It’s Halloween time once again for the Johnson family, but instead of prank wars and a heavy emphasis on family group costumes, we get psychological wars and a heavy emphasis on family dynamics with the introduction of the Johnson cousins, including Dre’s cousin Junebug.
Dre begins his narration telling Black-ish fans what they already know: He loves Halloween. Ever since he was a little kid dressing up as the Silver Surfer (not the Tin Man) with a hairnet on his head, stealing money from his mother’s purse to get on the bus and travel to the best Halloween candy houses, Dre has obsessed over the spooky holiday. Now that he lives in one of those best Halloween candy houses, it’s a free-for-all for trick-or-treaters, including his kids’ “hood cousins”.
The episode cleverly brings us back to the Johnson family group costume from “The Prank King” while introducing the “hood cousins” (in a Straight Outta Compton gag that would have been insane not to use), who basically kick the crap out of Dre’s own “soft-ass” kids, which he lets happen every year as his own little tradition. You may think it’s not the best parenting technique in the world, but Dre clearly swears by it. And considering that Junior designates his hands by their calligraphy skills and knows the names of TV movies starring Farah Fawcett and Judith Light, Dre might have a point about his kids and their “soft-ass”-ness. Then again, they may get that from their old man — as we see from the appearance of Dre’s cousin Junebug.
Once again, we see why Dre and Bow are one of the great couples on comedy television right now, from their couples costumes (You always go classic Michelle Obama over Teen Choice FLOTUS, Bow!) to their adorable pep talks, which begin with Dre fixing sinks and cars with zero tools and lots of tears. As we already know, the Johnson family all get into the holiday spirit, but Ruby cannot stand the holiday. She insults both Dre and Bow’s embrace of Halloween and Bow’s dinner, and she hands out tiny Bibles to trick-or-treaters throughout the night (Bow’s treats give the kids cavities, while Ruby’s give them “everlasting life”). Junior walks in with his Halloween costume as one of POTUS’ Secret Service, and, because it’s Junior, he takes it way too seriously. No, really. He’s been following his dad around all week, even monitoring his bathroom breaks.
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Joy stops by for a little morning top-off of racism and the added bonus of kid-hatred, letting Bow know that the neighborhood will have a guard for the “big, scary kids” who will be coming out to trick-or-treat, as the kids prepare for their not-so-equal duel with their cousins. But this time around, it’s the cousins who are getting “mollywhopped.” Junior, Zoey, Jack and Diane have apparently been training for 364 days for this very rematch, so the Johnson kids get the element of surprise and the jump on their cousins. But it’s Dre who’s in for the biggest surprise as Junebug makes his triumphant return to Dre’s life with a tray of candy apples in tow.
NEXT: We finally learn what the heck “tea kettle” means. It’s pretty literal.[pagebreak]
It turns out that while his kids may have been getting the physical beat down, Dre received both real hits and psychological ones from his cousin. Junebug’s first intro at Dre’s house includes calling Dre “extremely unattractive” and “tea-kettle,” hinting that he has served five to seven years in prison, and generally embarrassing Dre in front of said kids.
Then again, Dre’s kids learn an entirely different lesson from Junebug’s torture of Dre. After the initial beatdown, the cousins return for a rematch and take over Junior’s room to trash the place. As the other kids leave in defeat, Diane has an idea: It’s time to give the cousins a taste of Junebug and insult them psychologically as well. After Diane throws a major paternity truth bomb at one cousin and Dre insults their knock-off sneakers, it’s clear the Johnson kids have won this match, but they’ve also broken their spirits. And yet, even though the cousins decide not to go trick-or-treating with the Johnsons, they still get to enjoy some annual Halloween bullying, as Jack’s candy is stolen by a bunch of kids on Airboards. (These things are everywhere!!)
Of course, Dre and the kids aren’t the only ones getting tortured and learning some lessons. Throughout the episode, Bow learns that maybe she’s more Janine than she realizes, as the trick-or-treaters who come to the house continue to do terrible things, and Bow continues to judge many of them in terribly incorrect ways. She feels threatened by a very unenthusiastic teenager who is clearly just at her house to get some easy candy and go home, but she’s overly welcoming to a few youngsters who vandalize her front porch and hit on her in overly aggressive ways.
At least we finally understand where Dre’s parenting style comes from: His mother. As it turns out, Ruby allowed Junebug to mess with Dre his entire life, even on Dre’s graduation night, when Junebug threw him out of the car. Ruby tells Dre that Junebug knew Dre was the only person in the family who was really going somewhere, and he was protecting him from getting busted that night.
Dre gets his weekly dose of realization and makes up with Junebug — getting to tea kettle him for a change and giving us the chance to finally learn what that nickname really means — as his kids learn to finally bond with their cousins in the best way they know how: with their cousins beating up some kids while the Samoan guard protects them (and gets them free Airboards, which is basically the greatest present of them all). They take Jack’s candy but give some back in return, and all is right once again in the Johnson household.