Queen Sugar / Season 3, Episode 11 / OWN
I noticed something about this episode–where is everyone? No Hollywood, no Blue, no Jacob, we don’t even see Ra until more than halfway through it. It feels…empty. This week’s episode had me in my feelings a few times–and especially with regards to Charley. Man, she’s seriously catching it from all sides, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
We open with a shot of Darla lying in her bed, crying. Maybe she’s having a crisis of conscience about the custody fight she’s pursuing against Ralph Angel? Seems like it, especially since it became pretty clear last week that much of these machinations to paint him as a bad father are her mother’s doing. And Darlene is still in town trying to run her life for her. We already knew she was responsible for the new apartment and nice furnishings, but she’s also the one who got Darla her job. And she’s bound and determined to project manage taking custody of Blue.
Charley’s P.I. comes to visit her at the mill to let her know that Micah is a “person of interest” in the Sweet Bay fire, and she immediately heads to the high school to confront him. And man…. The look on Charley’s face, though. At least he doesn’t lie this time when she asks him point-blank if he had anything to do with the fire, but he’s hella disrespectful when she, predictably, lights into him. I felt MY great grandmother rise up within me when he ignores Charley’s order to go straight home and not talk to his friends for the time being, but I also get his need to talk to Nova and get some perspective.
Violet is appearing on a local morning show–“Wake Up NOLA”–for a segment on Vi’s Prize Pies. She excited and looking lovely, wearing the custom embroidered apron her future mother-in-law gave her. When the anchor asks Vi what her story of perseverance is, she hesitates and then finally says, “Finding enough ovens.” Nothing about the lupus. As for the most rewarding part of the business, Vi says that’s helping other people and calls her assistant Rhonda to come join her on camera. It is a touching moment, even if it feels somewhere…odd? I mean, Rhonda’s nice and all, but again–where is Hollywood?
Nova’s getting feedback on her book from New York, and the notes are harsher than she expects. Her friend points out that Nova is writing stories that are all about everyone else–her father, her siblings, Blue. Where are the stories about her, about the experiences that shaped her? But she’s got some skeletons, she says, things she doesn’t want to disclose–like, for instance, her affair with Calvin, the married white cop, and some other things she doesn’t name. Such is the life of a writer; just as Vi gave her hell for airing other people’s dirty laundry, she’s going to have to air her own if she’s writing about her family.
Charley has to rush down to the High Yellow for a meeting with the farmers. This is when she learns they know about the prison planned for the Landry land. She pretends to know of no such thing, but they’re trying to organize before the parish council vote and asking her to intervene anyway she can. It’s not the first time Charley’s lied to to them, but you can tell she’s not comfortable with it.
Darla meets up with her sponsor, who’s written a letter on her behalf to help with Blue. Darla is honest with her about how conflicted she feels about where things are with Ralph Angel now, how they were the perfect parents, and then…not. She’s also aware that Blue could end up resenting her for taking him from his father like this. And, well, yeah, he probably will. I mean.
Micah goes to see Nova and gets a stern talking-to–yes, she understands his and his friends’ anger, but she points out that protest needs to have clear goals or else it’s for naught. And also, the loss of that cabin is a loss of history–of Black history, of American history. He may have thought he’d get off easy with her, but Nova’s not letting him off the hook. She tells him he and his friends need to grow their activism, learn how to organize, and figure out better strategies. “You can change the world, Micah.” The big question, of course, is what to do next.
Charley meets up with Jacob’s mama. She’s sounding pretty excited about the upcoming vote for all the shareholders. Colton has of course handed over his shares to Charley, and his auntie seems pleased as one of Violet’s pies about that. She also reiterates the bylaws of the family business. While Charley has a seat, she has no voice, and “family is family”: The Landrys still have the deciding vote.
Micah and Nova are now talking about what he should do. Since the police know Micah is somehow involved, it’s just a matter of time before they come sniffing around. Should he turn himself in? End up the first Black boy incarcerated in the new prison? Micah says that Nova always lives in her truth, and she points out that she’s flawed, too, and has made mistakes. She finally admits that the weed that sent Too Sweet to jail was weed she was selling in the 9th Ward back then. Ahhh. That does help explain the passion that Nova carried around that case; Too Sweet is her friend’s little brother. She suggests that Micah and his friends should help Ant, but they should find a way to do it from outside jail instead of martyring themselves out of guilt.
It’s time for the custody hearing, and both Ralph Angel and Darla are dressed smartly in a conference room with a judge sitting at the head of the table. Darla’s mother is there with her and her attorney, but Ra is accompanied only by his lawyer, who quickly submits that Ralph Angel is responsible, dedicated, and has a strong family support system, which includes Aunt Vi, who looks after Blue when he’s working. Darla’s attorney says his client has presented a “generous” 70/30 split that Ralph Angel rejected, and that’s when his lawyer says it’s because they’re going for full custody. Darla and her mama look like you could knock them over with a feather. They most definitely were not expecting that.
Let bylaws be bylaws
In a different conference room, some good ol’ boys are presenting to the Landry Enterprises shareholders the plans for the new prison, complete with a maximum security scale model. Frances and Charley smirk at each other from across the table, and finally Frances suggests to Sam that they should vote on whether to move forward with the the plan. That’s when he drops the bombshell that they voted three days earlier. Charley liked to have leapt all the way across that table, talking about the bylaws, but Sam doesn’t give a shit what the rules are. She was supposed to get a memo about the vote. Didn’t get it? Ah, well, that’s too bad. And Frances…. I honestly STILL don’t understand what any of this was, because she Sam first says the vote is done, she looks shocked, but by the time she makes her way out of the room and back to her office, she is smirking at Charley, not with her. Was this all a ploy to get Colton’s shares away from him so that he couldn’t take down the company while also keeping Charley from working some other angle to kill the prison?
Micah and his friends meet up with Ant’s mother. She’s understandably upset and thinks this happened because Ant idolized his older brother, who’s in lockup. Ms. Teresa also wants to know if they had anything to do with what happened, but they’re keeping mum. They do offer to do whatever they can to help, and Micah mentions that he spoke to his aunt, and she thinks she can help them find a good community lawyer instead of the disinterested public defender Ant has now.
Charley has the farmers over to her house to talk to them about where things stand with the prison and tells them the Landrys have signed off. She feels so hopeless–the only thing left is the parish council vote, and surely Landry has at least a few of them in his pocket. But the farmers are still fired up and ready to go, promising to bring every Black farmer they know down from as far away as North Carolina. This is mass movement, grassroots organizing. Maybe less flashy or performative than what the high school students have been up to, but still real activism. Micah comes home in the midst of this meeting but scampers upstairs before his mother has a chance to say anything to him.
Meanwhile, Nova goes to visit Too Sweet at his campus job shelving books in the library. They’re so glad to see each other, and Too Sweet still credits her with his being not just out of jail but in college. But Nova has come on a mission–to unburden herself of some of that guilt she’s been carrying around. She tells him that the weed in the spliff cops caught him with came from her. He pauses, taking it all in, what this means. “I don’t blame you, Nova.” He takes responsibility for the choices he made and says she was there where he needed her most, and she promises that won’t change. Then she mentions that she’s working on a book, and Too Sweet is delighted. Later, Nova sits listening to a recording she made while talking to him during their visit; it ends with him encouraging her to write her stories.
Fathers and sons
So, you know things aren’t going well for Charley when she calls ol’ Ain’t-Shit Davis over to the crib to talk. Seems Micah’s still not talking to his dad after finding out about his half-sister, but Charley doesn’t care. Right now, he’s not talking to her much, either, and she didn’t have an affair and hide a love child for 13 years. And that’s exactly why she wants him to talk to Micah–because Davis has made serious mistakes of the no-backsies kind, and their son needs to understand that you can’t undo some things.
Back in the custody hearing for Blue, Darlene is frothing with anger, completely in disbelief that Ralph Angel would consider going for full custody. She says they don’t even know if he’s Blue’s biological father, and as he’s been saying since the beginning of the season, it doesn’t change anything. And then we see Ra be vulnerable in a way that’s familiar, especially since Darla’s confession at the end of Season 2. He’s been there for Blue, even after Darla destroyed him, and all he wants is to be a “daddy to that boy.” What more does he need to prove? Darlene wants him to take a paternity test. Despite the judge saying she doesn’t want to hear from anyone but the parents, Darlene proceeds to run Ra down as having dangerous people in and out of the house despite his own parole and once again demands that he take a paternity test. Which is when Darla finally speaks up, telling her mother she won’t let her do this to the father of her child.
But Ralph Angel finally says what we’ve all known all season long: He took the test, and Blue is not his child. The pained smile on his face as he says this is shattering, and Darla’s face collapses hearing the news. And yet, he’s raised him, and he’s on the birth certificate. And he says he’s done his research–DNA be damned, they can’t just take Blue away from him.
Davis is sitting in Micah’s room, trying to get him to talk to him. When Davis says him getting arrested is Charley’s worst nightmare, Micah says he is. Which is valid. But Davis pushes back, and finally Micah explains that this is all because he was tired of feeling like a victim. (We also find out that the officer who abused him and then got fired when video leaked of him beating another Black suspect surfaced is appealing his termination, so we perhaps haven’t heard the last of him.) Davis understands and is proud of Micah wanting to make change but wants him to think more about his actions first.
Downstairs, Charley is angry-cleaning, scrubbing the crap out of her countertop when Davis walks in. All he says is, “It’s going to be okay,” and then holds her, and you can see her sinking into the familiarity of his arms, the comfort she used to find there, until she pulls away. This is one of those things that can’t be fixed.
A mother’s love
Finally, someone ELSE acknowledges it. Sitting in Blue’s room with Darla, Darlene says, “I didn’t get to see him this time.” Yeah, lady. None of us did. She reiterates how much pain she’s been hearing from Darla about everything going on, and how as a parent, it’s her job to protect her. Darla gets it, but also says that Ralph Angel is Blue’s father regardless of blood, and they’re going to need to figure out how to co-parent–on their own. So, off drives Darlene back to D.C. or wherever it is she lives. Bye.
Charley, unable to sleep, wanders into Micah’s room in the middle of the night where he, too, seems to be unable to sleep. She crawls into bed with him and holds him as they both cry, terrified.
All photo credit Skip Bolen © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN.
Only two more episodes this season! Want to catch up? Take a look at other Queen Sugar recaps here.
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