Black-ish recap: Man at Work
Wanda Sykes shakes things up.
This week, we learn a lot from the Required Dre Johnson Preamble at the start of the episode. In it, Dre tells us about his background, growing up as a good kid in ’80s Compton. Even when trouble found him, good friends were able to keep his head on straight. The speech is all about how you should never forget where you came from — and, more pertinently, who you came up with. Your crew, your entourage, your best friends, your bearded artist friend named Sha who’s annoying your whole family by sleeping on the couch all day and not showering.
That last one is especially relevant right now. Sha’s in town for an art show, and since he spent his childhood personally looking out for young Dre back in the day — even took a bullet BB for him! — he figures he’s allowed to help himself to Dre’s luxe couch cushions. Bow (surprise) disagrees.
Also: Theme alert! Over at Dre’s work, Mr. Stevens’ excitement level is as popped as the collar on his pink polo shirt. Why? His ol’ college pal and business partner, Philip Lido, is stopping by. See how similar that is to Dre’s situation with Sha? #Loyalty.
Anyway, this all makes a lot of sense — the company is called Stevens & Lido, yet they’ve never explained or shown us who Lido is. Now we finally get to meet Dre’s other boss. Yay! We find out that Stevens and Lido started this business all on their own, with nothing but a measly $5 million dollars from their fathers.
The only problem is…Philip doesn’t show up. Wanda Sykes does instead. Double yay! As promised before, Sykes has finally arrived to Black-ish as Daphne, Philip’s ex-wife. She divorced Mr. Stevens’ best friend due the fact that he was a rampant (and apparently cinematic) cheater. As part of the breakup, she gets the company — that’s right, Sykes is the captain now. This is terrible news for Mr. Stevens and his unchecked priv, because Sykes immediately starts shaking up the status quo. Women and minorities, come to the front of the table — Daphne wants you to have your “Rosa Parks moment”! Even Charlie, the self-declared “back-up black guy,” gets excited!
In fact, Charlie’s doubly excited because Daphne came here from France, which he thinks means soon they’ll all be working only two-day week and having one-minute meetings. Daphne has other ideas, though — she confides in Dre that she wants to fire Charlie. Or rather, she wants him to fire Charlie. She thinks he’s useless, much to Dre’s dismay. Firing his best work friend? A hard pill to swallow. Which sneakily brings us back to our Word of the Day — it’s up to Dre to defend his boy Charlie. #Loyalty!
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Mr. Stevens is having a #Loyalty crisis, too. He’s severely saddened by Philip’s absence. The man isn’t even shaving anymore, one of the most telltale signs of WASP depression. And he’s blaming it all on Daphne. As he tells Dre in the hallway, “I think that bitch killed my soulmate.”
Meanwhile, back at Casa Johnson, Sha is roaming around the house, making his own soap, and lounging around in his cut-off calf-length pant-shorts, a paint-splattered T-shirt three sizes too small, checkered purple socks, and, yes, Birkenstocks. Bow can’t handle it.
At work, Charlie interprets Dre’s “step your game up” advice as start “coming to the office dressed like a pawn-store Lucious Lyon,” which enrages Dre. Making matters worse is the fact that he wore a fur coat to a PETA meeting — though, to his credit, he thought it was a pita meeting. ALSO to his credit, his prepared pita presentation is basically brilliant. “Pita: Flat is where it’s at!” ALSO ALSO to his credit, the montage of Charlie’s best-worst moments of work throughout the seasons was a hilarious reminder of how essential Deon Cole is to Black-ish.
In other words, Dre must find a way for him to keep his job. But Bow is on Daphne’s side. She’s forced to sit him down on their bed and say that she gets — even respects! — his impulse to protect his crew. But, she tells him, Dre’s family is his crew now. His wife and children are his new E, Turtle, and Drama.
NEXT: Dre realizes his wife was right all along
Like always in the last 5 minutes of a Black-ish episode, Dre eventually realizes that his wife was right all along. Luckily, he doesn’t have to put his foot down when it comes to Sha: The aspiring artist gets signed to a paid residency by an underground gallery that appreciates paintings that depict “Bruno Mars on Mars, eating a Mars bar.” Sha is moving out! Yay!
Sha gives a big chunk of the credit to his benefactor, Dre— where others saw a messy, hopeless slob, Dre saw an artist at work. That’s when it dawns on Dre that Charlie is, in a sense, an artist at work, too. Sure, he doesn’t look like a productive employee, but he has the highest client-retention rate in the company, thanks to his overly committed, 24/7 devotion to the people he works with. In other words, he produces. Dre demonstrates this Daphne, and his case is so convincing, she decides that not firing Charlie was her idea all along.
So it seems like everything worked out well for everyone, right? Well, no. Because amid all of this drama, Charlie realize that he’s actually been undervalued at work this whole time. He has the highest client-retention rate in the company, after all! So after all that, he takes an offer for a better job at another company, where the office has a bocce court. At first, the news agitates Dre, who reads it as a betrayal. But then it dawns on him that having Charlie go on to something better is the most #Loyal thing to do — nothing is better than seeing your crew succeed. The two friends share an intimate moment, hug it out, and then say goodbye as Charlie rides his Razor scooter into the sunset. It’s quite a sweet moment but hopefully not the last we’ll see of Cole on the show.
So it seems like now everything worked out well for everyone. Except there’s one more thing left: the kids. By following Sha’s “starving artist” example, all four Johnson kids have become lazy, messy, unshowered, jelly-stained slobs who do nothing but lounge around wallowing in their own narcissism — Bow stands against. This leads her to deliver an all-time great speeches about how dreaming about being an artist without putting in the real work (or having the talent) is a terrible idea:
“None of you are talented enough to be starving artists… Do you know how this is going to play out for you? You’re going to fall behind in school; you’re going to get stupid; you’re going to get skin infections because you don’t shower. And then when you turn 18 and your dad and I kick you out, you’re just going to roam the streets. And you’re going to do really bad things for small amounts of money and chicken nuggets. And then you’re going to die, in the gutter. And people are just going to step over your little lifeless body on the way to Pinkberry. That sound good to you?”
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get Tracee Ellis Ross an Emmy nomination.
Dre: Sha is an artist. He doesn’t understand time.
Sha: Sleeping on that couch really swallows you up. It’s like sleeping on Precious.
Mr. Stevens: Philip is my boy! First thing out of college, we started this company with nothing but $5 million in seed capital from our fathers. That’s it. Bootstraps!
Charlie: Sir, are you blessing us today by rocking skinny jeans?
Mr. Stevens: Yeah, the gal at Abercrombie said that these would make my dangle pop!
Daphne: Caught him cheating. I got it on camera. Got lots of coverage. Angles, masters. I’m thinking of submitting it to Sundance under the title White Thighs.
Diane: You sleep 18 hours a day??
Sha: Think so.
Bow: He’s making his own soap now, Dre. We’re this close to Fight Club.
Bow: He’s a bum, Dre. I would know, my parents were hippies — we were raised just about the bum line.
Charlie’s French: Uh, merci, oui oui… bwee… bon?
Dre: Charlie, I mean you’ve got to step your game up.
Charlie: You mean my break room Monopoly league or my after-hours Jenga?
Dre: No! Your job game, Charlie.
Bow: I’m all for supporting a dreamer. I am — I mean, I donated to Joe Lieberman!
Charlie: Now everybody just relax. It seems like I made a perfectly understandable homonym error.
Bow: There’s so much jelly on your neck.
Diane: Thank you!