Christmastime is here
The episode starts with a quick check-in on Daniel, who received his inevitable punishment for learning to read (and teaching other slaves) in the form of basically being blinded. We then go from that punishment to Cato’s… Well, it would be too much to call it punishment, as he’s looking less like a hostage this week and more like a willing participant. Cato show Patty Cannon the progress on Donahue’s book, first fueling her ego, only to anger her with the part of the book questioning if Patty could ever possibly capture Harriet Tubman. He then convinces her to focus her resources on “going after the queen herself, not just the court.” “Easier said than done,” Patty retorts, but that’s when Cato tells her about a song he once heard, a song that worked as a map (“each verse, a step along the way north”) to make it to all the safehouses and eventually make it to Harriet. That song? The Underground theme song, making its return.
The fate of the boarding house is in flux, as rumors of Georgia’s true race swirl around town after the raid on the boarding house and leaves her without boarders to keep the house financially afloat (or to fund Rosalee and company’s train back up north). Georgia and the sewing circle hold a bake sale to raise funds (with baked goods in line with the “free produce movement,” not from slave labor), but things are not looking good. Sure, there’s people like Elizabeth, who wants to help all that she can; but then there’s people like Laney, one of Elizabeth’s acquaintances who claims to think it’s “wonderful” that Elizabeth is “helping the negroes,” only to snidely refer to Georgia as one and come up with excuses for not donating. She also claims that “us women” can truly “identify with the plight of the slave” because of their husbands’ rule, as though you can either be a slave or a woman but not both. (As though a “slave” is not a human, of course.) She then tops it all off with: “Maybe we can do tea soon. Just the two of us.” She’s very unpleasant — in an actively horrible, not just “annoying,” way.
But the boarding house and Rosalee really need money. This all coincides with Elizabeth’s own continued crisis of faith, since she’s just “so tired of begging even good people to join the fight.” She’s still not sure what her part is in all of this. This is where Harriet steps in with an anecdote and solution, asking her when the last time she prayed was. So they pray… and then we find out that Elizabeth is going to church.
Because it’s time to plan a heist, baby. We learn that there’s a pro-slavery church on the other side of the river — one with a printing press and rhetoric linking slavery to “godliness.” Basically, if you were a good person planning to steal from a church, this would be the church to steal from. And it is, as they follows the plan set up by Harriet: Elizabeth attends the Christmas service (when there will be the most people and most collection money), alongside one of the sewing circle members posing as a slave, who creates the distraction. The distraction’s in the form of a bag of snakes, and with that, they’re able to grab the collection money. There’s some static from this church’s reverend (calling them sinners for this act of thievery), but Georgia and a gun allows them to get away with the money. It’s enough money for the train tickets for Rosalee and her family, but there’s still not enough to keep the boarding house open. That’s an issue for another time, though. Or is it?
Interestingly enough, this episode doesn’t address the fact that this is Elizabeth’s first Christmas since John’s death. But it does keep her mighty busy, perhaps too busy, to possibly avoid that. And as such, that’s how we get to Laney’s ultimate Christmas present. After dinner, Elizabeth goes to Laney’s house to collect her promised donation. After all, she said she’d do it after she spoke to her husband, so now is the time to put her money where her mouth is. But Laney is committed to being terrible, stating that she “won’t be donating to anything that Georgia woman is involved with.” The thing is, Elizabeth’s not asking; she’s done with empty condolences, and she wants Laney to fill up the empty box she brings with cash, coins, and jewelry. Because if not, Elizabeth is going to tell Laney’s husband about all the men Laney has been sleeping with about town. And she’ll do it every month when she comes to collect — if Laney doesn’t give in, that is. “I think there’s a good person in there, Laney,” Elizabeth tells her. “I think you just need help in finding her.” What’s a little blackmail between old friends, right? She gets the money… and then she and Georgia are greeted by Cato at the boarding house, saying “a friend of a friend” sent him. It’s the opposite of a Christmas miracle.)