This was posted by Rodney Ho on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
On the surface, Earn's obsession this episode with his lost jacket seems quixotic at best.
In the end, we find out it really wasn't the jacket. It was about a key inside the jacket. Or at least he thought it was in the jacket.
And what was that key about?
His past. Or his present, depending on how you look at it.
It's a key to his back-up residence: a storage unit. It's filled with what little stuff he still owns - or what's symbolically left of it from the wreckage of his past.
He wakes up like it's a low-key version of "The Hangover," unsure what had happened but only aware his jacket was gone. His friends had left him behind at some random dude's house. ("I know you, but I don't know ya, ya feel me?" the guy said, annoyed but not too annoyed.)
Earn realizes it's not there and he goes back to Goldrush Showbar (a real strip club!) to see if he left it there. The guard won't let him in without a $10 entry fee, even at 12:30 p.m. He so wants that jacket, he relents and pays. He then grills a stripper for info about who he had a lap dance with in grueling detail to no avail.
Outside the club, he checks Snapchat. (Yes, it's 2016 people!). Paper Boi fortunately chronicled the night for his fans and Earn sees the point where he's wearing the jacket and then isn't. He infers that he left it in the Uber vehicle.
So he goes to Alfred (Paper Boi) and checks his phone to get the Uber driver. The Uber driver wants to charge him $50 to drive over to drop off the jacket. Instead, Earn convinces Paper Boi to drive them to the driver's home.
While there, cops pull up, sirens blazing, and demand they get out of the car. They're searched, rudely, but the police are actually looking for the Uber driver. He's seen fleeing the house, stupidly, and is shot in the back multiple times. What's worse, Earn sees the guy is wearing his jacket, now with bullet holes in it.
When I watched the scene live, I recall Earn yelping "My jacket!" in a loud, plaintive way. It was funny. But in the final cut, he merely whispers it, then awkwardly asks the cops if they could check the pockets. They do but find nothing. He mentions a "secret" pocket, then gives up.
He looks even more bereft than normal. "It's fine," he says. "I'm not even mad about the jacket." (True that.)
Paper Boi then gives him his five percent "cut" as manager, which equals several hundred dollars. Oddly, Earn looks more surprised than grateful. "You did good, man!" Paper Boi says. Earn takes it and stuffs it in his sneaker.
Later, he meets up with Van and they have some intimate moments with their daughter. It's sweet.
A friend Justin comes by Van's pad and drops off Earn's key, a key he had told Justin to keep at the club the night before. Mystery solved!
Van is not a fan of his partying. At this point, he hands her some cash he got from Paper Boi.
She half jokingly thinks he sold drugs. No, he did not sell drugs, as Van jokes. He can't even imagine doing that. He figures he'd be terrible at it. He is so not confrontational, as proven two weeks ago in the club episode.
She looks at him with love and says "I hate you."
"I know," he says.
"You're a good daddy though."
The episode ends with Earn separating himself from Van on a night you'd think he'd feel good enough about himself to stay with her. Instead, he leaves and sleeps in his storage unit, courtesy of the magical key. (It's true. Folks do live in storage units.)
Staring at two $100 bills, he ends the season on a futon alone. Is he happy? Kind of. Hopeful? Maybe. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps.
Alas, Donald Glover leaves it all ambiguous. It's neither a happy season ending nor a sad one. Nor is it a cliffhanger of any sort. It's quiet and contemplative. It does allow him to start season two anywhere he wants.
And that is coming next year.