Season 3 of Black-ish starts off on the perfect note: a Young Thug song. The Atlanta rapper’s “Special” plays in the background as Dre muses about the joys of receiving special treatment. In Dre’s words, first-class treatment is as American as apple pie and baseball (well, baseball before steroids, but after segregation… okay, maybe just apple pie then). Dre’s latest plan to get that kind of treatment is to “ball out” on vacation and buy his whole family VIP tickets to Disney World (and yes, that’s the real Disney World, not a knock-off parody – the benefits of airing on ABC!). Work threatens to interfere, but Dre still runs off and leaves an all-important upcoming Microsoft presentation to Charlie. That’s probably not a good idea, considering Charlie is so freaked out by ghosts in his apartment (“all my shoelaces are missing and all my forks are flat”) that he’s currently living in the office, and also has no idea what Microsoft is, but nothing will get in the way of Dre’s dream vacation.
Of course, as anyone who’s ever been to Disney World could guess, some immediate obstacles greet the Johnson family’s arrival at the park. It’s hot, Pops is complaining (even though he’s making money from renting the home on Airbnb), and Jack’s short height threatens to prevent him from riding the best attractions. Luckily, VIP tour guide Cody (the ever-lovable Jim Rash) is here to help. Dre is happy to have “bought” Cody (or his services, at any rate). In classic American fashion, Dre has paid a lot of money to feel special… certainly more special than when Pops and Ruby took him to Disneyland as a kid and refused to even buy him a mouse-head popsicle. Now, Dre doesn’t want anything to bring him down from his cloud and that includes Charlie’s desperate calls about the nature of Microsoft. As it turns out, the VIP life is pretty good. Although it takes the kids awhile to get used to their line-cutting privileges, they soon take charge, telling general admission not to make eye contact as they cut ahead to the fronts of lines.
Bow isn’t so lucky. Cody quickly informs her that her pregnancy prevents her from any ride with “a sharp tilt, turn, loop, sudden drop, or sudden stop.” She gets sidelined with Pops and Ruby, who are busy buying drinks for everyone they can find to spite Dre, who they see as ungrateful. After all, they sacrificed a lot for that 1983 Disney trip Dre hated so much: Pops even broke into a car and stole those tickets. Well, okay, it was Ruby’s car, and she paid for the tickets with money she stole by opening Christmas cards at the post office, but still. Bow is tempted to just go back to the hotel and escape the heat, and Pops and Ruby are inclined to agree. On their way, though, they get sidelined by the Soaring Around the World ride and its blessed air conditioning. Pops pretends to be unfazed by the ride’s visuals (“Yeah, I feel like I’m flying, but I know I’m not”) but by the end he’s squealing with joy alongside everyone else and panicking that they’ll crash into the Great Wall of China. As Ruby puts it, “It’s terrible – just a lifelike illusion full of majesty and sensory delight.”
NEXT: Junior finds his Rey [pagebreak]
Meanwhile, Diane continues to taunt Jack for his height, which has restricted them to the Seven Dwarfs mining ride: “This is good, Jack, you can get a sneak peek at jobs available for someone of your height.” She quickly gets hit in the face by karma, however, and her glasses go flying off, blinding her. This proves quite a problem on the family’s subsequent Animal Kingdom safari, especially when some sight in the distance captivates everyone. Diane begs them to describe it for her, but the only word Dre can come up with is “indescribable.” Take it away, Cody: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been on this ride 10,000 times, I have a PhD in animal behavior, I have spent two days in the pouch of an Australian kangaroo, and I have never seen anything like this.”
Unfortunately, that glimpse of “the face of God” (as Junior puts it) is followed by a hard crash back to earth. The family’s time with Cody is now up, and they’re bumped to the regular lines, complete with 25-minute wait times. The kids aren’t happy about this downgrade, and Dre now learns firsthand the truth of standup comedian Jim Gaffigan’s bit about Disney (“how can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my children complain and whine?”). The kids get angry, Dre gets mad at them about being ungrateful, and it escalates until Dre storms off.
Bow, Pops, and Ruby are also complaining, but the difference is they’re actually having a ton of fun. Every time they try to exit, they get distracted by another gift shop, until eventually they’re all decked out in Disney merchandise: Bow in Minnie Mouse ears, Ruby in a tiara, and Pops in a Goofy hat. A Disney guide finally directs them to a genuine exit, but now there’s a parade going by, so they can’t leave yet. They even end up on one of the rides, Ferris Bueller-style, except they’re singing “Be Our Guest” instead of “Twist and Shout.”
Back in line, the kids are doing fine. Well, at least Junior is, because he’s just spotted the nerd’s dream: a pretty girl in a Jedi outfit. “She’s my Rey,” Junior declares. Too bad his pick-up lines aren’t quite up to snuff.
Bow finds Dre sitting on a bench, and her lingering ecstasy from the parade perfectly counters his grumpiness. Bow points out that the kids are laughing and having fun, now that they have the space to enjoy each other without their dad breathing down their neck begging them to have fun. “Not everything’s about you,” she says, reminding her husband that he is in fact inside an ensemble comedy. “Yes, it is,” he grumbles, totally missing the point. But not even his mood can put a damper on the magic of nighttime Disney fireworks.
Unfortunately, that magic only lasts until the precise moment the family returns home, whereupon everyone shuts themselves inside their rooms again, leaving Dre with a half-naked Charlie, who’s been living in the house via Pops’ Airbnb listing. “Should’ve just told me Microsoft is a computer company,” Charlie says, walking away with his gigantic bowl of Fruit Loops.