Queen Sugar / Season 3 Episode 4 / OWN
At the end of the last episode, Darla rolled up to see Blue, and she and Ralph Angel stared at each other. Their silence spoke volumes.
Now, we begin with them sitting silently in the living room until Blue comes running in with some of drawings he made at school to give to Darla. He mentions that there’s going to be a bonfire this weekend–to commemorate his grand dad’s life, Ralph Angel explains–and of course Blue asks Darla if she’s going to come. She glances at Ra and says she can’t come this time but will be around for his birthday party.
After he’s sent on a mission to get crayons, Ralph Angel and Darla finally talk. He says he’s glad she’s there and that he misses her–and frankly, I’m impressed that he’s honest since we’ve seen him have a hard time being vulnerable in the past. But then, maybe now with things the way they are, there’s nothing left to be vulnerable about. When he asks Darla how long she’s planning to stay, she drops a bit of a bombshell. She’s here to stay. Ralph Angel is taken aback and doesn’t know how they’re going to make this work, but Darla makes it clear they’re going to have to figure it out. “As long as he’s in St. Jo, I’m in St. Jo.”
Violet is at Pie Central in the church kitchen on the phone with Charley, asking her to pick up Prosper Denton and take him to a doctor’s appointment. When Charley tries to pawn that errand off on her sister, Vi counters that Nova will be shopping for the memorial and that Charley would know that if the two of them were on speaking terms. So…errybody’s still mad, huh? Charley gets off the phone irritated, and we realize what she’d been in the middle of–trying and failing to write a letter to her father to burn in the bonfire. She tears a page out of her journal after crossing out half the words on it.
Nova’s covering the cork board that used to bear her newspaper clippings with index cards, trying to outline her book, but looks like she, too, is having a hard time writing. She gives Vi a call for advice. Violet doesn’t seem terribly sympathetic at first to her complaint about writer’s block–“Too much to say and not enough time to say it”–but, then she points out that Nova is the only writer she knows from St. Jo, and there’s plenty to write about that.
Enter Miss Effie, the miserable church lady who made the agreement with Vi to use the church’s kitchen in exchange for a “charitable donation” of a percentage of her profits. She’s kicking Nova out so the Wednesday Supper Club can have it–they’ve always gotten the kitchen at 4 p.m. that day and they’re “good, church-going people,” apparently. Vi mentions that her time there is on the calendar and furthermore, the church hasn’t had any issue cashing her checks. Effie says she’s sure the good Lord appreciates the money but still orders her out, an hour earlier than scheduled, and storms out. Vi mutters, “Good Lord, my ass” as soon as she’s out of earshot. Ah, Violet. Heart you.
Charley’s meeting with Vicky to go through papers and get more intel on the Landry family. Looks like a mess of dysfunction, adultery, and more–though according to Vicky, the Boudreaux all seem to have clean hands. Charley’s not convinced and says she’ll keep digging on her end.
On the farm, Darla has put Blue down to bed. She comes into the kitchen recapping bedtime for Ralph Angel and mentioning an upcoming trip the aquarium that Ra has already told Blue’s teacher he’ll chaperone. She then mentions that she noticed the plastic under Blue’s sheets. Ra tells her that he started wetting the bed a couple weeks after she left, and she looks shattered. She’s mad Ralph Angel didn’t tell her, but he says Blue’s embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to know.
Ralph Angel explains that Blue didn’t want to celebrate his birthday because his grand dad had stroke at his party last year, and that Vi suggested the bonfire as an alternative. Darla says she’s trying to make things right, but Ra wishes she’d told him he was coming. They do concede, though, that they’ll need to figure this out. That’s admirable.
Charley’s at Prosper’s waiting for him to find the paperwork he needs to take to his appointment. He’s flustered, saying he’s never understood his late wife’s filing system. While she waits, Charley take a look around and notices Mister Prosper’s records and a slide trombone. Turns out he used to play out on Frenchman street. Charley tries to get him to get going so that he doesn’t miss his appointment, but he insists on taking a moment and talks about how her father used to talk about her being headstrong and how much he misses Earnest. He’s lonely and sad and his mortality is weighing on him. Charley suggests they reschedule his appointment.
Ralph Angel and Darla are out having dinner with Blue, who says he has a stomach ache and heads to the restroom. Darla again brings up the field trip. She wants to go asa chaperone and doesn’t think she should have to ask. She points out that she’s still Blue’s mother and asks if he’s still his dad.
Violet and Hollywood are unloading her pies at the grocery store. She’s not feeling well, but is of course powering through.
Back at home, Vi walks into the dining room to find Hollywood plotting. He wants to get her a refrigerated truck to use for deliveries, but she pushes back. She’s started this business on her own and wants to keep it that way–“At this point in my life, I don’t want to owe anybody nothing.” Hollywood’s hurt, but Vi elaborates about her ex-husband and how he held money over her head the whole time they were together. Hollywood concedes that she can obviously take care of herself, but he doesn’t want to watch her work herself into the ground the way her brother did.
Remy runs into Nova at the farm while she’s working to get ready for the bonfire. He’s meeting one of his college classes there and looks over wistfully at Ralph Angel, remembering when he was one of his students instead of an able farmer who looks like his daddy.
A while later, Nova comes out as Remy is talking to the students about the racial economics of farming that Black farmers own only 0.3% of the land being farmed and that they’re standing on part of that percentage. The kids ask Nova questions–how long her family has owned the land, whether she’s worked on the farm–and she explains that her brother’s the farmer, and she has her own thing.
Remy comes looking for Nova to say goodbye before he takes off after his class and finds her in the shed, where she’s stumbled across her dad’s old tackle box. She reminisces about fishing with him when she was a kid–Charley didn’t like to get dirty, and Ralph Angel was still a baby–and remembers that the last time they went, in some podunk town where they stopped, some white men beat him up and watched smugly as he returned to the car with murder in his eyes. She’s never told anyone this before–didn’t even talk about it with Earnest after it happened.
Charley’s come back to finally get Prosper to his medical appointment, but he’s forgotten something. She walks into his house to get his jacket for him and sees an old, sepia-toned photo of him standing with her father in the fields when they were both much younger. She also finds a notice from Sam Landry terminating Prosper’s tenancy. The Landrys strike again.
Later, in the waiting room, Charley asks Prosper who’s going to look after him after he has back surgery. He hasn’t let her know about it–or about his pending eviction. He’s annoyed at Charley for bringing it up and asks her to keep it quiet. His name is called and Charley gets up to help him back to the examination room, and– Well, hello there. Romero, the guy who gave her a jump the other night, works at the doctor’s office. She gets flustered about having not called, but Romero wants some pie. No, literally. He suggests they go to an all-night spot for really good pie when Charley has time.
Davis comes to Charley’s to pick up Micah to go to an arcade, and she’s cold as ice no matter the compliments he offers. She’s pretty well rehearsed at keeping him at arm’s length by now, and I can’t say I blame her. But he’s obviously both surprised and hurt to hear about the memorial bonfire for Earnest, to which he hasn’t been invited and isn’t going to be.
At the arcade, Davis steps away to take a call. Some time later, they’re sitting in Davis’s SUV with the motor off, and he’s talking about his relationship with Earnest. They were close–he felt more like his father than his own, coming to all his big games, giving him advice. Turns out, though, that that’s not why there are tears in his eyes right now. Davis blurts out that he has a daughter named Tia by a woman he was involved with while he was married to Charley who’s since passed away. Tia is 13, and he’s known about her the whole time and now wants Micah to meet her. Micah asks if Charley knows, and when Davis says no, he gets out of the car and walks away. He knows how much this is going to destroy his mother. Davis’s ain’t-shitness is a gift that keeps on giving.
Charley meets up with Jacob and pulls no punches–why are all these Black farmers being evicted? He says it’s the EPA, not their company. After two hurricanes, run-off on their land has left mercury in the soil, and the EPA wants the land cleared out for more testing. Jacob tells her they’ll figure out a way to make the money back and Charley points out that this isn’t about money, it’s about the people who are being uprooted. Then she specifically brings up Prosper, and Jacob asks her to sit down so that they can figure something out.
Blue is coloring in his room with Ralph Angel and Nova when he asks about his grandmother, who he never met. They talk about how much they miss her, and their dad. Blue has finally got something for the bonfire: a thank you to Papa for bringing his mother home. Ralph Angel and Nova exchange looks, but don’t say anything.
Violet explains that when she and Earnest were growing up, their mother told them that fire was how they talked to the ancestors, that it lit the way to heaven, and that now Blue was taking up this tradition. He invites everyone to add their notes to the fire, send messages to Earnest.
While we don’t see the contents of all their notes, we get voiceover from each of them as they wordlessly place their letters into the fire. Micah wishes he’d had more time with his grandfather; cut to him watching an old press conference where his father, the fraud, effuses about how blessed he is to have a family like Charley and Micah. Nova promises Earnest that their family’s story will live on; later, she’s happily writing, new index cards referencing that fishing trip pinned to her cork board. Violet thanks her brother for always taking care of her and later tells Hollywood she’ll take him up on his offer of a delivery truck, acknowledging that letting him help her is something she’s going to have to learn.
Ralph Angel’s note is for both his father and his late mother: “Mom and Pop, I’ll raise him in your name.” He later crosses out his name on the field trip permission form as chaperone and writes in Darla’s. He’s going to figure this out, even if it’s not comfortable, for Blue’s sake. Which is what a father would do.
Finally, it’s Charlie’s turn at the bonfire. Her message is simple, and what we all have expected: she silently promises her father to take care of Prosper.
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