***Atlanta is back for season two, ROBBIN SEASON and we couldn’t be more excited. While not a traditional recap for us, Nicole and William get together each week to talk out the great, the innovative and the utterly bizarre of the latest episode. All the spoilers ahead.***
Nicole: [stares at screen]
I’m not sure what I just saw but this week’s episode of Atlanta felt like a stress test. I kept looking around to see if my doctor was monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure.
It wasn’t even awkward, but it was just too much.
William: So…I want you to know something up front Nicole. I haven’t gone to a barbershop in probably five years. With that being said: Shad, Malik, Ronald and Curtis aka C-Rock. Those are the top four barbers of my personal lifetime. I still know where to find them (if they are still cutting hair) if I need to. That’s how serious this shit is Nicole. When I tell you that I felt triggered like I was recalling a hostage situation watching this episode, I’m so serious.
Nicole: I kept wondering how analogous this was to the hair shop and there were def times that if I had half a French roll going, I’d have followed Robin anywhere she was going. So we have Al at the barbershop with his barber and then things go all the way left. But. But Bibby didn’t change up I don’t think so Al knew this was gonna be an adventure.
William: Which, I hate to jump to the end, but here’s the thing…a great barber is worth it. Almost always. Now, if Bibby hadn’t taken a swipe in his hair already, then Al would’ve changed course. But I knew, I fucking knew by the end that the cut was going to be glorious. And it was Nicole. It was a great cut. That’s why he went through all that bullshit, cuz he knew the ending of the book.
Nicole: No one can deny he was ready for the photoshoot by the end, but let’s rewind.
The first stop on the Bibby Tour was… his… girl…? …lady?… friend’s house so he could [Im resting my head in my palms at this point] cut someone else’s hair first. Fam?
William: Well…I’m going to assume more on the lady side, perhaps presumptively, only because he was supposed to be paying bills in that house. And, I’ve known some great barbers…not many of them doing house calls unless that’s their partner and/or child involved. Hell, even then, I’ve seen most of them be like “bring him to the shop.” I laughed way too hard at the “he’s a magician” shit as well. But to be clear Bibby is a hustler, a talented barber and also a piece of shit. Like, its one thing to blame someone for some shit they ain’t do. Its another to do that right in front of them, knowing they are at your mercy so they aint’ even gonna contest it. That scene was hilarious and all kinds of fucked up. When the power went out, I was undone.
Nicole: It was the water and then the power. And then he stole from her. Stole from her while Al just watched like “is it my turn yet?” And the answer, as it was for 99% of the show was just the echo of Bibby laughing and a close up in Al’s face.
William: So, we had Lauren livetweeting the episode live and she hit me like, prepare yourself if you haven’t watched and also, this reminded me of you. Yeah, I wasn’t ready. The outright patience of Job stance for Al was torturous to watch. Your boy just came in to get a haircut. Who would’ve thought that him watching Bibby steal from this woman would be the least egregious think he would be a witness to.
Nicole: By far the least. By far.
So he lies to the kid. Lies to her. Gets the water shut off. Gets the lights shut off. Steals. The whole time I’m just like where exactly is Al’s breaking point?
William: Somewhere between 3 and 5 pieces of lumber.
Nicole: Oh god. That was maybe my favorite criminal activity of the episode. First the enticement to get him to the construction site: Zaxby’s.
William: I’m just trying to think, as a writer, how in the world we ended up at a construction site that had a working microwave for leftover Zaxby’s
Nicole: My dude *knows* he’s hungry because he’s kept him hostage all day. Let’s not forget that Al looked bored and sick of waiting when Bibby finally shows up he’s already got time out into this.
Nicole: As someone whose wild backstory includes a fair amount of construction sites, that’s real.
William: I’m going to guess that Al had already waited 45 minutes plus, minimum, for Bibby to show up at the shop itself. Cuz…I’ve been there way too many times too. But the end though. The end out of nowhere got me strangely emotional.
Nicole: The end had Al looking like too many women I know looking at the ain’t shit dude they still live but just can’t be with no more because he got they credit score at like 107… but they still considering it.
William: Yeah, lets be clear. Al goes to another barber, not because he wants another barber. Al goes to another barber with the outright staredown because he wants to wound Bibby. He wants to let Bibby know that he’s not worth the trouble any more, that he crossed too many lines. But remember, even though he had to repeat it four times, he tells Bibby he wants the usual. When the new barber asks him what he wants done, that shit is evident in the first level of questioning: Al already regrets the decision. He wanted to believe he was ok with this, but he ain’t. Familiarity and comfort (even in chaos) is a muthafucka.
Nicole: [cur some sad crooning R&B from the 90s] Even I felt the hurt when the new dude was like “the 2 or the 3?” It’s an honest question because he doesn’t know.
And Al could’ve gone when Bibby wasn’t around but, no, you gonna see me. So I’m not a barbershop connoisseur, but when I was about to watch the show and saw the little guide synopsis about barbershop adventures, this is not at all what I expected. And, yes, that’s the charm of the show and it’s phenomenal writing, but I thought we were gonna get that barbershop shit talk I’ve heard so much about. Seemed like the perfect setting to continue the conversation exploration of masculinities.
William: So, that’s exactly what I thought, just seeing the first few minutes of the episode. I was like…ok, this is going to be about some of the bullshit, toxic masculine politics that can sometimes get discussed in the barbershop. And I was ready for that. I was ready for whatever Atlanta’s version of sports talk / women talk / dude selling bootleg flash drives portrayal of the world I know too well. But nah, they said, we gonna give you a world you know, but not the country you think. When Bibby said on the phone, “I’m on my way” I about fell on the floor. I’ve had an appointment at a shop and had my hair finished at the home of someone I didn’t know before. Shit was surprising and yet all too real.
Nicole: My dude was always in his car on the way if you listen to him tell it.
William: Also, do you think its intentional or just telling that the three “victims of Bibby” are all women in this episode. Not counting Al of course.
Nicole: Yes. Three woman of varying races as well (I think). Bibby don’t care. I also noticed that the children he fails are all black boys.
William: Bibby is not charming. Or convincing. Everyone that deals with him knows that he is full of shit. But he has at least, one singular, top 10% talent. And for that, he’s indulged.
Nicole: Given Donald Glover’s level of petty and accuracy, as evidenced on Twitter this week, means this has to be intentional.
Nicole: When does he ever interact with another black man? Is Al the only one?
William: Yes. Next closest is his 14 year old son. Though, who knows who that was that tried to call him away that last time before Al almost put him over the railing.
Nicole: Because that’s fascinating if so. The idea of he barbershop as a bastion of masculinity is questioned when the ambassador of that place is a talented but ain’t shit dude who hurts three women, lies to two black boys, and loses the one black man that was literally riding with him for the whole episode.
William: Yeah, I’d love to say that’s all coincidental, and yet…
So question for you…would you have paid? Cuz…I’m sad to report, I probably would’ve too.
Nicole: It’s easy for me to say no now, but…
If Al knew that was his last cut, ehhhhh.
Then again, who knows what kinda bullshit Bibby would drag you into if you didn’t. That’s a cost of doing business with Bibby expense. You not even paying for the cut at that point. You paying an exit fee from the hassle.
William: That’s exactly my thought. Bibby, who is often full of shit, could be like, Paper Boy don’t even pay for his haircuts, negro owe me money…and without any background would technically be correct. Maybe that’s some of Earn’s influence rubbing off on Al, who saw what kind of problem that could create for his brand. And maybe he was just closing accounts. I dunno. But the fact that Bibby was surprised at the prospect of not getting paid was so very, very typical of the character we met about 20 minutes previous.
Nicole: And mad he didn’t get tipped 20 minutes after he almost got thrown off the balcony.
Can I say the real shit?
I didn’t miss Earn at all. But where is Darius?
William: Well…the previews look like we might get a legendary Darius episode…
But no, I didn’t miss Earn one bit.
But it also felt like a quest that Earn would be on instead of Al too. This is how people treat Earn. Us seeing Al in that seat, literally and figuratively, was refreshing…if not still nerve wracking.
Nicole: I think that’s part of the writing’s genius. Just when you get sick of Earn, he’s absent. Just when Van’s absence becomes distracting, here she come (in lederhosen).
Earn would’ve ended up sleeping at Bubbly’s house because at this point, I don’t think he woulda laid hands on Bibby to force the episode to its conclusion.
William: Haha, exactly. Final thoughts? I was so stressed out watching and talking about it I forgot to say that I thought it was an excellent episode and look, having the camera fixed on Bryan Tyree Henry for a full episode is never a bad thing at this point.
Nicole: Yes, agreed. There were so many high points in the episode that we didn’t get to, but they were there. I’m excited to see each character get this in-depth exploration and if Darius is next, I’m here for it.
William: So, very, very here for it.