While their parents are away, the Johnson kids try to figure out their great-aunt's mysterious backstory

By Christian Holub
November 17, 2016 at 04:40 AM EST
Credit: ABC/Tony Rivetti
S3 E7
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  • ABC

Thanksgiving is the best holiday. Dre seems to think so, too, because he starts this episode by listing off all the great things about it: Food, football, parade. Well, there’s also the whole genocide thing, but maybe it’s easier if we just focus on the parade and stuff. Anyway, this Thanksgiving is special, because it features a guest appearance from Lorraine Toussaint as Dre’s Aunt Almaviligerais (or A.V.). She’s Pops’ sister, and she and Ruby despise each other. Dre, naturally, tries to play both sides. He disses her when he’s with Ruby but praises her in person, and desperately doesn’t want to have to choose between them. For him, that would be Sophie’s Choice, a movie he may or may not have actually seen.

This simmering tension between A.V., Ruby, and Pops doesn’t stop Dre and Bow from taking off for a pre-Thanksgiving romantic getaway and leaving the kids in their care. Naturally, as soon as they’re gone, both the kids and the grandparents get up to no good. A.V. meets with Pops in secret and asks for payment on something. Junior overhears a bit of this and tells his siblings they might finally solve “one of our great family mysteries.” His siblings all respond to this with sarcastic answers, but Junior’s actually talking about the origin of the rivalry between Ruby and A.V., which apparently remains unclear to them. Of course, he doesn’t have that information yet, so they start coming up with theories based on the meager evidence.

Meanwhile, Dre and Bow are all set for their final pre-baby romance, but unfortunately Bow’s feeling some blues. She just realized her morning sickness has stopped, which means the first trimester is over. That doesn’t seem like a problem, until Bow notes that since this is the last kid they plan to have, this is her last pregnancy, which means she’ll never have morning sickness again. That makes her somewhat sad, since, in her words, she’s good at being pregnant. Bow thinks she’s good at everything, of course. To help her work off the stress, Dre orders two masseuses. Two women masseuses, that is. Bow doesn’t think a woman can work out all her kinks, but Dre doesn’t want another man touching his wife. They compromise with a woman for Bow and a man for Dre, which Dre is decidedly not happy about.

Jack heard some of that dirty deal, but really only understood the part with the dirty money. He assumes they must have robbed a bank and are disputing over how to split the loot. “That’s so far-fetched,” Junior declares, before launching into his theory of how the three adults must have been in on the conspiracy to fake the moon landing. The idea of dirty secret family money does have a certain sway, though, especially since, as Junior notes, “Does anyone seriously believe Dad is good enough at anything to afford this lifestyle?” Zoe always assumed their mom just had self-esteem issues, but that’s not good enough for Junior. Assuming the money must be hidden somewhere, he punches a hole in Zoe’s wall to look for it, causing all his siblings to freak out.

NEXT: The truth is revealed

Walking through the hallway, Pops and A.V. hear Ruby singing. “That’s a vengeance song!” he exclaims. “The last time I heard that, I woke up with my whole body shaved.” Tracing the signal, they find Ruby cutting up all of A.V.’s clothes, which certainly escalates the situation. Both Ruby and A.V. are ready to take their earrings off and settle this, but Pops gets in the way.

This time it was Diane spying, and she understands the situation even less than her brothers do. She’s confused A.V. with Pops’ mistresses, and thinks this means she’s their real grandmother. Ever the sensible one, Zoe doubts this incest conspiracy and sets out to find out the truth herself — but not before ordering Junior to fix the hole he made in her bedroom wall.

Dre is not having fun. His male masseuse keeps asking if he wants the massage to be harder or softer. “Tell me what you want, Dre,” Tyler soothingly intones. All Dre wants is for Tyler to stop using his name like that. Ever an exemplar of fragile masculinity, Dre is a wreck by the time all is said and done. Bow is raring to go, but he just lays curled up in a ball. “We should’ve never come here,” he whines desperately as his wife fails to cheer him up.

Back at home, Ruby and A.V. have finally reached a détente. Ruby accepts her share of the money, but declares she and A.V. will still never be friends again. In a twist, Ruby reveals the reason she hates A.V. so much is because she’s the one who told Pops to divorce Ruby. After some more flashbacks and clarification, it’s revealed A.V. did so because she thought her friend deserved better than her no-good brother. A.V. always had her brother’s back, but in the end all she did was enable his drinking, gambling, and cheating. The three reach an understanding.

Zoe was the one spying this time, which means she understood everything. However, she quickly realizes her siblings don’t want a rational explanation. Instead, she tells them it was indeed money from a bank robbery and they had been involved in faking the moon landing. She still can’t countenance Diane’s creepy incest theory, though. Sorry, Diane.

Dre’s narration comes back at the end to clarify Thanksgiving isn’t JUST about food, football, and parades. It’s also about family — forgiving them, being there for them, and loving them. Despite their setbacks, Dre and Bow do seem to have done a lot of the latter… When they finally arrive in time for dinner, they can barely stop talking about how much sex they’ve had. Happy Thanksgiving.

While not the season’s strongest, this episode was a fun change of pace. For a show with such a deep cast, Black-ish sometimes focuses a little too much on Dre for my taste. It was good to sideline him and Bow a bit and show off the kids, who don’t often get the chance to just act like goofy kid siblings with each other like they did tonight. Toussaint also injected a nice dose of freshness with her guest spot.

Episode grade: B

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