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Black-ish: “The Nod”

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The main plot in “The Nod” is a nod in itself, not only to the universally understood gestures that exist within the black community—a sort of physical lexicon—but a nod to all of the various communities and subcultures that also have their unique collection of traits designed to help members recognize and acknowledge each other. The nod that the title, and Andre, refers to is just that: a simple, subtle nod that one black person gives to another as a form of acknowledgement. It’s a nod that says, “I see you.” In an environment when you’re in the minority, as the Johnsons are, the nod serves as an all-purpose, you’re not alone statement to someone else who is also in the minority. Sometimes, that simple acknowledgment and metaphorical pat on the back speaks volumes. Andre and his father know this but Junior doesn’t.

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Naturally Andre takes this as a slap in the face to him (and his generation) and immediately tries to rectify the situation by going to the extreme. There are welcome shades from the pilot here, much more so than last week’s episode. Once again, Andre wonders if he’s the cause for Junior’s confusing unfamiliarity with something that is so ingrained within Andre that this nod is basically second nature, a subconscious action. He blames himself for putting Junior in a largely white school where he has no black friends. Andre takes it upon himself to find new friends, pulling up in front of benches and stating he’s “just looking for some young black boys to bring back to my house.” It’s the easy, obvious joke but Anthony Anderson sells it—and it’s totally worth it for another instance of Perfect Delivery By Tracee Ellis Ross: “So, you were trolling for boys?”

Ross’ Rainbow actually gets plenty to do in “The Nod” outside of shaking her head good-naturedly at her husband’s antics. This is looking like it might be another one of Black-ish’s strong suits: a wonderful, well-developed wife/mother character who not only gets to share the best lines with her male counterpart but who also regularly exists outside of her husband’s plots, carrying on in her own world and achieving a nice sense of balance. In “The Nod,” we see Rainbow at work as she Diane tags along and get both a strong sense of Rainbow’s relationship with her daughter (and her desire for her daughter to go into a hard but admirable field of work) and an idea of Rainbow’s work life. It’s a cute storyline that plays on the undeniable cuteness of Diane (seriously: Where did they find the actors playing the twins? They are fantastic) as she marvels, “I saw a man with a hatchet in his head. It. Was. Awesome.” The episode also does a good thing juxtaposing Diane’s eye-opening experience in the hospital with Junior’s crushing experience on the basketball court.

By the end, it’s a victory for both parents. Rainbow’s is definitely more explicit, having won over her daughter but Andre gets a nice one too upon learning that his son does belong somewhere and does have some sort of subculture. It may not be exactly what Andre wants—and I’m sure he’s not going to stop trying getting Junior to be more like him—but he’s still happy that Junior has his own community. The “black is the new nerd” line was a bit too much, but I’ll be forgiving.

“The Nod” is a great example of the episodes that I want to keep seeing from Black-ish because it succeeds on multiple levels. It skillfully tackles a subject that is specific to black culture and the ways in which it forms a disconnect between Andre and Junior because of their differing opinions/experiences and because of their respective cultural identities. It also makes sure to tack on a more universal plot—Rainbow trying to get her youngest daughter to follow in her footsteps and go into medicine rather than be seduced by the glitz and glamour of Andre’s advertising job. (Though you can certainly make the argument that this plot certainly also has some important race-related things to say about education and the workforce.) It combines these two plots in a good montage. It shows compromise as it takes Andre on another journey to both teach and learn from his son, taking him from frustration with his son’s lack of blackness (for a lack of a better phrase) and ultimately bringing him to a place of understanding but without it feeling too false or forced. Also, perhaps most importantly, there are scenes featuring the overwhelmingly cute Jack dancing and really, that’s all we need.

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Stray observations:

  • Junior isn’t just the nerdy kid who does the extra credit project but the nerdy kid who does the “extra acknowledgement” project. (I understand you, Junior.)
  • Ah, there’s the Drake joke we’ve been waiting for.
  • I didn’t mention Charlie but he was an interesting addition who provided one of my favorite exchanges of the night: “We’re going through a pretty nasty divorce right now.” “You are?!”
  • Also: “When your wife cheats on you and shoots you…”
  • However, the less said about that urinal scene, the better.
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