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'American Soul' Episode 4 Recap: Don, You In Danger, Boo

In this week’s episode, Don Cornelius tries to book an act on his own, JT is having a hard time, and a famed attorney makes a cameo.

We couldn’t help but focus on the men of American Soul during Episode 4.

The ladies are good, for the most part: Tessa found her footing, literally and figuratively, finally showing Flo and the Soul Train gang she ain’t nothin’ to play with on the dance floor, and checking Don for taking out his frustration on her with mixed messages and disrespect. Simone is still getting away with using a fake ID to chase her singing dreams in a jazz club and has emerged as a Soul Train fan favorite.

But the men are having a tough time.

JT avoided getting pinched for his role in the robbery and police shooting – but only because Chris (Trey Best) made sure the crime was pinned on someone else. Now we maybe understand why Benny (Kristopher Charles) was tearing up after giving info to the police last episode. He knew he was basically writing a death certificate. Chris has now told JT he won’t get any money from the heist, so all the stress and drama was for naught. Now his family’s finally being evicted. Just as it seems he can buy a little bit more time, Mr. Willard pushes JT past the breaking point with a comment about his mom’s “million-dollar mouth.” We knew this was coming; people been talking to JT crazy for 3 episodes now. JT knocks him out, and the family seeks shelter from Ma Mable (Elizabeth Omilami) in a storage room at the diner. JT wants to hide this from Simone and Kendall, even against Ma Mable’s grandmotherly advice, “Don’t lie to the people you love.”

Simone’s on a mission to save up enough money for Encore to cut a demo and gives JT the pooled cash to hold onto. She knows his mama’s a drug addict, why would she do that? We’ll bet $96 - the amount Simone passed to JT - that the money’s gone next episode. Also possibly gone next episode? JT’s mama. Soon he may have to cut her loose so he doesn’t drown along with her.

Kendall is still figuring out who he is in the absence of his father. Possibly still sorting his guilt for avoiding his father’s fate in the service, he’s trying patriotism on for size, hanging a gigantic American flag in his room. Simone reminds him their mom would not want it in the house, but he insists – to his sister’s amusement – that since he’s the “man of the house,” it’s his call. He’s also still juggling responsible fatherhood with chasing his dreams, bringing his son with him to an emergency show rehearsal. Our real worry, however, is that Flo now has Kendall in her sights. Kendall clearly isn’t a virgin, but Flo’s on another level. Pulling celebrities, locking people in rooms to get a look, on a make it by any means necessary level. Kendall’s not ready. Our hero (anti-hero?), Don, is going through it. He’s still not landing big enough acts for the show, and his primary sponsor is threatening to pull out. He’s taking it out on Tessa, the only other person working as hard on the show as he is, and she’s fed up. Motown, which moved to LA right before Soul Train, has shut him out because he was “difficult” with Gladys.

Don rolls through Club 100 Proof hoping he can again grab an act through Gerald, but Gerald makes it clear that the new BFF free trial period is over. “(The) first taste is hospitality, brotha,” he says. “Now you gotta pay to eat.” Eventually, the two businessmen come to a gentlemen’s agreement: Gerald will help Don land marquee acts for a 5% cut of the business. But what Don doesn’t know (that we do), is that Gerald is a for real gangster. Like killing people and then standing up to his gangster boss’ crew, gangster. Don, you in danger, boo.

Before settling on an arrangement with Gerald, Don tries one more time to land an act on his own. Following a tip that Ron Isley is performing at an NAACP fundraiser, Don crashes the event and runs into Motown’s Ilsa Dejarrnette (Shannon Kane). Isla and Don bond over a little coke (what’s a couple of lines between social acquaintances?) and Ilsa offers to help him navigate the black bourgeoisie and make an introduction to Diana Ross (Michelle Williams), who showed up in place of Isley.  Don, ever anxious and determined to do things his own way, charms Ross by knowing she sang Ray Charles’ “The Night Time is the Right Time” when she first auditioned for Berry Gordy. Diana, of course, is way too big of a star for a fledgling show, and she tells Don as much. Now, Don must get into Dejarnette’s good graces to get an in with Motown acts. Sounds like a scandalous tryst is on the horizon.

What this episode got right: Soul Train dancers indeed got paid in fried chicken. Members of the Soul Train Gang weren’t compensated, but there was free KFC on set every show taping for lunch.

What it could have done without: Johnnie Cochran showing up as the attorney for Dexter Brown might be a bit much. We appreciate incorporating black figures that we know and will recognize, and highlighting their backstory (Cochran made his name representing black victims in highly publicized police brutality cases), but the intersecting moments can feel forced.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That a record label’s legal representative is all up in lounges and parties, having final say on who performs where, and schmoozing with artists. Even at an everyone-wears-multiple-hats label like Motown. Ilsa is most likely based on long-time Motown senior executive Suzanne De Passe, but De Passe worked on all aspects of creative and artist development.

What we don’t understand: Why there wasn’t more of Janelle Monae’s Wondaland artist Roman GianArthur as Ernie Isley.

This wasn’t the strongest episode so far, but it was a necessary plot builder. Episode 5 looks lit, though. (Come through K. Michelle!)

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Issa Rae And LaKeith Stanfield To Star In Will Packer's 'The Photograph'

The great talents of Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield are hitting the big screen soon in Will Packer’s latest film, The Photograph. The two actors have scored roles in the forthcoming movie, Deadline reports.

Stella Meghie will be directing the film, which is based on the parallels of love stories that intersect between the past and present. Both Rae and Stanfield have made their mark on and off the big screen. When Rae isn’t on her brilliant show, Insecure, she’s hustling in Hollywood by getting roles in movies like The Hate U Give and Little. Stanfield is known for his role on FX’s Atlanta, and his awesome contribution to Sorry To Bother To You.

It will be interesting to see Rae and Stanfield on screen together, especially considering both of their strong personalities and viewpoints on the world. During an interview with GQ, Stanfield expressed how he felt about the social-political conundrums of the racist events that have taken place since President Trump's election, like the race riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"I’m interested chiefly in bringing justice to those who deserve it," he said. "Secondarily, I’d love to begin a campaign photographing all of the criminals. And villains of the world. And bringing them to justice."

"Sometimes the things that are the worst aspects of humanity are not in fact dark," he explained about his sentiments on the matter. "They are light. This represents a situation in the time that we are experiencing...a light time. A time full of light."

There is no release date yet for The Photograph.

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Terry Crews Believes 'White Chicks 2' Will "Happen One Day"

Terry Crews is eager to breathe life back into his controversial White Chicks character Latrell Spencer. During an interview with Us Weekly, the famed actor expressed his elation behind a possible sequel to the aforementioned film.

"I would love one! I'm staying in shape for White Chicks 2! I will never get out of shape—you know that, right?" Crews said. "I will be 75 and say, 'Here we go, I'm ready to go!' I will never, ever get out of shape because that movie's going to happen one day."

In 2004, Marlon and Shawn Wayans starred as two rich white women as they went undercover to apprehend a suspect in a kidnapping scheme. The film was also written by their older brother Keenen Ivory Wayans, and starred John Heard, Rochelle Aytes, Faune A. Chambers, and Drew Sidora. During the course of its debut, the reel raked in over $113 million a the box office.

In a 2018 interview with The Chicago Tribune, Marlon Wayans discussed the impact of his film. "White Chicks, to me, is one of the most underrated comedies ever. That's one where I have to say '(Forget) critics,'" he said. "You have to have no sense of humor to not like that movie — two black guys dressed up as white women. Anybody who hates White Chicks, something is wrong with them. They had a bad childhood."

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'Black Monday' Explores Mo's Backstory With Narration Of '60s Soul Music: Episode 8 Recap

For seven episodes, we got glimpses into the past that molded Mo into the savage trader he is. Episode “7042” finally takes us closer to his origin, and apparently, that leads us to Los Angeles in 1968. The Jheri curl is now a blown-out afro, and his ruthless mercantilism on Wall Street is replaced by altruism for underserved communities, as a member of the Black Panther Party. The glimpses into his past — the Church’s Chicken on his birthday, his visit with Jammer — all begin to congeal into one vision of a misguided man.

The domineering Xosha Roquemore plays the role of Candance, the woman who Jammer intimated broke Mo’s heart. Roquemore’s last recurring role was as comedian Dawn Lima on Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, a short-lived series about the seedy side of stand-up comedy in the early 1970s. Her as Candace is another stellar casting choice. Roquemore was able to speak honey-coated bullets that can pierce any man’s ego in a way that’s both comforting and impactful as a Black woman comic in the 1970s. It’s just as mesmerizing to watch on Black Monday as a Black Panther member in the 1960s.

This arc, while entertaining, seemed to continue an awkward trend in Black Monday: the Black woman bears the weight of the man’s faults. Candace is portrayed as the person who took Mo from thinking of others and drug-free to a staunch individualist who probably has cocaine residue in his DNA. Similarly, it’s Dawn who is the cause of Mo’s Jammer Group being partly owned by the Lehman Brothers in the episode “243,” and the one who feels the obligation to blow up her marriage and future love life to save a risky Georgina Play that Mo involved her in without her say. But, then again, Regina Hall and Roquemore deliver two of the most emotionally jarring performances of the episode and demonstrate two separate, but equally as profound, ways of Black women releasing themselves from the control of men.

Taking Black Monday to the 1960s accomplishes a number of worthwhile feats otherwise unlikely in the 1980s Wall Street timeline. For one, the first 90 seconds of this episode features a wider variety of Black faces than the last seven episodes had, combined. But, more than anything, the new timeline allows for the soul music of the ‘60s to narrate the story.

Music Narrator

Music has always played a noticeable part in the show, but more so as a reinforcement of the time period. In this episode, the sounds of the time guide the audience and take them deeper into the character than what they see on the screen.

In the episode’s opening, soul singer Harry Krapsho lets us know “I don’t care about money too much” and “I don’t have a dollar to my name, and if you don’t mind I’d like to keep it the same” on his song “Don’t Worry.” Those sentiments play as a Black man, whom we don’t realize is Mo, exits a bus in Los Angeles, California. Before we find out Mo wasn’t money-hungry in his past — and formerly known as Roland — the sweet sounds of Harry Krapsho let us know.

Candace deceptively persuades Mo to abandon his principles by smoking weed and going against the Black Panther Party’s wishes, as Sandy Szigeti’s “Make Believe World” scores the scene. After, the plot twist minutes later, the song is a shrewd act of foreshadowing by the showrunners. But, It’s the late, great Nina Simone’s rendition of the 1967 song “I Shall Be Released,” written by Bob Dylan, that expands the Black Monday world.

 

Near the end of the episode, Candace’s true identity is revealed while she’s looking into the eyes of the men and women who seem to have put her in such a position. When Nina’s voice wails out “I remember every face of every man who put me here,” Candace’s motives become more complex. Black Monday lets the music leave you with the thought that Candace may have been compromised by the FBI, and in order to avoid jail time, she would have to turn in her fellow Black people. The steely resolve in her final words to Mo — “I told you, ‘I got you.’”— further complicates that theory and adds an engrossing richness to Candace’s character.

Black Monday could’ve left Nina Simone’s rendition for the climax of the flashback arc and the episode would still be great. But, Nina returns for one last “I shall be released” after Mo sends Dawn packing following her revelation to Mo about who she really loves. The image of Dawn piercing her lips and steadying her gaze on the countryside instead of being shocked into submission by Mo’s thoughtless decision, while Nina belts out her hope for release, is a moment of Black perseverance we would’ve never thought a show like Black Monday would make a focal point in such an important episode.

The episode also ends with an uncharacteristically sentimental Mo reverting back to his selfish ways at the same time Ms. Simone sings about “release.” And just like that, one four-minute song helps set up the emotional stakes at hand in the final two episodes of Black Monday’s first season.

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