If there’s one thing everyone knows, it’s that you can’t teach a crab to walk straight.
That quote comes from Aristophanes (I think!), but it could’ve very well come from tonight’s Black-ish — specifically Pops. Turns out, the man’s been avoiding seeing a doctor since 1985, when “We Are the World” was released.
Why? Dre offers a quick primer on the knotty history between African Americans and our country’s health-care system. But when Dre himself breaks the cycle by going to see Dr. Windsor (played by the terrific comedian and Review star Andy Daly, who also happens to play a hilariously useless doctor on Silicon Valley), we learn that Pops has been self-medicating: The man has been snorting Afrin on a daily basis for decades in a bid avoid the doc.
But, hey, Bow is a doctor! That’s her job! Remember that? It’s okay if you don’t, the show tends to forget about her professional life for multi-episodes stretches. But not tonight, so Bow uses her medical authority to coerce Pops into getting a physical.
Good thing, too: Pops has a clogged artery. Bow informs everyone that Pops is gonna need a balloon angioplasty, “a routine procedure that has a 95 percent success rate.”
Or, as Dre puts it: “My old decrepit Pops is gonna die! Soon!”
The news starts rippling across the Johnson house like a crab in the ocean. Dre takes it the hardest, but the kids have lots of feelings about it as well.
Like most young children faced with the prospect of losing a grandparent, Junior realizes he wants to know more about Pops — his first kiss, his stance on fracking. “Where is he on SeaWorld?”
His siblings have more nefarious goals: They want dibs on Pops’ stuff when he’s gone. (Hey, the ‘70s are coming back after all.) But Diane’s got even grander ambitions: “The real prize is power of attorney.”
So Jack and Zoey start currying favor with Pops (and sneakily placing colored stickers on the items of his they want), while Junior uses his camcorder to document the life and times of Pops. Young Diane, on the other hand, plays the long con: Acquiring Pops’ signature for the purpose of legal chicanery.
Yet Pops himself is not concerned at all: After getting a second opinion at the neighborhood barbershop, he determines that all he needs is cranberry juice to stay healthy. It always does the trick, according to (gulp) Charlie.
Also, grandma Ruby is roaming the house, too! In the episode’s B (or C?) plot, she earns Bow’s disapproval by spoiling the kids too much. She’s letting them go out on school nights, eat sugary foods for breakfast, play violent video games starring Hitler… that kind of thing.
NEXT: The miracles of
cranberry juice medicine[pagebreak]
Anyway, back to Pops. It seems his cranberry juice diet is doing him good. He’s still got all his “old man strength.” But in the end, science always wins. While playing the ol’ sack-of-potatoes game with Jack, Pop suddenly becomes weak and starts clutching his heart. The scare is enough to make him change his mind. “I’ll have the damn operation!” Pops shouts.
Cranberry Juice: 0, Doctors: 1.
On the day of the surgery (which is, like, the next day), the Johnson house is full of emotion. A sense of somberness hangs in the air. Pops, atypically not-mad, goes on a quiet but meaningful walk with his son around the neighborhood. It’s a nice bonding moment; together, they’re able to share some valuable, dog poop-filled time before Pops goes under the knife.
If anyone was concerned that tonight’s Black-ish might be Laurence Fishburne’s last, fret not: The surgery is a success, despite the odds. Pops survives! He lives to scowl another day!
Meanwhile, back at the house, Ruby gets served the truth about grandparenting… in the form of vomit. Thanks to her laissez-faire attitude regarding sugary snacks, Diane is at home throwing up. “I’m a bad grandma,” she says in defeat. Bow, being the sole nurturing force in the house, let’s Ruby know that it’s okay — it’s her job to spoil the kids. Ruby’s a bad person; she’s a good grandma.
The episode closes with an awkwardly sweet dance between Dre and Pops, scored to Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father.” The scene is tender but a tad too on-the-nose, like an angry crab’s pincher claw. Or something!
Dr. Evan Windsor: Come see me in my office. And clean yourself up.
Dre: I’m mentally scarred! That doctor wore me like a bracelet.
Dre: So is your beef with doctors or Lionel Richie?
Ruby: Since when is Tuesday a school night?
Charlie: I don’t blame him. Ninety percent of people who step foot in a hospital die.
Charlie: Seriously, you wanna get into a math-off right now when 90 percent of your dad is in the hospital dying?
Josh: Hospitals are a young man’s game… like hopscotch, or erections.
Dre: I’ve been sleeping with a doctor for 20 years — that kind of makes me a doctor.
Charlie: Oh, so that’s how that works? Well, then I am a bus driver, a toll booth operator, a PBS sign language translator, another toll booth operator, and a sandwich artist.
Lucy: Well in that case, I’m a married college TA who likes to make a lot of promises about leaving his wife.
Mr. Spencer: You’re only as old as your organs, Dre. And right now, I am drunk-teen-motorcyclist-years-old.
Jack: Please – I’m smaller. I’m everywhere, and nowhere.
Ruby: Since when is Thursday a school day?
Junior: What would you say is your favorite crab-based saying?
Pops: Hmm, strictly crab-based? Well, you lead off with two very strong ones. Wait, what the — are you recording me for posterity?!
Junior: So much crab wisdom, so little time.
Mr. Spencer: Whoa, Dre, two-muffin morning? What’s got you down?
Bow: Why didn’t you tell him about the 90 percent success rate?
Dre: I thought you said it was 95?
Junior: What’s your favorite pizza? Most memorable topping?
Bow: I know he’ll be fine, the procedure has an 88 percent success rate.
Bow: Besides, I’m not going to get myself all worked up about a procedure that has an 85 percent success rate.
Dre: Does anybody survive these things?
Pops: Because you’re soft, like a crab in summer.
Pops: Heffer stole my Vicodin!