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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

'Atlanta' recap ('Helen'): season 2, episode 2: German clash

Posted Friday, March 23, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

My wife is named Helen. We have visited Helen, GA, which is like a faux Germantown. We get the kitsch factor but we avoided Oktoberfest. Too crowded.

But in FX's "Atlanta," Van grew up part German and is deeply into fastnacht festivities. And she somehow convinces Earn to come. Reality: not a lot of black folks visit Helen. Van proudly describes herself as the "Serena Williams" of the party, which hardly comforts Earn. She does warn him that some folks might wear blackface. (Um... what?)

Van is proudly dressed in Oktoberfest wear. Earn? No lederhosen for him. He only puts on a mask after a woman mistakes him for wearing blackface.

She is super psyched and super comfortable until she senses his massive discomfort. And his attitude is hardly accommodating. For instance, while she is gabbing with a barkeep in German, he breaks in, "Ding ding! How about some service?"

Of course, Earn feeling uncomfortable is the whole point of this show. He is uncomfortable in his own skin. I can't imagine what his life at Princeton must have been like.

But his reactions are the opposite of, say, Larry David from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," another character who seems to live his life in a perpetual state of discomfort. David rants and raves. Earn is passive-aggressive sarcastic and packed with internalized anger and pain.

He complains to a sympathetic dude about Van wanting him to be something he's not. So he takes her aside and offers up a game of ping pong, something he is somewhat comfortable with. If he loses, he has to take part in a polka dance competition with Van. Of course, similar to his race last week against Michael Vick, he loses.

As Van says, he then acts like a "f***king baby" and refuses to dance. When he finally accedes, his attitude is so snide, she gets peeved, too. Van says she has to do what he wants all the time, including going to a strip club episode three. He thought she liked it when she just wants to spend time with him.

When she mentions being forced to go to Alfred's concerts, he says, with top-flight nastiness, "It pays your f**king bills."

So much f**king resentment, Earn! Yowza. No wonder Earn and Van aren't really a couple. He is too selfish for such so-called sacrifices.

Van at least has one fellow black friend Christina at the party but she gets annoyed when her friend introduces her as "Lotte's mom." Christina had married "white" and because Van chose "black," she perceives her as a "baby's mama." They get into a little feud over how they didn't go to each other's parties and how Christina "pandered" to them and acted all superior.

But that's just a side annoyance.

She is back talking to the barkeep, who offers her a place in Germany to visit for her and "her boyfriend."

But she and Earn are not that, exactly, she says. And she's coming to a deeper realization that this situation is not what she necessarily wants in life.

“We can be good together," she says in German "but only when we really have to be. And I’m slowly figuring out that maybe we don’t have to.”

He tells her to figure out how to love herself and her own self worth before she can worry about loving others. Indeed, since she lost her teaching job, she has been relying on Earn financially and just making do. It's not a long-term solution.

"I want to be in a committed relationship where I'm valued as a human being not as an accessory you can f***," Van later tells Earn. (Yes, that word does come up a lot in this episode. This is an adult show.)

Earn doesn't disagree but he admits he "doesn't know what he wants" beyond the smug fact "this arrangement works for me."

This is not a two-way street. Earn will have to change his tune soon to save this so-called arrangement because Van is already emotionally moving on.

 

 

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Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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