We gave it a B
Last week’s episode was the ultimate standalone, but now we’re back to the stress that comes from knowing all these plans are going to end in disaster. And it all starts with the return to Daniel and his struggles. Daniel has started teaching other slaves how to read, and like clockwork, the danger of that plan is revealed in this episode. He and his fellow slaves are found (his daughter is able to get away) and beaten, which segues quite “nicely” into our regularly scheduled program… which is Cato getting the stuffing beaten out of him by Patty Cannon’s gang. That comes with waterboarding (with the aid of Patty’s stocking, which is especially insulting) and shaving off his hair and eyebrows. Patty took Cato’s home (and wealth), and now she plans to take whatever dignity he apparently has left.
“Trust,” Patty says. “It’s how you get people to let their guard down. And people trust those who look like them more than they trust those who do not.” Patty is such a blowhard that it’s quickly gotten to the point where the best course of action during her scenes is probably to fast forward them, but then I suppose you’d be missing out on valuable plot information. Patty wants Cato to help her wrangle up “slaves” in exchange for his — and Devi’s — freedom.
It’s “slaves,” because this episode serves as a reminder (as though anyone could forget) of the corruption of this slave-capturing business — which is actually a good choice after Harriet Tubman called for war in last week’s episode. Here, Patty sets up a deal with the magistrate to collect freed men (for $3 out of the $10 he’d get for any returned runaway slaves) and essentially sell them either back into slavery or into slavery for the first time. Yes, it’s just like Elizabeth and Lucas and Harriet have been saying: They’re taking these “laws” and working them to their disgusting advantage, day by day. Cato does this to keep his and Devi’s lives, which are especially in peril as Patty threatens to sell Devi into slavery (as she’s brown enough to be considered different); as he later tells Devi, the deal is for him to get Patty 30 “slaves” for his freedom and 30 “slaves” for Devi’s. And like Patty said before about trust, Cato’s hook when it comes to trustworthiness is that he’s an affluent, solitary black man who can get in with other affluent, solitary black men. That’s the story for victim No. 1, at least.
Once Devi learns what Cato did, she’s not on board, calling this “horrible country” his excuse. “You need it to justify all the bad things that you do,” she tells him, “when the truth is, you’re just a bad man.” Yes, what Cato is doing is awful, but at the same time… He kind of told you that he’s a bad man, Devi. You just insisted on believing you could get to him to reveal his inner beautiful soul. At the same time, Devi clearly doesn’t understand the survival instincts needed to survive as a slave or possibly get to freedom; as Noah told Cato, even he was only thinking of himself and his kin, which is what you’ve got to do. Yet Devi says she’d rather give up her own life than be responsible for the lives of these others, so even though it’s aggressively wrong, Devi is sold into slavery. If you knew in advance that this episode was titled “28,” how much did it sting to slowly realize the episode represented the number of “slaves” left for Cato to capture once he sold out Devi? Thanks, Cato.