trumpeted by himself) prank king. In one of his all-time favorite pranks he leads Rainbow to believe that he’s with a mistress, then, when she wrenches open the closet to reveal the other woman, all the kids jump out. Andre’s definitely looking forward to more prank fun this year.

Rainbow starts off the prank warring by unsuccessfully attempting to startle Andre with a fake spider, announcing her intention to dethrone him as prank king. He’s not feeling threatened, especially as he quickly pranks her back with another fake spider and a super glue-covered magazine. That night, as Andre and Rainbow are lying in bed, he’s disturbed by a noise in the night. He’s worried that it’s a burglar and wakesRainbow up, but, after checking the feeds on their in-home camera, they determine that no sinister figures are lurking. As they finish up, the young twins Jack and Diane wander in. The twins ask to climb into bed with Andre and Rainbow, pleading nightmares. Of course they can! Everything’s cozy for a second, until Andre feels dampness. The twins, giggling, inform him that they’ve pranked their parents by peeing the bed. Andre’s angry, and promptly calls a family meeting to make clear to all that bedwetting does not constitute a prank. He tells the twins to model themselves after Zoey (specially mentioning all the mean tricks she’s pulled on Junior and adding that he’s looking forward to the continuing humiliation this year). Unfortunately for him, Zoey is not.

She declares that she doesn’t think she’ll do any pranking this year. She feels she’s grown out of it. At first, Andre thinks she’s joking. When she makes it clear that she’s not, he’s devastated. At work, he complains about Zoey’s decision to his assistant Chris, saying woefully, "The family that pranks together, stays together." Chris thinks that this is maybe not an actual saying, but then they’re interrupted by fellow employee Josh rocketing out of a garbage can wearing a mask. Chris, terrified, spills coffee all over himself and sinks to the floor, as Josh crows that he’s been "Josh’d." Andre doesn’t really like Josh, who is often obliviously racist, but has to admit that it’s a solid prank. Heck, even the boss likes it. When complimented, Josh says that the praise means a lot, especially coming from Andre. Why? Well, Josh goes on to say that he knows that "bros" aren’t exactly into pranks and tend to be a little touchy about being startled. Andre tells Josh that he thinks said bros might be more startled at the comfort with which Josh uses the word "bro," before proceeding to announce his personal love of all things prank. Josh, is the only actively black-stereotyping racist in the show so far. He’s not a bad guy, just clueless, but he’s an interesting character in being the representation of all the little casually racist opinions that some people hold. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it at some point.

Josh’s prank, however, does give Andre another idea. After work, (while Rainbow tries futilely to discuss her own day, where she’d saved the life of a drowning victim), Andre excitedly tells his wife about his new plan to get Zoey back into pranking. He figures that her favorite thing is humiliating Junior, so he intends to pull a big prank on Junior in front of her and hope that it jumpstarts her own pranking game. In pursuit of this, Andre enlists Jack and Diane as accomplices. He’s hoping to steer them toward a non-urine-based system of pranking. Siren-esque, Jack lures Junior in with the excuse of needing help with his Lego set. It’s aStar Wars set, and it’s assembled all wonky, leading Junior to become almost incoherent with geek rage. After a short rant, Junior collapses back in the nearest chair...which turns out to be Andre, cleverly disguised. Junior’s life flashes before his eyes. When the chaos has calmed, Andre hopefully asks Zoey if she’s feelin’ it. Nope. In fact, Zoey says that she actually thought that the prank was kind of mean. Amazed that even this didn’t renew Zoey’s interest in pranking, Andre asks her again, incredulous. Zoey tells him to grow up and leaves, followed by Junior, who also declares himself to be out. Andre’s attempt to follow is quashed by his bulky costume and he topples to the floor, where he sadly muses, "I used to be their king...now I’m just a fool dressed like a chair."

Still, Andre consoles himself, even if pranks are out, their epic family costume is still on. This year, they’re going to be the Jackson Five, with Andre in glorious yellow, sparkles, and ‘fro wig as mid-70's Tito. "Marlon and Jermaine, your polyester awaits!" he tells Zoey and Junior. They, however, are not impressed and decide to pass on the family costume. Betrayal! Rainbow tries to be comforting and says that Andre shouldn’t panic just yet, they can still make it work with Jack and Diane. Despairing, Andre points out that they don’t have enough people-then, continuing on the angst train, speculates on a dark future when the kids move out, don’t call, and pay no attention to Andre and Rainbow in their old age.

Even though this is shaping up to be "the worst Halloween ever," Andre’s amused to find Josh still lurking in the garbage can at work. He quickly calls over Charlie (first introduced in The Nod) so Josh can get him...but, when Josh jumps up, Charlie freaks out and punches him. Ouch. In pain, Josh tells Andre that this is what he meant about startling a "bro." Andre draws Charlie aside, where Charlie happily spills that he’d known that Josh was there, he’d just punched him because he thought it would be funny. Andre remonstrates with him, saying that it’s problematic because now Josh will believe that all of his messed-up stereotypes about black people are true. Hell, now he’ll never stop asking Andre if he knows Jay-Z. Charlie, somewhat confused, points out that Andre does know Jay-Z. "A little bit, but that’s beside the point," Andre replies. All black people do not know each other. As an example, Andre asks Charlie if he knows RuPaul. Turns out that Charlie actually does. Andre shrugs. "Me too," he admits, "cool chick."

With their now-reduced numbers, Rainbow and Andre tell the twins that they’re planning to go as The Beatles for a family costume. The twins, however, are confused. They don’t want to go as bugs. Andre and Rainbow are stunned that neither twin knows The Beatles, but Andre’s got a solution for all of this Halloween lack of enthusiasm. Whoever puts on their costume and goes trick-or-treating with their parents, he says, will get to eat all of their candy on Halloween night with no restrictions. Automatic yes, right? Well, no. The twins, having learned about diabetes in school that day, are actually strongly against the idea of candy at all. Andre pulls off his wig, declares this to be the last straw, then goes outside and starts to wrathfully destroy their Halloween decorations while Rainbow and the twins yell at him to stop. Andre disgustedly proclaims Halloween to be cancelled before failing (both with wrestling and with the aid of a nail gun) to defeat the lawn’s blow-up ghost.

On Halloween itself, at work, the boss calls Charlie, Josh, and Andre into his office to discuss the punching incident. Charlie freely admits to slugging Josh on purpose, but Josh takes full responsibility, bringing out a sheet of percentages showing that black men don’t respond well to being startled. While the boss had personally considered it funny, he tells them that, due to HR complaints, all pranks are now cancelled. Andre returns home to find a note saying that the rest of the family had decided to take off to the movies. He’s depressed, but consoles himself with the eating of a large bag of candy-until, interrupting his calm, some odd noises start sounding in the house. Suddenly, the lights cut out. Andre, unnerved, checks the camera feeds. No intruders (although he is momentarily scared by seeing himself in the living room feed), but he’s still extremely skittish. Gleefully watching him freak out on camera, we see Rainbow and all of the kids, who’re hiding upstairs. She thanks the kids for helping her prank Andre, even getting rather emotional about it. Finally, it’s time for Junior to conduct his final effect, the tinkling sound of breaking glass. Burglars! Andre makes a break for the front door and is surprised by the whole family, who joyfully mock his fear. Especially victorious, Rainbow flaunts her superiority, calling Andre her "prank bitch." Rainbow finally gets to be a jerk here, and it’s vastly entertaining. She’s even more self-congratulatory than Andre.

This wholesome family celebration is interrupted when Junior, still watching the house cameras, says that there’s a man in their backyard. Sure enough, there’s a guy in a ski mask trying to jimmy their back door, and the entire family finally dissolves into screams of hysterical terror when a second masked man tears open their front door and jumps in. Sure, the family’s terrified-but Andre’s delighted. The prank king still reigns supreme. He’d figured out that the family was planning something and had anticipated their every move. Well...every move except Rainbow decking the "invader," sending him to the floor, and then proceeding to violently kick him. Andre quickly hauls her off and unmasks the man, revealing a dazed Josh. As Rainbow demands to know what’s going on (and Josh requests ice), Charlie wanders in from the kitchen with a glass in hand and cheerfully says that he was going to do the scare thing, but had heard them talking and poured himself a glass of scotch instead. Andre’s annoyance about the purloined scotch is broken into by Rainbow, still insisting on knowing exactly what’s up. Josh getting punched yet again is possibly karmic justice for being kind of a racist? It’s also entertaining that Josh has been talking about "bros" not liking to be startled, but it’s Rainbow who socks him.

Andre explains that his decoration-murdering and antics during the "home invasion" was all just to make them think that their plot was working, then reveals how he’d figured it out: Rainbow had talked about the plan while going through the fridge, forgetting Andre’s fridge-camera. Zoey puts in that him pranking them all was actually pretty awesome, and she can’t wait to get him back next year. Aw. Andre’s pleased. He tells Rainbow that he’s got to hand it to her, she’d really tapped into his biggest fears. Not burglars, but the kids all growing up. The mere thought scares the hell out of him. He asks them to please not do it for at least another 15-20 years, and Diane happily agrees. Halloween is saved. The whole family (post trick-or-treating), with glitter and big Afro wigs, stride out of the mist dressed as the Jackson Five. Andre, delighted that their family traditions are stronger than ever, steals Junior’s bag of candy and runs off with it, shouting back that he’s the prank king.

In an ending clip, Andre and Charlie have gotten together with a whiteboard to prove that Josh is wrong about black people knowing all other black people...but, unfortunately for their case, between them they know every black person that they can think of. Josh’s point stands. Prank King is absolutely one of the funnier episodes of Black-ish so far, and the only stereotyping comes from Josh-who (mostly) gets his comeuppance. Andre and Rainbow have a hilarious prank rivalry while remaining friendly with each other, the kids play their sneaky parts well, and even the socially-tone-deaf Charlie gets in on the Halloween action. And Andre’s chair disguise? Absolutely spectacular.

Gift of Hunger

Andre tries to give his kids the "Gift of Hunger" in season 1, episode 7 of Black-ish.

Episode seven of season one of Black-ish,The Gift of Hunger, starts us off with a steak. Growing up, dad Andre had looked forward to the rare chance to go to the cheap Beef Plantation (yes, really) restaurant for special occasions, and now he’s taking his family...who are less than thrilled. They’re disconcerted by the "pay what you weigh" checkout strategy and especially underwhelmed by the food, which they pick at listlessly. Finally the young Diane plaintively says, "Mommy, this food makes me sad." Her twin Jack agrees, complaining bitterly about how hungry he is despite the full plate in front of him. Kids. Exasperated, Andre finally bursts out that, if everyone’s this unhappy, maybe they should just go home without eating. Far from reacting negatively, the kids cheer and run out to the car. Even his wife Rainbow is excited. Andre’s officially disgruntled.

Deciding that the kids are spoiled and he needs to teach them a lesson, Andre removes everything but bologna, baking soda, and ketchup from the fridge, then asks the kids why the fridge might be bare. They figure that it might be because they’re moving to a bigger and fancier house and start getting excited, but are brought back down to earth when Andre informs them that this is what he had in the fridge when he was a kid. They’re spoiled and need to learn to live with less, and he’s giving them "the gift of hunger." Middle child Junior asks if the gift comes with a receipt. No, Andre retorts, and, if the kids complain further, he’ll take away more things-such as their cable, wi-fi, and premium toilet paper. Previous episodes have told us something of Andre’s poor childhood, but this one definitely goes more in depth. Although the three-item-fridge thing sounds like an overreaction to not liking cheap restaurant steak, it’s decently understandable from Andre’s perspective-although depriving the kids of food may not be the best way to teach them a lesson. Luckily he gives the food tack up pretty quickly.

Upstairs, Rainbow asks why Andre’s banning the use of air conditioning and Andre repeats his plan, while pointing out that the spoiled kids are probably her fault. Rainbow disagrees, telling Andre that it was him who got all their Baby Jordans bronzed. No, Andre corrects, it was seven karat gold. Rainbow thinks that, whatever it was, it was tacky...but that’s okay, because there’s nothing wrong with giving the kids more than they had. "You know what happens when you give your kids too much, right?" Andre asks. They have a shared vision of the kids partying, fanning themselves with money and makin’ it rain, and Andre insists that it’s up to them to give them more by giving them less. Rainbow objects. She didn’t grow up eating baking soda, and she turned out fine. Andre thinks that this is because she had a white father, and "we can’t all hit the lotto!" Rainbow’s in the middle of sighing at him when the doorbell rings. Andre definitely likes to bring up the "white father" thing. It’s treated very much as a non-serious "oh Andre" recurring joke, but it is rather an unfortunate sentiment.

The visitors are their neighbors, Janine and Bruce Greenstein, and they’re holding a casserole. Why are they holding a casserole? Well, turns out the twins had gone over to their house earlier and pleaded for food to be brought. Andre’s astounded that they’d move straight to begging. "In our defense, we complained first," Diane replies. Rainbow’s horrified that they’re the only black family in the neighborhood and now everyone’s going to think that they’re beggars. Sadly, there’s no way around it, and they open the door to a sympathetic Janine saying that she’d heard things weren’t going so well for them (as helpfully told to her by Diane). Andre and Rainbow try to protest that they’re fine, but are steamrolled in the name of charity. When the Greensteins leave, Rainbow suddenly decides that the children are indeed terrible, now that they’re making her look bad. Andre definitely needs to teach the kids a lesson.

At work, Andre complains about his spoiled kids and his boss and Josh, suggest that maybe he’s just not giving them enough stuff. After all, the boss says, he’d always given his kids everything and they’d turned out great. Isn’t one of them in rehab? Andre asks. The boss replies with a unconcerned yes, (in fact, both his kids have been to rehab) then goes on to tell Andre that now their now-home-from-rehab kid very rarely takes money from his father’s wallet...because his father gives it to him. Not quite the solution Andre had in mind. He and Charlie, the only other black employee present, explain that nothing was ever given to them and they’d always had to work and struggle for every last thing. The boss comfortingly tells Andre not to worry. From what he hears, Andre’s kids are just like his! This information does not soothe Andre. This is a definite culture clash, although the characters are deliberately stereotyped to facilitate it. Both of the white men involved grew up rich and pampered (and it’s hinted that Josh’s parents still buy him stuff), while both black men share a story of childhood poverty and uphill battles. It would be interesting if Black-ish had a more middle-of-the-road employee around.

Once Andre gets home, he and Rainbow form a coalition and decree that all the kids must get jobs. The kids aren’t enthused, but Andre takes Junior and eldest child Zoey into his work and has them perform as janitors, while Rainbow supervises Diane and Jack at their own money-making enterprise, a lemonade stand. Using a combination of cunning and cuteness, the twins make out like bandits. When they head inside to make more lemonade (sternly cautioning Rainbow to not steal any of their money while they’re gone), Rainbow takes over operation of the stand just in time for Janine Greenstein to see her while jogging and assume the worst. As Rainbow tries to explain, Janine presses money upon her and even insists that she take a card with the address for her church’s charity pantry. By the time Rainbow’s able to get a word in, Janine’s already got her headphones back on and is jogging away.

At work, Andre comes upon Zoey taking selfies and tells her to knock it off and get back to work. She replies that she is working and shows him a video of herself on YouTube, doing a beauty tutorial. Andre’s initially dismissive, but then notices her vast number of likes and followers. She might be onto something. Zoey tells him that she’s hoping to become successful enough for the brand Hard Candy to give her free makeup, and Andre happily corrects that, if she plays her cards right, they might just give her free money. He orders her to come up with three ways to pitch Hard Candy by the end of the afternoon, then phones Rainbow to tell her that, not only is the plan working, but Zoey’s showing signs of "the Johnson family hustle." Even Junior’s killin’ it in a janitorial position. Rainbow reports that the lemonade stand is going well, but unfortunately Janine’s just dropped off a bag of her husband’s old pants. Rainbow decides to take the twins to a non-Janine-infested location. To accomplish this, she has their family gardener, Pedro, load the stand onto his pickup truck...but then a rake falls out of the back. She picks it up, just in time for Janine to reappear and gaze in horror at her fallen circumstances. Rainbow shouts that she’s fine, still a doctor and "not just a gardener," but Janine can’t hear her and makes some sympathetic gestures before jogging off again. Rainbow sighs in defeat and then quickly apologizes to Pedro for slighting the excellent job of gardeners. To this, "Pedro" replies that his name is actually Eric and he has 65 employees. Rainbow protests wanly that she totally knew that, but she’s not fooling anyone.

While the twins switch venues, Zoey’s finally finished her three pitches. She hands them over proudly to Andre, who only glances at them before informing her that he’s already gotten her a meeting at Hard Candy and has put together a team to help with a rough pitch. Zoey starts off thrilled, but gets progressively less so. Her disenchantment culminates with a promo video featuring a selection of leggy models and the tagline "Makeup by Zozo." Josh and Charlie think it’s amazing, and Andre assures Zoey that this is just a rough mock-up. The final version will have special effects! Zoey is not impressed. "So you tell me to hustle...and then you go do it all for me?" she asks. Andre protests that he’s just trying to help her pave the road, and Zoey tells him that he’d run her over, and, if he’s going to throw away all of her ideas, then she’s quitting the project and taking the rest of the day off. She sweeps out. A couple of minutes later, Junior enters and announces coffee time...but he’s forgotten to put names on cups and begins tasting them all in turn to see if he can identity the decaf one. Josh and Charlie are revolted. Finally Junior admits that he’s not actually sure if he’d gotten decaf at all. Let’s all hope that he doesn’t try to become a barista.

After work, Andre has a chat with Rainbow in their room, where he complains about Zoey’s quitting. While he denies steamrolling her, Rainbow quickly guesses what had happened. "Aw Dre," she tells him, "you were so excited that she had the hustle and then you didn’t even let her do it herself. You say it’s about the kids, and then it becomes all about you and your ego." Andre may be dealing with his ego, but Rainbow’s fighting her own personal misguided battle by gearing up with a long fancy dress and maximum amounts of jewelry. "Sweetie, do you think this is going to say to Janine that I am ballin’ out of control?" she goes on. Andre agrees that she’s definitely out of control. Great, Rainbow says, she’s going to go hang around Janine’s mailbox and wait for Janine to see her, even though it’s 11pm. She adds her stethoscope to the ensemble for maximum doctorly impact.

The next day, back at the office, Andre finds Zoey polishing a glass wall. When she sarcastically asks if he wants to take that over as well, he sits her down and apologizes, talking about his childhood. He’d been dirt poor and had to work for every single thing, and when he’d seen the spark of that same effort in her he’d gotten excited. Zoey tells him that he’d taken everything out of the project that had made it hers, and Andre says that he knows, and that’s why he’d put it back in. He’d read her pitches and thought that they were actually pretty good, and had sent them over to Hard Candy, who’d agreed. They’d sent Zoey a big box of makeup along with a message saying that, if she could double her followers in the next six months, they might be able to pay her. Zoey’s delighted, and Andre assures her that she can make the deadline. The moment is broken by Junior tearing around a corner toward them while calling happily that he’d finally gotten the coffee order right...before slamming into the glass wall Zoey had been polishing. Drinks everywhere. Andre high-fives Zoey and compliments her on her polishing skills. This is a sweet talk, and Andre’s motivations are understandable, especially given his background. Nobody had helped him, so he wants to help Zoey. Luckily it all works out in the end, and father and daughter are reconciled. Andre does continue being mean to Junior, though. Junior seems to be the series’ official punching bag.

That evening, Andre judges his gift of hunger experiment a success. He hands Junior his paycheck and admits that he knows he was hard on Junior and Junior had made some mistakes, but he hadn’t quit and Andre respects that. Meanwhile, the twins calculate their earnings (with Diane valiantly trying to swindle Jack out of his share), and Zoey takes selfies with her new makeup. "I guess this whole journey was really about character," Andre narrates. "See, I was trying to give my kids the gift of hunger, because hunger was the obstacle that gave me character, but my kids had a different obstacle...me. Let’s face it, I’m a lot, and if they can get past me they can get past anything." In an ending clip set to Ridin’ Dirty, Rainbow (in a snazzy new sports car with winged doors) pulls up beside a jogging Janine and hands her back her casserole dish with a thank-you. Janine’s obviously confused and impressed by the car, and is slightly disgruntled when Rainbow "accidentally" forgets a diamond earring in the dish and then retrieves it, passive-aggressively commenting on Janine’s own earrings. Janine defensively explains that her daughter had made them. Awkward times abound. Finally, Janine helps to close Rainbow’s car door, and, inside, Rainbow says quietly, "let’s get you back to the dealership before they know you’re gone" and grins, revving up the car and speeding away as Janine calls after her that it’s actually really inconvenient to carry a heavy casserole dish while jogging. Eventually she gives up and decides to just take it home.

The Gift of Hunger is especially interesting in that I believe it’s the first episode where Andre has done something that seems nonsensical or downright mean...but ends up having an understandable excuse for it. I can absolutely see him being confused and irritated about the food situation when he grew up appreciating every full meal, and taking over Zoey’s project in an attempt to give her the assistance that he never had. In fact, Rainbow’s the more irrational spouse in this episode, and she has that really unfortunate (and downright racist) moment with "Pedro," AKA Eric. It’s nice to see Andre being the reasonable one for once. Tune in next week for episode eight’s article, and see if Andre’s sensible streak continues on Black-ish.

Oedipal Triangle

Andre's mom causes an "Oedipal Triangle" in season one, episode 8 of Black-ish.2

Oedipal Triangle starts off with a little mother love, courtesy of dad Andre. In preparation for the arrival of his mom, Ruby, he meticulously prepares their guest room, even going so far as to scatter rose petals. When his wife Rainbow tells him that it looks like he’s decorating for the coming of spring, he replies that this is just the effect he’s going for. She has a vision of him dressed snazzily in a suit and hat, scattering petals over the bed and frolicking against a backdrop of green garlands. Back in real life, Andre says that he knows their relationship isn’t the best, but insists that Ruby’s not out to get Rainbow. Rainbow is not so sure. She’d worn white to their wedding, cut in on their first dance, and had a coughing fit when the minister asked if there were any objections. Conflict abounds. Andre has a vision of a fur-clad Rainbow standing in the snowy bedroom, then, in dramatic Game of Thrones style, declaring ‘winter is coming!’.

When Ruby arrives, she affectionately greets Andre and the kids . . . then asks Rainbow if she’d done something with her eyes, as she looks ‘less tired’. Hm. Rainbow’s not impressed, and is even less impressed when Ruby hands out inappropriate gifts (like nunchucks for Jack, one of the young twins, Grand Theft Auto for the middle kid, Junior, and fancy thong panties for Zoey, the eldest). Rainbow quickly confiscates them and is just telling Andre how wrong they are when Ruby has a suspiciously timed coughing fit, drawing Andre instantly to her side. She attributes it to ‘all the dust’ in the house, then, when other-young-twin Diane compliments her Afro-style hair, gives a short speech about how she won’t let anyone hot-comb out her heritage ----- with a pointed look at Rainbow. "Are my ears bleeding, or does it just feel like it?" Rainbow asks Andre, but he’s quickly distracted by another coughing fit and leads Ruby off to her room.

At school, Junior asks Zoey for advice on how to ask out a girl he likes, but Zoey tells him to try instead for a hotter girl named Kyra, a held-back senior who votes, smokes, and is rumored to have gotten a boob job. "Plus some light butt work!" Zoey adds, enthusiastically. She’ll help a dazzled Junior get a date with Kyra. Junior’s delighted. Rainbow, less so. That evening, she comes home to find everyone digging into a dinner of fried and fattening food prepared by Ruby, who’d not only declined to wait for Rainbow but had ‘accidentally’ used Rainbow’s prepared kale salad as a garnish bed for the pork chops. When Rainbow tries to get Andre to slow down, pointing out that heavy food won’t work for his heart-smart diet, Ruby dismisses his heart problems as ‘doctor nonsense’ and tells Rainbow that she makes real food and Rainbow can have her rabbit food and her yoga and her therapy. Her therapy? Yep. Ruby reveals that she knows that Rainbow had seen a therapist for a bit after the kids were born (adding ‘not everyone can jump into being a mom. No judgement!’) before going on to say that therapy just isn’t something ‘their people’ do. They have Jesus . . . and baths.

Rainbow pulls Andre aside, and, when he admits that he’d told Ruby about her therapy, asks him to stop telling Ruby about her stuff. Andre ‘agrees’, but skews it so that it sounds like she’s asking him never to talk to his mom, period. He, he says, will definitely do the very reasonable thing she’s asking for and never talk to his mother again. Rainbow sighs and walks away, and Andre feels like he’d won the battle, but he’ll lose the war unless he makes things right. That evening, he draws Rainbow a bubble bath and hands her a glass of champagne, then apologizes for betraying her confidence. His mom was all he had for emotional support growing up, and he’s used to sharing things with her. Rainbow forgives him, and things quickly get steamy ---- until they hear that most dreaded sound: coughing. While Andre excuses himself to go get Ruby a glass of water, he promises to be right back to share that romantic bath. He isn’t. Finally, Rainbow goes looking . . . and finds her husband asleep on his mom’s bed. Andre blames it on too many biscuits. Rainbow remains unmoved.

While Josh’s separate but equal suggestion was horribly offensive, Andre believes that it could be effectively repackaged as ‘different, but the same’. He texts Rainbow some GPS coordinates and she shows up to find a romantic dinner at a spot overlooking the city, all the more meaningful because it’s where she and Andre had gotten engaged. Aw. It becomes slightly less meaningful a moment later, when Ruby, who’d also been texted coordinates, arrives and is equally touched ---- this is the spot where Andre had told her that he’d gotten in college. This won’t end well. The ladies bicker over which of them ‘has’ the spot until Andre informs them that it’s his spot, he loves it and it belongs to both of them. A bit of a truce is reached, and Ruby and Rainbow even bond over how unhygienic Andre’s dinner-making probably was. Harmony, at last.

That harmony, it turns out, lasts approximately sixteen hours. It’s at the sixteen hour point when Ruby does something that one just Does Not Do: she changes Diane’s straightened hair into an Afro without consulting Rainbow. Andre’s with Rainbow on this one, even through Ruby defends that she’s just introducing Diane to her ‘Zulu-Cherokee’ heritage and Diane loves it. Rainbow replies that, first, Ruby isn’t Cherokee, and, second, she loves the hair too . . . but it’s easier to have Diane’s hair straightened until she’s old enough to take care of it herself. "So," Ruby retorts, "what you’re saying is that you don’t have time to take care of your kids?" Ouch. After Andre intervenes, Ruby apologizes and says that she’ll drop it, then continues that she’s curious about their parenting choices. ‘But no judgement,’ she adds. Rainbow informs her that she can’t just put ‘no judgement’ in front of something and have it go away. If that worked, she’d be all over saying ‘no Ruby’. After repeating that a couple of times for emphasis, she stalks off.

After a stern look towards his mom, Andre catches up with Rainbow and commiserates that Ruby was totally out of line. Rainbow declares that she’s absolutely not going to let Ruby bother her, but, when Andre says ‘good for you’, bursts out that Ruby does bother her. She bothers her overwhelmingly, and she regularly gets Rainbow all riled up. She’s riled up now. Andre quickly hugs and soothes her, stroking her hair and murmuring ‘easy, girl’. After a moment, Rainbow asks if he’s horse whispering her. Well, he says, is it working? Rainbow admits that she does feel less riled. "Okay, let’s go back to the stables," Andre says, and takes the lead back to their room.

Downstairs, Zoey pounces on Junior when he gets home late. How did ‘their’ date go? Junior tells her that it was great: they’d shared a nice meal, then Kyra had taken him back home, led him into her bedroom, turned out the lights . . . and asked him to edit her audition tape for The Bachelor. Zoey’s incredulous that Kyra had managed to use Junior to help her win a TV-hubby, and Junior, who hadn’t thought of it that way, swiftly drops into disappointment. Zoey shares in his low ---- as the caller of shots, she’s shocked to have been played. As the kids mourn, Andre settles Rainbow in bed and explains that Ruby acts this way because he and Rainbow have been together for sixteen years and Ruby thought that they wouldn’t last two weeks. Despite her predictions, they’re not going anywhere. Rainbow’s already won. The two of them snuggle comfortably, until their peace is interrupted by coughing. Rainbow tells Andre to go to his mom, but Andre says no, her cough’s not even real, she just does it for attention. He even used to joke about it as a kid.

In the morning, Rainbow comes down to find Ruby half done with re-straightening Diane’s hair, even going to far as to apologize for her hairstyling presumptiveness. Rainbow thanks her, and is pleased until Ruby goes on to say that ‘a woman shouldn’t have to feel riled up in her own home’. Mic drop, as Rainbow realizes that Andre had told her everything. Andre tries to excuse himself, protesting that he was just trying to help, but Rainbow’s not having it and is further irritated when Ruby smugly tells her that this is why she and Andre ‘keep it absolutely 100' with no secrets. Yeah, not so much. Rainbow’s only too happy to spill about Andre’s confession that he used to (and still does) make fun of her fake coughing, causing Ruby to promptly have another ‘coughing fit’ and excuse herself. Andre asks Rainbow how she could’ve said that, and Rainbow tells him icily that now he knows how it feels. She exits in the opposite direction. "Great timing, Dad, really," Diane tells Andre sarcastically, abandoned with half an Afro.

Andre tries to fix Diane’s hair, but succeeds only in losing a couple of combs in it. At a loss, he summons Zoey, who comes with a side of advice: she tells him that, in trying to make Ruby and Rainbow equal, he’d created an emotional half-‘fro. In reality, he can only have one #1 girl at a time, and ‘first it’s your mom, then it’s your wife, then it’s the daughter you leave all your money to when you die’. Anything else, she says, violates the natural order. Andre thinks that she just might be onto something.

That night, Ruby cooks, but tells Andre that he won’t get so much as a nibble before he admits that she has medically diagnosed chronic bronchitis. Andre takes her hand. "Mom," he says, "you raised me to be strong. You gave me the tools to survive and succeed in a hard world, and I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without the wisdom you instilled in me." After a hug, Andre goes on to say that the wisdom in question is telling him now to tell her to back off when it comes to Rainbow. She’s his wife of sixteen years and, while Ruby will always be his mother, Rainbow is his #1 for now and forever. "Aww," Rainbow says, coming in with a plate, "thank you, baby." As they kiss, the kids come tumbling downstairs, all excited to eat Ruby’s food. They’re disappointed to hear that Ruby’s meatloaf will be replaced by their mother’s ‘little red pebbles’ (quinoa, Rainbow corrects), but, while Rainbow’s preparing to serve, Andre covertly snags the meatloaf and hands it to Jack. Jack dashes off happily to go stash it in Andre’s car.

Back with the ladies, as Rainbow places the quinoa on the table, Ruby leans in. "Looks like I raised you an amazing husband," she says, quietly. Rainbow makes a noncommital noise and nods with trepidation. "You’re welcome," Ruby tells her then, and smiles.

Oedipal Triangle is an episode with a lot of communication, and the writers did a good job of allowing the viewers to see everyone’s different perspectives. Ruby’s territorial about being the first lady in her son’s life, Rainbow wants to be acknowledged and respected, and Andre just doesn’t want to rock the boat ---- but, by trying to stay out of it, unknowingly helps to create an emotional half-‘fro, as Zoey would say. Nothing about the situation is particularly racially stereotyped, other than Ruby’s claim that black people don’t do therapy. (Mind you, it’s difficult to know whether she actually thinks this, or if she’s just getting a shot in on Rainbow).

Colored Commentary

Dad offers "Colored Commentary" in season one, episode 9 of Black-ish.

"Colored Commentary" begins with dad Andre, and his thwarted desire for a closer-knit family. As of late, the kids are starting to demand alone time, opting out of all family activities. This is not how Andre grew up ---- his father had literally removed the door to his room in order to force him to be more social. "Oh those are so cute! The kids are going to hate them," his wife Rainbow says, upon seeing the batch of ‘Team Johnson’ shirts Andre’s had done up. "Maybe," he replies, "but they’ll hate them together." When Zoey and Junior, the two oldest kids come downstairs he informs them that in the cause of family unity, they must attend their young sibling Jack’s upcoming baseball game while wearing the shirts. They’re not enthused. Andre forces them into it with threats of grounding.

At the game, there is drama. When the commentator announces Jack, he says, ‘Let’s see what this natural athlete can do against this smart pitcher!’ Then later, when Jack makes a home run, it’s announced that he runs ‘like a panther’. Rainbow’s uncomfortable with his terminology, but when she points it out to the white moms, they don’t sense any racial bias. She calls in Andre, who happily anticipates being able to pull his ‘race card’ (complete with a vision of a butler presenting him with it), but is disappointed to find nothing offensive, even when Rainbow’s re-infuriated by the commentator saying ‘Look at him go! This kid was born to steal!’ after another great play. Andre points out that the commentator’s just saying Jack was born to steal bases, not TVs. He’s firmly in the ‘not racist’ camp, where he’s backed by all the white parents. Rainbow’s already frustrated, but she’s even more annoyed when Andre obliviously yells, "Hey, Jack! Run like a cop is on your ass!" She gives the white parents an awkward smile.

At home, Rainbow lights into Andre for ‘throwing her under the bus’ and not having her back. She says she thought they were Team Johnson and that even if Andre thinks she’s wrong, he should support her. Does that mean that she wants Andre to agree with literally everything she says or does? Yes, Rainbow replies, she thinks that would be best. Andre’s skeptical. Her opinion is backed up by his boss when Andre gripes about it at work, but said boss does have an ulterior motive ---- he needs Rainbow to come that night to the firm’s museum event. It’s a huge new client and they need all spouses on board, especially the knowledgeable-about-art Rainbow. Andre had completely forgotten about it, but manages to coax Rainbow into going by playfully praising how sexy she looks when she talks art, leading to a hilarious exchange of art-related dirty talk.

Rainbow’s on board. Zoey and Junior, however, are horrified at the prospect of being forced to spend the night babysitting . . . especially Junior, who had been promised by Rainbow that he and his friend Zack could go out that night in costume to the newest Marvel movie. Andre tells him that he’s doing Junior a favor by not letting him do that. When Zoey complains that it’s not fair, Andre explains that it’s actually by design. He and Rainbow had specially waited eight years before having more kids precisely for this reason. The parents high-five.

That evening, while Andre and Rainbow having fun at the party, Zoey shuts Jack and his twin Diane out of her room when they ask her to come feed them and play. The babysitter is out. They try talking to Junior, but he has his headphones on and ignores them. Absent of any authority figures, the twins spy a laundry basket and decide to take the plunge. The plunge down the stairs, that is. They slide happily down in the laundry basket, then move on to a piece of cardboard, and finally a winter sled. By winter-sled-time, they’ve been joined by Junior as an enthusiastic pusher. Zoey sights them, but does nothing except demanding that they wear helmets. Once helmeted, Junior pushes them down, and everything’s great for roughly two seconds until they crash into the opposite wall and knock a big hole into the drywall. Oops.

Meanwhile, at the party, Rainbow hears some of the museum people talking to Andre about Matisse and enthusiastically jumps in, going on at length about her love of the artist. While she’s talking, Andre notices that the museum people are acting like she’s in the middle of committing a serious faux pas. Covertly, he looks up the artist she’s talking about, remembering that they’d seen an exhibit of his work recently. Turns out Rainbow’s talking about Magritte. Andre debates whether or not to tell her, but remembers her demand for him to agree with her at all times and stays quiet, only bringing it up after they leave to reassure her that he doesn’t think anyone had really noticed. The whole matter is news to Rainbow, who had thought that she’d done well the whole evening and is both mortified to learn of her gaffe and incredulous that Andre’s proud of himself for not correcting her. She tells him that she can’t believe that he’s done it to her again. Andre’s extremely confused as to what, exactly, she considers to be ‘throwing her under the bus’.

As the adults argue, the kids formulate a plan. When Andre and Rainbow arrive and notice the hole, they also notice a pitiful-looking Diane on the couch with an ice pack. Junior and Zoey explain that, after a hearty meal of steamed broccoli, they had looked for fun family activities to do and had settled on playing Project Runway ---- but, while Diane was ‘modelling’ in the too-big shoes Rainbow had recently gotten her, she’d slipped and tumbled down the stairs. Rainbow immediately gathers Diane in her arms and mourns that it’s all her fault for buying the shoes, but Andre’s a little more doubtful of the kids’ story. He notes that Rainbow’s feeling extremely guilty, and figures that, if he can find out the truth, he can give her a clean conscience . . . and she can give a break from his Matisse screwup. He determines to investigate,C.S.I. style.

That night, he breaks out a black light and finds trailing finger marks on the stairwell wall, then executes some tests with a Diane-analogue doll. Finished, he decides to ‘shake some trees’ and first wakes up Junior, shining a light in his face and demanding to know the truth. Junior holds fast. Stonewalled. Next up is Zoey, who, right before Andre’s entrance into her room, receives a text from Junior saying, ‘STAY STRONG.’ Andre’s tactic of telling her that Junior had just given her up (so she might as well confess) is met with indifference. Why, Zoey asks, is he there, if Junior had given them up? Andre’s stymied. Zoey goes on to suggest that he yell at Rainbow, buyer of the death-trap shoes which had almost killed Diane. She even summons a few tears. Andre tells Zoey that he’s watching her, but is forced to leave without evidence.

He’s equally unsuccessful with the twins. They refuse to be bribed by either cash or lollipops, but, when he announces that he’s going to head down to the kitchen for some Chunky Monkey ice cream, Diane follows him. She loves Chunky Monkey. Andre makes her a bowl with whipped cream on top, but asks for the truth in return. Web of deceit versus ice cream? Ice cream wins. Diane quickly tells him that, after Junior and Zoey had abandoned them, Jack had thrown her into a basket and then pushed her downstairs. She plays the pity card and happily accepts the reward of extra whipped cream. Rainbow, however, is less pleased. When Andre tells her Diane’s story, adding that the info was extra hard to get because the kids had closed ranks, Rainbow suggests that he could learn something from the kids. She’s still annoyed.

Frustrated by the failing of his peace offering, Andre moves on to his next tactic: a common enemy. This, he decides, will be the baseball announcer. At Jack’s next game, Andre stands up and rants when a foul ball is called on his son, even though Rainbow’s confused and doesn't think it was offensive. The kids aren't too happy either. On the bleachers, Diane offers Zoey and Junior Blow Pops, but they tell her that she’d gone against the family and her candy is dead to them. Ouch. Tension increases when the next foul ball is called on Jack, and Andre enters the announcer’s booth and proceeds to lecture him, heard clearly over the loudspeakers by all in attendance. Mentioning Rainbow by name, Andre says that she’s all worked up over the commentator’s offensive and ignorant comments and Andre’s shutting him down.

Speech over, Andre hits the loudspeaker button and then apologizes, saying that he didn't really mean anything he’d just said ---- he just had to make it look like he was setting him straight for Rainbow, who ‘can be a little cuckoo sometimes.’ Indeed, the announcer tells Andre that he understands on that front. What he doesn’t understand is why Andre had just turned off the scoreboard. Yes, every bit of Andre’s apology had just been broadcast to the crowd. Uh-oh. He turns to wave sheepishly to Rainbow, who glares back. Andre thinks that the plan to keep Team Johnson together had pretty much been reduced to ashes. The kids are all mad at each other, and Rainbow’s mad at him. He asks if they can talk while dishing out dinner and receives a withering look in return. Rainbow’s equally hostile to the idea of talking after the meal. The younger Johnsons are also less than chatty: Junior declares that he’ll eat later and leaves, Zoey says she’ll eat in her room and vanishes with a plate, and Jack proclaims ‘I don’t want to eat alone with the snitch!’ before taking his outside. Dissent reigns supreme.

That dissent is interrupted by the doorbell. When Andre opens it, he finds a couple of the manager-type guys from Jack’s baseball team, who tell Andre that they’ve got some very upset parents after the ‘loudspeaker incident’ . . . and they’re going to have to ask Andre to stay away from the complex for two weeks. Rainbow asks if they’re serious, and they reply that they’ve got to do something, and they think even Andre would admit that he acted like an idiot. Rainbow retorts that he would not, because he’s not an idiot and people get carried away at the field all the time. She passionately defends Andre, including decreeing that, if Andre’s not welcome, then none of them (including the valuable-to-the-team Jack) will be attending for two weeks. Aw.

When they leave, Andre asks if she’d really meant all that. No, Rainbow says, he’s an idiot ---- but, as she has Andre’s back, she’d never tell them that. Andre realizes that she’s right and apologizes, but adds that he wasn't kidding when he said that he didn't understand her rules. Rainbow asks him to just show her that he’s there for her and never let her embarrass herself. "Cool," Andre says, "but what about karaoke?" Rainbow asks him what he’s talking about and follows him upstairs, defending her karaoke awesomeness.

"See what mom just did, Diane," Zoey starts, when the adults are gone, "that’s what loyalty looks like." Diane says that she’s sorry, but Andre had Chunky Monkey. The other kids forgive her, the elder for her youth and inexperience, Jack by conceding that he too would’ve broken for ice cream. The family’s together again. They celebrate with (what else?) ice cream and whipped cream, all gathering together to dish it out. The kids laugh and dig into their bowls, and Andre and Rainbow share a whipped-cream-infused kiss. In an ending scene, Rainbow badly sings karaoke, then asks the room if she should sing another. Zoey and Junior are against. The twins are for. "I really, really don’t understand the rules," Andre says, looking cornered. Rainbow happily decides that he’s being encouraging, and starts another song as Andre winces.

Despite a major subplot being about the ‘race card’, Colored Commentary contains remarkably little stereotyping. Rainbow and Andre have a communication breakdown and repair it, the kids learn the value of sticking together (unless there’s ice cream involved), and even Rainbow admits that Jack runs ‘like a panther.’ The only really iffy bit concerns Junior. Andre’s always been hard on him, but he seems to really be stepping it up, concentrating especially on his disapproval and ridiculing of Junior’s beloved geeky pursuits. Hopefully an upcoming episode will resolve that, because Andre’s near-total lack of support for Junior is really sticking out. Will episode ten be that episode?

Black Santa/White Christmas

There is "Black Santa/White Christmas" in season one, episode 10 of Black-ish.

"Black Santa/White Christmas" starts off with visions of a Johnson family Christmas. Dad Andre loves Christmas and all its trappings. Still, he doesn’t want his kids to forget the true meaning of Christmas and the man it’s really about . . . Santa, of course! Santa was the first white man that Andre ever loved, and he loves Santa especially because he never got to believe in him as a child. We have a flashback to Andre’s mom Ruby, laughing at young Andre’s belief in Santa and telling him who’d really gotten him presents. Ouch.

At Andre’s workplace, the firm of Stevens and Lido, they always have a Christmas party, and Santa is always played by the same man: Fred Garmin. Ordinarily he’s merely a tubby account manager, but, one day a year, Fred becomes a hero to every child at the party. This year is no exception ---- until, only days before the party, Fred dies. The position of Santa is left vacant, and Andre believes that he should be the one to fill it. At home, he speaks passionately on the subject to his wife Rainbow and visiting-for-the-holidays mom. True to form, Ruby’s not encouraging. She declares that, first of all, Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa. Secondly, she thinks Andre should leave Santa to the white folks. If any traditionally white figure should be made black, she’d like it to be James Bond, preferably with Idris Elba.

[Funnily enough, although Santa nowadays is presented as white, the man from whom his name comes was not. Saint Nicholas was Greek in heritage and is usually depicted as quite a dark-skinned man. That’s never brought up in this episode, mind you. As a side note, I continue to be impressed by Black-Ish’s up-to-date news and pop culture references. Elba as a Bond possibility has been hotly debated as of late.]

Andre cares nothing for Elba as Bond and goes on to say that Stevens and Lido need a black Santa. After all, this is an event in which every family at the office invites an ‘adoptive family’ to the big party, and, for most of these kids, white Santa is all they’ve ever known. Andre believes that this is his chance to show kids that Santa can look like them. Just then, the young twins Jack and Diane wander in and ask how Santa can look like a kid. After all, Santa looks like Santa. Rainbow quickly agrees that there is indeed only one Santa, but tells the kids that Andre wants to be one of Santa’s helpers. Isn’t that nice? The twins, it turns out, do not care. Diane just asks to verify that they’ll still be getting their presents from ‘the real Santa’. ‘The white one,’ Jack clarifies. Andre and Rainbow say yes, but it’s awkward.

Back at work, Andre’s on a quest. He goes to find the boss, Mr. Stevens, only to find him comforting another employee. Momentary confusion for Andre, until he remembers that he too is supposed to be broken up over Fred’s death. Ah yes, Fred. The boss is heading off to the funeral, but tells Andre that he intends to pick a new Santa when he gets back and gestures out to the office, pointing out the multitude of appropriately fat Santa candidates . . . all of whom are white. Andre brings that up and is brushed off (Mr. Stevens claims that he ‘doesn’t see colour’), but does ask his boss to keep an open mind and not be afraid to think outside the box.

Meanwhile, Ruby’s telling the practically-drooling kids about how she’ll have all their favourites at her yearly Christmas Eve dinner. ‘Mmm,’ they say in unison, when she starts talking about making the glaze for her juicy Christmas Eve ham. This festive gathering is interrupted by Rainbow, who’s been getting more and more annoyed by the family’s collective worship of Ruby’s dinners and suggests that maybe, this year, she could make the Christmas Eve meal and they could try out some of her family’s traditions. This is not greeted with enthusiasm. Ruby, often acid-tongued on the subject of Rainbow, comments that, as Rainbow’s ‘swirly parents’ are ‘in a cult’, her traditions may not jive with their ‘Judeo-Christian human Christmas beliefs’. Yikes. Rainbow objects, saying that her parents aren’t in a cult (well, not anymore, but that’s not the point), and that she’s got some really good ideas. Mom can totally be as fun as Grandma.

[While her ‘kind of a jerk to Rainbow’ routine is standard, here Ruby again (rather nastily) brings up how religious she is. It’s odd because she acts as though Rainbow is the sole representative of a religion opposed to her own, but, while it hasn’t been discussed much, Rainbow appears to be of the same faith and level of observance as the rest of the Johnson family.]

With the help of fellow employees Josh and Charlie, Andre puts together a presentation supporting his cause and trials-runs a speech, where he asks, “What is the colour of joy? Of a child’s smile?”, and ends by showing a photoshopped picture of himself as Santa. Charlie applauds. Josh says that it was beautiful, and assures Andre that ‘he’s going to nail Santa’. Not the choice of words that Andre would’ve gone with, but he’s distracted by a returning Mr. Stevens. The boss confides that he’s been mulling over Andre’s words and would like to announce the new Santa . . . Angelica Rodriguez, the crying employee from earlier. She’s delighted, but Andre’s not. Mexican female Santa is a bit over simply ‘outside the box’.

The kids aren’t having a good day either. Rainbow tells them about how her mother had dressed her and her sisters as the three wise women and had them sing O Little Town of Bethlehem, so she intends to dress her kids as elves and have them sing at Andre’s office party before returning home for her Christmas Eve dinner. The kids unanimously agree that they’d much prefer Ruby’s dinner. Too bad. After Rainbow sends them off to do homework, Ruby tells her that she’s being too hard on them. Heck, if she didn’t know Rainbow was mixed-race, she’d think Rainbow was Chinese. Rainbow’s shocked and points out how racist that is, only for Ruby to blow her off and proclaim that black people can’t be racist.

Just then, Andre sweeps in, ranting about how he’d been ‘robbed by a damn Mexican’ and how he doesn’t have a problem with a female Santa ---- other than it being insane ---- but he’s strongly against a Mexican one. After all, black people have been waiting longer. It’s just like the Presidency, Andre says. “White president, black president, Mexican president, gay! Black santa, white santa, Mexican santa . . . thunderdome,” he ends awkwardly. Ruby agrees that Mexicans can’t be jumping the line, adding that it’s bad enough that they’ve started taking black peoples’ jobs with sneaky tricks like working harder for less pay. “Okay, now that is racist AND insane,” Rainbow puts in. Andre pooh-poohs her concerns and insists that black people can’t be racist. Rainbow’s not impressed and leaves the room.

[Ruby continues to be both quite racist and in denial, but here she’s joined by Andre. While his words aren’t nearly as racist as hers are, he doesn’t speak up and seems to quietly support her anti-Mexican sentiments ---- although he doesn’t hear her characterization of Chinese people. Ruby also seems a touch racist against black people, saying that ‘their’ jobs (presumably lower-paying and labour-oriented, going by her words) are being taken by Mexicans . . . while standing in the house of her son, the advertising executive, and daughter-in-law, the doctor. Andre then adds a touch of homophobia to the discussion, which is unfortunately common for him.]

The situation does not improve the next day. Concerning the Angelica situation, Josh says that he and Charlie have Andre’s back ---- except he phrases it, ‘we got yo back, playa! Bros before hoes!’. Charlie suggests planting cocaine in Angelica’s desk. Not helpful. Meanwhile, the kids prove to be terrible at singing. Eldest child Zoey asks Rainbow to let Ruby sing, as she’s got the best voice. “Oh, no thank you baby, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of your mom’s strange new traditions with my old beautiful voice,” Ruby replies, really getting into the passive-aggression. While Rainbow starts getting frustrated, Andre finally goes to talk to Angelica, who’s quite aware of his desire to be Santa but is determined to keep the mantle, saying that she’d been to one to hook the firm up with their adopted family program and will be absolutely delighted to step out of the shadows this year and greet children with a hearty ‘ho ho ho’. Although the boss protests on the way that he’d promised Angelica and won’t change his mind, Andre drags him to Angelica’s office to hear the weird intonation of her ‘ho ho ho’. “You’re out,” Mr. Stevens decrees immediately, “‘Dre, you’re the new santa.” Andre’s gleeful.

[Josh keeps on being unconsciously sort-of-racist. Charlie joins him with the cocaine comment, presumably because Angelica is Mexican. Very few characters are not being racist in this episode.]

That night in the bedroom, Rainbow asks how Andre had gotten the job. He says he’d done what he had to do to save the day, and save the kids from having an incompetent Santa, then asks Rainbow why she smells like turkey. Rainbow admits to an unfortunate brining accident where both she and the turkey had ended up on the floor. Dinner could be going better. Andre’s surprised that Rainbow’s making Christmas Eve dinner at all ---- Ruby always does it. Not this year, Rainbow says. This year it’s her time to shine.

She even figures out a way for the kids to shine at the party. Autotune! Their performance of dancing while singing a heavily autotuned electric version of the song is a hit, and, afterward, Rainbow and Ruby proudly hug and congratulate them. “Now can we go have grandma’s food?” Diane asks hopefully. No, Rainbow says, everything’s cooked and they’re having her dinner. Jack starts to cry, and is comforted by middle child Junior, who embraces him and sadly murmurs, ‘pull it together buddy, Christmas isn’t about getting everything we want . . . or anything we want. It’s about mom’. The kids file off after a tearful Jack. Left with Ruby, Rainbow despairs that she’s ruined their Christmas. Ruby points out that dinner’s not for another three hours. Maybe it’s not too late for grandma to cook up a Christmas Eve miracle. Rainbow offers to help, but Ruby quickly refuses. Rainbow, Ruby says, would just slow her down.

It’s time for Andre’s entrance. All the kids are super excited, and the excitement only grows when Andre announces present time. They’re less happy when presents don’t appear. Andre’s confused ---- until Angelica comes over and snidely informs him that she must’ve forgotten to tell him that Santa’s in charge of the toy drive. Andre’s dismayed, and only grows more so when Mr. Stevens asks him if he’d ‘ruined Christmas’. “Yes sir, he has,” Angelica replies, then says a terse ‘ho ho ho, you could’ve just told me’ to Andre and walks away. When Mr. Stevens takes the mic and apologizes to the kids, saying there’ll be no toys that night, one boy complains, “No toys? This never happened with white Santa!”

[While I can’t see a child actually saying this, ouch.]

As the party winds down, Andre contemplates his situation. Not only has he become the first black Santa, he’s become the worst black Santa, or, for that matter, the worst Santa of any colour. Then a lightbulb goes off. He goes over to the unhappy kids and tells them that he needs their help, he was so excited about being Santa that he’d forgotten what Santa was really about. It’s not about what he looks like in the suit and beard, it’s about children and bringing them joy and hope. “And presents!” Jack interjects. “And presents! Damn, what is wrong with me?” Andre says, and asks the kids to get up, it’s time to go. ‘In the end,’ Andre narrates, ‘it wasn’t about black Santa versus Mexican Santa, it was about stepping up and just being Santa’.

Rainbow gets home early to ask if she can help out and finds Ruby . . . relaxing with a magazine? Even more strangely, there are noises coming from the kitchen. Rainbow goes to investigate, despite Ruby’s attempts to bar her, and finds a small Mexican woman and two young men busily setting out boxes of food. The woman smilingly tells Ruby that there will be no rush charge, seeing as Ruby’s her most loyal customer. “Most loyal customer?” Rainbow repeats in disbelief. Yep. According to the woman, Ruby’s been ordering her Christmas dinners for ten years now. After she and her assistants leave, Rainbow points out that Ruby’s a great cook. Why would she have a Mexican caterer make her dinner? Ruby confesses that Christmas is too much work and pressure. “Who else would I trust with my authentic down-home holiday feast?” she goes on, “Mexicans are dependable, affordable, and the backbone of the American workforce!” As Rainbow appears about to say something, Ruby hurriedly tells her to stop being racist and to go put on her cooking clothes. It’s time to dirty up the kitchen.

[It’s odd that Ruby would still be negatively racist against Mexicans if she works with this kind and accommodating woman every year for Christmas. Here she switches to being more positively racist . . . but it’s still pretty racist.]

In a montage, the women have fun messing up the kitchen together while Andre and the kids happily buy entire shelves of toys and deliver them one by one to the families of the children who’d been at the party before coming home to an exhausted-looking and floury Ruby and Rainbow. Walking into the dining room, the kids expect to be disappointed, but are joyously surprised. “It’s a miracle! Jesus turned the turkey to ham!” Diane exclaims, ecstatic. “You’d better share the glory, lady, or I will burn down your house of lies . . . or should I say casa of lies?” Rainbow threatens, when Ruby claims the lion’s share of the credit, and Ruby quickly tells the family that she hadn’t done it all herself ---- Rainbow had washed the lettuce. It’s progress. The family digs into their dinner, everybody more or less united.

In an ending scene, in the living room, the kids and Ruby jam out on autotune while Andre and Rainbow watch from the couch. At first Rainbow’s offended that Ruby’s using her idea, but eventually gets into it and laughs.

While the major plot of this episode (having a black Santa) is quite commendable and not racist, Black Santa/White Christmas includes a lot of other racist attitudes. Ruby keeps on being racist in general, this time primarily against Chinese and Mexican people. Andre joins her on the Mexican front and includes some of his usual homophobia. Josh is still obliviously racist when talking with/about black people. Charlie’s a bit racist against Mexicans with his plant-cocaine-on-the-Mexican-woman plan. Black-Ish has had racism against Mexicans as a plot point before, that time with Rainbow, and this episode unfortunately carries on that trend. Will episode eleven tone down the stereotyping? Check back next week to see what happens on Black-Ish.

Law of Attraction

Obey the "Law of Attraction" in season one episode 11 of Black-ish.

"Law of Attraction" begins with the whole family watching eldest daughter Zoey perform as Juliet. As the star-crossed lover saga unfolds on stage, dad Andre muses on the law of attraction and why people fall for what they fall for, often picking people who are so completely wrong for them. Although some people (such as he and his own wife, Rainbow) are lucky and find a way to keep their fire alive for decades, others burn so bright that they explode. Case in point: Andre’s divorced parents, Ruby and Earl (or ‘Pops’). When they loved each other, their love was intense . . . but, when they hated each other, that hatred was equally strong. They’d made Andre’s childhood miserable, and now he does everything he can to keep them from crossing paths.

[It’s never mentioned exactly when Ruby and Pops divorced, just that they did. It would be interesting to know what martial state they were in during Andre’s childhood.]

Unfortunately for Andre’s separation tactics, Pops shows up at the play and is reluctantly forced to sit next to Ruby. There’s a bad moon risin’. He then shoots her a glare and pointedly moves down another seat, and the night doesn’t improve from there. They bicker during the rest of the play, and continue arguing over the following dinner. Post-dinner, Rainbow’s waiting to get the family car from the valet when a man rudely shoulders in front of her. Andre tries to get involved, but ends up giving in when the line-cutter proves belligerent. This is not a problem for Pops. He’s only too happy to step up, and, when the fellow calls him an old man, tells him that the thing about old men is that they’ve got nothing to lose. What’s the line-cutter willing to lose? Not much, apparently, as he quickly backs off.

Rainbow’s free to get their car, and Ruby, meanwhile, seems quite moved by her ex-hubby’s dominant display. Their bickering turns to flirting, and she ends up hopping in Pops’ car for the ride back. Andre’s less than pleased, and, heading home with Rainbow, tells her that he can’t believe they’re doing this again. It brings him back to his childhood, where his parents were always separating and then getting back together, repeatedly getting young Andre’s hopes up and crushing them again. He doesn’t want his own kids around that dynamic.

Plus, Andre says, it’s silly that Ruby had only become interested in Pops after he’d gone all caveman on the line-cutter. “Totally,” Rainbow replies unconvincingly, when Andre declares that the whole tough-guy routine is stupid. Andre wasn’t stupid at all, she continues. Andre agrees that he absolutely was not ---- also, he thinks, that guy was kind of tall. Really big. Probably an ex-NFL player. He asks Rainbow what position she thinks he would’ve played. “I dunno, what position do regular-sized guys play?” she replies, arms crossed. Ouch. Andre’s picking up a vibe that maybe his wife’s a touch disappointed with her man, and, honestly, he’s not that proud either. Alone upstairs, and then later while Rainbow’s sleeping, he acts out what he should’ve done in that situation. Naturally, all scenarios end with his flawless victory.

[While race doesn’t appear to enter into this storyline at all, it’s worth noting that the line-cutter was also black, as is every other antagonist in this particular episode. It seems like the writers took particular care to avoid any racial conflict in Law of Attraction, instead focussing viewers solely on the more gender-based plot.]

The next morning, middle child Junior excitedly asks Zoey if she’d gotten the email. It’s the best news ever: due to a series of unfortunate happenings, the play has run out of Romeos and the part will now go to the under-under-under-study . . . Junior. Zoey’s horrified. She reminds him that she, his sister, is Juliet. He doesn’t think it’s an issue. After all, he says, it’s not like they’re actually kissing. “But I might actually kill myself,” Zoey retorts, standing by her ‘it’s disgusting’ first assessment. She gets even more yucked out later, when Junior rehearses his Romeo lines about kissing and asks her to touch his palms like in the scene. She emphatically refuses. He ropes in younger sister Diane, then continues, “ . . . let lips do what hands do; They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair . . .” ---- which is as far as he gets before Diane says, “Seriously? This feels right to you?” and leaves. Romeo’s looking more like no-meo.

Downstairs, Andre tells Rainbow to look, it’s bad ---- Pops and Ruby are being suspiciously sweet over breakfast. Rainbow thinks they they’re probably just being polite, and it means nothing. Well, she thinks that for a second, until the usually-Rainbow-adverse Ruby glances over and sunnily compliments her hair. Rainbow gives her a surprised thank you, then murmurs ‘oh yeah, he’s tappin’ that ass’. Suspicions unhappily confirmed, Andre pours out his parental troubles to his coworkers. Any advice? Yes, but not about his parents. Instead, they all advise him to get a divorce after the line-cutter situation. (His boss even suggests that Andre, post-divorce, should visit Thailand, as it’s got no rules and was ‘made for these times’). When Andre tries to say that it was no big deal, one lady says no, women like their men strong and are drawn to ‘that male essence’. She believes that he’s turned Rainbow off, and everyone else agrees.

[Well, Andre’s boss definitely has some problematic ideas regarding Thailand, although they seem more thoughtless than racist. The general discussion and consensus regarding the valet incident, however, is pretty seriously behind the times. Coworkers, it’s 2015. Wake up and smell the lack of gender-based stereotyping.]

Andre himself thinks that his coworkers are wrong, and he and Rainbow are fine. Their life is just like how it’s always been. This opinion is revised when he arrives home to find Rainbow putting up a wall-mounted flat screen TV. When Andre tells her that he was going to do it, Rainbow says that she knows . . . she’d just wanted to enjoy it before the two-year warranty was up. Eeek. Finishing, she refuses a kiss, citing sweatiness, and heads off. Andre takes stock of the situation and decides that the law of attraction is not going his way, Rainbow is seriously not feeling him right now.

The parental situation isn’t going so hot either. Andre’s in the kitchen chopping vegetables that evening when Pops and Ruby come back all lovey-dovey, and Ruby tells him that his father had taken her out on a picnic and sunset cruise. The force of the honeymoon phase is strong. It’s even strong enough for Ruby, outside, to compliment Rainbow’s grilling ---- although she also says that grilling is really her man’s job and she hadn’t seen Rainbow doing it before the valet incident. Is everything all right with them?

Yes, Rainbow says, it was no big deal and she doesn’t need Andre fighting for her. Ruby tells her that she does, it’s primal caveman stuff, and, when Rainbow says that she and Andre are more evolved than that, asks her to remember why she’d fallen for him in the first place. Cut to a flashback of two guys fighting over condiment bottles at a fast food joint. When young Rainbow’s books are threatened by wayward mustard, young Andre jumps up from his table and shoves between the two, separating them before asking if Rainbow’s all right and introducing himself. Back in the current time, Rainbow recalls that he’d made the guys apologize and goes on about how amazing it was before abruptly realizing what she’s doing and bursting out, “Oh my God, I’m a cavewoman!”

[Hm. This storyline would be fine if it was represented as a Rainbow-and-Andre thing versus an all-women-and-men-everywhere thing, but as is it’s definitely stereotyping ---- and it’s quite heavy handed about it, what with its idea that a woman doing any sort of carpentry-type exercise or grilling means that she’s unhappy with her relationship. In this writer’s circle of friends, that would more often be called ‘Saturday’.]

Next day, Andre’s becoming increasingly concerned that the little kids, Diane and her twin Jack, are getting too attached to the idea of Ruby and Pops together. They’re happily talking about their grandparents getting married again when Andre steps in. In their absence, he asks Pops what’s going on with this mess between him and Ruby. Pops denies that it’s a mess and then tells Andre to worry more about his own business: his wife is grilling steaks and hanging flat screens. He’s in trouble, and Pops advises him to turn it around by reminding Rainbow of why she was attracted to him in the first place. Pops tells him to be that guy. Or don’t, because, unlike Andre, Rainbow had hung the TV at the exact right height for proper viewing. Pops approves.

[While many of this episode’s attitudes towards gender seem stuck in the ‘50s, it’s a nice touch that all the ‘manly’ tasks Rainbow does are represented as being done well. So is Andre’s vegetable chopping.]

In the quest to recapture his manliness, Andre decides to take Rainbow to a snack shack in a rougher neighbourhood. He’s hoping to be able to defend her honour, but encounters only the friendly and the helpful. Darn. Frustrated, he dashes down a nearby dark alley in an attempt to find some lady-impressing trouble ---- then comes back at a run. Screaming for Rainbow to flee, he barrels up and trips and falls in front of her, curling into a fetal position as the dog that had been chasing enthusiastically behind starts licking him. Andre’s terrified of dogs. The little girl whose dog it is soon runs up, apologizes, and recaptures it, but by that point a humiliated and whimpering Andre is almost hoping for the dog to finish him off.

At home, Andre’s upset, and Rainbow tells him that he needs to stop. “Me?” Andre retorts, “You’re the one who can barely look at me since the valet thing!” She says that she knows, and she’s not proud of her reaction, but there’s a primal part of her that had really wanted him to take the line-cutter out. Andre confesses that it’s killing him that he didn’t ---- before they were married he’d have been the first guy to jump into a fight, but now he’s got too much to lose. Still, he promises Rainbow that, if any true threat ever came to her and the kids, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to protect them. Aw. Rainbow assures him that she knows that, and she wouldn’t want him to go back to being the person who would fight two guys over mustard. They kiss.

[I really like the rational communication here, and the underlying love and trust on both sides. Black-Ish has some awkward Andre/Rainbow conversations, but they’re usually very good and this one is no exception. Well done, writers.]

The next evening, Andre and Rainbow are filled in on the twins’ day out with their grandparents. Both kids say that, although they’ve made up now, Ruby and Pops had gotten into a huge screaming fight in public. Yikes. When the twins leave, Andre tells Ruby and Pops that they’re doing it again, dragging everybody else into their messes, and it has to end. Pops steps forward, threatening, and tells Andre to watch his tone, he’s still his father, but Andre replies that he’s the twins’ father and he doesn’t want them going through what he went through. When Pops says to let him tell Andre something, Andre cuts him off to say no, let Andre tell him something: end it now, or leave his damn house. Bravo, Andre. Rainbow looks on with a faint smile, and Pops glances between them before leaving, saying he needs to get something out of his car. Incredulous that he’d let Andre push him around, Ruby yells at Pops and then stalks off in the opposite direction. Love is dead.

Left alone, Rainbow tells Andre that he was incredible, standing up to his dad like that and looking out for the kids. Sensing good times ahead, Andre says that he had in fact been meaning to talk to Pops about some other things, too, and goes down the list while Rainbow happily swoons. Finally the two of them dash up to bed hand in hand, laughing, as Andre thinks that the law of attraction works in mysterious ways. He doesn’t need to be the caveman he was twenty years ago ---- he’s a cave dad now.

In the theatre again, Junior performs Romeo’s death while Ruby and Pops bicker. It’s music to Andre’s ears. The love affair is over (for now), and the twins seem unaffected. Just then, Rainbow rushes in from work and sits down, asking Zoey who her understudy is. “Wait for it,” Zoey replies. Onstage, Junior jumps up from being dead Romeo and turns to reveal his other side to the audience. It’s Juliet. He acts out her death scene to thunderous applause from the audience . . . except Andre, who crosses his arms and looks sullen. Pops isn’t pleased either, but he does clap. Diane interrupts Jack’s enthusiastic cheering to say, “Seriously? This feels right to you?”, but only gets him to stop a second before he goes right back to it.

Law of Attraction, I believe, is the first Black-Ish episode to be totally free of racial stereotyping, and it definitely proves its ability to stand alone without relying on race as a plot point. However, this episode does replace racial stereotyping with gender stereotyping. It emphasizes its belief that women should be more submissive and stick to housework and cooking while men should be dominant and do things like wall-mounting flat screen TVs and grilling, and that’s a problematic belief to hold in 2015. Plus Andre and Pops (and even Diane) seem quite upset by Junior’s playing the part of Juliet in addition to Romeo, yet I doubt any of them would care if Zoey were to do the same. Black-Ish has been sexist previously, but this is the farthest they’ve run with it so far. Will things improve in episode twelve? Check back next week to see what happens on Black-Ish!

Martin Luther sKiing Day

Celebrate "Martin Luther sKiing Day" in season one episode 12 of Black-ish.

‘Martin Luther sKiing Day’ starts off with dad Andre, who’s a great admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, to celebrate MLK Day, the Johnson family goes skiing for a weekend, and Andre’s excited for this year’s trip. The rest of the family? Not so much, although middle child Junior is looking forward to having his (white) friend Zach teach him how to snowboard. Zach thanks Andre for inviting him along. His family, he says, usually teaches literacy at the local prison for MLK Day. This prompts Jack, one of the young Johnson twins, to ask why their family doesn’t do anything like that. Andre tells him that it’s because they’re black all year long and white people have to do extra credit on MLK Day (‘Solid comeback,’ wife Rainbow says dryly), plus, he goes on, their ski trip is about breaking down the colour barrier on the slopes. Smooth.

[Zach’s family’s yearly MLK Day prison visit could be seen as a touch racist, but Andre doesn’t seem bothered by it, and his excuse to Jack is pretty amusing.]

Zach, who seems pretty into the holiday, starts to offer up an interesting MLK Day fact ---- which Andre quickly finishes, then calls Zach a rookie. The Johnson kids can do that kind of thing in their sleep. When prompted, eldest child Zoey is happy to show off her MLK knowledge . . . but Junior doesn’t exactly prove himself to be a master of the subject. In fact, he doesn’t know much about either the march on Washington or King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, saying that he always kind of zones out when told about other peoples’ dreams. Hm. Andre’s disconcerted, and is further annoyed when Zach tries to correct one of Andre’s own MLK Day facts. He commands Zach to hand over his can of grape soda and go home, and, later, mulls over his Junior disappointment with Rainbow. He despairs that they’ve raised a bad black person through being bad black parents, and decides that it’s time for a weekend-long refresher course on all things King. Rainbow’s hopeful that this indicates a lack of skiing, but no such luck.

[The Zach + grape soda inclusion seems like a nod to the pilot, where Andre was greatly irritated when Zach tried to search their fridge for grape soda. (‘Black people like grape soda’ is a well-known stereotype, and total myth). Andre also seems fixated on Junior, whose lack of historical knowledge is pretty impressive ---- but I don’t believe he ever addresses that fact that Zach seems to know more than even he does. Kid’s got some impressive historical savvy.]

At work, the boss tells Andre and fellow black employee Charlie to take MLK Day off, as he understands it’s a holiday for them. Andre corrects that it is in fact a national holiday, not just a black holiday like Obama’s inauguration or OJ’s getting off. Andre also wonders if this means that, one day a year, it’s white party at work, and imagines a vision of all the office white guys dressed super-preppily while playing croquet and sipping champagne. The vision vanishes when his boss suggests that he and Charlie can work MLK Day if they want to. Offended, Andre leaves with Charlie in tow. He begins to regret this decision a few minutes later, when Charlie inquires about Andre’s weekend plans and then mournfully goes on about how totally alone he’ll be that weekend and how he’s never seen snow before. Andre’s forced to issue a pity invite.

[Andre’s staunch defence of OJ Simpson was also mentioned in the pilot, and it continues to be problematic. After all, while not found guilty, Simpson is widely considered to have murdered his wife and even wrote a ‘fictional’ book about how he had ‘done’ the crime in question. I’m not sure why writers chose to have Andre repeatedly point to him as somebody the entire black community should stand behind.]

The family’s packing the car to leave when Andre arrives, brandishing a 14-hour uncut version of Eyes on the Prize. He’s determined to make the drive educational. The rest of the family is less than enthused. When Charlie shows up, Zach compliments his sports car and Junior asks if they can ride with Charlie ---- which Rainbow’s against, until Zoey surreptitiously points out that, if Junior rides with Charlie, they can probably get Andre to go as well and thus have a lecture-free commute. Rainbow’s in, and so’s Andre, who declares that, by the time they arrive home, Junior’ll be so educated that he’ll be a bona fide Black Panther. This cues Zach to point out that Dr. King actually had problems with the Black Panthers. “Do you know who the Black Panthers had a problem with?” Andre retorts. Yikes.

On the way there, Junior gets pretty tired of the quizzing. They’re on vacation! Plus, he says, all this stuff happened ‘forever’ ago. Andre’s shocked that Junior considers this simply trivia and realizes that he actually has no real understanding of prejudice. He’s in the middle of trying to explain that prejudice isn’t just historical, it’s alive and well, when sirens are heard and they’re pulled over by police. This causes Charlie, always rather a twitchy guy, to immediately begin freaking the heck out, and Andre to begin anticipating an educational display of police prejudice for Junior. (Junior points out that they haven’t done anything, and Andre tells him exactly, they’ve just been pulled over for DWB or ‘driving while black’, and asks Zack to take his phone and record the whole thing). Filming’s in progress when the officer arrives . . . and irritates Andre by being quite friendly, even through Andre’s openly contemptuous and Charlie’s clearly panicking. Turns out he’d pulled them over for expired tags, but ends up letting them off with a warning because it’s a holiday weekend.

[Charlie is so shaky and Andre so aggressive here that it’s actually a touch unbelievable that the officer would simply let them go like this, regardless of race. We’ll suspend our disbelief.]

Greatly disappointed by the in-person lack of racial prejudice to open Junior’s eyes to, Andre phones up Rainbow (whose car is forced to break off from an enthusiastic rendition of All About That Bass). Rainbow asks how it’s going, and Andre gripes that it’s terrible, they’d gotten pulled over by a friendly cop and Junior still thinks that the world’s a safe place. From the back seat, Junior tells Andre to face it, the world’s different from when he was growing up: there are no midday dance shows on, nobody irons their jeans, and some cops are okay. Rainbow’s alarmed to hear that Andre’s not just teaching Junior about intolerance, he’s actually seeking it out, and Andre retorts that he’s doing it because he actually cares about Junior. Rainbow calls him a lunatic and hangs up. Definite trouble in marriage paradise.

Still on a quest to find some prejudice and teach Junior a life lesson, Andre’s pleased to encounter a backwoods convenience store fortuitously named ‘Whitey’s’. Surely there will be intolerance here. Well, not so much. The shop guy cheerfully greets them instead of giving them a suspicious once-over, and then reads a magazine instead of monitoring their every move ---- even when Andre makes noises in an attempt to draw his watchful gaze. Nothing doing. Finally Andre decides to ‘take it up a notch’ and starts scooping candy from a barrel into his pockets, saying that he’s trying to make it look like he’s stealing when Junior asks. Junior informs him that he actually is stealing, but Andre tells him to shut up, he doesn’t know what’s going on. Finally, Andre succeeds in drawing the man’s attention, but this causes him only to sunnily tell Andre to take as much free candy as he wants. It’s all left over from Halloween. Sure enough, upon closer inspection, the barrel has a big ‘FREE CANDY’ sign on the front. Foiled again.

At that point, something does occur to make the easygoing shop guy straighten up and say, “Hey! What the hell are you doing?!”, and that thing is Charlie, who’s found a nachos machine and is eating liquid cheese directly from the communal ladle. Ewww. As grossed out as I’m sure readers are right now, the shop guy says that he’s going to have to ask them all to leave, and Andre gleefully leaps on this piece of potential racism. What, he asks, makes the man think they’re a group? The shop guy points out that they’d all gotten out of the same car and walked in together, and Andre upholds this to Junior as a prime example of the fact that he’d obviously been watching them the whole time. This, Andre mourns, is the world in which they live. “An awesome world where Whitey gives us free candy?” Junior replies, before sighing and leaving. Andre, disgruntled, follows after grabbing an armful of sweets.

[While Andre’s usually represented as being quite open and forceful on the matters of race and racism, this episode is definitely pushing that to new heights. Poor Junior.]

Having settled in to wait for Andre at the resort, Rainbow tells the kids that the ride up was fun, but they’ll have to get back on track and dedicate themselves to skiing the next morning. Well, she does until Zoey reads out a brochure for the resort’s luxurious in-room spa service. Even the young twins Diane and Jack are thrilled at the prospect of a spa day, and Rainbow decides to book it. “You guys,” she says, happily, “is there actually a chance that we might relax and have fun on this vacation?” Cue the arrival of Andre, who announces, “I tried to show Junior some racism today, but it was thwarted by the cops and Whitey!” “Nope, no chance,” Rainbow sighs, then walks over to Andre and gently tells him that she agrees that it’s really important for Junior to understand that racism still exists in the world . . . but they might not run into it this weekend.

“So I resigned myself to a fun weekend without incident,” Andre narrates gloomily, but then is made angry all over again when an older white couple gets the last set of adjoining rooms before he and Rainbow. Certain that this is his golden Junior-educating opportunity, Andre rants that it’s no coincidence that the only black family there (with this statement being somewhat diminished by a happy black family choosing that moment to wander by) is being denied fair treatment, and declares that he won’t leave until he gets adjoining rooms. When the woman at the desk apologizes and says that there’s nothing they can do, Andre proclaims that there’s something he can do and stages a loud sit-in on a luggage trolley. The kids are mortified. So’s Rainbow, who tries to remove him but fails after he goes limp in protest. Eventually, with the full support of the rest of the family, he’s wheeled away by a guard.

[This is the last section of Andre’s search for racism, and I found it interesting that he never did encounter any. While it is of course much diminished, racism does still exist, and the things that Andre’s looking out for, hawk-like, do happen upon occasion. I don’t believe that this episode contains any racism at all.]

Twelve minutes later, parked at a desk, Andre decides to write his own Letter from Birmingham Jail on the subject of freedom and adjoining rooms. He’s just beginning when Rainbow comes in and informs him that, not only is he free to go, but they’ve been upgraded to a suite. Sit-in success! After declaring himself a hero, Andre admits that he knows he’s been acting a little crazy, but he’s worried about Junior. He thinks that they’ve sheltered him too much and he’s worried about what Junior’ll do if something real happens. Rainbow sympathizes ---- she’s worried about that too ---- but tells Andre that he’s ruining their vacation. After all, Martin Luther King Day is supposed to be a celebration of how far they’ve come.

The next morning, Charlie joins an excited-to-start-skiing Andre outside and asks where everyone else is. Junior’s getting his snowboard with Zach, Andre says, and he figures that everyone else is out the slopes already ---- knowing them, they couldn’t wait to get out there. (Cut to Rainbow, Zoey, Diane, and Jack enjoying their in-room massages and spa treatments). When Junior and Zack finally turn up, Andre tells Junior that he wants to apologize for being an idiot last night. They’re on vacation, so he won’t force his agenda on him anymore. Junior replies that he’ll believe it when he sees it, but cool. The rift is healed, and it’s time to hit the mountain.

First, mind you, they’ve got to get on the bus, and Junior and Zach are disconcerted to be told that, not only are they not allowed to use the outer racks for their snowboards, but they’ll have to sit in the back of the bus. Ouch. Junior thinks they’re being treated like second class citizens, and Zach supplies that they kind of are ---- in the nice resorts it’s a skier’s world. When the driver tries to enforce the rule even though the bus isn’t full, Junior channels his inner MLK and gives a rousing and passionate speech on skier/snowboarder equality. When he finishes, everybody claps (especially Andre), and the driver doesn’t move Junior when he sits next to his dad.

[It’s a very cute moment, but Junior seems to have gone from ‘I don’t really know that speech’ to actively quoting MLK in a remarkably short time.]

Andre expresses pride. Junior replies that it just didn’t feel right not to say something, and he knows that Andre thinks he’s had it so easy that he doesn’t see what’s up, but he does. “I’m a black kid in a world where bad things happen to us, they can happen to anyone,” Junior explains, and when Andre tells him that’s why he worries, goes on, “and I worry about you, too, but you’ve got to believe that you’ve taught me enough to be careful . . . but also brave.” “You’re right,” Andre admits, slinging an arm around his son’s shoulders. Until, that is, Junior continues, “It’s really the same choice Frodo faced at the black gates of Mordor.” Andre quickly removes his arm. “All right, back of the bus, nerd. I cannot have a moment with you,” Andre gripes, as Junior heads to the back.

“So we ended up having a good time after all,” Andre narrates. “A little bit of learning, and a lot of relaxing. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you spend Dr. King’s weekend, just as long as you remember how he helped us all make it to the mountaintop.” We end with a shot of Charlie happily making a snow angel. “This is exactly what I imagined heaven to be like,” he tells Andre, as Andre, grumpily making another snow angel beside him, grumbles, “This is my hell.”

Despite Andre’s quest for racism being a central theme of Martin Luther sKiing Day, there is no anti-black racism in the episode (the only racial stereotyping included is that of the preppily-styled, croquet-playing, champagne-sipping stereotyping of the white people at Andre’s workplace, as imagined by Andre in his vision). In fact, despite Andre’s attempts to goad people into a racially-based reaction, they all remain decently unruffled. The police officer lets them off with a warning, the shop-keeper is friendly and only ejects them when Charlie starts licking the communal ladle, and the resort clerk apologizes sincerely and upgrades them to a suite. It’s interesting that the writers chose to include no actual racism, although it is mentioned in Junior and Andre’s touching conversation near the end. That was sweet, and it’s nice to see them both have a more serious moment. Will this continue in episode thirteen? Check back next week to see what happens on Black-Ish!

Big Night, Big Fight

One "Big Night, Big Fight" in season one episode 13 of Black-ish.

‘Big Night, Big Fight’ kicks off with dad Andre, musing that some of history’s most brutal wars were set off simply by the wrong move at the wrong time in a high-tension situation. Another high-tension situation? Valentine’s Day, a supposedly romantic occasion that, somehow, he and wife Rainbow always manage to spoil. This V-Day, mind you, Andre’s leaving nothing to chance. He’s got a dozen roses, a nice gift, and he’s planned a sweet night out. Everything’s going smoothly . . . until he asks Rainbow, who’s wearing a utilitarian and plainly-styled romper, if he should wait in the car while she changes. Big mistake. Rainbow’s offended by the suggestion, and remains steamed on the drive to the restaurant. After a sincere apology by Andre, Rainbow agrees to a do-over, but follows that with a snide remark about their dinner destination. It’s the exact same place they’ve gone every year for fifteen years, and she’s tired of it. Andre tries to bluff that he’s in fact picked a different place this year, but is betrayed by his GPS. He sticks with the bluff anyway.

Back at home with the kids, young Diane is smug to have doubled her Valentine’s Day haul from the previous year (bringing her up to a whole two cards), and is dumbfounded when her twin Jack produces a backpack stuffed with them. Not only had he gotten cards from the class, he’d also gotten them from his teachers and their families. Everyone loves him. When Diane demands to know how a ‘boob’ like Jack managed to get more Valentines than her, middle child Junior points out that he might’ve accomplished that by not calling people ‘boobs’. After all, she can be pretty mean. “Mean? It’s called being honest, long-head,” Diane retorts. Hm. Eldest sibling Zoey asks if Diane’s ever heard about catching more flies with honey. Diane counters that it would just result in ruined honey. The message is not getting through. Zoey leaves, as Junior becomes increasingly concerned about the shape of his head.

[It’s interesting here to see Diane finally getting some consequences for being kind of a jerk, despite how amusing her usual entertainingly snarky persona is. While her ‘young and cut ‘em dead sarcastic’ character is relatively common in the world of sitcoms, I believe this is the first time I’ve seen one of these characters be called out on their more hurtful qualities.]

Andre manages to bribe his way into a table at a new (and fancy) restaurant, but they don’t get the best seats and Rainbow ends up shoulder-to-shoulder with another woman, Stacy ---- although luckily they get along well. This is not so lucky for Andre, who’d prefer his wife more focussed on him. However, when she does focus back on Andre, it’s to watch him hem and haw over the menu as the waiter stands patiently by. Andre keeps on asking questions about the food and generally wishy-washy-ing up the place until Rainbow finally tells the waiter to return later. He tries to, just in time for Andre to discover the seafood section and call him back to explain what ‘skate’ is. Rainbow sighs and facepalms. The night isn’t going well.

Meanwhile, the kids all have a sit-down and Zoey tells Diane that, as their Valentine’s gift to her, they’ll be teaching her how to give a compliment. First try: Jack. Unfortunately, Diane merely stares at him before declaring, “I’m sorry, there’s just too much baggage between us.” “She’s not wrong,” Jack replies. Okay. Next up is Junior, but that just turns into Diane and Zoey critiquing his head shape. Not ideal. Finally, Zoey tells Diane that there’s something to make fun of about everybody (except her, naturally), and the secret to pretending to be a nice person is to stop talking before the hurtful part of what you’re thinking comes out. “Hey, that’s pretty smart . . . especially from you,” Diane says, before pausing and finishing, “okay, I see what I did there.”

Back to the restaurant, where, after much delay and consideration, Andre is induced to order. Rainbow promptly tries to order the short rib, which is what she’d wanted from the start, but is told that they’d just sold the last plate. Ouch. She blames Andre for her loss, telling him that he always ruins things, and this degenerates into an argument over other moments Andre’s ruined. He denies the first few, but is blindsided when Rainbow hauls out the big guns: the time he’d been grossed out and flustered during the birth of their first child, to such an extent that even the hospital staff had been amazed by his behaviour. Andre, deeply hurt that she’d bring that up over simply missing out on a plate of short rib, retreats to the bathroom to compose himself.

[I like how the writers had this slowly kindle into a genuine fire of anger. I can definitely see this sort of thing happening with a real couple, as a multitude of annoyances finally pile up.]

Once there, he finds himself no longer alone ---- there’s a small group of fellow men retreating from angry significant others, and they’re all presided over by a wise old bathroom attendant who’s seen the same thing happen every year. Andre’s reassured that it’s not just him. “No sir, it’s not just you. And it’s not just Valentine’s. Birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve . . . the bigger the night, the bigger the fight,” the attendant explains. As the men share their respective tales and Andre wonders why these occasions always turn sour, Rainbow gripes to Stacy and her fiancé. Stacy suggests that she rise above, apologize and save the night, but Rainbow’s not feelin’ it and instead turns to sharing the misery of married life and telling Stacy all about the fights that she and her soon-to-be husband will be sure to have. Yikes.

While things remain stormy on the parental front, the kids gather for Diane to practice saying just the first half of her thought. They’re all braced for criticism, but she ends up being perfectly nice and delivering a personalized compliment to each sibling. After she’s done, Zoey asks if she’s sure that she doesn’t want to say anything else. “Don’t poke the bear!” Junior whispers. Diane says no, she’s done. She goes on to say that she’d written down the rest. Junior makes the mistake of peeking at her notes, then quickly drops them and murmurs ‘I should not have read this’ before drawing Jack closer as if to shield him from the contents. Jack’s not impressed.

[We never do find out what Diane wrote, but apparently it was something pretty strong. Poor Junior. He always gets the short end of the stick in this show.]

After Andre describes his night to the bathroom group, the attendant tells him that he can still triumph. All he’d done was make a foolish inquiry about her romper, but Rainbow had come back so hard that she’d lost the moral high ground. Andre’s next move is to really amp up his hurt and work her guilt, not easing up until he hears the words ‘I’m sorry’. At the moment, the attendant says, no other bathroom-man will be having sex that night ---- but, if Andre plays it right, he can have special sex. Andre’s hopeful. The guys perform a ‘special sex!’ pump-up chant. Finally, Andre, sad face equipped, makes his way back to the table.

He’s determined to relish the moment, and is startled when Rainbow apologizes the moment he sits down. The influence of Stacy has prevailed. As the other guys look over encouragingly, Andre thinks that he should accept her apology, be a hero, and get special sex . . . or he could take it to the next level and be a legend. Deciding on the latter, Andre replies that, since she’s apologizing for this, he gathers that she can scrounge up some more apologies. “And what else, exactly, would I apologize for?” Rainbow asks. Uh-oh. For starters, Andre continues, she can apologize for intentionally breaking his Shaquille O'Neal mug. Rainbow starts off calmly, but, after Andre pushes the issue, finally snaps and is angered once again. “Idiot!” the watching bathroom attendant mutters, and the other guys shake their heads in censure.

[Andre, what are you doing? It seems like he’d know his wife enough to not pull something like this, but he was anticipating a challenge. Still, demanding further apologies seems like an obviously terrible road to go down.]

Back with Diane and co., the kids order pizza and Diane is supposed to answer the door and compliment the delivery person. However, the person in question turns out to be an odd-looking guy with bad posture and minor facial sores. Hm. Her siblings think that this might be the test that breaks her, but Diane eventually manages, “You were very punctual, and you have the correct number of limbs for a human.” The delivery guy is confused, but appreciative, and hands her the pizza. Although everybody congratulates Diane after he leaves, she says that it wasn’t the real her and she now feels all dirty. She determines to go shower.

At the restaurant, Andre’s thinking that, just like America and Russia, every couple has their own set of nukes pointed at each other. Oddly, this helps to keep the peace, as both fear the inevitable mutually assured destruction. They know that it would be insane to launch. And . . . cue the launch, as Rainbow admits that she’d broken Andre’s mug on purpose. He fires back that he’d washed his tires with her beloved Billy Ocean t-shirt that she’d gotten from her ex, then insists that it had been Gene Hackman at the roller rink. “You think everyone is Gene Hackman!” Rainbow shouts back. The battle is officially on. In climax, Rainbow confesses that she’d never actually read Andre’s hip-hop Goodfellas screenplay. “You said you loved Hoodfellas!” Andre says, shocked. “I lied!” Rainbow informs him.

Returning home, they prepare for a long cold war. Well, that is, until they hear the kids fighting. “Like all warring superpowers,” Andre narrates, “nothing brings you back to the UN like small annoying countries acting like complete jackholes.” Both parents enter the kitchen at the same time and demand to know what’s going on. Turns out Zoey and Junior are upset because Jack’s been licking all the leftover pizza. Jack defends himself, saying that he’d only done it because they’d eaten the rest without him. Andre has no patience for this, and his telling them to pipe down is only interrupted by Rainbow, who wants to know what they’ve done to Diane. She’s wrapped in a blanket and mindlessly complimenting stuffed animals, and, despite Zoey’s protests that they’d just taught her to be nice, both parents point out that she’s broken and insist that she be fixed. The kids reluctantly take off, Diane in tow.

Once alone with Andre, Rainbow grouses that Valentine’s day sucks, she’s tired and wants to go to bed but is just too mad. Andre replies that he won’t be able to sleep either, what with her angry tossing and turning. The worst part of it all, Rainbow admits, is that she was actually going to change. She hadn’t even wanted to wear the romper until he’d said something. Andre returns that he doesn’t even know why he had, the romper gives her an amazing and sexy bubble butt. She thanks him, then asks why they always keep going when they have so many chances to stop. Andre agrees that they should’ve done everything differently.

[I enjoy the touch that Rainbow hadn’t actually intended to wear the romper until Andre’s dismissal of it. Sure, it’s a bit petty, but it also seems like something that might not only happen in real life but also result in the kind of seething and silent resentment shown here.]

Then again, Andre says, it had been kind of nice to go a couple of rounds and get things off their chests. Rainbow can’t argue. She feels that, if they hold stuff in for too long, eventually it’ll blow up at the wrong time ---- before a vision of herself smothering Andre with a pillow after he tells her that he’d seen Gene Hackman at the restaurant. It could go the other way, too, Andre points out, with a vision of himself leaping out the window after Rainbow asks if he’d seen her Billy Ocean t-shirt. Rainbow wonders if they’re a bad couple for going at each other like that and Andre says that they should face it, they’re both strong-ass cups of tea who do not like to back down . . . which is why the good people at Hallmark invented V-Day. It’s their fight night. Rainbow agrees that it really is, then adds that it’s also when they do their best making up. Aw.

They kiss and head off upstairs, with Andre insisting that Rainbow actually read ‘Hoodfellas’. She ends up reading it aloud while they cuddle, and, when she finishes, Andre asks her what she thinks. Rainbow has a vision of standing, saying a quick ‘goodbye’, and then flinging herself out the window, but in real life assures Andre that she’d loved it. “Really?” Andre replies. “Wanna read Hood Will Hunting?” Rainbow says no, she wants to digest Hoodfellas first. Andre nods understandingly.

This episode had no stereotyping in it at all, just the sometimes-convoluted tangles of romance and the kids’ entertaining quest to make Diane ‘nice’. Andre and Rainbow’s adventures in marriage are well done (although occasionally a touch over the top), and the group of forlorn bathroom-campers is an amusing detail. All in all, it’s a very cute Valentine’s Day episode. Will the cuteness keep on in episode fourteen? Check back soon to see what happens next on Black-Ish!

Andre From Marseille

Who is "Andre From Marseille" in season one episode 14 of Black-ish.

‘Andre From Marseille’ begins with dad Andre. He loves all his children, but he and eldest child Zoey are particularly close ---- after all, she’s beautiful, popular, and stylish, just like her dad. He looks forward to driving her to school, calling it their special time, but ends up mostly talking at her while she ignores him, takes selfies, and texts. Still, when he finally does get her to talk, Zoey spills about a boy named Andre who she’s kinda-sorta dating. Andre likes him based on his name alone and is further pleased to hear that he’s a point guard on the basketball team, although he’s thrown a minute when Zoey says he’s from Marseille. Andre asks if that’s near Compton, but is accepting when Zoey tells him it’s in France. All in all, he’s excited to meet the boy ---- until he actually sees him, smiling and waving at an equally happy Zoey, and realizes that he’s white.

“For her first boyfriend, she's feeling some three-point-shooting, pick-setting point guard ---- who hustles!” Andre rants at home to his wife, Rainbow. “Why can’t you just say he’s white?” she replies. “I just did!” Andre retorts. Rainbow’s unimpressed. Andre’s co-workers, when he mentions it to them, don’t see the issue either. Andre says that he doesn’t have a problem with white people, (heck, some of his best friends are white), it’s just that, for Zoey’s first boyfriend, he was hoping she’d find somebody more like him. “‘Dre, it’s 2015,” co-worker and fellow black guy Charlie says, “your kids are gonna date who they’re gonna date, race don’t matter. ‘Cause,” he adds, “in ten years we’re all gonna look Puerto Rican.” Andre thinks Charlie’s got a point, plus he doesn’t even know why he’s so upset ---- after all, Andre (who will be henceforth referred to as French Andre) isn’t even a real white boy, he’s from France. Everybody is promptly horrified and tells Andre that he needs to worry about that, the French are ‘renowned erotic pioneers’ and have intensely compelling powers of sexuality.

[‘Some of my best friends are white’ has to be something of an iconic line for Black-Ish. Andre has never, throughout the series, been exactly thrilled when a white person becomes close to one of his kids, but this is his strongest reaction yet. And yet, although he’s definitely being pretty racist, it does feel the slightest bit understandable. Black women have been fetishized historically (and still are, in some circles), and I can see a parent in his position being a touch concerned ---- although that concern should manifest in getting to know the boyfriend to make sure everything’s okay, not racist rants.]

Andre relays this info to Rainbow, who thinks that both the white and French things are stupid reasons to freak out. Not stupid, Andre tells her, rational. After all, the entire French culture revolves around sex. He shows her a picture of a man wearing Speedo-esque European swimwear as evidence, and says that he doesn’t want to take any chances. Rainbow gently tells him that Zoey’s a really smart girl and she’s going to date, so they’re going to have to trust her at some point or she’s never going to trust herself. This might work, except that Andre admits that he doesn’t want her to trust herself, he wants her to stay in her room forever. Not what you’d call a workable solution. Rainbow suggests that they just invite the kid over and meet him, and Andre says fine, but he’s for sure not going to like him. “Good, you’re keeping an open mind,” Rainbow replies, with much sarcasm.

On the day of The Meeting, Andre paces nervously by the door, jumping and gasping ‘the sex is here!’ when French Andre knocks. (Breathe, Andre!) He finally opens the door, only to shake French Andre’s hand too long while squashing it. French Andre, a cheerful young man with a heavy accent, is more confused than intimidated, and carries on being confused when Andre asks him ‘what’s crackin’?’. He’s not sure what that means. “It means ‘what’s up’, who doesn’t know that?” middle child Junior puts in, going on the anti–French-Andre offensive. “Yeah, who doesn’t know that?” young Jack repeats, backing Junior up. Zoey quickly tows French Andre off to go meet Rainbow, saying that she’s normal, and the three Johnson guys stare after and discuss their mutual French Andre dislike.

[Making fun of accents? Definitely not cool. Points off for the Johnson boys on this one.]

Later, sitting on the couch with Zoey, Rainbow, and Jack’s twin sister Diane, French Andre compliments Rainbow’s beauty and accomplishments as a doctor (she’s thrilled) and tells her that his father’s also a doctor. He works with Doctors Without Borders. Zoey adds that, while French Andre’s father was in Guatemala fixing cleft palates, French Andre had gone along to dig wells. He explains that they were trying to find clean water for the orphans, but his accent makes it sound like ‘zorphans’, and Junior’s only too happy to jump in mockingly and ask where ‘zorphans’ is located. Jack and Andre laugh too . . . until French Andre clarifies that he was talking about children whose parents had died from AIDS.

[Again, the accent thing. Andre’s in on this one, and it’s additionally unfunny when you realize that an adult man is literally laughing at and mocking a young teen over his accent. If it was over something else involuntary, such as his skin colour, I can’t imagine that it would be treated so lightly.]

All laughter abruptly cuts out. French Andre apologizes for darkening the mood and says that perhaps he can lighten it with candy, followed by his performing a magic trick where he pulls candies from behind Diane and Rainbow’s ears. They’re delighted. Andre, not so much. “With that,” he narrates, “the Frenchman launched an all-out charm offensive.” Andre has a vision set to R. Kelly’s Bump N’ Grind of French Andre clad in a tux, producing candy and laughing as the ladies gaze at him adoringly. “He had all the Johnson women eating out of his hand,” Andre continues, “and I was terrified.”

This, Andre thinks, is a strong move, and he needs some more intel to have any chance of countering. First stop: French Andre’s Facebook, as located by Junior. There are pictures of him and Zoey together, holding hands, and even kissing. “Wow, he really is French,” Junior marvels, staring. Andre declares that this ends now and heads off to confront Zoey. The confronting starts smoothly, with Andre locating Zoey in her room and beginning by telling her that French Andre’s not good enough for her ---- but he’s forced to knock it off when Zoey turns around and sadly informs him that she and French Andre are over. Andre pretends to be dismayed, then sits and tells her that he knows it’s hard right now, but breaking up with him was the right thing to do. Sympathy turns to outrage when he hears that Zoey had in fact been the dump-ee.

He’s griping about it later that night to Rainbow when Diane appears, saying they’ve got a Zoey problem: she’d eaten all the ice cream, including Diane’s favourite. After sending her off to bed, Andre goes on to say that now both their daughters are upset because of ‘this monster’. Rainbow points out that maybe Zoey just wasn’t right for him. “You mean not white, for him,” Andre counters. Incredulous, Rainbow says that there’s zero evidence that race had anything to do with it. Andre, however, remains determined, announcing that their daughter is perfect, so there can be no other reason. French Andre is a bigot, ‘a filthy French cheese-munching bigot!’. Yikes. Rainbow tries to calm him down ---- after all, his desired outcome, the breakup, has been achieved ---- but it doesn’t work.

[Seriously, Andre, stop it with the anti-French sentiment. His deciding that French Andre must be a bigot, however, actually doesn’t strike me as racist. He’s a dad, sure that his daughter is flawless and trying to think of some out-of-her-hands way that she could possibly ever be rejected. I think that a great many parents can relate to that anger and confusion.]

Wanting to prove that the only reason Andre from Marseille had broken up with Zoey is because she’s black, Andre sends in Junior and Jack to scope out the situation. Junior fills a book with notes, and is praised for his intel-gathering skill. Time for the briefing. As they watch French Andre walk over to a group of blonde girls, Junior tells Andre that he’s got a new girlfriend named Becky. Sure that French Andre’s quick jump to a white girl has outed him as a bigot, Andre goes to get out of the car and confront him . . . until they see the blondes move away to reveal a black girl, who holds French Andre’s hand and kisses him. Oops. Startled, Andre demands to know how Junior hadn’t known that she was black. How could he know, Junior says, what kind of black girl is named Becky? “One whose real name is Beckeisha,” Jack puts in from the back seat. Becky’s a high school girl, and they all love to give him hugs. “Don’t underestimate cute,” he tells Junior, smugly.

At home, Rainbow tries to comfort Zoey. It doesn’t work. After Zoey leaves in a huff, Andre sadly tells Rainbow that it’s not their fault, ‘the French boy broke our daughter’. Rainbow sighs and says that she’s fine, it’s all a part of adolescence. Andre’s not so accepting. If French Andre’s so into black girls, he asks, why isn’t their black girl good enough for him? Rainbow’s not sure, but Junior, appearing in the doorway and seeking a chance at intel-gathering redemption, is. He’s found out from French Andre himself why he’d broken up with Zoey. The reason? He thinks she’s shallow. Junior is duly praised for this information, and in his absence, Andre and Rainbow agree that Zoey is definitely not shallow. French Andre is a jerk. “A French jerk,” Andre adds.

[Andre’s asking why their black girl isn’t good enough is definitely one of the more emotional moments in the series so far, and it’s neat to see a TV dad getting more worked up than a mom over the dating lives of his kids. The fact that both Andre and Rainbow won’t even consider the fact that Zoey could be shallow is a nice touch ---- after all, ‘shallow’ is one of her foremost character qualities and has been for the entire series, but her loving parents remain totally oblivious.]

The nest day, Charlie stops into Andre’s office after a still-depressed Zoey ends her video call with Andre and asks what’s wrong. Eventually, Andre tells him everything, including French Andre’s description of Zoey as ‘shallow’. “Well she is, she’s your daughter,” Charlie replies, matter-of-factly. “Wait,” Andre says, slowly, “are you calling me shallow?” Yes, but not in a bad way, Charlie explains. They’re ad men, they’re supposed to be shallow. “Oh my God, you’re right,” Andre admits, then confesses that Zoey doesn’t know about the whole shallow thing when Charlie asks how she’d taken it. Charlie tells him that that’s why Zoey’s so sad, and Andre needs to tell her. Andre’s not sure how he could. Charlie insists that he needs to find a way.

Out of ideas to cheer Zoey up, Andre takes her shopping. Even that doesn’t help. Zoey’s listless and wondering about the breakup, and isn’t comforted when Andre tries to tell her that dumb (and French!) people just do dumb things. When Zoey specifically states that she feels like, if she knew why, she could actually get past it, Andre breaks and admits that he knows. French Andre thinks she’s shallow. “Shallow?” Zoey repeats. Andre jumps into damage-control mode, trying to assure her that the boy’s completely wrong. Damage control, however, isn’t needed ---- Zoey perks up immediately and says that it’s such a relief, she’d thought it was something serious, like she was ugly. She’s once again happy and ready to do some serious shopping, and she and Andre quickly get to trying on sunglasses and taking pictures of themselves. It’s selfie time.

[Twins in shallowness! Andre’s very vain, and it’s fun to see the show acknowledge that and match it up with Zoey’s self-absorption. Like father, like daughter.]

Two days later, Andre muses that the last couple of days with Zoey had been golden . . . not unlike the grilled cheese sandwich he’s just made for her. Zoey’s busy taking pictures of it when a knock sounds at the door and she runs off to answer, saying that it must be Derrick. Yes, a new boyfriend has arrived. As she studies in the kitchen with the (black) boy in question, Andre, sitting in the living room with Rainbow, critiques everything from Derrick’s name to his clothes. “He’s dressed exactly like you,” Rainbow notes. No, Andre says, Derrick’s shoes are blue. Who does that? He does, Rainbow points out, every Thursday, which he has officially dubbed ‘blue shoe Thursdays’. She asks Andre if he sees what’s going on, Derrick basically is Andre and Andre still doesn’t like him. In his eyes, there will never be any boy good enough for Zoey. Andre thinks that she’s right, he just has to own up to the fact that his little girl is growing up, she’s going to date, and he’s going to hate all of them . . . although he really can’t hate Derrick’s awesome orange and blue shoes.

The family again convenes, now with Derrick on the ladies’ couch, and Andre sternly asks why he should let Derrick date his daughter. Derrick replies that he’s a gentleman and volunteers at a youth centre, and Zoey puts in that he’s also an amazing artist. “Oh, so you’re practising to be homeless?” Andre asks, much to Rainbow’s chagrin. Actually, Derrick says, he’d like to work in advertising, referring to it as the last great American art form. Andre’s quickly converted. Once again to Bump N’ Grind, Andre has a vision of himself and Derrick, in tuxes, having a few beers, then laughing and dancing. In real life, they simultaneously prop their feet up on the table, then compliment each others’ shoe game before Andre asks the watching family if they’d like to go play laser tag. Zoey declares herself to be out and leaves, calling back, “Way to make it weird, dad!”

This episode has, well, a lot of hate for the French. Luckily French Andre is almost a paragon of everything good and nice in order to balance that hate out, but they still could’ve toned it down. Mocking a kid’s accent (or anybody’s, really) is just not good form. Andre’s also pretty anti-white-boy, which is again problematic. Sure, I can see a parent in his position having concerns, but racist rants are never a good outlet. I’m still waiting for the episode where Andre actually finds himself liking a white person, because I believe that the closest we’ve come to that has been the inclusion in early episodes of his white assistant at work (who Andre had, rather offensively, called ‘an honorary brother’ in the pilot). That guy hasn’t appeared in any recent episodes. Back to the main storyline, it was nice to see Andre disliking Derrick, at least initially, almost as much as French Andre ---- that really helped to clarify that it wasn’t so much race that he was objecting to as the presence of a boyfriend in general ---- and I enjoyed Zoey’s ‘I’m outta here’ ending when Andre and Derrick unexpectedly become bros. I don’t expect that the French hate will stick around for episode fifteen, but will Andre’s anti-white views? Check back next week to see what happens in episode fifteen of Black-Ish!

The Dozens

Dating "The Dozens" in season one episode 15 of Black-ish.

"The Dozens" kicks off with dad, Andre, driving the kids to school, musing that he’d heard it only takes 72 hours for people on reality shows to forget cameras are there — and he’s learned that it only takes 72 seconds for kids to forget that a human with ears is driving carpool. He listens to them cheerfully chat about their various nefarious doings without a word, and most stuff he lets go, but every now and then he hears a piece of information he has to get in on. Case in point: middle child Junior telling his friend Zach that he doesn’t want to go to school since a guy named Cody’s going to "beat the brakes off" him. Zach agrees, the dude is scary. After asking about the situation, Andre’s startled to discover that Cody’s a white guy. Zach puts in that he’s from Boston. Oh, Andre says, Boston; the original home of the scary white guy.

At work, Andre spills to his boss and coworkers about his white bully problem, and everyone’s immediately understanding when Andre says that the kid’s from Boston. This cues white employee Josh and the boss, also a white dude, to talk cheerfully about their experiences with bullies in school, and how they’d given their bullies swirlies and wedgies and laughed at them. Andre points out that it actually sounds like they were the bullies. No, the boss says perplexed, they bullied them by being different. “Yeah! Like how the Native Americans bullied my ancestors!” Josh adds. Ah, Josh.

There are, fellow black employee Charlie says, two ways to handle a bully. One is a beat down, which isn't an option given the Boston thing. Two? Talking about him until he cries. Andre agrees. He’s going to teach Junior how to play the dozens. When the boss asks what that is, Andre explains that they come from a long proud African tradition of talking trash. Opposing African tribes trash talked each other, and when they were shipped to America, the less desirable slaves were sold by the dozen — but they found a way to turn their pain into something positive by making fun of each other. That’s what they call "playing the dozens" and the trash talking tradition continued right up until the present. Josh isn’t convinced. Come on, he says, you can’t use words on a bully. “Shall we?” Andre asks, “As the Lord intended,” Charlie replies, and they team up to trash talk Josh, focusing on his super-whiteness and ending with Andre hissing "I see pale people." They laugh and high-five when Josh conducts an emotional retreat to his office.

At home, the young twins Jack and Diane want to be put to bed by mom, Rainbow, but she’s on call and has to rush off. Can she at least read them a story? Jack asks. Rainbow has a go at a fast story by reading them some junk mail, but the first thing she reads ends up being a missing child flyer. Oops. Although she stops immediately and tucks the mail into her purse, early reader Diane has already seen part of the rest of it. Non-early-reader Jack declares that he’s good at things too: he doesn’t need a night-light anymore, so Rainbow can take it out of their room. Diane’s clearly less pleased about this idea, but doesn't argue.

Upstairs, Andre gives Junior the whole history of bagging, roasting, and the dozens, and promises that it’ll work. Junior asks what’ll happen if Cody just gets madder and comes after him. Not a problem, Andre thinks, everybody knows the rules and Cody will be revealed as a sucker if he lets words get to him. As a former fat kid who never got in another fight after breaking out his word-fu, Andre feels he’s an authority on this. Junior counters that he doesn't know how to be funny. Being different, Andre assures him, is the fuel for being funny — and looking at Junior, he’s got a full tank. Ouch. Junior says that he guesses the lesson’s started, then goes on that it’s like Obi-Wan teaching Luke Skywalker. “Son, do you like being bullied?” Andre asks. Time for the actual lesson. Andre’s favorite way to take down a bully is by stating the obvious. To demonstrate, he points out Junior’s striped shirt in a mocking way, then, when Junior asks what’s wrong with it, says that nothing is — but his tone convinces him that everything is. Another trick is the false compliment, followed by a backhanded verbal smackdown, and the third is starting things off with "you big . . ." and going on from there into a series of on-topic insults. It’s Junior’s turn. Junior tries, but completely fails to be any kind of mocking. He’s doomed.

Rainbow arrives home at 3:00 a.m. only to find Diane downstairs vacuuming. Something’s obviously up, so when Diane reacts to the light being switched off, Rainbow asks if it’s got anything to do with the now absent night-light. Diane denies it. If Jack doesn't need one, she insists, she doesn't either. Rainbow gently tells her that they both need to be up in a couple of hours, so she’ll just turn on the night-light and Diane won’t need to be scared of the dark. This only causes Diane to again deny any fears. After all, she asks, why would she be scared of the dark? It’s just the number one cause of murders, but Rainbow should go ahead and turn the lights out, she’s the parent. Hm. Rainbow tries to bring science into it, explaining that the dark is simply the absence of photons. Diane begins to freak out about photons. Finally, Rainbow asks if she’d like to sleep in her parents’ bed that night. The answer is yes, and it’s an offer that Rainbow quickly comes to regret when, just after she gets to sleep, Diane wakes her up again to talk.

When Junior arrives at school the next day, he learns he’s gotten a reprieve-- Zach greets him with the happy news that Cody’s been suspended. The reprieve doesn’t last long. Soon another big kid, Tyler, comes over gloatingly telling Junior that since Cody couldn't make it, he’ll be kicking Junior’s ass for him. As Tyler starts threatening him, Junior has a vision of an Obi-Wan-like Andre in a robe. "Study the bully. State the obvious," Obi-Wandre advises. With Obi-Wandre as guide, Junior gathers himself and proceeds to school Tyler, breaking him down through a series of devastating insults as other kids gather around. “It might’ve taken Junior three years and four doctors to learn how to talk,” Andre narrates, “but it only took him two days to learn how to talk smack to bullies.” To the delight of the rest of the school, Junior systematically crushes the bully population, verbally decimating them to much cheering and acclaim.

It’s not all gravy though. At work, Andre gets a call and says that he’s got to go, Junior’s been sent to the principal’s office. He pauses a moment before leaving to tell Josh that he and Charlie were just messing around with the pale jokes. No worries, Josh assures him, "didn't even clock it, bro" — despite the fact that he’s now tanned entirely orange. Somebody’s a touch sensitive. Andre hurries off to the school, where he’s joined by an exhausted Rainbow and told that Junior will be getting detention. Rainbow takes a break from nodding off to be concerned, but Andre doesn't care. “I’ve finally got a son!” he cries, delighted by the principal’s descriptions of Junior’s brilliantly crafted insults. When the principal tries to explain that it’s a serious matter and Junior’s bullying other kids, Andre takes a break from dancing to retort that bagging isn't bullying . . . and anyway, where was he when Junior was getting bullied? He, Andre says, taught Junior a creative and non-violent way to defend himself. Ecstatic over Junior’s roasting abilities, Andre dances off into the hall, and Rainbow’s left to tell the principal good call on the detention, she’s sure it was well deserved, but she also really wants to make sure that he understands that black people don’t just randomly start dancing. This is a very big moment for Andre.

That evening, Rainbow tells Diane that she’d fallen asleep at work while trying to put someone to sleep, and that she really needs to rest. To that end, she gives Diane her old teddy bear and blanket and asks if they make her feel safe. “No one’s safe, night is coming,” Diane replies ominously, channeling her inner Game of Thrones character. Frustrated, Rainbow says that she doesn't need to feel afraid in her own house — it’s not like their house is the hotel from The Shining. This, naturally, prompts Diane to ask what The Shining is. “Nothing, mommy’s tired, forget I mentioned it,” Rainbow covers, just as Jack turns up. He’s gleeful to have finally score a "first" over Diane, who was the first twin to do pretty much everything, and crows his superiority until Rainbow tells him it’s not appropriate.

"I’ll say,” Junior puts in, entering with Andre. He critiques Jack’s "weaksauce" insults, then declares, “Jack, we’re Johnson men. We have a duty to be good at roasting.” “What?” Rainbow asks, mystified. With Jack and Andre egging him on, Junior insults Diane and Rainbow until Rainbow, upset, finally asks why he’s doing it. “‘Boo, this is the dozens!” Andre protests, “We come from a long proud African tradition of . . ."

"Men who don’t sleep with their wives?” Rainbow finishes. At that, Andre gets Junior to cool it and later, after Rainbow demands that he "fix" Junior, heads over to his son’s room to make sure he knows how to talk trash responsibly. He’s greeted by an excited Junior, who’s delighted to have, after much research, found Cody’s mom on Tinder. Cody comes back the next day, and he intends to use the Mom Bomb to crush him. Andre advises him to slow down, that’s some deeply personal stuff. He’d taught Junior the dozens to defend himself, not go on the attack, and he should only use it on people who can handle it — otherwise Junior becomes the bully. Junior thinks that Cody can definitely handle it. “Fine,” Andre says, “just remember you have a choice, you can use your gift wisely, or you can be like Darth Vader and go to the dark side.” Junior tries to correct Andre’s Star Wars knowledge. Andre quickly absents himself from the conversation.

The next day, it’s Cody time. Junior gleefully pulls out his ‘your mom’ trump card, showing Cody his phone and announcing, “Guess who I found on Tinder?” Cody quietly asks him to please not do it, but Junior happily threatens him further . . . until he again sees Obi-Wandre, slowly shaking his head. Resisting the dark side, Junior turns the roast around on himself, going on that he’d found a bunch of girls whom, rightfully, weren't interested in him on Tinder. Obi-Wandre nods approvingly. The watching kids leave, disappointed. “Dude, that was pretty classy,” Zach says afterward, offering a fistbump. Junior’s reply of, "felt good to do the right . . ." is sharply cut off when Cody punches him, sending him flying. Ouch. Junior forsakes his scruples and shrieks after Cody that it was his mom on Tinder as he leaves, but nobody seems to care.

Rainbow tucks the twins in that evening and is telling Diane that if she loves her, she’ll go to sleep without the night-light — when Jack says that it’s okay if they use the night-light. “Wait, really?” Rainbow asks.

“Yeah, can we also leave the lamp on and the door open?” Jack continues nervously. Rainbow wants to know what’s happening. Is God listening to her? Not so much . . . Diane confesses that she may have tricked Jack into watching The Shining. Now Jack’s scared too. Rainbow whispers a thank you to the ceiling, then alternates between chastising and praising Diane. “You’re grounded tomorrow . . . and I’m going to get you a pony,” Rainbow says before wishing them a good night. It’s definitely the episode of mixed messages.

Downstairs, Junior’s holding a carton of ice cream to his head when Andre appears and grabs it to make himself a bowl. He, he says, is sorry that Junior had gotten hit, but is proud of him for showing restraint. Junior points out that Andre had said that he wouldn't get hit. "Hey man, Boston don’t play," Andre replies, but thinks that it’s very cool how Junior had turned the roast on himself. Junior says he’s thought about what Andre had said about only roasting people who can handle it, and he knew he could from all the years of Andre dumping on him. He’s got thick skin, Andre says cheerfully, just like his dad. The thickness of Andre’s own skin is quickly tested when Junior says a passive-aggressive thank you, then starts a stream of thorough insulting until Andre finally and emotionally says "you got a real mean streak" and walks out. Junior happily poaches his abandoned bowl of ice cream.

Rainbow wakes the next day to her phone. Still on the phone, she sleepily heads out of the bedroom, only to see a vision of Jack and Diane dressed in vintage clothes and holding hands like the twins in The Shining. “Come sleep with us, come sleep with us . . . forever,” they repeat in a steady monotone, and Rainbow stares in horror. When she blinks, they vanish. “I’m gonna need you to hang up and call 911 . . . for me,” Rainbow says slowly into the phone, staring down the hall.

This episode’s primary issue is that moment of outstanding sexism from Andre. While there is some race related stuff, none is particularly bad, other than Josh’s anti-Native line — although it’s possible that he’s joking. This is definitely the episode where bullies get their comeuppance. Junior takes down most of his bullies, Andre and Charlie get back at Josh a bit, and Junior finally records a victory against Andre. Despite this episode being primarily about insulting, it has a real ‘family’ vibe, and it’s nice to see everyone dealing with their various issues — even if some of them aren't dealt with perfectly. I think every tired parent can empathize with Rainbow’s exhaustion, and it was great to see the oft-bullied Junior realize that he’s got a bit of his own power. Will this vibe continue in episode sixteen?

Parental Guidance

Rainbow and Andre renew their wedding vows with "Parental Guidance" in season one, episode 16 of Black-ish.

‘Parental Guidance’ begins with dad Andre. This month is his fifteen year anniversary with wife Rainbow, and, despite her horrible snoring, he still thinks she’s an angel. Aw. Back in the day, they’d had a hasty wedding in the hospital chapel due to lack of funds and Rainbow’s hectic residency schedule, but now things are different and Andre’s determined to turn their rush wedding into the vow renewal of the century. Nothing can ruin it . . . except the 5:00am arrival of Rainbow’s New-Age-y parents (Alicia and Paul), who Andre heartily dislikes. He tries to avoid answering the door and tells Rainbow they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, but, once she hears their voices, she excitedly lets them in. Andre slumps dramatically in a corner, refusing sullenly when Alicia asks him to join them so she can warm his heart with the light from within. Andre’s not cool with being warmed.

He’s equally unimpressed when they talk about their recent ‘agritourism’ trip to Mexico, where they’d worked on a farm, built walls, and picked fruit. “Ah, sounds like slavery,” Andre snarks disapprovingly. It’s different, Alicia explains, because you pay. Andre retorts that only rich people would pay to sharecrop. She gently tells him that she understands his need to lash out because he grew up in an environment of fear, but he’s safe now. “You are loved,” she soothes, trying to hug him. Andre dodges. At this juncture, Paul takes the opportunity to ask Andre how his mom Ruby is doing, saying he’s always liked her ---- she’s so strong, with gorgeous skin and beautiful lips. “Down, Paul, you got your black wife,” Alicia says, smacking him.

Andre ends up pulling Rainbow aside to complain about her mom. She, Andre says, has never liked him or thought he was good enough for her daughter. Heck, she’d even tried to set Rainbow up with a hospital patient in the late stages of liver failure at their wedding. Rainbow protests that her mom’s a New Age healer and was just trying to save the guy. Mind you, she’s surprised that they’re there at all. Usually they never come to events. Andre adds that this trait has always been his favorite thing about them, (prompting an eye roll from his wife), then insists that he just wants their vow renewal to be perfect. Now that her parents are here, Rainbow replies, it’ll be more perfect. “You know, I’m actually happy that your dad is here. I love Paul. And you know how hard it is for me to say that about a white man,” Andre offers. Rainbow just wants him to be civil to her mother. “I will, I promise . . . I can’t, she’s the worst!” Andre bursts out. “Well, at least you tried your hardest!” Rainbow calls after him as he leaves.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual with Andre’s divorced parents Ruby and Pops. They’re fighting until Paul and Alicia show up, upon which they join forces in mutual disdain. The two sets of parents try acting fakely enthusiastic, but end up trying to subtly one-up each other. Paul asks if they’d seen Selma, talking about how wonderful it is, and Pops replies that he’d seen the original in 1965 ---- except his was called ‘Detroit’. Alicia puts in that Paul had actually walked across that bridge with the reverend doctor. “Oh, good for him . . . he was still a white man when he got to the other side of the bridge, though, yes?” Pops says. Ruby laughs, adding that he’d probably also eaten at a restaurant. “At the counter,” Paul clarifies. Awkward.

Alicia goes on to say that it’s exciting that Rainbow and their son (pretending to forget Andre’s name) are celebrating fifteen years of wedded bliss, and, from the table, eldest child Zoey corrects that it’s sixteen. She’s fifteen, so they’ve been married for sixteen years. Pops and Ruby assures her that it’s totally sixteen years, but Alicia tells them not to mediate Zoey’s experience and confirms that it’s indeed fifteen. Zoey’s aghast to learn that they’d had her before they were married, but her younger brother Junior isn’t. “You’re like the bastard Jon Snow!” he says, excited. Ah, Junior. Zoey leaves, upset, and Andre’s parents aren’t pleased. “If we’re not honest, we’re nothing,” Alicia professes, to which Ruby retorts that she doesn’t remember that in the Bible. The Bible, Alicia declares, is just one of many paths to the truth. She’s an Animist and believes that everything has a soul. Ruby holds up a glass and asks if she believes it has a soul, and, when Alicia nods, says a direct ‘f*** you’ before walking off. Ouch.

Zoey’s upstairs in her room when the rest of the kids look in on her. Junior asks how she’s doing. She says she’s fine, Andre and Rainbow have assured her that they love her and that having her wasn’t an accident, but Junior calls this ‘overcompensating’ and makes himself generally unpleasant before (backed up by the young twins, Diane and Jack) saying that he doesn’t think Andre’s her real dad. He’s done research on handsome guys in LA in 2000, and has determined that her real dad is ex-Laker Rick Fox. Zoey tells them all to get out. “Fine! All children conceived in a loving legal bond, come with me . . . that would be us,” Junior informs her.

Downstairs at the table, Ruby tells Rainbow that she’s wearing white to the vow renewal. “Over my dead body,” Rainbow replies. Ruby shoots back that she’s wearing red to that. Zing. At the other end, the guys are playing Scrabble. Pops puts down BLKWYF as his word, and, when Paul contests it, points out that it’s Paul’s license plate. Paul shuts up, just before they’re interrupted by Junior. He’d been trying to renew Alicia’s ministerial license online so she can officiate at the vow renewal, but had discovered that the church of Saturnology’s website has been seized by the FBI and there’s a notice up declaring all accreditation null and void. Oops. Andre and Rainbow are shocked to discover that it’s apparently a fake church and they’re not actually married. Zoey’s thrilled that now all the kids are bastards. “You know what church isn’t fake? Jesus!” Ruby interjects, thrilled to get a chance to rhapsodize on her favourite subject. Not helping, Ruby.

Andre and Rainbow retreat to their room, where Andre rants that Ruby was right about everything (although Rainbow points out that she’d originally wanted the blinged-out Bishop Don Juan to marry them) and he thinks Alicia’s done this on purpose. Eventually he calms down, and they decide to simply turn the vow renewal into a wedding. Harmony again reigns supreme. Out in the hall, mind you, there’s significantly less harmony. The twins and Junior are freaking out that they might all have different dads and be totally unrelated, and Zoey’s happily needling them. Andre and Rainbow manage to comfort them by promising that this news changes nothing, except that they now get to come to their parents’ wedding and have positions of importance in the wedding party. Everyone’s suddenly excited.

The parents, meanwhile, are still clashing. When they fight over the super-healthy dinner made by Paul and Alicia, Andre and Rainbow tell them to stop, they’re not going to settle anything that night and their families are different ---- but the point is that they are family. Pops counters that that’s not the point, the point is that Paul and Alicia look down on them. Andre agrees on the Alicia front, and thinks that her saying that not everything has to be fried is code for ‘stop being so black’. Rainbow thinks it’s code for ‘stop being so unhealthy’, and Alicia agrees, adding that they’re not obligated to get diabetes. Andre and his parents believe that this is judgmental and that she thinks she’s the good black and they’re the bad black. Rainbow protests that all her mom is saying is that there’s nothing wrong with having an expanded world view, and there’s a rich panoply of different ways to experience blackness. “None of which include the words ‘rich panoply’,” Andre objects, then accuses Rainbow of sounding like her mother. Rainbow asks what theat means, does he mean that she sounds intelligent, cultured, and educated? More like pretentious, Andre says. Ruby gleefully cheers on their budding fight.

Leaping on a potential chink in the martial armour, both moms try to get their respective kids to opt out of the marriage, and it’s hugely stressful to the soon to be happy couple. That night in bed, Andre talks about how much effort he’s put into planning an elaborate ceremony and how he’d just wanted it to be perfect, but their parents ruin everything.

Rainbow suggests that they simply go to the courthouse and avoid it all. “What? No! I planned some pretty badass things with orchids,” Andre replies, but is brought around when Rainbow explains that she knows . . . but, when it’s just them and the kids, it’s about them and not their parents. That’s what’s important.

The courthouse wedding doesn’t stay a secret for long. Pops catches the twins trying on their formal wear and asks them about it, and Jack blurts out that they’re ‘definitely not going to see mom and dad get married tomorrow without you because you guys ruin everything’. Very stealthy, Jack. Pops heads off to find Alicia and tells her everything. “We have screwed this thing up for them,” he says, seriously. “Well, you more than me,” she counters. When he makes the accusation that she’d married a white boy and wants her daughter to marry a white boy, she says that’s not true, she wanted a man who shared her interests, who had the courage to walk Mother Earth with her. “Oh negress, please!” Pops says, “you married yourself a white man, splashed on some pachouli, and reinvented yourself. You are from Memphis, D’Alica.” “Don’t be acting like there’s not a glass ceiling for women with apostrophes in their name,” Alicia tells him, “the life I built is better than the life I had.”

Okay, Pops admits, he doesn’t like it, but he can respect it. Alicia informs him that she doesn’t like that he walks around with $11,000 in his pocket. Pops says that he doesn’t trust banks, and she sarcastically tells him that he’s such a catch, causing Pops to reply that maybe he’s not . . . but Andre is, and he’d do pretty much anything for Rainbow. It would be a shame to see them get married in a courthouse because their parents don’t know how to act.

After that, surprisingly, the parents come to an understanding. The wedding’s back on, and everybody gets what they want: Alicia gets Tibetan throat singers, Ruby gets some Jesus in the form of Bishop Don Juan, Andre gets a minister ‘from this planet’, Pops gets a scotch fountain, Paul gets a front row seat to the scantily clad (and black) duo of Bishop Don Juan’s dancing double deacons, and Andre and Rainbow get their whole family together. They do have a moment of dismay when Alicia stands and says she’s got something to say at the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ portion of the ceremony, but are pleasantly surprised. They may never get along, she says, they may never be best friends, they may never get through one meal together without insulting one another (with all three sentiments heartily echoed by Ruby), but they’re family, and the reason they’re family is because they are united in their love for Andre and Rainbow. Aw. Next it’s time for the vows ---- which Andre and Rainbow have forgotten to write, what with the familial chaos. Their improvised vows are sweet and romantic, and, when the minister and Bishop Don Juan pronounce them husband and wife, they happily kiss while everybody claps. At the reception, the party spirit continues, and everybody has fun.

A day or so later, the family’s at home when Junior comes in with his laptop and declares that Andre and Rainbow are actually still married. The small print on the Saturnology website says that all marriages before 2002 are still valid, and he’s pleased to no longer be a bastard. “Dad is my dad,” he says, satisfied. “We really are twins!” Jack chirps happily, hugging Diane . . . who pushes him back and says they should see what the tests say first. When Junior tells Zoey sorry, they can’t all be legit, Zoey replies that at least her dad can hit a jumper, and Andre tells them to quit it with the Rick Fox talk. Rainbow’s never even met Rick Fox, right? Well, maybe. Rainbow gives Andre an awkward stare at the question and pretends not to understand what he’s asking before switching to weather-talk and fleeing the scene. Hm. Andre looks thoughtful.

This episode covers a lot of problematic and controversial subjects, in the Paul-and-Alicia-versus-Pops-and-Ruby conflict, but the show seems to handle them well and make sure we’re aware of all points of view. The last conversation between Pops and Alicia was, I thought, very well done, and really shed some light on some of the more unfortunate issues in our culture. On the offensive side of things, we have, firstly, Andre and his unexplained and frequently-mentioned dislike of white people, and, secondly, Paul, who seems far too into black women in general ---- but, on the other hand, appears passionate about racial equality. He’s definitely not altogether a bad guy, but could absolutely stand to tone down that creepy fetishizing. Altogether, Parental Guidance is one of Black-Ish’s more serious episodes, and covered some pretty weighty material.

30 Something

Andre gets hurt playing basketball, days before his 40th birthday with "30 Something" season one, episode 17 of Black-ish.

‘30 Something’ kicks off with dad Andre, thinking about how much cooler he is than the other sweater-vest-and-cell-phone-holster-wearing dads he sees. The difference between them and him, he thinks, is that he’s still got his swagger. Heck, he may be days away from turning 40, but age is nothing more than a state of mind, and he’s not getting older ---- he’s getting better. Andre’s secure in his ability to hang and play basketball with the young guys . . . until he rolls his ankle and is left prostrate in the middle of the court. When he gets home, his wife Rainbow and mom Ruby are startled to see his new leg brace, which Ruby promptly blames on Rainbow. She, Ruby thinks, has made Andre’s bones brittle by feeding him skim milk. Ruby heads off to get him a mug of half and half, while Rainbow helps her husband to the couch.

Once there, she tells him that, if he’s going to keep playing basketball, he needs to play a less intense game, ‘maybe with more Colins and Ethans and less Maliks and Jamals’. “Are you trying to tell me I belong in a white game?” Andre asks. “Oh I’m absolutely telling you that. White game, game of whites,” she advises before leaving, and Andre’s sarcastic in return. He’s less sarcastic when the kids turn up and talk sorrowfully about how incredibly old he is and how he probably won’t live much longer. Harsh. Luckily for Andre, he falls asleep in the middle of them telling him how his life is basically over.

Later, Rainbow meets up with the kids and tells them that Andre’s 40 is a big milestone, and they need to get him something special. Like what, young Diane asks. Middle child Junior seconds her. Rainbow says that they shouldn’t be asking her, he’s their father and they need to figure it out. Not helpful, Rainbow. She sends them off to go plan, and is shortly afterward ambushed by Ruby ---- who accuses her of not knowing what Andre wants either. Rainbow retorts that she knows what her man likes and she’s going to get him something great. Snidely, Ruby says that she hopes she can. Rainbow asks if that’s a challenge. Ruby says that she doesn’t think it’s a challenge. Rainbow says that she knows it’s not a challenge. The not-challenge is most definitely on.

Meanwhile, at work, the boss asks if Andre’s doing anything special for ‘the big 4-0'. Not really, Andre says, same as last year, turning 40's no big deal. This cues fellow (white) employee Josh to burst out that he can’t believe Andre’s about to turn 40, they thought he was way younger. “Is it more offensive that I assumed that you started having kids as a pre-teen, or that I can’t tell how old black people are?” the (equally white) boss asks. Yikes. Andre’s just saying that they’re both pretty offensive and asking if he has to pick just one when fellow black employee Charlie sits down. Josh promptly asks if he can tell how old Andre is. Charlie, unsettlingly, settles this by smelling Andre, wiping a finger on his head and tasting it, and then offering, ‘about a week shy of 40?’. Ah, Charlie. Andre’s startled, but the boss regards the matter as settled, and they move on to some new business. That new business is Red Bull, and Andre’s got some ideas, but the boss tells him he’s aged out of that demographic and hands the file to Josh. Ouch.

Andre’s incredulous and tells the table that advertising is about cool, and in cool, black 40 is the white 25 ---- plus, they all know he’s got the most swag at the firm. “Oh, not since Curtis got here,” Josh tells him. “My assistant?” Andre asks, confused. Just then Curtis, a young and hiply-dressed black guy, comes in, handing Andre a coffee and saying that he’d put butter in it instead of sugar and cream . . . it’s a little tip he’d picked up while doing EDM beats with a kid in Milan. When he leaves, the rest of the table collectively swoons over how cool he is, with the boss (when Andre disses Curtis’ cool factor) adding that what definitely is cool is that he, unlike ‘someone else’, doesn’t have to get colonoscopies on the company dime. “Although you probably should’ve gotten one already, ‘cause in health, black 40 is like the white 75,” Josh advises. Andre strongly denies this. He, he says, is the healthiest he’s ever been and they’re lucky he doesn’t have his basketball gear. If he did, he’d take them out on the court and school all of them. His bluff is called when the boss says he’s got some gym clothes that Andre can borrow.

To the court! Andre looks out at the other guys and their less-than-stellar moves, then grumbles to Charlie that he can’t believe they think he’s old. Charlie tells him to prove his point and then get out, this is his white guy group and Andre should go get his own . . . these white guys are his hook up to things that brothers can’t get, like nighttime dentists, hockey tickets, the cure for AIDS, and that black seat on the space ark when the world ends. Andre replies that he shouldn’t worry about it, Andre’s just there to show them that he hasn’t lost a step. This doesn’t go exactly according to plan. Before the game even starts, Andre’s pulled up by a leg cramp. He grabs a banana from his bag for the potassium, but, when he tries to eat it, there’s a crunch, and he’s startled to see one of his teeth left embedded in the remaining part of the banana. “I’m dying,” he wails to Charlie.

It’s a real crisis, Andre tells Rainbow at home, when she tries to be comforting. It’s not just about him getting old, it’s about him losing his swag. Rainbow’s faux-horrified. Andre tells her that she can joke about it because she doesn’t have or need any: she’s got her medical degree, round butt, and pretty face to fall back on. Andre just has his identity as a cool black dude, and, if he’s not ‘cool’, he’s just a black dude. She assures him that he’ll always be cool to her . . . but adds that he needs to get the tooth fixed before his birthday party, which is going to be awesome. The neighbors are going to come over with food, they’ll play celebrity, and ‘it’s gonna be a jammy-jam!’. Andre’s dismayed by the prospect of an ‘old guy party’ (and asks Rainbow never to say ‘jammy-jam’ again) and decides to throw his own cool and swag-tastic party. Meanwhile, upstairs, the kids brainstorm what to get their dad. Buying him something is ruled out, as there’s nothing they can get that he can’t get himself, and rehearsals for a talent show don’t go well. Zoey suggests that they go deeper. After all, Andre’s their dad and a sap. Time to tug on some heartstrings, and she’s got a great idea.

While the kids plot, what Andre calls ‘operation swag-back’ is in full swing. Charlie, enthusiastic party cheerleader, even calls Andre a ‘visionary’ when he reveals his plan to give each guest a thumb drive of the party’s 40 song playlist. Unfortunately for operation swag-back, when Charlie tells Curtis about the thumb drive idea, Curtis thinks it’s a joke. “That’s hilarious man, can you imagine somebody actually doing that?” he laughs, before realizing that they’re serious and hastily backpedaling. Andre insists that he’ll throw a fly party and says that Curtis has got to come . . . which Curtis isn’t entirely on board with.

He asks if it’s a mandatory work thing, then apologetically offers that it’s cool, he’s sure it’ll get done early enough for him to go do something fun afterward. Andre’s taken aback, more so when Charlie rolls his chair over by Curtis and asks his plan, saying that he’ll probably do a lap at Andre’s thing and then bounce. Betrayal! Andre asks Curtis if he really thinks the party’s going to be whack, and Curtis sits down and tells him that, to be honest with him, it sounds like a jammy-jam. Eager to avoid a jammy-jam at all costs, Andre’s asks Curtis what he’d do. Turns out Curtis has a tons of great ideas and Andre, wowed by his incredible party vision, decides to use him as the party planner

In the present department, Rainbow’s getting desperate and considering giving Andre a ferret (after all, his fave film growing up was The Beastmaster), when Ruby comes into the room and smugly tells Rainbow that her own Andre-gift had finally come: motorcycle lessons, something he’d been wanting since he was sixteen. That’ll be hard to top, and things aren’t going much better for the kids. In preparation for the surprise they ask Andre to help them get into the attic, but Andre, who’s in the middle of being ‘swaggified’ by Curtis, blows them off. According to Curtis, the swaggier version of Andre wears a lot of purple and a jauntily-positioned and partially vision-obscuring orange hat. Curtis also gives him a glowing mouthguard. Y’know, for clubbing. Andre’s delighted.

On the evening of the party, Andre wants to do a walkthrough of the Curtis-chosen venue. Off they go, as Curtis assures him that he’d been there just the other night and it was sick. Tonight? Not so much, as, when Andre and Curtis arrive, they find an empty lot of bulldozed dirt. Yes, it’s been torn down. Curtis is delighted with the additional coolness of the place, snapping a selfie and telling Andre that the venue’s now ‘so cool that it’s gone’ and is still perfectly usable, but Andre’s not into it. He’s especially not into it with the coming reality of 200 confirmed guests and, without the venue, no place to put them.

Meanwhile, the kids are talking fondly about how they just need one more piece from Andre and the present will be finished, and how putting so much thought into the gift is really making them love their dad even more, when Andre arrives . . . and totally blows them off again. They leave, disappointed, but Andre’s already busy ranting to Rainbow about Curtis. If you think about it, Rainbow replies, the whole party fiasco is someone else’s fault entirely: Andre’s. The Andre she fell in love with, Rainbow goes on, had so much swag that he would’ve trusted himself instead of turning his party over to some kid. “Huh,” Andre says, at length, “you’re right, it was Curtis’s fault.” Facepalm. Still, he jumps into action, determined to salvage the party. After phoning up his contacts, Andre’s able to get the largest room of the house cleared, a big sound system brought in, a selection of pricey drinks and food laid out, and even Jermaine Dupri to DJ. It’s on.

By the time the first guests arrive, Andre’s pulled it off. The party is most definitely cool, and, when Andre talks to him, Charlie confirms that he’s not going anywhere. Zoey soon comes over to try to talk to her dad ---- but, at the same time, Curtis appears. He’s raving about how great the party is, and Andre asks Zoey to give him a second. Curtis, it turns out, is thrilled by the novel idea of throwing a party at one’s own house. Andre’s a trailblazer. Zoey tries to get Andre’s attention again after that, but is cut off when Jermaine announces Andre’s birthday and everyone cheers and raises their glasses. He’d done it, Andre glories, basking in the attention, he’d gotten his swag back. On no notice, he’d thrown a killer party with the people he cares most about. There’s just one issue. “Wait, where are the people I care most about?” Andre thinks, glancing around.

Upstairs, he discovers them all camped out in the master bedroom. “We were all waiting up here to show you the present we got you,” Diane offers, when he asks what’s going on. Zoey tells him that it can wait until after the party, but Andre assures them that the party can wait, he wants to see his gift. All right. The kids get him to sit on the bed, then show him his present . . . a slideshow of pictures, showing Andre growing up and falling in love with Rainbow, along with shots of all the kids and plenty of sweet family photos. “I’d been so obsessed with getting my swag back,” Andre realizes, watching, “but then I realized the only people you really need to have swagger for are the people who don’t care if you have any at all.” By the time the script ‘Happy Birthday Dad’ appears at the end of the slideshow, Andre’s in tears. He hugs the kids and tells them how much he loves them, and they all happily hug him back.

In an ending scene, Ruby tells Rainbow that the kids did a nice job, but asks her what she’d ended up getting Andre. “Oh, nothing big, just those four children over there making him cry tears of joy,” she replies, then, when Ruby deems that a cop-out, adds “also, later tonight, I plan on doing things to your son that are gonna make it very hard for him to ride a motorcycle any time soon.” Dayum, Rainbow. Ruby quickly leaves, crying TMI, and Rainbow follows her, waving her hands and protesting that it had come out wrong.

This episode has a couple of problematic racist comments by Andre’s boss and Josh, but most of it is stereotype-free ---- and I think that a lot of people approaching 40 are equally interested in proving they’ve still got their swag. The rivalry between Ruby and Rainbow is amusing (as is Rainbow’s desperate last-minute and thankfully un-carried-out plan to get Andre a ferret), and the kids are adorable. It’s nice seeing them get a solid family moment after Andre’s viewing of the slideshow, and 30 Something is definitely an episode where almost everyone can find something to relate to.

Sex, Lies and Vasectomies

"Sex, Lies and Vasectomies" round out season one, episode 18 of Black-ish.

Sex, Lies and Vasectomies begins with dad Andre thinking about daily routines. It’s comforting to always know what’s going to happen next (although it’s also a little . . . routine), but, just when you start thinking you’re locked in, life surprises you. Andre hates surprises. He’s especially unsettled by the current surprise: his wife Rainbow, telling him that her period’s late. She knows of course that there’s no way she’s pregnant, but she still gets a little flutter of excitement, kind of like being at the top of a roller coaster. It’s fun-scary because she knows she’s safe, but she remembers back before Andre’s vasectomy when it used to be scary-scary. Andre grimaces ---- he’d never actually gone through with it ---- and he’s even more freaked out when Rainbow mentions that she’s off the pill. He’d thought she was taking it for cramps, but it turns out that she hasn’t been for quite a while. Rainbow happily praises Andre for getting snipped. Andre feels an oncoming sense of doom.

At work, Andre’s boss is startled to hear that Andre hadn’t really done it: he’d only gotten his because Andre had assured him it was easy. (In his case, not so much). Andre admits that it wasn’t his finest hour, at work or at home, where he’d pretended to be ‘recovering’ in order to have Rainbow pamper him. He’s worried about how mad she’s going to be, but the boss dismisses his concerns. Aw c’mon, he says, women are irrational creatures.

Laura, the sole female employee present, wants to know why being mad at her husband for lying would make Rainbow irrational . . . and the boss replies by pointing at her and saying that this is why China’s close to producing a baby-making robot. Yikes. All the guys laugh until Laura says that things like these are why she records their meetings. Finally, Andre decides to do nothing and hope Rainbow gets her ‘monthly visitor’.

His hopes are dashed when he returns home to find Rainbow curled up on the couch under a blanket. He asks if ‘Aunt Flo’ had come. No, Rainbow says, and is overheard by eldest daughter Zoey, who dashes off to tell the other kids that they’re about to get another sibling. Back in the living room, Rainbow sadly tells Andre that, as she can’t be pregnant, she thinks she must be going through early menopause ---- and Andre has a vision of Maury telling him that he’s not the father before mental-Andre celebrates wildly. Back in reality, Rainbow’s lamenting her possible menopause, thinking it makes her less of a woman, so Andre assures her that he’ll still love her. She’s miffed that he’d bring up the possibility that he wouldn’t. He tries to backtrack. Meanwhile, upstairs, the young twins Jack and Diane are upset that a new baby might steal their spotlight, Zoey’s annoyed by the prospect of having to ‘raise’ more kids (although the twins point out that she’d totally ignored them during their younger years), and middle child Junior’s excited about the prospect of a new sibling he can train to love him best.

Luckily for Rainbow, she gets her period. At work, when a fellow doctor (Pam) comments on how cheery she is, Rainbow tells her why and jokes that she’s glad she won’t have to sue her. You know, because she’d thought she was pregnant and Pam had performed Andre’s vasectomy. Not so much, Pam says. Andre had cancelled and rescheduled a bunch of times, but he’d never come in. She says she’ll still do it if Andre wants to, but Rainbow says no, ‘if anyone’s going to be cutting my husband, it’s me’. Ouch. When they’re getting ready for bed that night, she casually drops a pregnancy test kit on the bathroom counter, saying that she knows it’s silly, but she just wants to rule it out. Andre tentatively says that he’d heard some vasectomies don’t take. Good try, Andre. Rainbow shuts that down pretty quickly, assuring him that Pam’s known for the quality of her work. When the kids call, Andre grabs the test and takes it with him ‘to check the accuracy’. Rainbow tries not to laugh.

After stashing the test box in a linen closet, Andre heads into the twins’ room. They’ve decided to team up to milk their position as house babies for all it’s worth before the new child arrives, and want Andre to read to them. He asks what’s going on. After all, they haven’t wanted to be read to in years, but they pretend to have missed it . . . and then Jack starts drawing on his face before innocently saying that he’s now dirty and needs a bath. Diane demands a piggyback ride. Rainbow’s also having a confusing moment with Junior, who comes in to talk to her and starts using a bunch of odd pretexts to get down on the floor and speak to her stomach. Not knowing of his desire to make the baby imprint on him, she thinks he’s been experimenting with drugs. Things don’t improve that night. Andre’s’s desperate to know if Rainbow’s pregnant (but without her knowing), so he tries the time-honoured campfire trick of placing one of her hands in warm water and attempts to strategically position the test stick ---- but she wakes up, causing him to frantically toss the test and drench her in the water. He manages to convince her that it’s sweat and she’s just had a nightmare.

In the morning, however, she remarks on the weirdness of finding the test under the bed and the box on the bathroom floor. Time to man up and stop the lies, Andre thinks. But no. Instead, he tries to blame it on rats, along with that incident that other day when a whole plate of bacon had ‘mysteriously’ disappeared. Hm. Rainbow says she thinks he’s right, there’s obviously a rat in the house . . . a big, fat, pork-eating rat. Andre doesn’t get the subtext. At work, he shoves Laura out of the way and erases her whiteboard to demand ten strategies to get out of his lie, and the guys, who had been snoozing, immediately perk up. “Honey, we’re gonna need some coffee,” the boss tells Laura.

Josh suggests a cover vasectomy, which Andre quickly vetos, then asks for more ideas. There are no bad ideas, he says. Laura suggests telling her the truth. “Bad idea,” Andre replies. “Any other ideas that aren’t dumb,” the boss puts in. Eventually, all the guys agree that Andre should double down on the lies before getting together for a cheer. “Death before honour, bros before ----” the boss proclaims, with the end cut off when Laura objects. “Calm down there, sweet cans,” he fires back, and they all laugh and high-five as Laura calls up Gloria Allred.

That evening, Andre’s in the kitchen setting rat traps when Rainbow comes in and tells him that she’d gotten tested at work . . . and she’s pregnant. How could this happen? While Andre wants to declare it a miracle, Rainbow’s in favour of suing the hospital. Hesitantly, Andre agrees, but, when Rainbow starts looking up malpractice lawyers, he stops her and tells her that he thinks it’s time he took the high road ---- forgiveness. They should forgive the hospital. Wow, Rainbow says, reverently, she was so angry, but he’s so full of mercy. He’s like Jesus! This is the last straw. Finally, Andre breaks down, admitting that he’s not like Jesus. He’d lied. He’s trying to explain when Rainbow cuts him off and tells him that she’d, 1. known that already, after chatting with Pam, and 2. isn’t really pregnant. She is, however, pretty mad, as they had jointly decided that Andre should get snipped after the experience of raising four young children simultaneously.

Andre protests that they had decided they were finished, but he might still be in the baby-making game some day. If Rainbow, say, dies. Rainbow’s upset and asks if he thinks about her dying a lot. No, Andre says. Well, not a lot. He’d be devastated, of course, but he knows she’d want him to pick up and move on with someone who loved their kids . . . like maybe the nice burrito girl who gives them extra guacamole. Rainbow is 100% not impressed, and backing away from her, Andre steps in his own rat trap. He yells in pain. (Rainbow smiles). When he insists that something’s deeply wrong, she calls in the kids and tells Zoey that they might be late at the hospital, so she’ll need to put the twins to bed. Zoey sarcastically says fine, she’ll just finish raising the twins for Rainbow before getting started on the new baby. Shock ensues when Rainbow tells the kids that there is no new baby. The twins are delighted, but Junior’s upset to lose his shot at a younger sibling who’ll love him for who he is.

Andre’s sure that his foot’s broken. Rainbow thinks not, so he’s extremely smug when the doctor shows him an X-Ray of his four broken toes. Victory, sort of. Rainbow informs him that he deserves them, and Andre accuses her of having no empathy, just like she had no second thoughts about ‘forcing’ him to get a vasectomy. But he hadn’t gotten one, she points out. “Oh, so now I’m a liar because I lied?” Andre retorts. Thoroughly exasperated, Rainbow tells him that it’s moments like these that make her want to roll the tape on her own escape fantasy, where after the kids go to college she runs off to Burning Man and falls in love with a sexy Egyptologist who trains wild horses, reads her poetry, and doesn’t have to take forced naps because he eats too many hot dogs. Andre counters that he eats the right amount of hot dogs.

When they get home, Rainbow finds Junior eating ice cream in the kitchen and asks what he’s doing up. He can’t sleep, Junior says, he was really excited about the new baby. Aw. Rainbow tells him how sweet that is, but the sweetness wears off when Junior continues that there are other ways to get a new little sibling who idolizes him . . . like maybe if he comes home one day to find the entire house on fire and tries, but is unable to save the family, so he gets put in foster care where ---- even though it’s hard sharing a room with four little brothers ---- he’s a star, the kid with the leather jacket who risked his life to save his family. Rainbow points out that he was apparently able to save the jacket, but they’d all still died. Yeah, Junior says, even their grandpa. In fact, he’d started the fire by falling asleep smoking a cigar. Very vivid, Rainbow replies, then suggests that, if he wants everyone to think he’s a hero, maybe he should try learning a cool new skill instead of putting all his hopes into a new baby . . . or a tragic house fire. Junior heads off to sleep on it, but makes no promises that said sleeping will not include family-death visions.

As she helps Andre into bed, Rainbow asks why it seems that everybody in their family has some insane fantasy about how to get out. Andre correctly guesses that she’s just heard Junior’s house fire story, and they laugh about that before Rainbow says that they’re not much better. Why, she asks, didn’t Andre talk to her? He replies that he was afraid she’d be mad that he wasn’t locked into their four kids, vasectomy, empty nest by 50 plan. It’s a good plan, Rainbow offers, and Andre says that’s his point ---- she knows exactly what she wants their future to be. Rainbow tells him that he’s actually wrong.

She’d always thought that being a doctor was everything, and then she had kids. Sometimes when she misses a recital or a soccer game, she thinks she’s really missing out on them, and wonders if it’s time for her to just cool it with the hardcore doctor stuff and be part-time or teach. Andre’s surprised. He’d never known. Does she really want to stop being a doctor? Hell no, Rainbow says, she loves being a doctor, but life is complicated.

“Babe, we’ve gotta tell each other things like that,” Andre tells her. After all, they’d got into this so young, of course things are going to change. Rainbow wishes somebody would’ve told them that when they got married. They, Andre says, had made a contract with each other, and the only constant in that contract is them. “The kids aren’t a part of that constant?” Rainbow asks. Oh hell no, Andre replies, if she says the word he’ll get his toothbrush and Speedos and they’ll be halfway to Mexico. She laughs, and Andre narrates, “Turns out, life isn’t routine . . . if you’re doing it right, it always surprises you. And that’s a surprise I don’t hate.” On the bed, he and Rainbow kiss.

This ending is a nice and sweet relationship chat, and it would have worked very well . . . if the story line hadn’t been based on one partner making a choice that would quite possibly result in a massive and life-altering violation for the other partner. As it is, the ending really seems to be Andre ‘forgiving’ Rainbow for pressuring him and emphasizing how much they need to communicate, and he never does apologize. Again, not the best, considering that he’d readily agreed to the vasectomy in the first place, she’d never pressured him, and it’s pure luck that he didn’t knock her up without her consent.

The Real World

Andre learns that Rainbow in "The Real World" was once engaged on season one, episode 19 of Black-ish.

The Real World kicks off with mom Rainbow telling her hubby Andre that her college friends will be in town next week and want to get together. Andre, meanwhile, isn’t quite so keen on the idea. Pointing to an old picture of them, he says that he doesn’t like them because they think they’re so cool and diverse, what with mixed-race Rainbow, Asian Maisie, fat Shawn, and black Lance. Plus, Maisie thinks she’s soooo famous because she was on The Real World. Rainbow points out that Maisie had also dated David Spade. Andre pooh-poohs that and asks Rainbow to name even one David Spade movie, but, when she names a ton, switches back to his first topic and asks Rainbow if she knows who in the picture annoys him most.

Although Rainbow guesses Lance ---- yes, they had dated back in college, and Andre needs to get over it ---- Andre says no. The person who annoys him most is Rainbow herself, who, desperate to impress, turns totally fake around them and starts using really long words. Rainbow quickly dismisses this (using really long words to do it) and finally decides to invite them all over for a dinner party, telling a disgruntled Andre that he’d better show up and ‘turn it on’. Later at work, Andre’s co-workers Curtis, Josh, and Charlie commiserate with him, especially over having to be nice to Lance. Andre insists that he’s not threatened by Lance at all, but allows that the dinner would definitely be a lot more tolerable if he had some of his people there. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the heart to subject anyone he cares about to Rainbow and her friends . . . so he’s inviting Curtis, Josh, and Charlie. They’re up for it.

The night of the party, Rainbow sets up intricate platters of food and drink, decorates the house, and even wears a caftan. She’s going all out. She chases off young twins Jack and Diane when they try to eat, shooing them upstairs and telling them to come back down when she calls them, all smiling and laughing just like they’d planned. They’re freaked out. Rainbow tells Andre the plan for the night, where the guests will arrive precisely at 8pm (in Charlie’s case, Andre offers, this could be anywhere from 8 to 11:45 . . . or, as it turns out, 6:30, which is when he actually shows up) and there will be a specific sequence of events.

Upstairs, the kids watch an episode of The Real World, and all agree that it’s pretty boring. They jump eagerly on eldest child Zoey’s suggestion that they film their own reality show that night ---- they’ll even have Maisie downstairs! Zoey assigns everyone a role in production, and middle child Junior types in a title. Get ready for, ‘The Real World: Old People Eating Cheese’.

And, as everyone arrives, it’s time to meet the cast of characters. There’s ‘Big Word ‘Bow’ (who can’t stop leveraging an extensive vocabulary in an effort to impress), ‘Fame Whore Maisie’ (who can’t stop bringing up David Spade), ‘Bland Lance’ (who’s unremarkable in every way), and his now-wife ‘Fat Shawn’ . . . now ‘Phat Shawn’ (who’s lost a ton of weight and is now a voluptuous blonde bombshell). All the men ogle the heck out of Shawn and admire Lance’s apparent foresight in marrying her, while Shawn and Rainbow talk happily about how Andre and Lance, who are also chatting, seem to be getting along. That, however, ends when Shawn tells Andre that, to be honest, she never thought he’d get past the fact that Rainbow and Lance were engaged. Say what? Andre spits his drink, while Rainbow tries to protest that they weren’t really engaged ---- but her friends all point out that they were, complete with ring and post-engagement party. As the kids film, Andre drags Rainbow off to the back patio for a talk.

Outside, she explains that the engagement didn’t last long at all, and Andre cuts off her repeated apologies to say that he’s really going to surprise her . . . he gets it. It’s ancient history, plus there are plenty of things he hasn’t told her. She tries to dig deeper into that particular statement, but he tells her not to forget who’s in the hot seat here. She’s just lucky she’d married a man like him, magnanimous. See, Rainbow says, they’re meant to be. If Lance hadn’t broken things off with her, she never would’ve met Andre! She smiles and heads back inside, as Andre reels with the news that Lance had dumped her.

He takes this info to the guys, saying he’d always seen himself and Rainbow as a power couple, ‘the dumpers, not the dump-ees’. Charlie tells Andre to look at him: he always gets dumped, and that doesn’t make him a loser (this statement is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that, while saying it, he’s wrapping some dip in a napkin and tucking it into his pocket to take home. Yep, dip). Josh adds that there’s nothing wrong with dating a woman who’s been dumped. In fact, he exclusively dates them, usually waiting for them outside of clubs and jumping in with some sweet talk. Curtis tells Andre to let it go, if he starts digging in that cemetery, all he’ll find is dead bodies. Andre replies that he’s right, he’s going to leave it alone.

As the kids watch their footage so far, they’re delighted that ‘Old People Eating Cheese’ has now graduated to ‘Mom’s Secret Fiancé Could Wreck Her Marriage’. Diane, however, wants to know why there’s so much footage of Shawn’s butt. Video-taker Junior tries excuse it as being ambient B-roll footage and says that they need it . . . but eventually confesses that he needs it. Zoey, meanwhile, thinks that they still need to find a villain. Just like all successful reality shows, they need that one drama queen that the audience loves to hate. They head off to go find theirs, as, downstairs, Andre encourages Lance to drink more, then brings up the surprise of finding out about the engagement. He really wants to know how it had ended. Perhaps Lance had dumped Rainbow because he’d felt she was about to dump him? Or, alternatively, could it be that he was experimenting with straightness before realizing he was exclusively into men? Lance points out that Andre’s been staring at his wife the whole night. He’s not gay.

Finally, after much pressing, Lance tells Andre that, if he had to dig deep, he guesses he’d had to end things with Rainbow because she was still not over Brian. Brian? Lance explains that Brian had been the guy who’d dumped her after Mike, and Andre’s just processing that when Rainbow announces that it’s game time. Celebrity charades, anyone? Andre tells her he had a different kind of game in mind and (admitting that he’s not proud of it, but he needs answers) sits everyone down to play ‘I Never’. He kicks it off with, “I’ve never been dumped by a guy named Brian.” Ouch. Rainbow’s forced to take a drink, followed up by Maisie taking one after bringing up her relationship with David Spade yet again. Then Rainbow takes another, a smug sip after congratulating herself for balancing having four children while managing a challenging medical career. Up next is Andre, announcing that he’s never been dumped by more than three people in college. Josh takes a drink. Rainbow’s not going to, but her friends laugh and tell her to drink up.

Things escalate further when Andre asks Lance if he’s got any more Rainbow stories. Oh hell yeah, Lane replies, laughing, and says that he’d never had finals baldness. Rainbow, who’s getting pretty upset, retorts that it’s called stress-related alopecia and millions of Americans suffer from it. She doesn’t get less upset when Andre, on his next go, offers that he’s never been dumped by more than four people in college ---- and, when Rainbow’s friends tell her to drink, keeps going, getting up to eight before Rainbow finally loses it. Enough, she bursts out, why are they attacking her? This was not how the night was supposed to go, they were just supposed to admire her bangles and eat her almonds and watch her float like an angel. Insult is added to injury when, angry, she rises to her feet, only to accidentally step on and tear off her caftan, revealing her extensive shapewear beneath it. She freaks out as the kids, happily videotaping, rejoice that they’ve found their villain.

After hurriedly pulling her caftan back on, Rainbow (followed by Andre) rushes into the kitchen, where they find Charlie making an omelet. Ah, Charlie. He leaves, but insists that they’d better not let it burn while he’s gone. When Andre asks what’s going on with her, Rainbow asks what’s going on with him. Why was he trying to take her down? Andre admits that he knows he’d acted crazy, it’s just that he’d always seen her as a brilliant heartbreaker, and finding out about all the guys who’d dumped her had started a spiral. Rainbow tells him that she didn’t have it all together in college, and maybe it’s obnoxious ---- but she’d invited her college friends over so they could see how great her life turned out to be. Of course, now they think she’s a lunatic. They might also think she has a drinking problem, Andre adds unhelpfully.

This is all interrupted by the arrival of Charlie, who staggers in gasping for air, managing to tell them that he’d eaten some peanut sauce (and is deathly allergic to peanuts), and doesn’t have his EpiPen. With a crowd gathering and Charlie’s airway closing off, Rainbow leaps into action. She sweeps the food off the counter, lays Charlie out on it, commands Curtis to call an ambulance, tells Andre to get her a steak knifeand the straw off a juice packet, swabs Charlie’s throat with alcohol, and proceeds with an emergency tracheotomy as her awed audience look on. When Charlie sits up, breathing again, Rainbow finishes by expertly flipping his omelet, then takes a drink from Maisie, says, ‘I never saved a man’s life on my kitchen counter with a steak knife and a bendy straw’, and takes a drink before adding ‘boom’ and handing it back. You go, Rainbow. Zoey’s excited about their amazing villain-becomes-a-hero capture . . . but turns out Junior had spent the whole drama focussing on head to toe shots of Shawn.

Later, upstairs, Rainbow’s washing her hands when Andre appears. Apparently, he says, when she asks, things start winding down once you plunge a knife into somebody’s neck. She thinks the party was a bust, but Andre points out that her college friends will never forget it ---- and she never has to worry about impressing them again. She’d saved a man’s life! So what if it was Charlie’s, he still counts. Rainbow asks if Andre knows why she’s good at that. Well, it’s because she’d studied her ass off, so much so that she was a terrible girlfriend, even once skipping a boyfriend’s birthday to dissect a fetal pig (and she doesn’t regret it).

But then Andre had come along, and he’d changed everything. She was so busy trying to make Andre think she was perfect that she’d almost flunked out of med school. Andre takes her hands, then says that she didn’t have to do that for him. From the moment he’d met her, he’d known she wasn’t perfect . . . but he knew she was perfect for him. Aw. They kiss and hug, and Rainbow’s happy that now all their secrets are out. More or less, Andre puts in. Rainbow threatens to trach him with a toothbrush if he doesn’t start talking, but he runs off, daring her to chase. She does.

Lastly, the results of the kids’ work is shown: a dramatic reality session with cut-together interviews and clips of the night. First, Shawn, saying that she’s impressed with Rainbow’s life and that she looks like she has her stuff together ---- although she was a bit of a hot mess that night. Cut to Rainbow freaking out, followed by an interview with Maisie and the inevitable reference to David Spade. Spotting Maisie on her cell, trying to track down David’s location, Josh thinks he can work his post-breakup lady magic. Maisie waves him off without a word. Re-jected. Back to a caftan-less Rainbow continuing to freak out, as Junior takes frequent pans away from the action to focus on Shawn’s breasts. He focuses on Rainbow again (at Zoey’s direction) just in time to catch her leaving. Cut over footage of her frantic re-clothing and rush to the kitchen (along with a drinking scene) is an interview with Diane, saying that she wishes she could say she was surprised. Let’s be honest, she says, Rainbow’s always been a bit of a train wreck, and it’s scary walking around knowing this could happen to her . . . but who is she kidding, it won’t happen to her. It’ll happen to Jack! The camera slides sideways to reveal Jack sitting in a chair beside her. “Probably,” he agrees, “I’m a hot mess.” Diane nods knowingly.

This episode doesn’t actually have any stereotyping at all, and no racism, sexism, or homophobia. I think this is a first for Black-Ish. It’s a cute episode, every character has a clear and relatable motive, the kids’ reality show is hilarious, and the sweet moments alternate with the funny.

Switch Hitting

Andre deals with workplace nonsense in season one, episode 20 of Black-ish, "Switch Hitting".

Switch Hitting begins with dad Andre, musing that it’s said black people have a double consciousness ---- their mainstream selves in the man’s world, and their down-home selves for the brothers. Some handle the switch effortlessly. Others? Not so much. Andre’s always been one to handle it perfectly, but there’ll be no more switching back and forth for him. Nope, from now on he’s keeping it real, one hundred, and currently he’s all blinged out, dressed like a street stereotype and complete with a big dog on a chain. If, Andre thinks, you happen to be wondering how he got to this very real place, it was (if you believe every Hollywood movie ever made) the same way any black guy gets anywhere: with the help of a white guy.

For Andre, the white guy in question is a prospective client. Two weeks ago, they’d met for the first time, and Andre, as a black man in corporate America, had previously experienced a lot of awkward handshakes . . . but this one really rattles him, and he ends up the awkward participant. White ‘Boxable.com’ rep Jason goes for a full and involved handshake that loses Andre halfway through. His equally black co-worker Charlie, however, executes the handshake with ease. He and Jason even stick a little spin in the middle. Jason’s there to see if the firm can help Boxable market themselves to a more urban market (or, as Jason says, they should tell him ‘why I should get down with you guys and help us start gettin’ felt’). The boss helpfully assures him that he’s going to get felt like he was on a Japanese subway at rush hour, then adds that it’s not actually a racist comment, it’s considered rude not to grope if you’re on the Asian subways. His father had told him that.

Andre puts together a researched presentation filled with buzzwords, but Jason’s not into it. Instead, he hangs on Charlie’s every word, eagerly embracing Charlie’s awkwardly-worded idea that they should stop leaving stuff on black peoples’ porches because it might be stolen. Like, maybe, Charlie rambles, he wants to have an in-office fish fry but doesn’t want his cornmeal dropped off on his doorstep ‘cause he might not get his cornmeal. His neighbours are stealing his cornmeal! Everyone else is wearing identical expressions of facepalm, but Jason calls Charlie a genius with his ear to the street for figuring out that ‘black folks don’t want their stuff stole’. Yep, genius. He and the boss even bond over grabbing a few of Charlie’s chipotle-flavoured corn nuts, literally fistbumping over how much they love ‘that spicy ethnic food’. At the end of the day, Jason requests a complete marketing pitch done by the end of the week, adding to Charlie that he doesn’t want anything corny, while nodding toward Andre.

At home, Andre relays the situation to Rainbow, angry that a white dude is questioning his blackness. What could THAT be like, Rainbow wonders sarcastically in return, somebody always questioning your blackness? How annoying. Andre doesn’t seem to pick up what she’s throwin’ down and gripes about Jason telling him, of all people, not to make it corny. This is the cue for Pops, Andre’s dad, to jump in and say that Andre does tend to lean toward corniness. This, he says, is a side effect from trying to play footsies between worlds for too long, and Andre’s definitely a sellout. He even remembers the day it had happened ---- Andre had stopped saying ‘naw mean?’ and started saying ‘you know what I mean?’, and it was the saddest day of his life. He’d gone from knowing what Andre was talking about to thinking that Andre was asking him if he really knew what Andre was talking about. After Andre leaves, Pops gets a dose of dismay himself with a letter from the IRS bearing the legend ‘collection deficient’. Without reading it, he decides he’s doomed.

The next day at work, Andre goes in determined to show ‘white J’ what ‘black Dre’ is all about. This is cut short when Jason stops by his office and says that he’s not sure if Andre’s the right dude to lead up the campaign. He’s just not sure if Andre keeps it real enough. He doesn’t get Jason’s slang terms (even white co-worker Josh does!), he buys from a farmer’s market, and he misses his wastebasket throwing paper balls. Charlie, who ‘gets it across the board’ and ‘is wild for the night’ remains the golden boy. He, Jason says, keeps it all the way real. Andre retorts that he doesn’t think Jason knows what he’s saying ---- Andre’s from Compton, and he keeps it one hundred. Jason fires back that he doesn’t think Andre knows what he’s talking about, Jason’s from the Bronx and it’s ‘keepin’ it a hunned’ not ‘I keep it one hundred’. Andre’s corny.

Andre’s trying to defend against this when another employee sticks her head in to enthusiastically tell Andre that he was so right, The Good Wife is totally Girls meets Downton Abbey. Jason laughs, and then keeps right on adoring everything Charlie says and does, inspiring Andre to have a vision of what would happen if Charlie was his boss: Andre as a harried chef at Charlie’s fish fry, getting the dishes mixed up as Charlie and Jason are amazed by his ignorance and Josh calls him ‘basic’. Ouch. He determines that he’s got to make a big move, and that’ll be inviting Jason over for dinner, where he’ll meet his exact target demographic . . . Andre’s black family.

Back at home, young twins Diane and Jack are helping to make a living museum of famous Americans for school, wearing costumes and writing a few lines about who their hero is. They’re able to get Rainbow to force eldest siblings Zoey and Junior to provide assistance, and Diane takes Junior (wanting serious academic help, as Zoey only gets good grades for looks) while Jack ends up with Zoey (wanting help with presentation). However, Zoey ends up caring nothing for Jack’s hero and far more for his costume’s fabric choice, and Junior won’t stop telling Diane about his Dungeons and Dragons ‘career’. Neither twin is happy. Pops isn’t happy either. He’s still freaking out about the IRS, who had clashed with his father back in the day, and is less than comforted when Rainbow tries to reassure him by telling him about two doctors at her work who’d been audited. The first guy had emerged perfectly fine. The second . . . well, he’d committed suicide, after the IRS had taken all his money and his wife had left. Yikes.

When he gets home, Andre asks Rainbow if she’d gotten his message. Operation Keepin’ It Real is a go! She says she’d gotten it but it sounded like he was calling from a kennel, which makes perfect sense when she turns around to see him with a big dog on a chain. She’s disconcerted. Andre’s equally disconcerted to see her straightened hair. He demands the return of her curls, or, failing that, everyone in the family (except Junior, who can wear a do-rag) to get cornrows. That’s an official nope from Rainbow, who’d waited months for her appointment and loves her new ‘do. Frustrated, Andre heads upstairs to change ---- and emerges as a street stereotype, a blinged-out tough guy who tells Jason stories about escaping ‘5-O’ and introduces the dog as Realness, a dog who keeps it real by not listening to commands. This particular buzz is most definitely harshed when Junior wanders by in his D&D wizard gear, followed by Zoey, who wants permission to go to her friend’s birthday party, where she’d opted to be ironic and go to a Jason Mrazacoustic jam with Phillip Phillips beatboxing as his opener. Andre quickly shoos them away.

Time for the ‘soul food’. Jason’s enthused about it, but that enthusiasm takes a hit when Rainbow plunks down her take on collard greens: kale-ard greens. They’re ‘stupid full of iron, stupid’ Rainbow says, but fails to make kale sound tough. Next up is mac’n’cheese, but vegan, with olive oil and ‘teese’, a cheese substitute. Jason’s dismayed. Andre’s despairing. Another nail in the coffin comes courtesy of Jack and Diane, who come down to show off their costumes. Diane is her hero Sarah Palin, and Jack is ‘the godfather of hip-hop’, Vanilla Ice. Andre sends them off to change for dinner, and Jason sympathizes, talking about his own son who keeps stealing his car and going joyriding. Andre jokes that Jason should cut off his foot and call him Kunta Kinte. They fistbump and laugh and Jason’s impressed . . . before Rainbow asks why they’re laughing, that’s brutal. They’re just talking Roots, Andre tells her, and Rainbow tries to recover by saying of course, the Kinte Kunta was very powerful, she got chills watching the movie. Hm. Andre hastily drags her out back to search for hot sauce, giving Pops (who, after talking to Junior, has assumed that Jason’s from the IRS) a chance to come in pretending to be a posh businessman and attempt to bribe him. Jason’s thoroughly confused by the time Andre returns.

So Andre’s attempt to keep it real has failed, and he’s not feeling so good. Eventually Pops happens by and asks Andre why he’s looking so down, he didn’t try to bribe the wrong white guy. His career is over, Andre mourns, and he’s about to lose the Boxable account to Charlie of all people. Pops, usually more into snark than sympathy, actually rallies around for once and tells Andre not to let some white man convince him that his ability to move between worlds is something he shouldn’t be proud of. Being able to switch it up is a necessity, and the way Andre does it? Smooth. Pops is almost jealous. Andre’s feeling a bit better when Pops announces that he’s now off to hide from the IRS, and he would give Andre a forwarding address, but he’s liable to tell the white man anything. It’s a blessing and a curse, Pops says.

Andre decides that he’s right. How did white J make him feel bad about being a successful black man? The next day, he bursts in on a meeting (where Charlie’s awkwardly showing off a slideshow of badly-done drawings of possible places to hide boxes) and says that he’s sorry to interrupt, the account is Charlie’s, but all week he’s been listening to ‘the white Cornel West’ make him feel like he wasn’t black enough for the campaign and, “You know what? Screw you!” Keeping it real, Andre continues, isn’t some checklist you find on Yo! MTV Raps, it’s about being you, and, for Andre, sometimes that means watching The Good Wifewith the missus while eating mac’n’teese. It’s good for him, he enjoys it, and that’s real. The boss is trying to get him to shut up, but Jason actually applauds. This is what he wanted to see, he enthuses, this is the Andre Johnson he’d heard so much about. Andre’s been walking around playing Bobby Boy Scout and hadn’t given him any of the swag he’s famous for, and now he wants Andre to head up the account. (Charlie’s also in favour). Andre agrees and Jason says good, just make sure that this Andre is the one who shows up to work every day. Andre’s okay with that.

After his workplace triumph, Andre’s back home when he catches Pops sneaking through the kitchen and asks what he’s doing back. Turns out he’d forgotten his pistol. Andre tells him to hold on and hands over a letter from the IRS that had just come ---- as it happens, they were only planning on sending someone as a courtesy, seeing as Pops is on the senior citizens list. All they want is a copy of the sales receipt of his old Lincoln. Pops is suddenly delighted. His now-ex had taken that car in the divorce and she must’ve sold it. They’re actually looking for her! He’s overjoyed that the IRS are finally going to do for him what he’s never been able to do for himself: bury her. “I love this country,” he finishes, satisfied. Andre says that he hopes this little scare’s taught Pops a lesson in fiscal responsibility. Sure it has, Pops replies . . . he’s untouchable. And, if anyone comes looking for him, he’ll be at the track.

This episode had a few cringe-worthy moments, with the Japanese subway comment by Andre’s boss headlining, but overall it was refreshing in that the racism in Switch Hitting was very clearly being mocked. While this is especially apparent in the ‘ethnic’ corn nut scene, it reappears quite regularly throughout the episode, and the viewer feels invited to shake their head in disbelief at the obliviously offensive behaviour on display. It’s also interesting to see Andre, often shown as a walking stereotype, try to shove himself into a stereotype box ---- and find that he’s too much of an independent and nuanced person to fit in it. This episode definitely feels like it accurately captures what the show in general is striving to achieve.

The Peer-ent Trap

Andre and Rainbow deal with teenage rebellion and "The Peer-ent Trap" in season one, episode 21 of Black-ish.

The Peer-ent Trap begins with something most parents can sympathize with: teenager problems. Eldest child Zoey’s been working on breaking her way through the house rules recently, but it all comes to a head when dad Andre finds her out driving her friends around without a license. He’s not pleased and confiscates her phone as punishment, then discusses the situation with wife Rainbow. As the more touchy-feely parent, Rainbow’s in favour of putting this under ‘normal teenage behaviour’, but Andre’s thinks it’s a gateway infraction. Where he’s from, he says, first comes joyriding, then crack, then getting pregnant and having the baby in a toilet, then selling that baby for better crack. It’s a slippery slope.

Rainbow thinks he’s just being dramatic, but Andre tells her it’s not her fault she’s clueless... after all, she was raised with basically zero rules by her live-and-let-live-mother. Rainbow retorts that she’d turned out just fine and contrasts it with Andre’s own rigid upbringing (happily corroborated by his dad Pops, who readily admits to regularly tossing Andre’s room) which had left him resenting his father. She and her mother were best friends, and she wants to have the same relationship with Zoey. Pops sarcastically tells her that she’s in luck, at this rate Zoey’ll bring home her own daughter soon and Rainbow can have two best friends. Ouch.

With the kids, Zoey wants the others (young twins Jack and Diane and middle child Junior) to respect her as the cool kid trailblazer. Junior encourages the twins to follow the rules like him, but his decided uncoolness puts them squarely in Zoey’s camp. Meanwhile, Andre’s asking his co-workers for parenting advice. None of them are what you’d call stellar in the parenting game, but they all agree that he should track Zoey’s social media use. And, one YouTube tutorial on fingerprint replication later, that’s exactly what Andre does. He’s surfing through her phone when Rainbow finds him. At first she’s horrified by his disregarding of Zoey’s privacy, but soon becomes concerned when she sees what’s on there. Zoey’s friends are pretty sexed-up for young teens, and there’s even a pic of Zoey reclining on a Vespa puffing away on an e-cig. Rainbow’s instantly certain that they’re about to become toilet baby grandparents and supports Andre in dropping the hammer.

Mind you, he does this with far more vigour than Rainbow had anticipated. She interrupts his laying out of a book of ‘10,000 Commandments’ and declaring his intent to enforce all of them by dragging him off to the kitchen. His rules, she tells Andre, are over the top. Andre ignores her and carries on enforcing, to such a degree that a few hours later the twins stop by Junior’s room and ask if he wants to join them. They’re running away to somewhere with fewer rules. Junior, however, gets them to stay by introducing them to a new way: the wonders of loopholes, which can be found for almost all the rules in question. For example, eating sticky stuff in the house? Banned. Eating it with one’s head stuck out a window? Loophole! The twins are excited.

Zoey’s on a landline (gasp!) complaining to her friends that she can’t go to a movie due to her crazy parents when Rainbow overhears and asks her about it. When she hears that Zoey’s crush Daylen’s going and is in imminent danger of being snatched up by another girl if Zoey doesn’t act soon, she quickly rallies around and helps Zoey manipulate Andre into letting her go by 1. telling him how fit he’s looking, and 2. assuring her that ‘Daylen’ is a girl’s name and no boys will be present. When he gives her permission, Zoey’s delighted, and Andre’s feeling smug about his parenting skills. He’s additionally smug to show off his Zoey-location-tracking system to Pops, who somewhat harshes his buzz by pooh-poohing his use of technology. He, he says, had simply hired a homeless guy to follow Andre. Andre’s most dismayed to hear this ---- he’d thought the guy was trying to kidnap him, and it had forever shaped the way he’d felt about white people ---- but Pops blows off his concerns. Homeless guy tracking is the way to go, in his opinion.

Another plug for homeless guy tracking comes later, when it’s clear Zoey’s going to miss her 11:30pm curfew. The homeless guy, Pops says, would’ve knocked Andre out and had him home on time. Andre’s even more alarmed to hear this. He’d spent his childhood thinking those were blackouts, and was sure he had epilepsy. Pops, well, he keeps right on not caring, and equally right on mocking Andre for his lack of control over his own children. Andre insists otherwise, but he’s brought to a full stop at the sight of Junior holding a blended cheeseburger-and-fries smoothie (another way to sneak around the rules: drinking everything you’re forbidden to eat at a late hour). Junior’s punishment is having to drink it, as it unsurprisingly turns out to be repulsive, and Andre returns to telling Pops he’s 100% in control. Pops remains unconvinced.

With Zoey an hour late, Andre calls Rainbow at work, saying that he doesn’t want to sound like a woman ---- but he’s worried sick. Just then, Zoey appears, and Andre takes a second to feel relief before starting up with the yelling. He’s even more angry when he grabs her phone and reads her texts, which clearly show everything Zoey and Rainbow have been saying behind his back. The Daylen thing is bad enough, but Andre (repeating that he doesn’t want to sound like a woman) is especially upset to hear that they don’t really think he’s buff. He waits up for Rainbow and confronts her, and she admits that she was wrong . . . it’s just that Zoey was letting her back in, and she couldn’t resist helping that along by giving her some tips on how to handle Andre. Hey, Andre says, since when does he need to be handled? Since he became a crazy person, Rainbow replies. She knows his heart’s in the right place, but he can be a very scary guy, and that’s why the kids come to her. “I’m cuddly and lovable, dammit!” Andre shouts after her when she leaves, peeved.

When he asks, Andre’s co-workers confirm that he is in fact scary. Sorta-racist Josh admits that he tends to be scared of black guys in general, but Andre’s a special case. Even equally-black Charlie tells him he’s scary. In fact, everyone’s so terrified of Andre that they were too spooked to correct his misspelling of ‘Buick’ as ‘Biuck’ in their recent Buick pitch. Finally convinced, Andre decides to ease up a bit and let Zoey go to her formal. He’s watching her and Rainbow climb into the car when Pops comes up beside him and snarks that it’s a nice moment, Zoey heading off to Spring Formal with the blessing of both her moms. Andre, he says, is soft. Lady-soft.

Inside the car, Rainbow’s cheery . . . until she realizes that her seat’s adjusted for a much smaller person and her Beck music’s been swapped out for Beyonce. Zoey gives her an apologetic smile, but it’s not enough to save her. Rainbow’s pissed. She herds Zoey back inside, telling her how badly she’s going to be grounded, and Pops is impressed. He tells Andre that it looks like his wife’s decided to sack up and grow a pair, so Andre’s off the hook. Mind you, Pops’ own testicular fortitude fails when he and Andre turn to go inside and hear Rainbow shouting at Zoey. In silent accord, they both quietly nip off in the opposite direction.

This episode’s got a lot of sexism and some racism (mostly courtesy of Josh), although it also contains a glimpse into Andre’s past, showing us how his opinions were formed at a young age. While many of those opinions are problematic, it’s also easy to see how he might’ve come by them. Mind you, The Peer-ent Trap is definitely one of Black-Ish’s more absurd episodes, and they spend a lot of time going amusingly over the top. Will this spirit continue in episode twenty-two? Check back next week to see what’s coming up on Black-Ish!

Please Don’t Ask, Please Don’t Tell

"Please Don’t Ask, Please Don’t Tell" when we meet Andre's gay sister in season one, episode 22 of Black-ish.

Please Don’t Ask, Please Don’t Tell kicks off with dad Andre narrating how there are some things black people don’t like to talk about . . . like if OJ really did it, the proper amount of suit buttons, how much they love Robin Thicke, and, lastly, the gay people in their families. Case in point? Andre’s sister Rhonda, who’s definitely gay and lives with her mechanicgirlfriend Sharon, but has never actually confirmed any of this to Andre. They don’t talk about it. Their mom Ruby especially doesn’t talk about it, as she’s deep in the world of willfull ignorance and refers to Sharon as Rhonda’s ‘roommate’. Which, technically, Andre defends, she is. Wife Rainbow retorts that, in that case, she and Andre are roommates too. Point taken. It, Rainbow goes on, is almost like Andre’s family has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Andre replies that they’re way nicer than that ---- it’s a ‘please don’t ask, please don’t tell’ policy. Rainbow wants him to talk to his sister, but Andre insists that silence works for them and Rainbow shouldn’t rock the boat.

Middle child Junior overhears them talking and is amazed to realize that Rhonda’s gay. He dashes off upstairs to tell the other kids (eldest child Zoey and young twins Diane and Jack), only to be greeted by long stares. Yeah, they all thought it was pretty clear before. They go back to plotting Mother’s Day gifts for Rainbow, with Diane condescendingly telling Jack that his present, a macaroni-covered picture frame, won’t win him any love. He tries again with an ‘I Heart Mom’ mug and a booklet of homemade coupons. Diane starts measuring their room to see what extra space she’ll acquire when Rainbow gives him away. Jack’s not feeling so good.

Andre talks his problems over at work with fellow black guys Curtis and Charlie, the latter of whom sympathizes and says that he’s dealing with the same sort of thing: he’d recently attended his brother’s wedding to a man, and he’s continually annoyed and confused that anybody might think his brother’s gay. Ah, Charlie. The younger and hipper Curtis, meanwhile, thinks that both Andre and Charlie are stuck in the past. They need to get up with the times. He leaves, shaking his head, and in his absence Charlie tells Andre to talk to Rhonda. After all, he needs to show Rainbow how comfortable he is with that to prevent her boat-rocking.

With the ladies, Rainbow hangs out with Rhonda and Sharon . . . and senses that they’re hiding something big. She presses, and eventually Sharon confesses that they’re getting married. Rainbow’s delighted to hear it, but Rhonda’s not so happy ---- they hadn’t been planning to invite Rainbow and Andre, purely because that would mean inviting the super-homophobic Ruby and outing themselves once and for all. Inside, Rhonda wanders in for a sandwich and ends up co-making one with Andre, while they have a short surface-level conversation. Plus sandwich, Rhonda leaves again, and Andre’s feeling pleased about the success of his talking game when he’s confronted by Rainbow, baffled that he considers ‘quick chat over sandwich’ to equal ‘deep talk about life’.

Well, Andre says, her airy-fairy (and also light-skinned) family has one way of doing things, and his highly functional family does it differently. Burn. The burn is returned to sender when Rainbow asks if his highly functional family covered the fact that Rhonda and Sharon are getting married and didn’t invite him. Andre’s dismayed, and remains distracted at work, even through racist co-worker Josh’s asking of the assembled group if anyone has objections to making the burglar in the commercial they’re plotting out ‘a large African-American man in an Obama mask’. Yikes. The boss draws Andre’s attention to it, pointing out that his opinion saves them millions in lawsuits, but, when Andre lays out his issues, everyone’s happy to switch subjects and help out. They’re also happy to hear about the past lesbian encounters of the sole female member of the team, and she says that this is what she’s talking about ---- lesbians are fine in theory, but Andre doesn’t want to talk to his own sister about her life, and, by not doing that, he’s actually passing judgement on her. Andre realizes that she may be right, as Charlie realizes that his brother just might genuinely be gay.

Andre finally has a talk with Rhonda, apologizing for not being as supportive as he should’ve been and saying that he’s happy she’s found somebody, she and Sharon are great together. Aw. Rhonda tells him that she appreciates that, and ends up deciding to invite him to the wedding after all. Things are going well . . . or at least they are until Mother’s Daybreakfast, where Andre tries to share the love and gives a toast to Rhonda and Sharon. Ruby laughs are the idea that Rhonda could be gay ---- she just hasn’t met the right man yet! ---- but her mirth turns to hysterics when Andre mentions the upcoming lesbian nuptials. She wails and implores Jesus to help her while Rhonda desperately tries to save the situation. Nothing doing. Andre’s just in the middle of blaming Rainbow when Rhonda informs him that she and Sharon are packing up to leave. Andre pleads that he was just trying to be the hero. Rhonda’s not impressed.

Attempting to heal the breach, Andre tries talking to Ruby, who’s busy blaming herself for allowing Rhonda to play with agay boy as a child. After all, it is, according to Leviticus, an abomination. Andre points out that Leviticus says the same thing about seafood (which she’s currently eating) and polyester (which she’s currently wearing), but Ruby ignores him and starts contemplating the odds of Rhonda growing out of her ‘phase’ if Ruby were to take her to her prayer circle and have a laying-on of hands. It isn’t a phase, Andre corrects, Rhonda is who she is and he’s not asking Ruby to change how she votes or feels, but this is her daughter, Andre’s sister and, if she can’t accept Rhonda, Andre can’t accept her. Cue Ruby rising dramatically and declaring her intention to go hug her grandkids one last time. And, she informs Andre, she’s taking the shrimp with her.

Jack’s freaking out over not having any Mother’s Day gifts when Diane presents Rainbow with a basket . . . of Jack’s previously-mocked items. Rainbow loves them. Diane, soaking up the praise, is just mentioning that Jack had forgotten when Jack bursts into tears and wails that he had forgotten, and now all he has to show Rainbow how much he loves her is a hug. She quickly casts the basket aside and gets to hugging, assuring him that a hug is better than any other gift as he smirks privately at Diane.

When Rainbow comes downstairs, she finds Andre, who mourns that everyone’s mad at him and now Ruby’s also leaving. Rainbow finds that news more delightful than depressing, but soon notices Rhonda and Ruby out talking on the patio. Andre instantly flips to happy and quickly claims credit as, outside, Rhonda asks if Ruby’s coming to the wedding and is pleased to receive a yes. After all, Ruby says, Rhonda’s still her daughter. She’ll be there. Andre takes the moment to tell Rainbow that Rhonda’s probably talking about how she owes this all to him, and how Rainbow should totally reward him with sex. Rainbow’s skeptical, but smiles and hugs him anyway, as, outdoors, Ruby and Rhonda do the same. Andre and Rhonda meet each others’ eyes and grin.

This episode’s got some subtle racism from Andre and some blatant racism from Josh, but the standout is definitely its deft handling of Rhonda, Sharon, and gayness in general. Rhonda’s presented as very much Andre’s sibling and her relationship is shown to be extremely ‘normal’, with Sharon and Rainbow commiserating over Andre and Rhonda’s shared tendency to not listen. Andre’s talk with Ruby is really fantastic, and even the workplace conversation (usually somewhat on the iffy side) is done well. Overall, excellent work. Will this excellence continue in episode twenty-three? Check back next week to see what’s coming up on Black-Ish!

Elephant in the Room

Andre and Rainbow try to un-Republicanize Junior, The "Elephant in the Room", season one, episode 23 of Black-ish.

Elephant in the Room begins with dad Andre, narrating that certain things are true, just solid facts, and one of those things is that black people aren’t Republicans. Sure, there’s the occasional outlier, but they just don’t talk about those ---- and that’s why Andre’s so horrified when middle child Junior casually brings up the fact that he’s joined the Young Republicans Club at school. He’s so horrified that he refuses to give Junior a lunch the next day, saying that he wouldn’t want to offend his Republican sensibilities by giving him a handout. Junior can pull himself up by his bootstraps. When she’s told, mom Rainbow is equally distressed, despairing over Junior’s apparent abandonment of her strong Democratic beliefs. Andre’s more upset because black people simply should not be Republicans.

Despite his mom Ruby’s decidedly more conservative views, she’s equally dismayed. So is black co-worker Charlie, when Andre brings up his Junior issue at work. Republicans aren’t down for black people, so black people aren’t down for them. Period. Their (white) boss asks if he’s saying all Republicans are racist. Of course not, Andre says, ‘but they are’ he finishes, sharing a nod with Charlie. White employee Josh weighs in with his feeling that that’s bullcrap ---- his dad’s a Republican and he’s always starting sentences off with ‘I’m not a racist, but’. Hm. Charlie agrees that Andre’s got to do something before Junior turns into an Uncle Tom, and the boss asks why. He’d loved his Uncle Tom! Sure, he wasn’t actually his uncle and wasn’t actually named Tom, but he was a great black guy named Jim who’d worked for his dad and did everything he was told, even at the expense of his own community. Andre and Charlie stare at him. “. . . Uncle Tom isn’t a great thing, is it?” the boss asks finally, reality dawning, and Andre and Charlie shake their heads.

Meanwhile, eldest child Zoey’s vision is clearly not 100% ---- she’s running into walls ---- and she ends up with glasses. Young Diane’s absolutely delighted, because Andre had given them all nicknames. Junior is ‘Junior’, Zoey is ‘Zozo’, Diane’s twin Jack is ‘Party Time’ for his dancing, but Diane’s own nickname is the worst. The first time Andre had seen her in glasses he’d thought she looked like a girl Urkel, which was quickly turned into her official nickname: ‘Gurkel’. She hates it, and is hoping a glasses’d Zoey will help her leave it behind.

Determined not to let Junior become an Uncle Tom, Andre heads into his room with a stack of reading material . . . then retracts it, after hearing the real reason Junior’s joined the club. He has a crush on the club’ssecretary, Hillary. Andre’s baffled to hear that Hillary’s also black, but overjoyed that Junior’s got a lady on the line. Mind you, when he excitedly relays this info to Rainbow, she tells him it’s even worse. Men, she insists, are impressionable, women can get them to do anything and it sticks. For example, Andre’s currently eating seaweed (and even enjoying it!) because of her. Andre tells her that Junior’s a lot stronger than she thinks, only to be forced to eat his words when Junior and Hillary turn up, with Junior going on happily about his newfound Republican values and love for Dick Cheney. Oops.

After Hillary leaves, they talk to Junior, telling him that he can’t just become a Republican because of a girl. He replies that it’s about more than that now, he really identifies with Republican themes and ideals. Rainbow tries to argue him back with her own liberal sensibilities and Andre tries reminding him of his blackness, but neither work. In fact, Junior declares his intention to go work on his speech, as Hillary’s dad had told him he should run for club president. He thinks Junior would make a great face of the organization. Rainbow and Andre have a vision of Junior on Bill Maher, being introduced as the current face of black Republicans with a banner under his name reading ‘Republican, Uncle Tom’. “It’s great to be here Bill,” Junior says, “let me start by saying ‘here’s what’s wrong with black people’.”

Back on the glasses front, the twins manage to call attention to Zoey in her glasses being the new Gurkel and are pleased when Andre agrees with them . . . but Diane’s less enthused when Andre clearly adores ‘Gurkel’ and starts paying special attention to Zoey. Diane really starts regretting giving up her nickname and tries to convince Zoey to ditch her glasses. Nothing doing. When Zoey falls asleep, Diane takes action, stealing her glasses and breaking them. She’s determined to regain her Gurkeldom.

With Junior sticking to his Republicanism, Andre and Rainbow decide to meet Hillary’s parents, who are hugely rich and live in a gated mansion. Rainbow reminds Andre that they’re there to get to know them, not to pick a fight or judge, and he promises to be on his best behaviour ---- before catching sight of the mansion and remarking that it looks like Uncle Tom got himself a real nice cabin. Not the best start. After the visit begins and Andre rants a bit more, Hillary’s parents explain why they’re Republican. It lines up with their beliefs as ‘small business owners’, they say, and they don’t like being taxed. While Andre’s sarcastic about their blaming of Obama, Rainbow tries to smooth things over and politely asks how they reconcile the whole racism thing. It’s not easy, Hillary’s mom admits, but the GOP is a big tent and they like how they’re all about putting family first. For instance, she’d given up her law career to raise kids. She talks about women today being all ‘career career career’ and how she thinks that moms who are all about their jobs are selfish, and that’s when Rainbow finally loses her cool. As a doctor and working mom, she’s officially angry, and when she and Andre join forces the discussion takes a swift and embarrassing turn downhill.

Afterward, back at home, Junior gripes that now he can never show his face at the club again. While somewhat satisfied about that, Andre and Rainbow aren’t exactly proud of their collective meltdown. Rainbow apologizes for their behaviour. They just want their beliefs to be Junior’s beliefs, she tells him, which doesn’t go over well. He leaves, just before Ruby appears and informs them that they’re doing it wrong. You can’t force kids to believe the same things you do, and pushing back against their beliefs just makes them more determined. It’s like forbidden fruit. Realizing that she’s right, Andre and Rainbow sit the kids down and give them a talk about how they’ll respect their beliefs even if they don’t agree with them . . . but it doesn’t do anything to un-Republicanize Junior.

Surprisingly, soon afterward Andre asks about the club and Junior replies that he’s decided he’s a Democrat after all. The reason for this abrupt change of heart is provided by Zoey (now with new glasses). Turns out she’d introduced Junior to one of her hotter-than-Hillary Democrat girlfriends. “Way to go, Gurkel!” Andre enthuses, high-fiving her. This incurs the wrath of Diane, who shouts that Gurkel is her nickname. Andre tells her that he didn’t realize she liked it that much, and then assures her that she’ll definitely be his only Gurkel. Aw. Diane’s happy ---- until Andre starts thinking up a new nickname for Zoey and ends up with ‘Butterfly’, because she’s so delicate and graceful and looking at her is so special. Zoey loves it. They hug before Andre reminds Diane/Gurkel to go to school and takes Zoey off to get contacts (‘because glasses are not it,’ he says firmly, despite his lack of action on the Diane-glasses front). “Butterfly?” Diane says, left alone, “. . . I played this one all wrong.”

This episode’s blackness vs. Republicanism topic created a lot of controversy online. While the Republican stereotypes presented in Elephant in the Room all exist in real life, it’s difficult to say to what degree (or if at all, in the case of a few) they would be present in the average Republican. Apart from that issue, Elephant in the Room contains some oblivious racism from Josh and Andre’s boss, and quite a bit of sexism from both Rainbow and Hillary’s mother ---- although they’re sexist against different genders. Overall, this episode is certainly their most controversial since the corporal punishment episode Crime and Punishment. Will that controversy continue in episode twenty-four, their season finale, or will they finish with a more comedic turn? Check back next week to see what’ll happen on the season finale of Black-Ish!

‘Pops’ Pops’ Pops

Time travel to the 1920's with ‘Pops’ Pops’ Pops and witness the start of the Johnson family in the season finale of season 1, episode 24 of Black-ish.

‘Pops’ Pops’ Pops’ kicks off with dad Andre, narrating that everyone’s got a family tree showing who they are and where they’d come from ---- but, when young twins Diane and Jack try to make a Johnson family tree for a school project, it ends up a bit sparse. It only goes back to their grandparents. They’re sure they’ll get an ‘F’, especially what with having a classmate whose family had come over on the Mayflower. Hey, Andre puts in, their ancestors had sailed over on a boat too . . . they’d just had a receipt attached. He gripes that nobody shows any love to the history of the enslaved and oppressed, all they get is a boring mini-series every four hundred years.

Still disappointed about their project, the twins perk up when grandpa Pops offers to tell them the story of how their pops’ pops’ pops had used a five dollar bill to bet the future of their whole family against a notorious and ruthless gangster. Drawn by the promise of gangster-related excitement, the whole family gathers around, and Pops starts off his tale. It begins in 1927, a golden age of the emergence of black culture in America. Their great-great-grandpa Drexler (who, he says, looked a lot like Andre, and in period flashbacks is played by the same actor) was an ice deliverer who regularly made deliveries to the legendary Savoy Club. The Savoy Club was a fancy and popular black society hotspot run by gangster Elroy Savoy, and here we meet a few more family characters: the sharp sports bookie Bippy Barnes (as played by Pops himself), Dolly (played by Diane), Bippy’s hammer-wielding money collector, and Jolly (played by Jack) as Bippy’s bullet-buying errand boy.

“You bet your sweet Bippy,” Bippy says, when Jolly asks to confirm the kind of bullets he should buy, and, back in modern times, mom Rainbow tells Pops to hold on ---- he’s really expecting them to believe that saying came from a bookie named Bippy? Pops asks who’s telling the story, then goes on that ice wasn’t the main reason Drex was at the Savoy. He was there for his sweetheart Bea, a beautiful dancer (who’s played by Rainbow). Rainbow’s quickly back on board and Pops continues. Drex and Bea’s relationship, he says, was complicated, as going public meant risking both their jobs . . . but they adored each other. When Bea complains about the structural integrity of the big moon she sits on to perform, Drex suggests that she and the other dancers form a union. This (again in modern times) causes eldest Johnson child Zoey to interrupt, doubting that their great great grandfather had in fact invented unions. Pops neatly avoids the question by introducing Zoey as ‘Zara’ the coat-check girl, who, naturally, spends her time looking bored and texting on a mini handheld Morse Code device. Zoey’s intrigued.

The next stop in the story is the not-so-subtly-named firm of ‘Kimble, Kollins, and Klark’. Their walls show a selection of horribly sexist and racist advertisements, including their newest ad (as presented by Klark, played by Andre’s racist co-worker Josh): coffee beans with the tagline ‘Mammy said you like it dark’, featuring a rich white woman and a black child servant. Yikes. When Drex arrives to drop off ice, Klark and Kimble (who’s played by Andre’s actual boss) ask about his sweetheart at the Savoy, with Klark adding that he’d love to dance there due to his love of all things ‘Negro’. Drex isn’t such a fan of his word usage, but does thank Klark and Kimble when they suggest he have a suit made to impress Bea and offer to pay for it. He even tells them to let him know if they ever want to come down to the Savoy; he can probably grab them a good table. Kimble appreciates the thought, but replies that they can really do that on their own simply through being both incredibly rich and absurdly white.

They head out, and, in their absence, the janitor (played by Andre’s slightly unbalanced black co-worker Charlie) tells Drex that he can never get into the Savoy, but his old roomie Langston can get in with no problem. Heck, he’d even nabbed a fancy book deal whose title was taken from the janitor’s own love of putting things in the sun. The story’s stopped here by middle Johnson child Junior, who’s not so sure about Pops’ tale of Langston Hughes plagiarising a janitor. True to form, Pops solves this by incorporating Junior into the story as wise shoe-shine boy Jojo Rags, who was known as the child prophet of Harlem and predicted both the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler. He’s introduced shining a newly-suited Drex’s shoes, before Drex takes off to the Savoy and impresses Bea with his fancy new duds.

Not only is she impressed by the suit, she’s also delighted by Drex’s swift fixing of her rickety prop moon. She’s practically swooning when Drex takes things a step further by directing the club’s band, casually creating jazz. Back in modern times, the tale’s interrupted by Pops’ ex-wife Ruby, telling him to stop lying about his grandpa inventing jazz. Hey, Pops retorts, he never said jazz ---- he just invented ‘Beats By Drex’. We see what you did there, Pops. He quickly puts Ruby in the story as the ‘mean drunk old club madam’ (otherwise known as Rosy) who has a decidedly adversarial relationship with Bippy. Ouch. Meanwhile, Bea and Drex are excitedly contemplating running away together when their elopement is shot down by Elroy, who’s seriously angered by the idea of Drex putting the moves on one of ‘his’ girls. He tells Drex that he’ll kill him if he ever sees him talking to one of his girls again, then heads off with Bea in tow.

While Pops pauses for a snooze, the kids debate who’ll save Bea from Elroy, each vying for their own characters to save the day. Rainbow quietly marvels at the fact that none of them are texting or browsing theinternet . . . they’re just listening. It’s a rare moment. When Pops wakes up we’re back at the Savoy, where, after receiving some love-pursuing encouragement from Bippy and the club’s singer Mirabelle (and absorbing their info on both Elroy’s status as a terrible dancer and his equally exploitable gambling weakness), Drex slaps a $5 bill on Elroy’s table and challenges him to a dance duel. If Drex wins, Elroy lets Bea out of her contract and leaves them both in peace. If Elroy wins, he gets the $5 ---- Drex’s entire savings. Elroy accepts, but throws a wrench in the works by using young Jolly as a proxy dancer. Yeah, he’s recently been enlightened on the subject of his unfortunate dancing skills, and he’s not taking any chances.

Duel time. Jolly’s a great dancer, but Drex manages to hold his own. Well, at least he does until he falls down and hurts himself. Luckily for the Johnson family’s future, Drex makes the best of the tumble by staying down, promptly inventing and debuting both the worm and the art of breakdancing in general. He wows the crowd, but is unfortunately disqualified by Elroy (who’s in the process of having his shoes shined by Jojo). Ouch. Drex has an ace up his sleeve, mind you. Turns out he’d made two grand through Bippy, betting against himself just in case Elroy proved untrustworthy, and now he offers that up to buy Bea’s contract. Will Elroy accept?

Elroy . . . gives the command to kill Drex. Time for the story’s action sequence. Drex grabs his $5 bill and sprints off with Bea. Elroy tries to follow, but finds that Jojo’s tied his shoes to his table. Stymied! In the middle of their escape, Drex pauses ---- he’s just remembered that Bea’s ring, the entire reason he’s down to $5, is in his coat pocket, and the coat check is blocked by one of Elroy’s goons. Quickly, Drex snatches a ye olde texting device from a nearby woman and texts Zara, who comes running with the coat in question. As they dash away, Bippy sends Dolly and Jolly after to show them his emergency escape route, even giving Jolly a key to some fast wheels to aid the lovebirds in their flight. The twins take off as Rosy approaches and asks if Bippy’s getting soft, giving up his car like that. Not really, Bippy informs her, that was the key to her car. And his assistance is less about the good of his heart and more about the good of his wallet. He really doesn’t want to have to pay out that two grand.

After reaching the car with their group of young helpers, and learning that Jojo, Zara, Dolly, and Jolly are orphans, Drex and Bea decide to adopt them all. They ride off happily together into Johnson family history, and, back in the current time, Pops swears the whole story’s true. The no-longer-orphans, he says, become the aunts and uncles that the kids were all named after. The kids love it. Just then, Ruby tells everyone to listen: she too has a story to tell. It’s about their great-great-great grandma, aunt . . . Jemima, who was big, black, and beautiful, and strongly resembled Ruby herself. Rainbow and Andre crack up, and the kids aren’t what you’d call fascinated.

Now complete with plenty of information for their assignment, the twins submit their flashy new family history . . . but the teacher doesn’t buy that the Johnson family singlehandedly gave the world unions, jazz, texting, and breakdancing. She thinks they’re making a joke of the project and gives them an ‘F’. Aw. “But the point is,” Andre finishes, “there is a story to tell, the story of us. Our family, our culture. The details of the story might change over time, but, the important thing is, we tell it.”

The episode was really excellent, a great finale for Black-Ish’s first season. There was quite a bit of racism in the 1927 version of Andre’s workplace, but it was so over-the-top that it was clear it was being parodied rather than being at all founded in modern-day truth. The humour in Pops’ Pops’ Pops was sharp and thought-provoking, the period setting was gorgeous, and the family focus was sweet. This episode was another that felt like just what Black-Ish is going for overall, and it really was a treat to watch. The show has been officially renewed for a second season, so no doubt we’ll return to its singular brand of controversy soon enough ---- but I think it was a great decision to end season one on an entertaining-yet-cosy family note. Although fans will have to endure a hiatus over the summer, they won’t be waiting too long . . . Black-Ish will rejoin viewers in the fall!

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