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Black-ish - Elder. Scam/Advance to Go - Review: "Only Weirdos are Wheelbarrows"

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The last episode of Black-ish examined Dre’s feelings about one type of woman and how his expectations could ultimately be toxic to his loved ones. Dre’s pronouncements about the joys of new motherhood just drove Bow away and fed into her insecurities. This episode continues the same theme, but instead focuses on Dre’s relationship with his mother.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dre pretty much worships Ruby. The troubles with Bow in the last episode have been forgotten, and he’s back to thinking that she’s a superhero. That makes it so much more disconcerting when Ruby falls for a common elder scam. Someone called her telling her that Junior’s been kidnapped, and, Ruby being Ruby, she decided it wasn’t worth troubling the rest of the family about. She gave money to the scammer, never realizing that Junior never even left the house.

Dre thinks it’s ridiculous that Ruby would fall for such an obvious con. He argues that no one would want Junior while Ruby counters that the boy’s face screams “kidnapping victim.” When he brings it up at work, his coworkers suggest that Ruby may be suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other ailment. Although Dre thinks that Ruby’s still as sharp as ever (she just conned Bow’s parents the other day by posing as a Nigerian prince), his coworkers tell him that he needs to face the fact that his “ancient mother got scammed.” As they say, it’s “Alzheimer’s bingo.”

While Bow isn’t as helpful as she could be (she thinks time away from the family and base-jumping are what Ruby needs to cure her forgetfulness), she also urges Dre to start thinking of Ruby as an actual person who may need some help every once in a while. As he pays more attention to his mother’s “golden years,” Dre starts seeing some bad signs. Ruby crashes her car into the garage when she was trying to back out of the driveway and starts arguments with squirrels. His solution, instead of just talking to his mother about her problems, is to throw money at the issue. Dre thinks that a new car is just what Ruby needs to feel more secure. She immediately reveals that this was all one massive con to get a new car, and Dre realizes that his mother is still pretty sharp.

Except, she isn’t always. Dre insists that Ruby have an honest conversation with him about falling for the kidnapping scam, and she admits that she probably wouldn’t have taken the bait five years before. As in the previous episode when she apologizes to Bow, this is a vulnerability the viewers haven’t seen in Ruby before. She really is getting older, but she knows she can rely on her son and the rest of the family (yes, even Bow). She and Dre decide to take up sudoku (and maybe base-jumping) together.

The B-plot for the episode veers slightly away from the main show and does more work setting up Zoey’s spinoff.

It’s a little awkward that Zoey’s still hanging around the house. The twins are in school and Columbus Day has passed, but Zoey is still there. Is she just home for the weekend? I think that this weirdness may be due to the fact that the writers weren’t sure when College-ish was going to start airing. Right now, Zoey’s in a bit of a limbo. The writers can’t give her any major storylines because she’s about to disappear. Instead, a visit from Zoey’s new college friend Aaron ends up being more about Diane, Bow, and Junior.

Junior’s enthusiasm for basically anything is usually an endearing aspect of his character. When Bow was struggling with PPD, he was the one who stepped up to watch the baby. It’s pretty awkward to see this enthusiasm applied to scrutinizing his sister’s sex life. Luckily, Bow quickly realizes that Junior’s obsession with figuring out Zoey and Aaron’s relationship is less about the relationship itself and more about Junior’s own anxieties about college. Bow feels bad for him, because “college is going to punch you right in the face.”

Meanwhile, Diane is struggling with her own issues surrounding Aaron. After meeting him, she immediately decides that he’s future husband material. Diane should have realized that Aaron didn’t feel the same way when Jack started endorsing the relationship. When Aaron is confronted with Diane’s crush, he manages to shut her down while still being incredibly compassionate to her situation. He points out that he would never want to get between her and Zoey. When this doesn’t work (Diane doesn’t care much about some kind of sister code), Zoey points out that Aaron is a major project that Diane simply doesn’t have the time to tackle. This works. Diane isn’t embarrassed or shamed for her feelings, and everyone leaves as friends. Bow, who was watching the whole interaction, seems to feel a little happier about Zoey’s friendship with Aaron. They make quite a team.

In the next episode, the entire Johnson family could borrow some of these important communication skills when game night turns into an all-out war.

This is the first episode of the season that doesn’t tap into a larger theme. Instead of talking about the cultural connotations of motherhood or introducing a musical tour of America’s history, Dre sings the praises of game night. While the Johnsons may have trouble picking a game that they can all play (Bow’s Pictionary skills leave something to be desired), Monopoly is something they can all agree on. Dre starts the episode by musing on how each family member’s playing style reveals something about them. Diane has a killer instinct while her twin “is never going to make it.”

The family members always partner up for the game and Dre and Bow are happy to be Team Shoe. Despite their big talk, they’ve never won a game. For one night, Pops and Ruby set aside their differences and take the entire family for all they’re worth.

Bow loves game night, but is definitely uncomfortable when Junior brings his girlfriend, Megan, along. She isn’t impressed with Megan’s host gift and dislikes having to explain the special Johnson family rules to an interloper.

The most important of these rules is the man-baby tax, which states that anyone who flips the board owes all the other players an actual hundred dollars. You can guess who that rule mostly applies to.

The family settles into their groove and has a great time, until Megan unknowingly insults Bow. It wasn’t the horrible Caribbean accent she tries to affect that ends up offending Bow. Instead, Megan tells Junior that he doesn’t need Bow’s help to win. When Bow storms off, Dre’s luck changes and he starts winning for the first time in history. He bribes Jack and Diane (Team Scottie Dog) to accept Bow on their team instead.

Bow is furious, and blames Megan for Dre’s betrayal. Dre takes advantage of Diane’s convenient bathroom break to con Jack out of a good deal. Bow tries to fix Jack’s mistake by asking Junior for a loan, but Megan stops him.

Dre’s luck changes again when the entire family conspires to give Bow’s team their railroads. Dre sees his empire go up in flames, and he has a Donald-Trump induced mental breakdown that actually breaks the board. The entire family is ecstatic about the promise of real money.

This monopoly game changes some things. Pops and Ruby get the spark back, and Diane admits that maybe Jack can survive without a full-time caretaker (as long as he stops eating game pieces). Dre is left obsessing over his failures. Marvin Gardens is where it all went wrong.

He admits that the game taught him how much he needs Bow in his life. Bow admits that she probably needs Dre too!

This episode didn’t have the emotional impact of the previous one. Unfortunately, as much as the writers try, watching people play Monopoly just isn’t that fun. Still, the Johnsons manage to make a boring game a little bit more interesting, and I wouldn’t mind stopping in on another game night in the future.

What are your family game nights like? Wheelbarrow or shoe? Let me know in the comments!

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