TV Recap: American Soul – “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”

American Soul 
“Lost and Found” (Episode 103)
February 12, 2019

In episode 1 and 2 of American Soul, which premiered back to back last week, Don Cornelius is launching his Soul Train to nationwide syndication and the pressure is ratcheting up to produce “Top 10” acts that will ensure advertisers. Through some machinations with a gangster-feeling night club owner, Gerald, Don catches a big break with Gladys Knight. There was a lot going on as we met new characters and learned their stories in those two episodes, so catch up on our double sized recap here.

Continue reading our deep dive recap and review of this week’s brand new episode of American Soul … (BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!)

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Brianne Clarke is hugging the folded American flag given to deceased military families with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic, “What’s Going On,” playing in the background. 

“I gave the Army a good man and this is what they gave back to me?”  

Still of Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

Tessa is reminded of her past glory as a professional ballerina while looking for her handbag but finding an old picture instead.

Soul Train set. Don Cornelius is calling Marvin Gaye’s people inviting him onto Soul Train. He’s pushed off. He gets a call from Delores telling him that Tony, their older son, is missing. She’s panicked about their son and frustrated that she’s doing it all by herself. She feels like she’s coming apart at the seams. Brooks tells Don there are 2 flights, an earlier flight which would interrupt the show’s taping or an evening flight, that would leave after the taping of the show. Don opts for the later flight.

I guess we see where his loyalties lie.

Cutaway to a scene where a man and a boy are sparring with boxing gloves in a front yard. It’s Don and his Dad when Don was about his son’s age. This is his Dad’s way of teaching him strength and discipline, and knocking him flat-out. Not my form of teaching, but to each their own. 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

Clarke residence. At the repass following Joe Clarke’s funeral, the TV news is reporting the death of Officer McMartin following the jewelry heist from the previous day. The scene continues in the hospital room of Reggie’s accomplice who was shot in the heist. Detective Lorraine is talking to his partner about the case and they need to wake him up from the coma to press a name out of him, or it’ll be their careers.

Back to the funeral lunch, Kendall’s baby Momma, Victoria (Andrea Andrade) is there with their son, as Soul Train starts in the background. 

Segue scene back to the Soul Train set. A little exchange between Brooks and Don. Some good news about the ad spots and revenue as Don’s son, Tony, shows up with 2 cops and a package for him. Tony took the Amtrak tickets Don had given to Delores to come out to Los Angeles to celebrate the taping of the syndication of Soul Train. Don is irate, but tells him he will work on the set under Tessa’s supervision, who is also irate as her job description is so fluid, and maternal. Everyone is irate.

Kendall, Simone and JT are talking about Encore’s plans. Simone won’t be derailed from that night’s gig because of her dad’s funeral. Kendall is conflicted about his future: is he a dad or is he a soldier? JT is trying to be supportive of her, but she pushes him away. 

Don gets a visit from a scantily clad, voluptuous woman looking for a minute of his time. Mona St. James (Brittany Renner) is an entrepreneur.

Still of Brittany Renner as Mona from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

Tessa brings Tony by Don’s office to get some money and sees the scene unfolding in front of her. She quickly redirects Tony away without him seeing anything. Don tells Mona they should go somewhere more private to get better acquainted. As they’re walking along a hallway, he pauses to give Mona the best business advice he got from his father. 

“Well first, success doesn’t happen by chance. Happens by choice. Everything you do or don’t do defines who you are. And second, never let a trick trash your future. Get the hell off my set.”

He tosses her out a side entrance, looking pretty pleased with himself. 

Commercials. 

Soul Train set. Some of the talent Don has lined up for the taping appears and oh myyyy. It is the Bobby Brown, playing Rufus Thomas dressed in a yellow jumpsuit, entourage in tow. I gotta say, the likeness is … striking. I’m reminded of the scene from A Christmas Story, he looks like a pink nightmare; well, a yellow nightmare tonight.

Still of Bobby Brown as Rufus Thomas from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

JT and Reggie talking about JT’s cut from the heist. Reggie tells him the payday has to wait until the heat from the shooting dies down. Reggie gives him a wad of cash reminding him about solidarity and that there are more opportunities to support the “Continuous Revolution in Progress.” 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

The dancers back on the set take a break and there’s griping, sniping and grumbling Tessa handles, but she only has eyes on Flo, our trouble maker from the last episode. You’ll recall Flo locked Simone in the wardrobe room in order to swipe her top dance spot. This week, Flo is cozying up to Rufus who is reciprocating her vibes.  Rufus is quite the sleaze bucket, asking for his check to be made out to cash because he has plans for the night … if you know what I mean.

Don introduces Rufus on camera to sing the Funky Chicken. He teaches us how to flap to the funky chicken and invites Flo up to the stage to dance with him, looking like a Funky Chicken himself, bedecked in his yellow one-piece. Flo gets an earful from Tessa on how to act and to be careful with men like Rufus. Flo doesn’t need her advice.  

“If you really had what it took to make it, then your bougie ass wouldn’t be out here wiping Don’s now, would it?”

Still of Bobby Brown as Rufus Thomas from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Commercials. 

Soul Train set. Don speaking to the dancers. He gives them the run down that this is his dream and the reality is that there will be no funny business on his set with the guests or among themselves. Flo looks a bit dejected.

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

JT comes home to find cooking on the stove sizzling unattended and his mother nowhere to be found. He hears a siren in the distance and is paranoid, peering out of the blinds. 

Clarke dinner table. Brianne is having dinner with Kendall and Simone. We hear water drip from a faucet their Dad promised to fix when he came home. The fam laugh about an “Army-style” lasagna their Dad attempted to make once. 

Tessa comes to Don’s office asking if the speech Don gave about sex on the set applies to him too. Don passes by that remark to say he makes the rules, and that Flo is to be fired. Tessa, being as feisty as she is, shoots back that Rufus is just as complicit. But, this being a man’s world, Rufus brings in the cash, so that trumps a lowly dancer. Tessa said Flo is too good to fire and the dancers make the show. They agree to suspend her to send a message. 

Back at the Clarke dinner table. Simone excuses herself saying she will get caught up on her assignments from school by a friend, but we know where she’s really headed. Kendall’s conflict about his military duty is back.

This scene is a juxtaposition, flipping between Tessa on the Soul Train set wearing her ballet dance gear and Simone starting off at her gig, solo. Simone takes the stage and after a moment’s pause, gains her composure and belts out a growly, completely on fire, cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” as Tessa rocks out a solo on the Soul Train set. 

Still of Katlyn Nichol as Simone Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Commercials.

Don is kneeling next to his bed, praying aloud to not be a failure. Tony comes in to ask him what he’s praying about. Don chases him out. The scene cuts away to Don’s father messing around with another woman that Don sees. His father tells him to stay away from dirty women and to keep it quiet from his Momma. Don goes back to Tony and tells him he worked like a man today and pays Tony $100. Tony said he wants to use the money to go to the movies with Don. 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

At the Clarke house, Kendall is having a nightmare about being in combat.

Simone closes out her set with an original song she was planning to sing with her Dad. She falters and starts again … when JT comes out from the side of the stage and her courage is back. They finish the song as a duet. Nice moment for these two!

Still of Christopher Jefferson as Jeffrey “JT” Tucker and Katlyn Nichol as Simone Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

At the hospital, Detective Lorraine’s partner has the make and model of the car and is pressing to have the little piece of shit woken from his coma to get a name out of him. 

As the cops are talking about the make and model of the car, the scene cuts to JT’s car. JT and Simone are sitting on the car in a lovers’ lane. They start to move to the backseat. 

Commercials. 

Hospital. Detective Lorraine is talking to the now awake jewelry heist accomplice. 

“In three minutes, a crazy white dude that don’t like brothers is about to bust through that door get your confession. [Laughs] Yeah, I know you think you ain’t gonna snitch but let me tell you why you will. Cuz he’s gonna hurt you in every way imaginable if you don’t. You think somebody here gonna stop that? They pulled you out of coma to talk, so who’s side do you think they’re on?” 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

Juxtapose this with Don and Tony leaving the late showing of Shaft. Tony says he won’t tell his Mom they saw Shaft because he’s grown, not stupid.

(The wisdom of boys to know what’s going to piss off their moms.)

At the hospital, Detective Lorraine tells Jamie that he’s his one chance to avoid pain.

Don and Tessa are talking about getting Tony home.

The snitch, Jamie, signals to Patrick to come close and he whispers a name in his ear.

Tony gets home to Chicago and he’s angry he had to come home. He wants to live with Dad and is upset that his Dad isn’t living with them. Delores reassures him that his Dad loves him. Delores is holding it together pretty well. 

Still of Perri’ Camper as Delores Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 103. (Photo: BET)

The Clarke House.  Brianne listening to the dripping pipe. She gets up and gets a wrench to fix it, a sign she is dealing with her grief.

Don is on the phone, hustling to try to book Ike and Tina. He’s spurned again. Cutaway to him and his Dad sparring again, this time Don is a teenager. Dad clocks him and Don goes down spitting out a mouthful of blood and teeth. Don gets up and knocks his Dad down, telling him he’s signed up for the Army and he’s going to marry Delores despite what his father has to say about it.

Don is back in in his hotel room with his dentures in a glass looking at the package Tony brought him. 

And scene.

***

Thoughts.

It’s really tough to fully root for Don at this point, but you have to admire his perseverance. He’s not an obvious good guy, for examples, see opting to tape the show over racing home to look for his son or his bipolar-ness in his dealings with Tessa. Tessa, who is obviously dedicated to the show such that she put ups with his personality. Don’s character has flaws for sure, but he is likable enough that we are intrigued how he got Soul Train going and ultimately, you know he succeeds.

The writers and producers and Sinqua Walls are doing a great job in building the complex nature of Don Cornelius. We know he is driven to succeed, to make his family proud, but the circuitous route he’s taking shows the lessons he has to learn in order to achieve that dream. Like real life, very few things are as black and white as they seem. That being said, I’m glad that he’s not being painted as a saint, but he’s also kinda the villain in this story.

I feel for the Clarke family as they struggle with their grief and the reality of their situation. JT is really in a hard place and I don’t see a good way out for him, although I believe at his core he is a good kid who was just trying to do the right thing. I’m rooting for Encore to succeed, but it seems they have a lot of hurdles in front of them, which is common, yet heartbreaking all the same. 

I’m still recovering from the Rufus Thomas stint. Bobby Brown really shone in the brief moments he was on the screen and he nailed Rufus Thomas’s look and sound. The producers could not have cast that one better. Each week, I’m finding myself really looking forward to the musical acts.

Last week, with Kelly Rowland transforming into Gladys Knight, and this week, Bobby Brown. There’s a lot of depth to these musical acts so far. I’m onboard the Soul Train to bring back more of these musical greats.

From upcoming previews at the end of these episodes, I see that Brianne is singing on a stage, which, YAY, because her kids can SING, and also Diana Ross is in an upcoming episode. Lots of great performances to come.

This show’s production is spot on for the time period in terms of the set, the clothes, and the ambiance, even the decorations are authentic (I’m looking at you gold starburst clock present in every home in America in the 1970s).

Each episode has a fast paced feel to it, with each scene sharing it’s story time with another component to the story. It’s a creative way to develop the story and the characters by bouncing one scene off another. For example, how the scene with Detective Lorraine and the snitch in the hospital bounced off Tony and Don coming out of Shaft. Much of the same themes from Shaft can be pulled into the hospital scene, Shaft is a suave detective, as is Detective Lorraine, fighting injustice  And the scene with Tessa dancing and Simone singing “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” There’s a lot of potential hidden in Tessa not being fully utilized and we’re seeing glimpses of it as Simone’s voice is soaring. 

A word on Simone. I really need a soundtrack to the music on this show. BET. If that’s not in the works, it needs to be. And whomever is singing Simone’s parts, I need her to just sing all damn day. That cover of “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” from this episode has been an earworm since I watched this episode. I’ve listened to so many of the covers, including one by The Steve Miller Band, which was surprisingly good. Kathryn Nichols’ version is the best, by far, sorry Steve Miller, sorry Etta James, sorry Wilson Pickett, even sorry Rufus Thomas.    

Thank you for reading and tune in to BET on Tuesday at 9 pm for the next installment of American Soul as we continue this journey on the Soul Train. Follow me on Twitter for all the Live Tweet action @SheilsMcGangsta!

And as always in parting, we wish you Love, Peace and Soul!

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