I follow Jurnee Bell aka Rosalee on Instagram. She gave a warning before last night's show that it was going to "powerful" and viewers would need a "big ole box of tissues."
Um. She lied. I was a sobbing mess maybe 10 minutes in. A box? A BOX? I needed a Costco case to do the job. Let's get into why:
James, James, James.
The ungodly Reverend has decided it's time for 7 year old James to get in the field to pick cotton. Previously, Ernestine had seduced Massa Tom into agreeing to put James in the woodshop with his brother, Sam. But this spineless mofo is so pressed to get on the good side of the preacher who doesn't even like him, that he puts James, who is probably his child, in the field.
Ernestine and Sam try to explain the rules of the field to James, who just doesn't get it. Ernestine tells him about wearing two masks, one for white folk, one got black and how even when you're mad, you can't show it. James says he never had to do that around TR, Massa Tom's son. Ernestine tries to make him understand, "things are different now."
Poor Lil James. He goes out in the field and his hands are bleeding and swollen, he’s hot, the break water is filthy so he won't drink it, which means he's dehydrated. Lawd. And he's expected to pick 300lbs* of cotton, a grown man's share. He ain't about this life. Sam, who also isn’t used to this-- he's been in the woodshop-- tries to help the baby, guiding him through the field. At the weigh in, Sam switches bags with James, who is 75lbs short, so James won't get lashes.
TR rolls up all cheery at the weigh in to see his friend. Bruh, bad timing.
That night, as Ernestine cleans Sam's whipped back, James overhears his mother and brother talking about how "soft" he is. "He doesn't know he's a slave", Sam overhears Ernestine take the blame. Sam blames Massa Tom, and asks if his mom if she can "do something to sway Massa."
Sam, you have no idea how she's been trying.
The next day, James is on it. He picks 315 pounds.
James goes to Sam later. He doesn't understand why their Mom isn't happy that he "made weight." They didn't want him to be soft, right? Sam passes on a lesson to Sam that his dad (their dad?), French, gave Sam: just because he plays dumb doesn't mean he is dumb.
Sam is looking at one smart black boy. (Word to Hov.) When James is alone, he shakes out the dirt he padded his bag with to make weight.
Elsewhere, Stabler and his son, Ben, have gone to track down Stabler's wife, who ran away from the mental hospital. Ben steals the hospital keys and checks out his mother's room-- ie, a hole with a pad on the floor-- to figure out where she went. Ben decides she went to the "stage". He and Dad go wandering into a dark field and find mom. We see Ben’s perspective of Mom, which is basically a white angel. She's singing to herself, and her voice is divine. But then we see and hear her for what she really is: looking like Carrie after she got the blood dumped on her at prom and singing off-key.
Mom's gone-gone. Like batsh-- gone. And Ben is spooked. There's a tender moment between Stabler and his wife where they sing together and her mind seems to come back from whatever place she went off to, before they take her back to the hospital.
Ben sits with his lucid-for-now Mom, and updates her on how he’s been. He says he's learned how to track and he's seen his dad do some bad things. He wants to know if his father is the good or bad wolf. (In short: the wolves are the figurative angel and devil that sit on your shoulder.) Mom doesn't have an answer.
Boo is running through a field alone. Um.. Where is her daddy, Moses? Thankfully, the white person she encounters is Elizabeth aka white woman with a heart. Elizabeth is trying to gain Boo's trust when a Marshall rolls up on a horse wanting to know if she's seen a black female child. She lies.
Elizabeth gets Boo in the house and is trying to get her to take a bath when Boo has a flashback of her dad running while carrying her when he got hit. Two arrows in his back. She watched him die on his knees.
This baby is what? Seven? With no mama and now no daddy too? She got two parents who loved her enough to sacrifice their lives for her freedom. Baby Girl, you're life ain't gonna be no crystal stair. But you gotta get free and make something of yourself that they would be proud of. If not for them, for the entire viewing audience. We are all rooting for you (Tyra voice).
Elizabeth finally gets Boo cleaned up and while tucking her into bed, says she will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. And she means that ish. When the old sleazy Marshall shows up the next day and spots Boo-- who Elizabeth learns has escaped from her brother-in-law's plantation-- Elizabeth has sex with him in order to keep him from reporting Boo. Later, Boo finds Elizabeth in a bathtub trying to soak the gross off.
Man. Elizabeth? You kept your word and took one for the team, and I respect that so much. We're gonna nominate you in the next racial draft, trade you for Ben Carson. It's the least we could do for saving Boo.
The rest of the escaped group is still with the Native Americans "deep in Indian territory". They ain't part of the Underground, but they've been a safe haven for escapees. The Native American helper says his mama was an escaped enslaved woman. He asks Henry about his people. Henry says he was born on a breeding farm. He doesn't know his family.
A breeding farm? For humans? That's some gross sh--.
The helper takes Henry out to a field where they plant crosses, one for each escaped slave that needs to have a casket made. Whoever is helping them escape will come to the field and rearrange the crosses to reflect when they should come back and be ready to be moved to the next location in a casket, I assume.
Back at camp, the helper points out a hut with gun powder. The Native Americans are building an Underground Railroad and need the explosives to blow stuff up. Nice. The helper wanders off to do some more of the Lawd's work, but Henry isn't welcome to go.
Noah, who is like Henry's big brother, is having boo time with Rosalee. So Henry seeks out Cato for companionship. Cato is Cato, which is to say, he's a surly asshole.
Henry goes to check the crosses again. He discovers that he, Noah, Rosalee and Cato can leave the following day. When he gets back, Noah is waiting to tat Henry up, so he can be like Noah. They talk about their new lives, and their new names. Henry says he wants to be Henry Hampton. Noah says it will be Noah and Henry Hampton. They are a family.
Elsewhere in the camp, Rosalee is skinning a rabbit. It reminds her of her mom. Henry strikes up a conversation and Rosalee promises to teach him to cook. Suddenly, Henry is struck with a billet. They both escape into a hut along with Noah. Henry reminds Noah that there is gunpowder in a nearby hut. Noah makes a run for it with a torch and is shot down. Henry watches, gets a flashback of Noah treating him like family and decides he will make a run for it too, bullet wound and all.
Henry's shot twice— three times total— but pulls a Zeke and keeps going until he torches the hut. There’s a gigantic explosion that tosses him.
I’m not 100 percent sure Henry's dead, but I’mma guess we need to pour a lil' out for him when we crack the next bottle. I hope I'm wrong.
TR is running around the house, playing with a toy horse that he trots across the furniture and the enslaved women setting the table like they are one in the same. I know he can't help it because people as property is the life he knows, but still: grrrr. Ernestine gets him out the way by offering him a roll of candy.
TR bounces out of the dining room and into the hall where he runs into the evil Reverend, who decides TR's too old to be playing with a toy horse. He needs a real horse. Massa Tom's ol' desperate to be liked self, agrees.
How is this man just running up in another man's house and bossing everybody like this is his plantation? And hold up. Why isn't this child in school?
TR is promptly saddled on a horse where he spots another horse being broken. He's concerned about the horse being hurt. As Ernestine waits on Massa Tom, Devil Reverend talks about the benefit of breaking female horses is that she passes along the subservient traits to her offspring.
Massa takes TR out in the field and tells him he'll be Massa someday and own all the land and all the slaves, "the property", just like the horse he's riding.
I hate Massa Tom. I really do.
Sam shows up at the Big House where Massa Tom is going over how to operate the plantation with TR. Sam's been saving his money, $100, and wants to buy James's freedom. Massa misunderstands. He thinks Sam wants to buy his own freedom. He guesstimates James would cost $500, which is at least the modern day equivalent of $14k. (So, the bounty on the Macon 7 is about 30k per head)
"I would be a very bad businessman if I let my most prized n---a go", says Massa Tom. Sam made the intricate desk that sits in Massa’s office. He’s talented than a mofo.
Sam explains that he wants James's freedoms not his own, Silly Massa. Massa wonders where James would go. He's a kid. Massa says he'll get James and Sam back in the woodshop and he'll think about Sam's proposal for James, which really means, "negro, please.” Sam knows that, but he learned well from his mama. He doesn’t show his anger, and thanks Massa Tom on his way out the office.
Later, TR goes to visit James and sees Sam running. But he keeps on about his business: going to visit James.
TR feels awful for the predicament of his former playmate and close friend. He goes down to the cabin to see James and tells him things will be different when he's in charge of the plantation in "ten years, maybe longer.” He implies he’ll free James someday. He makes James a peace offering for this f---ed up situation: half his candy.
James knows bullsh-- when he encounters it. He tells TR, "I don't want your candy." A rejected TR heads back to the Big House and as revenge for his butt hurt feelings tells his Dad that he saw Sam running.
I know he's a kid, and can't fully understand the ramifications of what he's done, and I feel bad for his innocence lost. He's a victim of this horrible institution just like everyone else. But TR went from apologetic to Joffery (Game of Thrones) in 10 seconds. That’s gotta be a record.
Ya'll. I understand why Sam left. And leaving your mother and baby brother has to be a gut wrenching decision. But who's gonna look out for James in the field? He's just on his own after two days and at 7 years old? And does James ever get out the field with his brother gone??
I hate this show.
Actually, no. I love this show.
But I hate how it makes me feel.