Photo by – © Copyright 2017, FX Networks

Last week, we were introduced to Robbin’ Season. This week, we live it.

This week’s episode of Atlanta began with a robbery much like the season premiere. Unlike that visceral opening, this week’s larceny was more genteel. Paper Boi is back on the grind, fresh off house arrest. It’s not long before he’s acquainted with the spirit of the season while trying to re-up his supply.

I’m no economist but it seems things are bad in the market when the suppliers are robbing the distributors. But it’s probably not often that such treachery comes with profuse apologies and compliments about the success of your album. Such is the life of an aspiring rapper who’s getting plenty of airplay without the checks to show for it.

But Earn’s working on it. He’s set up a meeting for Paper Boi at the headquarters of a new social media platform looking to promote new artists. In the face of multiple failed marketing opportunities, Earn hopes for a winner. Hopes often go unanswered.

One of my closest friends is a marine biologist and one of the most ecologically-minded people I know. He once told me that the Planeteers from Captain Planet were so schmaltzy that it made him want to pollute. Watching this way-too-tech company attempt to woo the dazzlingly uninterested Paper Boi made me want to implode the internet. This analogy is less apples-to-apples and more “tacos and bananas”. Forget that I wrote it.

The entire office is part student union, part coffeehouse performance space and a building where the word “bro” is probably used as often as Smurfs say “smurf.” As Earn notes, “it has a vibe.” It wasn’t a compliment. While taking a tour, Earn and Alfred meet another rapper — Clark County — who seems to be doing alright with his partnership. That becomes apparent when a couple of team members (I imagine that’s how this company would refer to its employees) elbow past Earn and P.B. to get to Clark County.

Sometimes you gotta do stuff you don’t want to do to get a check, right? We’ll see.

In the meantime, Earn’s getting paid! The (Season 1) pawn shop sword that turned into a big dog turned into more puppies which turned into $4,000. Yahtzee! But why settle for $4K when you can have $8K. That question that has built golden gambling palaces all across the southern Nevada desert.

Tracy — recently out of jail and sleeping on Alfred’s couch — tells Earn that he can double that money by putting it on gift cards. Still sporting the durag he had on when we met him at the end of the last episode, Tracy offers a quick education on the care and feeding that happens on his scalp in order to create the greatest waves known to man. How else does one get the nickname “The Prince of Tides?”

Time to hit the streets. Alfred and Darius are on the search for a new connect since the last one, y’know, robbed him. It seems like they might be onto something promising. The product is quality. The salesman is a fan of Paper Boi. It’s all good. Except that this potential new business partner isn’t just doing it for the money. He’s also doin’ it for the ‘gram. When you’re a budding famous person operating outside the bounds of the law, you don’t need pictures of your illicit activities broadcast across the interwebs.

Somewhere across town, Tracy and Earn are in a mall. Earn’s got money to spend. Tracy’s getting suited and booted. Emphasis on booted. Citing a shoe store’s “no-chase policy”, he grabs several boxes of shoes and walks out. But not before telling a helpless employee of his dastardly plan. Alas, the no-chase policy has rendered our shop steward impotent and he stands there spewing helpful customer service phrases (“Can I get you another size?”) like an affable animatronic figure.

At the same time, Alfred and Darius have found a new spot. And Alfred is stuck. In the best way possible. Sitting on a couch, staring at a dragon in a terrarium. We’ve all been there. Some of us wish to go again. This could be it. Alfred could have found his new connect. Direct from Humboldt, even! Huzzah! And he doesn’t want to take a picture for Instagram? Double huzzah!

Oh. But he does want to put you on a giant text chain with every. single. person. he knows. It’s the kind of thing to make a man drop his phone in the street and drive off. Alfred is back at the beginning. Let’s go check in on Earn, k?

He’s back at the shoe store and using the gift card. Time for everyone’s favorite game show…

[crowd in unison]

WILL THE CARD WORK?

And…

Success!

For the moment. Because Earn is not meant to have true happiness. Moments after he leaves the store, he gets a text from Tracy saying that the card company is on to him and that the card will be shut off in about 10 minutes. LET THE SHOPPING SPREE BEGIN!

Sometime (presumably not much more than 10 minutes) later, Earn is hauling bags through the parking lot. Looking for Tracy. And the car. Which is with Tracy. At the job interview. Which is not near Earn. Who is at the mall. With arms full of bags. I’m sure you’re understanding the conflict here.

Earn takes the bus home and drops down on the couch next to Alfred watching TV. Who should appear on screen but our friend Clark County … and he’s selling Yoohoo. The social media lab was able to grow him some marketing wings. Now he’s a pseudo-chocolate-milk-selling angel.

Lest we forget Tracy, he’s waiting for his job interview and his waves are on point. We see him in the lobby practicing how he can sell himself to the company. It’s not a high-level job. It pays $12 an hour. But Tracy is just excited about the chance for employment. He’s taking Earn’s advice of speaking confidently.

“We can’t offer you a job.”

“We’re fully staffed.”

In a flash, Tracy’s optimism and enthusiasm vanish, replaced by fury. He clears the desk, calls the white hiring manager a racist and storms out shouting, leaving the middle-aged middle manager visibly shaken.

  • I sat with the ending of the episode for awhile. This show has a tendency to make me laugh then immediately question myself. As the audience knowing Tracy’s (very recent) history, it makes obvious sense that he wouldn’t get hired. But our dear hiring manager has no indication. The look on his face after Tracy leaves suggests he knows his horse mess has been called out.
  • Two episodes into the new season, the theme of grappling with newfound fame has already taken hold. Last week, Earn’s rebuke of Willie felt like Donald Glover’s motivational speech to himself. This week, Alfred is being forced to put on the Paper Boi skin in the most inconvenient of places … and doing it without reaping any reward. He’s just famous enough to be broke and annoyed.
  • There’s a semi-subtle BoJack Horseman conversation in the episode! Yasss! BoJack is my spirit animal. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
  • Watching Paper Boi cut a promo for the digital radio rap playlist whatever thing brought me back college radio when we thought we had a chance to get a radio drop from famed boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. For the low, low, price of $1,000. Alfred should hire Buffer’s manager.