Not to state the obvious but I’m going to totally state the obvious: Sitcoms, particularly ones that focus on family/marriages, live and die on ridiculous misunderstandings. It’s why it’s so necessary to suspend your disbelief while watching them because, if not, it’s impossible to not spend a half-hour yelling “Just tell the truth!” at your television screen. “Sex, Lies and Vasectomies” is about just that: A couple’s misunderstanding that gets deeper and deeper because each person is more willing to up the ante, to further elaborate on a lie, and to challenge the other to come clean all instead of just telling the truth. Fortunately, Black-ish pulls off the typical sitcom antics without coming off as boring or repetitive—and the “Husband Lies About Getting A Vasectomy” trope is definitely overdone and, personally, one of my least favorite sitcom plots.

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When Rainbow’s period is late, she’s confused because Andre got a vasectomy a while ago so she cant be pregnant. Andre never did get that vasectomy because he couldn’t deal with the thirty seconds of pain but he told Rainbow that he did. He begins to panic to himself, especially because she recently went off the pill, but still never comes clean to her. Rainbow isn’t pregnant (of course; there is no way Black-ish would introduce a new kid in the first season or probably ever) and when she tells the news to her coworker Pam, the doctor who was scheduled to perform Andre’s surgery, she learns that Andre never showed up—any of the times he scheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled.

This all leads to more lies and more attempts from Andre and Rainbow to trap and catch each other in a lie. Rainbow pretends that she might be pregnant and shows off the pregnancy test to Andre, sending him further into a panic. He tries to figure out if she’s pregnant before she does by pulling the ol’ sleepover hand-in-warm-water trick to try and get Rainbow to piss the bed (and onto the pregnancy test). There are lies about giant rats, bluffs about suing the hospital for malpractice, and a stranger’s sonogram. It culminates in Andre finally confessing to not getting the vasectomy ”(You’re like Jesus!” is what pushes him) and Rainbow confessing that she knew all along.

It’s an uninspired plot that is thankfully saved by some pretty funny moments, like Andre and Rainbow’s getting-the-hell-out-of-dodge fantasies or the rat trap backfiring by catching Andre’s foot, breaking his toes in the process. The plot is also saved by the kids, those wonderful kids who can basically do no harm. When they deduce that their mother must be pregnant, they all react differently in ways that are true to their character. Zoey is annoyed that she’ll have to take care of another younger sibling, Junior is stoked about having a little brother or sister to look up to him, and the twins are worried about not being the babies of the family anymore. The latter results in one of the cutest scenes of the night as the twins try to get as much child-father time as possible, providing Andre with stacks of books to read and demanding baths and piggy-back rides. Junior also gets a chance to shine in this episode, from his creepy/funny singing to the nonexistent baby in his mother’s stomach to his disappointment when he finds out that his mother isn’t pregnant. This leads to the darkest moment in the episode (and Junior’s darkest moment in the entire series) when he shares a hilarious out-of-character fantasy about his entire family perishing in a fire but Junior gets away (with his leather jacket) and goes to an orphanage where he gains more siblings! Dark, Junior, dark.

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While “Sex, Lies and Vasectomies” wasn’t a disappointing episode (but, OK, maybe a little disappointing when compared to the stronger episodes that populated the first half of the season), it definitely wasn’t an instant favorite. But it did remind me that one of the strengths of Black-ish is its ability to perfectly fit into the family sitcom mold by employing the same plots and mechanics that we see all the time yet somehow never boring me, or making me want to switch the channel. It’s mostly a reflection of the characters, who are well-written and uniquely endearing enough that I’ll enjoy them no matter what situation they’re in. Focusing on a black family and exploring a very specific black world is obviously what’s started off setting Black-ish apart from its peers and made it soar to new heights but now it’s also these characters—and the tight writing—that’s keeping it there.

Stray observations:

  • But I do have to say that I’m still not feeling those workplace scenes; the ongoing joke about the way the men dismiss the lone woman are rapidly losing me.
  • “I have four Xbox controllers. Three of them are still in the package.”
  • Shoutout to the costume designer for putting Junior in that hilariously awful and perfectly teen boy “How to Pick Up Chicks” shirt.
  • Rainbow’s fantasy includes running off to Burning Man. Oh, Rainbow, no.
  • “I eat the right amount of hot dogs.” You and me both, Andre.
  • If Black-ish starts putting out merch, I hope Anthony Anderson hangers will be available.

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