Atlanta Recap: One Way Or Another, Van Is Going To Get This Work

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***While not a conventional recap for BNP as we discuss the impact of each episode, please note there are full spoilers for episode six, “Value” ***

Season: 1 / Episode: 6 / FX Network

Nicole: Yes, I’m happy that we got a Van episode with only brief appearances by Earn and Alfred, but I’m not sure how I feel about the actual episode. Let’s start with Jayde and the friendship that wasn’t. [deep and weary sigh].

Jayde is on one level a caricature of black womanhood; she’s the gold digging-but-cultured groupie on the come up. I’ve seen this character before and so to see her again, here, was disappointing because this portrayal didn’t complicate the trope.

And maybe that’s not entirely fair because we do see layers being added with a continuation of the show’s critique of persona-building and social media through her and the world’s most awkward moment as she takes a picture of her food while Van watches in disbelief. This ties Jayde to Zan and Van to Alfred as they mirror the robbing-a-toddler scene.

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William: So I was very curious as to what you would think of Jayde’s appearance and what exactly that meant to her relationship with Van. It is an interesting turn to see Van be insecure when I imagine that she often makes Earn insecure in some fashion just because she has her shit together more than him. The persona that was Jayde is pretty familiar and ultimately not likable (which may have been the point). The two moments that stuck out to me were of course the fight followed by her slowly taking a picture of her food and the very quick response that she couldn’t help Van with the drug test. Also…Van gotta know she has a drug test in the morning when she is smoking the elephant weed in the car with Jayde.

Nicole: Another moment I liked, that I wanted to see expanded on, was the car scene when the two of them are smoking and Van asks about Jayde’s “friend” and Jayde is like “Fuck dat [dude].” That seems like that closest we get to a real emotion from her.

And yes, chick, that’s what alarms are for. You don’t set the alarm for an hour before! You gotta be on that 1 week before, 2 days before, 1 day before countdown.

Also, if I can be Tom Petty for a second, and talk directly to Van, “Did your bougie friend suggest a too-expensive fancy restaurant as though she was unaware of your financial situation and then up order your singular glass of wine to a bottle you know you couldn’t afford?” [stares into camera] “How did that feel, Van?”

“How. Did. It. Feel?”

Which is to say, I too appreciated the way in which we are forced to see Van in a position usually reserved for Earn. That, for me, is the highlight of the show over all so far: shifting dynamics and showing characters from more than one angle.

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William: Yes, be Tom Petty, and while this was a Van-centered episode which was overdue, I loved every second of Alfred / Paper Boi’s interactions as well. Especially the text back to Van with “you sloppy af” near the end. I know the mechanic was all deliberate, but I was really, really invested in Van with the ingenuity to figure out a plan and execute with a great amount of labor, only to try and OPEN A CONDOM FULL OF BABY PISS WITH HER TEETH. Like…fam, what are we even doing at that point.

Nicole: Failing.

That’s the only way to describe it: she stays failing this episode. From gate. She’s late to meet Jayde. She smokes when she shouldn’t. She calls Jayde’s selfish ass who we all know wasn’t going to help her. She calls Alfred and gets the lowkey dragging she deserves for smoking after looking down on him for smoking/selling weed. She has to Bill Nye the Science Guy some baby piss from soiled diapers even though babies ain’t nothing but piss-machines and she has one. I can’t even in good faith address the teeth to open a condom thought process so let’s skip to she confesses to her boss that she smoked like she has never heard Shaggy’s most solid advice:

Let me rephrase: no confession, no case

So, somewhat related, my television guide/tivo summarized this episode as “Van becomes jealous.” Let me be on my feminist killjoy soapbox for a second: are we talking about the 1/10 of a second we see her feel some type of way about a picture Earn has on his phone? Really?

William: Yeah, I can’t speak to what your TV was summarizing unless the implication is that she’s jealous of Jayde. But that to me seemed more like judgment and disdain. I suppose it could be read like jealousy, but that wouldn’t explain why she dipped out on the listening party that Jayde basically RSVP’d her for without her knowledge.

The confession was the remnants of a person that confused repeated failure with having no options yet. Had that been me, I would’ve been like, “Yeah, I already went [peed], so I might have to wait till tomorrow.”

There’s also a commentary on the removed nature of education administration, the very plastic way that her boss deals with it. The fake hug, the matter of fact you’re fired proclamation.

Nicole: Did she dip out? There is an elliptical structure where we see her smoke and then see her wake up. Are we supposed to assume she was out so late smoking alone with Jayde in the car that she was wrecked the next morning? Did they go to the listening party? If so, what happened? The other option for the jealousy thing is that she was jealous of Jayde’s lifestyle, not the many sexual partners and the way she defined value, but the continent jumping.

AND her boss was like “WE all smoke” so who you firing after you confess that? Not me.

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William: Yeah, the same clockwork that says you can fire me because I admitted to smoking is the same that says during that conversation you said that everyone smokes but you don’t send the specimen for testing.

Nicole: So Van failed at life this episode and Earn was finally a good dude; that “I’ll take her so you can get an extra hour of sleep” was tight. Alfred’s and Van’s relationship was established; they clearly have a contentious history.

But WHITEFACE KID????? What part of the game is this?

His stare, yo. His creepy and knowing stare. [shivers].

William: Oh gawd, I forgot about whiteface kid. I can’t help but parallel that with the clown shit going on in Chicago right now, like what in the hell is happening? What would you do if a student came to your class like that?

Nicole: I don’t even know. Honestly, it’s a distraction from learning so the teacher was justified in asking him to leave, but I just have so many questions for that kid. Is he just messing with his teacher? Is he making a statement about race? Is he in mime school?

I’m kind of glad we didn’t get answers; this falls into the bus/sandwich dude and “can I measure your tree?”

William: Yeah, it does. But damn it was weird. Like, hilarious, but still weird af. Sadly no Darius this week (who makes an appearance in that new Jordan Peele created Black Horror film), but still an entertaining episode. Lasting thought for me is that this will make it tough to continue to see Van be an asshole to some people because we’ve seen her “can’t get right” on full display now. Any lasting thoughts for you?

Nicole: I really like that Van is more fully human after this episode while still lamenting that the way they chose to develop that was to bring out a tired black woman trope and the tired female friendship as catty AF dynamic. That said, it was a great window into her values and her past.

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  • Bernadette Jackson

    I personally saw this episode as a clarifying of the alt-boughie sensibilities that ride Van and Earn juxtaposed against the ridiculous reality that they actually live.

    Van meets up with her flashier frienemy, tries to condescend in the way she does to Earn (which didn’t work because her pal has a Master’s in Shade), and then pays for it when she’s literally peed on by her real life.

    It’s wonderful to see another POV of a standard that haunts Earn. Van and Earn are actually in the same spot, but Van was functioning while Earn is not. They are hood in everything but their mindset, an alternative sensibility that belies their poverty and professional confusion.

    I didn’t mind the episode at all.

    • Evil Ninja (@EvilNinjaX24)

      Nicely put.

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