Tweetable Takeaway: Rainbow bears it all — like, EVERYTHING — when her old chums visit. It’s worth watching, but only just. Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
Sometimes when you’re doing your Spring-cleaning, you dredge up some exceptionally dirty laundry. And this week, dirty laundry is flying every which way on BLACK-ISH when Rainbow invites an old flame over to a dinner party. And this erstwhile beau makes Dre – you might want to sit down for this because you may not believe it – upset! And while a lot of the material here, at least at this stage in the game, feels like it’s funneling through a pretty unremarkable and overly-familiar cycle, sticking with it to watch Bow unravel in front of her most esteemed and multi-racial former peers is actually kind of worth it.
Through some edgy new technology platform called Facebook or whatever, Rainbow reconnects with some old old college chums, including one former boyfriend, Lance, and grinds a gear or two of Dre’s when she invites them to a dinner party at the house. And in what’s proven to be prototypical of our matriarch, she’s blindly dedicated to what these old pals think of her. Whether it be with regards to her selectively prodigious vocabulary or her colorfully multicultural party platter, this girl is dressed to impress, so to speak. And in this particular evening, she’s also dressed in one very sheer Kaftan. And, lest we forget, it seems prudent to mention that included in Bow’s group of friends is David Spade-dating, The Real World alumna Maisie. But when the guests arrive, Maisie drops the bomb on Dre that Rainbow and Lance had not only dated but were ENGAGED, a firestorm of drama subsequently follows.
Meanwhile, upstairs, those meddling kids hatch a plan of their own. In honor of Maisie’s public-facing past, Junior and Zoey decide to helm a DIY reality show project, filming their parents and their guests in…The Real World: Old People Eating Cheese. So, framed in a throwback reality format, things are about to get interesting [kind of]. In a conversation with “Bland Lance,” Dre uncovers that HE was in fact the one to break things off with Bow, and he wasn’t the first. So then Dre’s world is turned upside-down! What kind of woman did he marry? He thought they were A-listers, but it turns out Rainbow is just a sad, chronic dumpee.
And with the entirety of the evening on camera, Rainbow’s carefully constructed persona shatters and hits the floor when an impromptu game of “I Never” – known to the rest of the world as “Never Have I Ever” – reveals that Rainbow has been dumped by 8+ men in her time at college, and all hell breaks loose. Rainbow gets so worked up that her kaftan snags on a chair and rips off, revealing some very unforgiving Spanx, and it’s all over. BUT, she is able to gain some additional brownie points when Charlie has an allergic reaction to peanut sauce and she gets him breathing again with a kitchen knife and a bendy straw…all while flipping and cooking the perfect crepe. So, maybe her old pals have seen the worst of her, but at least she can still be a boss when she wants to be.
What was a bit problematic, at least at the beginning, was Rainbow’s tireless and unceasing need for approval. But as the season gets close to its end, her character has gelled into a comfortable yet constantly fumbling little niche. Rainbow is not cool, nor will she ever be, at least not next to her husband, but in an endearingly awkward way, she’s proven to be a very real and relatable character. While, generally, I find the notion of female characters being persecuted for putting their work over their love life extraordinarily grating, “The Real World” found a comfortable route to dance around the issue. Because Bow, self-admittedly was a terrible girlfriend during her time in Med School, but Dre made her want to be a better woman, in a sense. Which is actually very sweet. Though, ultimately, Rainbow is very much defined by her career, and all told she did “work her ass off” to get where she is. This episode, in a very backwards kind of way, reinforced Rainbow’s integrity as a person and as a woman, which was very refreshing. And watching her bear it all, or at least just about, was a comedic peak if nothing else.
“The Real World” did also snag in a few places as well. An issue this show seems to struggle with fairly regularly is taking a plot point and pushing it to the appropriate extreme. With such low hanging fruit as the proverbial ex-boyfriend, the Dre-Lance tension was never fully played up. Granted, that’s not what the episode ended up being about, but there was a sense that a handful of opportunities were missed in the tapestry of tension that the writers attempted to weave here. And more and more each week, the Johnson kids just feel very blah. Even Diane, the most interesting of the bunch by a landslide, feels forgettable this week. It may be nice to see the siblings working as a team, but while Rainbow and Dre have found comfortable and (generally) compelling resting places for the time being, it’s still feeling like the youngsters just haven’t elevated to more interesting places over the course of the season.
Following Black-ish has proven to be a pretty precarious experience. Though the show has more than proven its comedic chops, there’s never full confidence that any successive episode will be especially remarkable. It’s been a slippery slope, and while it seems like more than a safe best to assume a second season is in store, for now, right now, things aren’t great, and they aren’t terrible, they’re just fine. And, I guess, that’ll do for the time being.