We finally have a definitive answer to the age-old question: where my ladies at? Van (and more) are all in Season 1, Episode 6 of Atlanta.
Rather than continuing to focus on the misadventures of Earn and Alfred in Atlanta, the primary subject of ‘Value’ is Van.
Once again at a dinner well beyond what her paycheck allows, Van heads to an Asian fusion restaurant with her old friend, Jayde. She sees perhaps an alternate reality for herself. Van works and struggles for every dollar she has at a public school, Jayde has used her beauty to seduce a multitude of different professional athletes. To her, looks give her value.
The dialogue in this scene feels incredibly honest to relationships between old friends. Just as siblings do, each character gives into their judgmental frustrations with one another.
They meet one another with brutal honesty, Van ripping Jayde’s “sex is power” lifestyle, and Jayde ripping Van’s decision to stay with Earn. She has seen his Snapchats, she sees him with other girls, and is unsure why Van has chosen to stay with him.
She’s then shocked to learn that the two have a daughter together, which feels a bit odd. Why would she be surprised to know that if she’s been stalking each of them on social media? Wouldn’t the child appear online at one point or another? Babies get “likes”, and that’s the only justification I can think of for procreation.
After they get through their first argument, things calm down briefly. Shortly after a bit of small talk, Jayde’s NBA player boyfriend comes through, with his friend. Unknowingly, Vanessa has been brought out for a double date. Frustrated, she decided to get up and leave dinner.
Jayde apologizes to Vanessa, and the two break bread with a new joint. The smoke is a break from character for Van, who has often critiqued both Alfred and Earn for their stoner ways. Her break seemed like a nice, relaxed moment for Van. Then, she is reminded by her phone the next morning that she has an upcoming drug test.
While searching for Alfred’s number on Earn’s phone, however, she cannot help but go through his pictures. Just as Jayde said, Earn has photos of other girls on his phone. This seems to bother Vanessa, though not to the point of causing a fight, perhaps because she is dating as well. She goes outside and seeks advice from Alfred on passing a drug test.
This seems to bother Vanessa, though not to the point of causing a fight, perhaps because she is dating as well. She goes outside and seeks advice from Alfred on passing a drug test.
We haven’t gotten many interactions between Alfred and Vanessa thus far in the show. That is a loss. The two are opposites and represent the different pulls in Earn’s life.
Earn creates a fantastically naggy impression of Vanessa criticizing him for smoking weed, but she’s all business and demands a fix for her drug test. He recommends taping a condom filled with clean urine to her leg and states that he’ll ask around to see if he can find any. Cute!
Taking matters into her hands, Vanessa begins squeezing clean urine out of her baby’s diapers.
The scene plays out like something out of Breaking Bad, complete with Funkadelic’s powerful song “Hit It And Quit It.”
A perhaps lesser known fact about Donald Glover is that Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain is one of his favorite albums, so seeing the album’s hit song make its way to his show must have been an incredible moment for him.
Vanessa heads to her work on a mission, ignoring people waving at her. Then, another teacher told her about one of her students that wore white face. This image is both horrifying and weird.
When it comes time to unwrap the pee-condom, Vanessa fails, and urine splashes on her face.
Rather than look for an alternative, she comes clean and tells her supervisor that she smoked weed. The director is sympathetic, and says she gets it, but has to fire her since she admitted it. Ironically, honesty was not the best policy here.
The episode ends with a jobless Vanessa trying to buy weed from Alfred over text. Alfred’s response is that he doesn’t do that, and she should save his phone number under something different first.
We leave Atlanta with more questions than answers. How will Van and Earn survive without any income? The only certainty we have is inevitable adversity. I am sorry for using such an overdone paragraph structure.
Front to back, this is a phenomenal episode of the show. Expanding Vanessa as a lead character promises a greater diversity of events, and (this is way jumping ahead) provides the potential for a future spinoff.