“Fault Lines” (Episode 105)
February 26, 2019
In last week’s episode of American Soul, JT and his family were evicted; Don tried charming Ilsa to get back on Motown’s good side; and the Soul Train dancers griped about not being paid. There was a backdrop of police brutality in the fallout from the JT jewelry heist cop killing.
Catch up on all the action from last week with our deep dive recap and review here. Now, onto this week’s electrifying installment of American Soul … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
Tonight opens in Vietnam. We’re with the 36th Infantry crouched in the grass. Private Barker (Shannon Wallace) is panicking as some Vietnamese soldiers pass by. This leads to a fire fight. Barker is wounded and several of the US infantrymen are killed. We saw Barker when Joe Clarke was getting ready to go home, 2 Episodes ago.
Simone goes to JT’s apartment only to find out from a painter that the Tuckers were evicted. Ma Mable’s voice is ringing in my ears from last week, telling JT not to lie to the people ya love. The O’Jay’s “Backstabbers” is playing in the background.
Don meets Ilsa for breakfast to tell her about a Soul Train National tour. She gives him an ostentatious kiss on the cheek as she sits and Don is loving every minute of it. The flirt game is strong between these two. He wants the Motown label to join the tour. He has other offers but came to her out of respect. She ratchets up the stakes by asking to discuss it over dinner. Don declines.
“I’m allergic to wasting my time.”
Brianne is at the VA to get a box of her husband’s belongings. She asks after the benefits check she’s owed, it’s been 10 weeks. The VA is showing all the efficiencies of a government agency, telling Brianne they are working on it. This poor woman is just trying to get on with her life.
Kendall and Flo arrive at the studio. The dancers are outside striking, chanting, “Don is a con.” They want pay for their talent. Kendall won’t cross the union line due to family loyalty. He asks Flo to give his group’s demo tape to Martha Reeves, who’s scheduled to perform at today’s taping. Flo refuses to take the demo.
“Don would blow his ‘fro if he found out. You’re on you’re own with that.”
Simone finds JT at the diner. She wants to talk and finds his mom and little sister in the storeroom with their belongings.
Private Barker from Vietnam is on Brianne’s doorstep and introduces himself to her. He’s there to see Sgt. Clarke. Brianne lets him in but doesn’t say anything.
Don arrives at the studio in the midst of the protest. Tessa tells him the dancers want to discuss their pay, as Ryan Moynihan (Eric Mendenhall) from the Association of Film, Television, and Radio Artists arrives. Ryan is representing the dancers. Don slaps him before he can say anything beyond the introduction and throws him off the studio lot. Ryan, his nose bloodied, riles up the protesters to start their chant again.
Brianne tells Private Barker her husband’s convoy was attacked the day before he was scheduled to come home. This causes Barker a moment of disorientation echoing of war and Brianne knows it.
On the Soul Train set, a rehearsal is going on with Martha Reeves (K. Michelle) performing “Dancing In The Streets” when an earthquake shake, rattle and rolls in.
Simone, JT, Andrea, and his sister are trapped in Ma Mable’s storeroom. A utility pole falls in front of the door with all the snap, crackle, and pop of downed electrical equipment. And now they’re stuck in there …. with lots to talk about.
Don and Brooks are assessing where production is at. They’re in the dark, so it’s not looking good. Brooks comes through, however, telling Don that he’d installed back up generators with enough juice to power the whole lot. Brooks, I gotta say, I like you more as I get to know you; you’re not as slimy as you first appeared. Don goes out to check on the protesters, who resume their chant of, “Don is a con.”
The Storeroom. Simone presses JT for answers on why he was evicted. He’s so clearly uncomfortable with this, but he’s such a good kid at heart (despite the CRIPs entanglement; it could happen to anyone desperate). He starts to open up on where they’ve been living.
Don finds an employee, Jerry (Daviorr Snipes), having a heart attack. This is not Jerry’s first rodeo with these. He tells Don he’s had 12 of them since he was a kid. Okay, not sure kids have heart attacks but we’ll go with ya, Jerry. Instead of calling an ambulance, he’s helped to Don’s office. Not how I’d handle that, but we’ll just pray for Jerry for now.
The Storeroom. Ma comes to help JT. Simone is singing to his sister. Holy hell, her voice is angelic. Ma tells JT to eat, he’ll feel better. Ah food, cures all ills.
Jerry is on Don’s office couch, covered in ice. As you do following a heart attack … said no one ever. Brooks announces there’s a problem: Martha Reeves is complaining that she doesn’t think her dressing room is safe following a crack that emerged from the earthquake.
Kendall Clarke finds Martha Reeves in her dressing room and sings for her, giving her the demo tape for Encore. She’s charmed by him, telling him she’s going to give the tape a listen.
Don marshals a production hand, Bob (Jesse Malinowski), to pretend to be a fire marshal to soothe Martha and her concerns. Martha tells Don about Kendall’s demo and singing talent. Don is nonplussed. He’s giving the parent-to-kid look. You know, the look of pleasantly framed daggers you give a kid when they misbehave in public. It lets them know the kracken is about to be unleashed when y’all are alone. That look is what Don is giving Kendall.
The Clarke House. Brianne talking to Barker. He was in town for a Purple Heart medal ceremony. He came from Arizona to LA but then refused to accept it. He’s not forthcoming with Brianne, the reason he was injured and awarded the medal was because he panicked.
The Soul Train Set. Tessa’s on a walkie talkie that her husband had given her, which she keeps in an envelope in her car. It’s adorbs. The seal of the envelope is a red heart and it says, “in case of emergency, break my heart.” She tries to reach Patrick, no luck. Man, how in the world did we survive before cell phones? We were resourceful, like this, I guess.
Don trying to film but it’s going to be difficult because of the protesters. He agrees to meet with them. Fresh (Dana Vaughns III), speaks on behalf of the whole troupe.
“Look, we bust our asses out here everyday … We make Soul Train. Not you.”
Burn! Don’s anger flashes. He’s not having this. The negotiator tells him flatly that American Bandstand pays their dancers. Don fires back they’ve been on for 20 years and he’s trying to build something similar. He wants there to be enough for everyone but he needs time and he cannot lose money now, as he establishes the brand. He’s offering a chance for these kids to dance on TV and a meal for their time. Moynihan insults Don and his dining arragements … and earns a punch to the mouth for his troubles.
Moynihan, bloody once again, threatens to send Don to jail. Tessa presses him that the dancers should be paid; they’re the flair for Soul Train. He chides her, reminding her she’s on the corporate side, not labor.
The Storeroom. Momma T is freaking out in the storeroom; getting all claustrophobic and she needs a hit. JT preps her heroin and tells Simone how he’s done this for his mom for years. To make sure the dose was right and to make sure she was not out in the streets shooting up. This poor kid telling how long he’s done this for her. He breaks down, crying, as Momma T’s slumped over. Simone cradles him. My heart just shattered into a million pieces.
The Soul Train Set. Tessa’s having a classical dance moment to herself as a tremor hits, making more of the set fall down as she jumps out of the way.
Barker and Brianne are talking. She tells him that he reminds her of Joe. Barker tells Brianne that Joe saved his life; he helped him get out following the ambush to his squad. There’s a commotion in her garage, some guys are stealing her stuff, Joe’s stuff. Barker beats them with a cane.
The Soul Train Set. Tessa comes out to talk to the protesters and promises to find a way to pay them if they stop protesting.
The Storeroom. Ma Mable gets a crew to free Simone, JT, and his family from of the storeroom. Simone demands to see where he’s been living.
Don looking up “picayune” in a dictionary in his office as Brooks and Tessa arrive with some updates: an ambulance is coming for Jerry, the dancers agreed to stop protesting, and they’ve found a way to pay the dancers with commercials that Don couldn’t complete. Clever. Win-win.
Tessa gets in touch with her husband via walkie-talkie.
The Soul Train Set. Film is rolling on Martha Reeves doing “Dancing in the Streets.”
Kendall gets his demo tape back from one of the production crew, Benny (Kristopher Charles). Don “found” the tape in the green room and told Benny to trash it. In response, Kendall kisses Flo unexpectedly, but she pushes him away.
Simultaneously, an ambulance arrives to take Jerry and his multiple heart attack self, to the hospital. And the cops arrive to arrest Don for the multiple assaults. A lot happening at Soul Train.
Don is brought to the precinct and wouldn’t ya know? Ilsa is there to bail him out.
Brianne and Barker. She invites him to stay for a few days. Barker is hesitant.
“I’m not who you think I am, all right?”
Kendall comes home. He grapples with his “man-of-the-house” duties versus his “son pushing boundaries” attitude. Kendall’s got an inkling that something’s not right with Barker, Dad’s army buddies never stayed over.
“Separate worlds. He said so himself.”
Brianne is not having it. Barker is staying.
Tessa and Patrick finally get home and share a glass of wine. She tells him she’s running out of time, but she’s not talking about starting a family now; she wants to dance again. He’s mad at that choice, asking her if she wants to endure the pain of Germany again. He’s anxious to start a family and does not seem to support her wishes.
Using flashlights, JT and Momma T show Simone the room they’ve been staying in. Simone tells JT her dad went back for another tour to send her to college. She’s trying to square that guilt.
Don calls Delores. They have a very sweet exchange, on the surface. Don pretends the connection is bad and ends the call. As he hangs up, Ilsa is at the door in a nightie and crawls across the bed to him. Damn, Delores is going to blow her stack when she finds this out.
The Clarke House. Barker is in full uniform and rifle, sitting outside the garage protecting the Clarke’s home.
The episode title, and the backdrop of the earthquake, are great analogies for what’s going on tonight. There are cracks in relationships all over this episode. Don is cracking out of his former self and trying on the larger shoes of a TV mogul building his empire. He’s enjoying the trappings that comes with his new found power. Tessa and Patrick’s relationship is at a big crossroads: start a family or delay it for another shot at her dream to dance? And the Clarke’s are testing their family mettle as an Army buddy of their Dad’s is invited to stay. Fissures and cracks everywhere. It’s gonna get messy for sure.
As Don faces adversity in these episodes, he is increasingly tougher to like. He’s besieged with the pressure to make Soul Train as big as American Bandstand, to get Coke, the coveted sponsor, and A-list stars. In this, I feel we’re losing some of that initial likability and vulnerable connection of the man praying to not be a failure we had with him.
Brooks started out as the sleaze ball in the beginning and he’s now the good cop to Don’s nose busting persona. While Tessa is the quiet backbone of the organization. She figures out a way to get the dancers paid and back dancing without impacting on Don’s cash flow. She’s also trying to be Don’s voice of reason. Although Don’s character is fraying in front of us, I am still rooting for him because of what Soul Train became. I’m hoping some of the goodness growing from Brooks and the wisdom from Tessa rub off on him.
And maybe make sure Delores, you know, his wife, doesn’t make any surprise trips before Christmas. Otherwise there’ll be fireworks for sure.
Tessa and Patrick’s plight is tugging at all the heart-strings. The last episode when he thought she was pregnant and he’d been dealing with that awful cop killer case. How excited he was at the thought of a baby, he even hung the first few letters of the name Alex because it would work for either a boy or a girl. And now Tessa is feeling like she can’t give up on her dream just yet. Not an easy choice or path for either of them. It makes me curious to know what stopped her from dancing in the first place, there was a mention of all the “pain in Germany.” We’ve seen her tearing up the dance floor so we know she’s got the goods.
Barker. Man, I feel for him. This poor guy was in such a scary place in Vietnam with the very real possibility of a horribly painful death at any moment. One second of human emotion kicked in and that set in motion a tragic domino effect. War changes people. While he seems harmless at the moment and well-intentioned, I don’t have a good feeling about where this particular story arc is heading. I can’t put my finger on it, but it may have to do with taking advantage of Brianne’s good will or something with the benefits check. Maybe it’s nothing and this is just the cynic in me. I dunno, we shall see. But I see fissures cracking in that nice guy facade.
And JT. Ohhh man. My heart was in smithereens watching him prep his mom’s heroin regimen. No kid should have to bear that and be able to come out normal on the other end.
I feel like the music really took a backseat this week as the scales tipped towards developing the story lines. But that’s okay, next week will make up for it, where Wayne Brady is guest starting as Little Richard. Surely, not to be missed! That is going to be so over the top, I can’t wait!
American Soul airs Tuesday’s at 9pm /8c on BET.