After a week-long hiatus, Queen Sugar has returned and things are only becoming more complicated for the Bordelons.
“By The Spit” opens with Nova (Rutina Wesley) in Atlanta for her book tour. Octavia Laurent (Cree Summer), her old professor, is by her side for emotional support and schmoozing. Nova seems to revel in Octavia’s attention. She is finally allowing herself to be taken care of and she has no qualms about her luxe amenities, room service and champagne. However, things begin to shift for the women when Nova receives word that she’s been shortlisted for the National Book Award for Blessing & Blood. Immediately, Octavia tries to downplay the prestige, which jilts Nova. She thinks the award may help her reconnect with her estranged family.
Later, during an interview with a publication about her novel, Nova is shaken when the journalist reveals that Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) is running for city council. As Nova sits and tries to process her thoughts Octavia highjacks the interview. It is becoming increasingly clear that she has ulterior motives.
Back in St, Josephine’s parish, Blue (Ethan Hutchison) is still coming to terms about his parentage, as much as any kid can. Darla (Bianca Lawson) and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) are being supportive by allowing him to take the day off from school. However, Darla wants to be proactive about Blue’s emotional wellbeing and urges RA to call in a counselor for Blue. Though Ralph Angel seems reluctant, he puts Blue’s happiness over everything.
Later, a therapist sits with Blue and his parents to discuss his emotional state following the revelation that Ralph Angel is not his biological father. After speaking with all three of them, the therapist determines that Blue is handling everything well. She urges RA and Darla to write down some dreams they have for their son’s future.
The next day, Blue seems to be in brighter spirits following his therapy appointment. Both Ralph Angel and Darla can take a deep breath for now but with this show, who knows what the future will hold.
Meanwhile, Charley was very serious about running for city council. With the support of Councilwoman Barrera, she’s found a space for her headquarters. Romero (Walter Perez), Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) and Mr. Prosper (Henry G. Sanders) have all gathered around her to help. With very little time before she announces her intent to run, Charley will be working overtime to get a real foothold in the community. Meanwhile, Romero, ever the gentlemen, wants to be sure Charley knows what she’s up against. This might be a moot point as a woman named Genevieve from St. Thomas parish arrives to help Charley as her community also has a vested interest in making sure the highway does not get routed into St. Josephine. Genevieve’s presence puts a pep in Mr. Prosper’s step.
The ghost of Jimmy Dale (David Alan Grier) is still lingering in Violet (Tina Lifford), and Hollywood’s (Omar J. Dorsey) home. Unfortunately, it has also made its way into their bedroom. Though Vi initially thinks her Lupus is what’s causing her to retreat from her husband, her doctor suggests it’s the trauma of encountering Jimmy Dale again.
Back in Atlanta, Nova is in increasingly irritated by Octavia’s presence. First, the professor tries to shut Nova down about her feelings concerning her family, then at a stuffy event full of ill-mannered white women, Octavia blatantly tries to steal a book opportunity away from Nova–something that Nova overhears.
Micah and KeKe (Tanyell Waivers) aren’t communicating at all. Their teenage love affair has come to a screeching halt. In the midst of this, Ralph Angel and Hollywood find time in the middle of the sugar cane fields to get vulnerable with each other about their present woes. It’s always refreshing to see Black men communicating in this way on screen.
Though Charley is determined to win a seat on city council she has quite the hurdle to jump when it comes to the Latinx community. If you recall, two migrant workers died on the sugar fields during a storm under Charley’s orders. ICE recently raided her clinic, and there seems to be a general distrust between Black and Latinx people in the parish. Though Romero tries to bring Charley into the fold–introducing her to Pastor Martinez–the pastor doesn’t exactly greet Charley with open arms. He’s annoyed that she’s only showing her face because of the election. On the bright side, Micah and Charley seem to be in a good place–at least for now.
Later in the evening, despite her missteps with Pastor Martinez, Charley still has a smile on her face because of Romero. After literal months of anticipation, they finally have intercourse. The scene is epic, sensual and loving. Sigh. Charley deserves this.
Eventually, Charley returns to Pastor Martinez’s neighborhood. After promising she’s there to promote actual change, they have a real and very tough conversation about the divides between their communities. By the time Charley leaves they seem to have a tenuous understanding.
Unfortunately, not everything in this episode is so neatly resolved. When Hollywood comes home with a motorcycle he and Violet have a difficult conversation about her emotional state and she asks her new husband for patience and space. Hollywood being the MAN that he is agrees, but I’m super nervous for these two.
Meanwhile, after ditching yet another one of Octavia’s meetings, Nova and her lover have a massive blow-up that ends with Octavia telling Nova that she made her. Nova retorts by telling Octavia she’s outgrown her. Nova packs her bags to head toward the next stop on the book tour leaving Octavia right where she is. It’s interesting that Nova also turns down a fling with the cute bartender–perhaps she is growing.
In St. Joeshphine’s all seems well at Charley’s campaign headquarters. Prosper, and Ms. Genevieve are flirting and stuffing envelopes while Charley is expressing to Romero that she feels like everything is coming together. Suddenly, there’s a loud bang, and all we can see is shattered glass and a massive brick. The Landrys and the Bourdreauxs aren’t going to take Charley’s running without making their stances known. Charley is frazzled and a little bloodied as a result, but now she’s like a dog with a bone.
Later that evening, Ralph Angel watches Blue sleep before putting his first dream for Blue on paper—Blue’s college graduation. A few states away, Nova is getting ready for bed when she leaves her younger sister a voicemail, congratulating her on her run for city council. She also tells Charley that she’s proud of her and that she loves and misses her. It’s heartfelt or whatever, but Nova never apologizes for the pain she’s caused. I wouldn’t hold my breath about Charley calling her back.
In the final shot of the episode, with Charley surrounded by friends and loved ones (except for Nova) and even Pastor Martinez, she announces her candidacy for city council to a fanfare of applause. Things are about to get dirty.
Queen Sugar airs Wednesdays at 9 PM ET on OWN.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide
Photo by Skip Bolen © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN