Written by Lena Waithe herself, this special episode explores #MeToo with Black women at the center. It also illuminates how far the victimization goes with sexual assault. Not only is the person directly violated impacted, but also their friends and family, as well as the friends and family of the perpetrator, who must bear the burden of his actions as well.
The episode opens with the scene of Bryson (Tequan Richmond) and Crystal (Brittany Inge) sitting forlornly in the virtually empty offices of the Graham Agency. They’re both obviously in shock, especially Bryson, who says, “One accusation? One and it’s all over?” Crystal corrects him. “It wasn’t just one accusation.” He wonders why they didn’t say anything twenty years ago when it happened. Crystal reminds him that twenty years ago, women couldn’t say anything. Bryson is beyond shook! Graham Agency was his first job out of school, so besides his adulation of the founder of the agency (who is now under fire for his past treatment of and abuses against women), the job itself holds special meaning for him.
The next scene opens with a pair of disembodied hands loosing Tia’s (Lala Milan) braids as she sits on the floor in front of the person. As the camera pans up, we see it’s Simone (Tetona Jackson), who’s doing her hair. Tia is a little annoyed while Simone is morose, depressed and sulking. There’s some bad hair vibes happening around her! Bryson arrives as Tia reaches her last nerve and tells Simone to go get something to eat and see if that will help her energy. Bryson tries to make Simone feel better. They all just watch Simone’s phone as Marcus Graham, Simone’s dad, continues to call and she continues to ignore his calls. Bryson fixes Simone a plate.
Later, still at Simone’s place, the gang has a long, awkward dinner. Tia, with just one-third of her head braided, tells Simone her father was basically a jerk. Simone doesn’t say anything, but it’s clear she doesn’t disagree. Ari (Leland B. Martin) says it’s all in the past and besides, things were different back then. Tia reminds him that the trauma associated with sexual assault lasts much, much longer than the act itself, but Ari essentially remains unconvinced. Tia presses him, saying she is glad that finally women who went through sexual assault are coming forward, because, “If we keep being quiet, y’all gonna keep treating us like we’re only here to get ya’ll d***s hard.” That’s our Tia, keeping it 100, per usual!
Crystal, who appeared more sympathetic to the victims earlier on, now interjects and asks if people don’t think it’s suspicious that the allegations are just coming out right before a big merger. Ari is quick to jump in and agree. The implication is that the women are weaponizing their victimhood as a play to deny Marcus Graham, a Black man, more wealth. Bryson points out that all the women making the allegations are Black. David (RJ Walker), who has been silent the whole entire time, finally adds his two cents saying, “Adam and Eve weren’t perfect and God made them with his bare hands!” Tia tells him God just may have been a woman. Basically, David is saying that people shouldn’t be judging Marcus. Simone, suddenly on fire, demands that David tell her where that leaves her mother, who Marcus obviously cheated on numerous times. He does a metaphorical shrug. “God,” he says, “wouldn’t give your mother anything she can’t handle.” Everyone at the table gives him a side-eye and sigh combo. “Why don’t you sit this one out, pastor?” Tia remarks and it’s the best advice David could take.
Bryson admits he is having a really hard time with the whole situation because of how much he looked up to Marcus. In fact, he says, “Marcus Graham was the only man I ever looked up to.” Now, who will he look up to? Who will be his hero and role model? Tia isn’t having it. “I think all these dudes should go to hell!” She goes into a passionate speech about all of the ways that women are constantly encroached on and violated when they are going about their ordinary everyday lives — at the grocery store, on the bus, and even at the beauty supply store.
Crystal still says she is upset that a Black man is being taken down and that since he didn’t actually rape the women it’s…okay. Simone and Tia are in disbelief that Crystal would say something like that.
Bryson asks where should people draw the line in terms of what is acceptable behavior. Although everybody seems to agree that, as Tia says, “At the end of the day, we all need to get on the same page as to where this damn line is!”
David suggests that the “line” they are all seeking might be to just not treat any woman in a way you wouldn’t want your mother to be treated. Bryson says, “Y’all can treat my mother any way you want!” Uh, I beg your pardon, Bryson? If this is how Bryson truly feels, Simone seems to be in for some trouble with him down the line! Although all the friends give Bryson the side-eye when he says this, they don’t take it further, but it does show that respecting women based on their relationship to other people (mother, daughter, sister, wife) rather than their own personhood is not the answer
Simone wonders if her mother’s success was due to her relationship with Marcus. Crystal reminds her that, no, that isn’t possible since Angela was a badass all by herself. Simone conditionally agrees but says it certainly didn’t hurt that her mother was involved with Marcus.
Ari tries to stick up for all the abused men out there with a lil’ “whatabout-ism.” What about all the men who have been sexually abused by women? The gang squashes that thought real quick! Realistically speaking, men are more likely to abuse their power. Then the group all turns on David, saying pastors are some of the main culprits of sexual impropriety. David doesn’t have much of a comeback for that.
Simone thanks Bryson for supporting her through this and he then says he wished he had a father to disappoint him. Simone reminds him what is going on and what she is going through is really not about him.
Ari then goes on to reveal himself to be one of the people on this planet called Earth, who thinks maybe….just maybe, R. Kelly is innocent. Everybody else reminds him that they are perfectly sure R. Kelly committed the crimes he has been accused of, whether they saw the infamous tape or not!
Then the subject of Bill Cosby comes up and Ari starts to lose it. Heathcliff Huxtable and the Cosby Show as a whole, for him and for everyone else in that room, held a special place in their households. Ari says he looked at the Huxtables as simultaneously a reflection of his family and also as who he aspired to be. “Just because he did something bad,” Ari insists, “doesn’t mean you get to take away my childhood.” Ari is being deliberately obtuse here and engaging in gaslighting. Tia reminds him he can find The Cosby Show videos online if he wants to relive his childhood so badly. However, for Cosby victims, where do they go to retrieve their peace of mind and loss of innocence?
When they find themselves alone in the kitchen for a moment, Crystal and Simone clash. Crystal tells Simone (and herself) that Marcus is no Harvey Weinstein…as if this makes it okay. “It wasn’t that bad.” she says. It becomes apparent that Crystal is a victim of a sexual assault who, at least partially, blames herself for what happened to her. This is probably the reason why she over-identifies with the perpetrators and not the victims. Frustrated with Crystal, Simone reminds Crystal that she said “no” to her abuser, and that should have been enough. While it can be helpful to let a friend know how their past trauma may be causing them to revictimize other people, Simone probably could have had that conversation with more compassion and gentleness, considering the severity of the trauma to Crystal. But Crystal doesn’t seem willing to engage her or be upset with her, “I’m going to let you have that, because I see you’re going through it right now,” Crystal says.
But when Crystal asks, “Why can’t we just move on?” Tia replies, “We can’t move on until the victims can!’ Simone says she loves her father but she is still a feminist and it would be wrong for her to sympathize with her Dad and not the women affected by his actions and the actions of men like him.
The episode closes with a montage of each of the show’s characters, in their own private hells, dealing with this powerful issue. Crystal, triggered and her defenses seeming to finally melt away quietly breaks down in the shower.