Because you can find recaps elsewhere, and because we long for the watercooler talks of yore, three editors, Sam Eichner, Najib Benouar and Hadley Tomicki, will be using this space to have a weekly conversation about FX’s Atlanta, Donald Glover’s capital-I Important, intriguingly abstruse, not-really-comedy comedy. Obviously, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. This week's topic is S02E02 Sportin' Waves.
Sam Eichner: Let's start. What was your guys' favorite moment or scene from last night's episode?
Hadley Tomicki: Tough one. I'm a big fan of Tracy's last scene, but I'd have to give it to another incredible opening scene. I thought the show perfectly demonstrated the awkward drug buyer/drug dealer relationship in 2 hours less than Pineapple Express. And that may have been the most polite stick-up ever.
SE: I loved that scene, too, and it's part of Atlanta's overall shtick, of making the otherwise terrible or terrifying seem mundane. You almost expect something bad to happen (at least I did), and then when it does it feels almost routine. Al is less scared than he is resigned to the fact that he's getting held up.
HT: I wouldn't be surprised if he reappears and pays Al back in season 6, with no other mention of him for years.
SE: We'll all have forgotten about him and he'll come back to repay Paper Boi at a pivotal moment. Najib, what was your favorite moment or scene?
Najib Benouar: In Atlanta... Plug run off on you! [The Trap Yakov Smirnoff will be here all week, folks.] I do say, Tracy calling himself the Prince of Tides was pretty goddamn fantastic.
SE: I was unsure about how he'd fit into the fold, but he was fantastic in this episode. And the actor who plays him, Khris Davis, is great, even though i've never seen him before.
HT: I loved the performance and character, but man he really fucked Earn.
SE: I guess? But Earn is always getting fucked. That's kind of his M-O.
SE: I was praying he'd just hold onto the money but somehow I knew he wouldn't. Also: where did he get it from? That was unclear to me.
HT: Something about dogs, I don't remember if it was ever clarified to begin with.
SE: Yeah, it was something about puppies. I think there was some sort of puppy-related investment that we're forgetting about, which just came to fruition, as they're wont to do.
HT: Al hustles molly and Earn hustles puppies.
SE: That seems like a good slogan for Atlanta. I don't know about you guys, but I thought there was a completeness to this episode that there wasn't in the last, but that there has been in some episodes in the first season, like the black Justin Bieber episode and the Juneteenth party. There was an interesting parallel between Tracy's plotline, as a black guy trying to ingratiate himself with a white interviewer or boss, and the white people at that office who were trying to ingratiate themselves with Earn and Al.
HT: Yes, there was a total dichotomy. The sell-out rapper on one side, our heroes in the middle and Tracy on the other side. Tracy wasn't afraid to tell the bosses to fuck off, while Al and Earn couldn't hash out their feelings about shit.
SE: Right. I loved the scenes at the Spotify-like streaming service, or whatever that was.
HT: That reminded me of some of our conference calls, being in this brave new world where technology is still kind of shit.
SE: Agreed. But what I was saying is that I think as a white progressive viewer, Atlanta makes you complicit in a similar way Get Out did (although to a much less grave extent).
HT: I thought of Get Out a few times in this episode.
SE: The moment where Earn is watching the TV or whatever, and all the white people at the office are looking at him, and then he turns around and they're all magically back at work.
SE: It's just a perfectly surreal moment, though, that to me is emblematic of the show's sui generis...ness.
NB: It might be worth mentioning Stephen Glover wrote this one (and the Biebs one and possibly all the others you mentioned earlier).
SE: I was thinking about that too, Najib, 'cause I thought that might be the case. What did you guys think of the Paper Boi acoustic cover?
HT: So apt.
NB: Ahh so clutch.
SE: Yeah that was pitch-perfect. And also the way the white weed dealer feigns chillness, and then turns it around on them.
NB: Does Al not know about DO NOT DISTURB mode for texts?
HT: I think he was in a tough spot though, 'cause he needs a supply. Money just eludes that man.
SE: I'm really confused at just how famous Paper Boi is. Like how successful is he? Can we put him within a range?
HT: I think he's got like one single.
NB: I think he's a regional success. More famous in Atlanta than anywhere else.
HT: Like a Mike Jones or Soulja Boy? I thought the acoustic song sort of indicated that his fame is fleeting fast and he needs a new track?
NB: Mike Jones sounds right.
HT: Like the song is ubiquitous but super disposable, until he can get in on that Yoo-Hoo cash...I may be looking into it too much, but I felt like there was this ongoing thread about corporate power in this episode. You had the "No Chase" rule Tracy took advantage of. And then you had Tracy being told he couldn't be hired for what felt like a specific reason. And then the whole Yoo-Hoo thing, and corporate millennials scene...
NB: The gatekeepers come in many forms. *Many white forms.
SE: I felt like they set up an interesting dichotomy wherein the black protagonists are made to feel like they have power in some situations, but were still beholden to the white corporate machine. Also, that's the second time the word "dichotomy" has been used in this conversation, so you guys KNOW this is legitimate television criticism.
HT: To me it feels like the protagonists are pretty resigned to the situation. I feel like they never really get their hopes up.
SE: That's true.
HT: They know the score.
NB: Wait, I still want to talk about the Yoo-Hoo commercial and how actually-good the song was compared to the long history of schticky rapper-y-or-Timberlake-y stuff they're parodying—the most current example of which is that damn Cheerios commercial by some off-brand rapper I've come to refer to as "Cheerios the Rapper" under my breath every five minutes it pops up on television.
SE: Haha. Cheerios the Rapper. That's rich.
HT: Wow, that commercial is inspiring at 9 in the morning. I feel like I should be outside jumping on a trampoline or something. But I digress...
NB: Hahaha. I really just love the show-within-the-show stuff.
HT: I feel like I hadn't heard the Paper Boi song in a while until this episode, and it was even worse than I remember.
NB: But the Jeezy song they play right after the robbery in the title sequence (I love those, btw) is excellent.
SE: I wonder if there are actual Paper Boi acoustic covers on YouTube. [Answers his own question.] Do you guys have anything else to add? Who do you think won this episode?
HT: Tracy. He left with his pride, if nothing else, while Al and Earn struggled between selling-out and their discomfort with the industry. And he got 3 pairs of shoes, from what I could tell. And Earn's $4,000.
NB: Tracy's hair.
SE: Child locks.
NB: Wait, should we start a VAN WATCH..? TWO EPISODES AND STILL NO VAN?