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Black-ish - Jack of All Trades - Review:"Teachers are Scared!"

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It looks like Black-ish is finally tackling the real problem – Diane.


Jack, however, is the focus on this episode, even if he isn’t given much to do. The plot starts when Diane and Jack bring home the results of their aptitude tests. Diane is supposed to be in a position of power and leadership, while Jack’s result groups him with blue-collar workers. Naturally, to Dre and Bow, this is a travesty. Jack is obviously meant for something much greater, even if they don’t know what that something greater might be.

When they go to Jack’s school, however, they are told that Diane is the real problem. Teachers are scared! Dre and Bow don’t care (as long as Diane isn’t standing directly behind them). Instead, they decide that one silly aptitude test shouldn’t decide anyone’s fate and that they’ll have to nurture Jack with dead language flashcards and tasty market research.

We spend most of the episode examining the relationship between Dre and Jack. When Dre takes Jack to work, it’s to show him how fun a white-collar job can be, but Jack instead gets to see a maintenance worker named Ignacio heroically save the office from a water leak. That looks like a lot more fun than performing market research with popcorn.

Dre is upset at Jack’s enthusiasm for what he considers to be manual labor, especially when his coworkers begin ribbing him about it. Dre’s coworkers are usually awful, but just oblivious enough for them to still be funny. In this episode, however, as Pops tells him later, “They really hate you.” Dre’s boss says that Jack is good people and it becomes very obvious that “good people” is code for “the help”. Even Charlie picked up on it in time to begin balling his fists. For Dre’s boss, having his son become a maintenance worker would be a step down, but he’s happy to tell Dre that Jack should be proud of rising to the level of a blue-collar job.

This is what really stings and both Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross do an excellent job of untangling Dre’s and Bow’s complicated feelings about their son. Going through life is hard enough, and the titles they’ve earned give them a little bit of armor when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world. SVP Johnson and Dr. Johnson allow them more defense against ignorance and arrogance. They’re afraid that their children will be vulnerable without it.

That conversation is enough to make this a great emotional episode, but the writers take it a step further and show us what this episode is really about. It isn’t about Dre and Jack, it’s about Pops and Dre.

Dre has been annoyed that Pops has been encouraging Jack’s handiness. At first, it just seems like a way for Pops to needle Dre about living a somewhat pampered existence, but the storyline culminates in an emotional scene where Pops admits that he doesn’t understand what his son does for a living and isn't very proud of the result. He can point to the buildings that he helped create. Dre points to the billboards next to them, but Pops still doesn’t understand. The argument is intense because neither side is wrong. Dre’s job seems pretty silly from our perspective, but he’s right in saying that ideas, imagination, and creativity are just as important as physical skills. The two men just can’t understand each other’s choices. At least Dre respects the things Pops has sacrificed for him. Pops still can’t understand why you need to put clothes on a dog, or why that idea is Dre’s livelihood.

In the end, it isn’t completely resolved. Dre and Bow decide together to stop pressuring Jack into becoming exactly like them. They remember that the kid's only nine. Some people may be killing their first burglars at nine, but Jack’s content to forget he’s wearing his backpack and remain oblivious to Diane’s antagonizing.

The B-plot nicely ties up some plots from the previous episodes of the season, mainly Junior’s new prank king status, Ruby’s superstition, and Diane’s evilness. The episode already had the hilarious moment when Dre and Bow are given a choice of talking about Pops’ drinking, Diane’s evilness, and Jack’s aptitude, and pick Jack because they want to end the meeting on a high note. The show gets even sillier when Ruby becomes convinced Diane’s possessed.

She really should have conferred with Charlie about this, but Ruby instead enlists Zoey and Junior to help gather evidence and eventually perform an exorcism. All signs point to a possession. A bird dies as Diane reads a Bible verse, all the candles in the house go out as she enters a room, and there’s a constant chill in the air. Diane even stands over Ruby as she sleeps, Paranormal Activity style. Ruby doesn’t need any more convincing. She starts the exorcism, only for Junior and Zoey to reveal it was another prank. They rigged the bird, the candles, and the coldness (Junior had dry ice in his mouth, but decided it was worth it). They didn’t rig Diane’s creepy nighttime movements, but tell their grandma that Diane just sleepwalks. Junior always finds her standing over him when he wakes up from his night terrors.

Ruby is ready to believe in the practical explanation, but shows the kids one final video. No one admits to fabricating it and Diane smiles evilly as the electricity starts going haywire. That’s the last we see of Junior, Zoey, and Ruby this episode…. This would have been perfect for Halloween.

There’s also the matter of the stinger. Dre takes Pops to his office for the first time. This could have been an episode itself, but it ends up being strangely paced and very unpleasant. Dre’s coworkers have been getting gradually more annoying, but their cruel racism toward Pops took it over the line. There’s got to be a plotline in the future about Dre pursuing another career, right? As long as Charlie comes with him, I think that could be the healthiest thing for the show.

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Do you like the office staff more than I do? Let me know in the comments!

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