Star recap: 'Next of Kin'
I gave this show a lot of flak last week, but I have to admit, this week’s episode had me pretty captivated. Star might not be good, but it’s dramatic enough to keep my attention — not least because right at the top of this week, we finally get to hear something all the characters have talked about endlessly: Mary’s voice. And honestly? It does sound like a once-in-a-lifetime voice!
We start out with Simone in the hospital, after last week’s accidental overdose sent her into cardiac arrest. As she hangs between life and death, Mary (Caroline Vreeland) appears, bathed in white light and clad in a denim jacket/turtleneck combo that’s both retro and appropriately tacky. Still, she’s beautiful and she sings about Simone joining her in the afterlife. (The scene to watch this week, if you watch just one, is definitely this opener.)
Soon, Star begins singing to Simone as well, begging her to stay in the land of the living. The sequence is gorgeous and Vreeland is well-cast: She definitely looks like she could be both girls’ mother, and like I said, she does have a heart-stopping voice — it reminded me a little of Sia or Jessie J. AND, look how great is it to have a fantasy musical number without that awkward screen-ripping effect? Anyway, with the help of the doctors, Simone comes back to life.
During all this, the real Star was at the club with Alexandra, trying to convince Big Boi to produce their demo. Their speech isn’t anything special, but he agrees because Alex is Roland Crane’s daughter. Jahil has secured them some studio time, so everything looks good — until, obviously, Star finally calls Simone and Cotton tells her what happened.
Star rushes to the hospital and is told she can’t see Simone because their “mother” is there. She immediately blows Carlotta’s story about being their mother (so Simone wouldn’t get put back into the system), but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Star eventually gets to the room and sings the song — one their mother used to sing to them — from the beginning. Later, Star sang it to Simone when they were babies and their mother was lying in bed, either dead or knocked out from drugs.
When Simone wakes up, Star is furious — she won’t lose Simone to drugs just like she lost Mary. Simone seems ready to be alive and become a human interest story on Good Morning America. Star doesn’t want Simone to leave the hospital yet because she needs help, but Simone is still afraid that if she stays, her foster father will be able to hunt her down.
Speaking of being hunted down — Mr. NFL Hunter Morgan comes to the salon looking for Star (and living up to his name … get it?) but the girls tell him she’s at the hospital. Apparently, Star isn’t returning his calls. Given last week’s conversation with Jahil, though, it’s not clear whether he’s infatuated with Star or sees her as a revenue source (probably a little of both). Miss Lawrence steals this scene like she does all of them, greeting him with, “Oh my god, b—-, there go Hunter Morgan,” and rattling off his game stats like a regular beer-swilling football fan.”When did you start watching football?” someone asks. “Since his fine a– became quarterback,” Miss Lawrence quips.
Back at the hospital, a psychiatrist tells Carlotta and Star they’re placing Simone in a 72-hour psychiatric hold. Star says she doesn’t need it and reminds Carlotta of the pain they went through in foster care. Carlotta says she’s trying to be there for them now, and Star says, “You were our mother’s best friend. You should have been there for us then.”
Hunter shows up with flowers for Simone and some flirty sass for Star, telling her, “Most girls come when I call.” Star fires back, “A) I’ve been busy, B) I’m not most girls, and C) You’re gonna have to do a lot more than call to make me come.” Damn, Star! She’s nothing if not fiery. “I’m not tryna be some WAG,” she tells him. He wants to take her out. She says maybe.
After Carlotta has a conversation with Pastor Bobby at church (where they shared a very romantic kiss), he comes to the hospital to visit Simone. Simone tells him about seeing Mary and the white light; she confides that she doesn’t know if she believes in God, but she does believe in angels. Pastor Bobby believes her when she says she wasn’t trying to kill herself, but asks her to talk to somebody about her problems.
The only two people who really do talk to each other about their problems are lovebirds Derek and Alexandra. Derek suggests she move back to New York and finish Juilliard — he thinks Star and Simone are going to mess her up, and he likes that she’s led a sheltered life thus far. He reminds her that as a black man in America, he has to walk around with his mouth closed and his head down just to stay alive.
Similarly, in the next scene, Cotton is asking Carlotta why she told the hospital she was Simone’s mother. “You wish she was your daughter,” she accuses. Carlotta counters with, “I named you Arnold after my father.” Cotton tells her Arnold is dead and that she’s getting bottom surgery with the $10,000 she’s saved up. Carlotta is suspicious of where Cotton got the money; she knows she didn’t get it from working at the salon. “We all do what we gotta do, Mama,” she says. This might be the story line I care most about — when is Carlotta going to accept her daughter?
Are these two scenes a sign that Star is really going to dig into race and trans issues? If so, maybe we’ll end up taking this show a lot more seriously.
NEXT: Jahil makes a stomach-churning discovery
Jahil isn’t having an easy time — he thought he’d signed up for a regular old smuggling job to get that money for the girls from Creepy Maggie. But when he meets the van at the drop point, it turns out to be full of women. “I agreed to a smuggling job, not a trafficking job!” he tells the driver. The driver pretends to be uninvolved. When he leaves Jahil with the van, though, Jahil does something surprising — well, depending on what you think of him. He speaks to the women in Spanish and says the police will arrive in 10 minutes and help them. They just have to stay put and tell the cops their passports were stolen and they were brought here against their will.
I wondered for a bit if he was telling the truth, but then he goes to Hunter and asks him to beat up his face so he can go back to Maggie’s people and pretend he got carjacked. So he’s not that bad of a guy after all! In fact, maybe he’s some sort of hero? This isn’t a problem that’s going to go away soon, though: Apparently, those women were worth more than a usual “shipment” (ugh). Why are they so valuable? We might find out next week, as this episode closes with one of the women showing up at Jahil’s door.
Anyway, back to the issues at hand. Star and Alexandra go back to the hospital to bust out Simone and get her to their recording session to work with Big Boi. As happens in every TV-depiction of a recording studio, members of Big Boi’s entourage nod their heads when the girls start singing (that’s how you know a song is “good”).
But soon, Carlotta shows up and makes them turn off the machines. Star yells at her for ruining everything she tries to do, and Simone yells at both of them for talking about her like she isn’t even there and like they know what’s best for her. “If I want to smoke weed, I’ma smoke weed! And if I want to kill myself, I will!” Simone yells, at which point Big Boi throws up his hands and says, “NOPE! Too much drama. I’m out.” Probably the most realistic thing that’s happened on this show so far — no way a real star would stick around for some young nobodies to finish their fight.
Carlotta takes Simone back to the hospital, where Simone finally tells her what her foster father did to her — and how her foster mother let it happen because it meant he wouldn’t beat her. In addition to the rape, he would also give her pot and frequently kept her home from school so he could rape her. So, psychological trauma and stealing her education. Why didn’t Star stab him harder?! Carlotta swears he’ll never hurt her again. Oh — and Alexandra hears the whole thing. Will she cut Simone a bit more slack now? Or is she just now realizing how sheltered she’s been?
Later, Star and Jahil talk; Star doesn’t believe his carjacking story for a second. He’s mad (and a little whiny?) that she didn’t tell him about Simone’s hospitalization. She rightly argues he doesn’t have a medical degree … and doesn’t seem to like Simone, period. She also reminds him she’s still not going to be a solo act — any plans he has must involve Simone and Alex, too.
This conversation was weird and more than a little flirty. Is this just regular Star being Star? Or is something going to happen between Star and Jahil? She tells him he doesn’t “play to win,” but she wants him to manage them “because you’d knock over your own mother to get to the top.” How is that not playing to win? Anyway, he tells her they’ve missed the deadline to submit the demo, but Star says they still have two more hours.
They rush to the hospital, record a (great) song in a drippy closet while Carlotta and Bobby watch, and perform it in a fantasy music video in matching thigh-high denim boots. Jahil uploads it to the entry site JUST IN TIME (as if uploading a demo is as time-sensitive as detonating a bomb).
So, since we spent two full episodes on this contest entry issue, they’re pretty much guaranteed to win the spot, right? In the episode’s final moments, the van woman comes to Jahil’s house and we see Simone’s foster father (so relieved he’s not her biological father) throwing the foster mother to the ground — ostensibly on his way out to search for Simone? Who are Simone and Star’s biological fathers, by the way? Wouldn’t it make some kind of sense if Simone’s father was actually … Roland Crane? Crazier things have happened.