TV Recap: American Soul – There’s A Storm Coming …

American Soul
’68 B.C. (Episode 109)
March 26, 2019

Last week on American Soul, Don went to war against Dick Clark, who, in the face of Don’s refusal to sell him Soul Train, launched his own blatant copycat rival show.  Tessa auditioned for a dance troupe which is led by her former bestie who, once upong a time, boned Tessa’s ex-fiance (who also shows up). JT ran out of options and Brianne (along with Barker) went to San Diego for a last hurrah at her brother’s club and we learned some important backstory for Mama Clarke.  Catch up on last’s week’s full recap here.

Now, continue on for a recap of tonight’s action on an all new American Soul BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!

Still of Jelani Winston as Kendall Clarke, Katlyn Nichol as Simone Clarke, and Christopher Jefferson as Jeffrey “JT” Tucker from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

1968, Chicago. Don is a Chicago cop responding to a domestic disturbance call. The crazed husband has a shotgun pointed at his face. Through some calm words and some skilled maneuvers, Don gets the shotgun and takes down the assailant as his partner looks on. The TV news shows coverage of a Dr. Martin Luther King march in Memphis.

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: BET)

1968, Clarke Residence. They’re celebrating Simone’s healthy lung anniversary. Kendall and Joe sing the Smokey Robinson classic, “The Tracks of My Tears.” This is the same song in Simone’s music box birthday present from a few episodes ago. Not long after, her Dad is killed in Vietnam. Their celebration is interrupted by Brianne’s brother, Pete (Njema Williams). Curious, Kendall and Simone don’t know him, or even of him. 

Still of Jelani Winston as Kendall Clarke, Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke, and Katlyn Nichol as Simone Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

1968, Ma Mabel’s Diner. JT and Reggie are at Ma’s and JT is hyped for high school graduation. Reggie’s future is on a different path after dropping out. Reggie sees a guy eating who owes him money and starts to wail on the man, as you do. JT helps out. Ugh, JT! Make better life decisions!! Ma Mabel breaks up the fight with the help of a gun pointed in JT’s face. Reggie skedaddles out, leaving JT holding the bag … again. 

Don’s partner (B.J. Winfrey) hands Don a wad of cash to celebrate his triumph over the shotgun. Don seems a little uncomfortable with the ethics of it, but gets over it quick enough and takes the dough. Don spots a scofflaw breezing through a stop sign and pulls the man over. During the stop, the man tells Don that he’s got a lovely voice.

This is the strangest pick up line I have ever heard. 

The traffic stop hooligan is legit though; he runs a radio station and he’s looking for a newscaster. Traffic stop turned job interview! How fortuitous!

Uncle Pete is part bumpkin, part slob, and all asshole. He’s intrigued by his 16 year-old nephew and 13 year-old niece. Pete reminds Brianne and Joe that back in Foley, Alabama, Joe beat a white man to the point of paralysis. Stuff like that will follow you. Joe shoots back that the man in question deserved what he got for what was done to Brianne.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Pete extorts $500 from Brianne and Joe to keep his mouth shut. Pete is a piece of shit.

Still of Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke and Joseph Lee Anderson as Joseph Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

Commercials.

Brianne and Joe are talking about how to get the money for Scumbag Pete and if that will take care of him? Backstory on the beatdown. Brianne was almost raped by this man, Bo Miller, and so Joe exacted some tough justice on Bo. Brianne wishes their life was different … better. She’s tired of just surviving. In response, Joe tells her she can get back on stage whenever she wants and that he’s there to support her. Brianne isn’t having the pie in the sky fantasy.  

“When was the right time? After we ran away to Texas? Before Kendall was born? When you enlisted? When I was taking care of Simone while she was sick?”

Either way, Joe’s got her back whatever she decides. 

Still in 1968, Club 100 Proof. Gerald is involved with Herschel’s girl, Pearl Madigan (Adriyan Rae). Gerald and Pearl are talking in the Club at the end of the night and he proposes a future where the both of them are together. But … it’s complicated. We see Herschel is watching, he breaks up their get together. 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: BET)

Don comes home to Delores. Damn, they are so cute. His stepmom, Mamie (Jen Harper), busts in, no knock at the door. She’s complaining that Don’s dad is suffering from “old-timers” and she needs money every month from Don to take care of him to keep him out of a nursing home. 

Still of Perri’ Camper as Delores Cornelius and Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

The Clarke Residence. Joe finds Simone up late under her blanket with a flashlight and a notebook. She says they’re poems, but he thinks they look like songs. She tells her dad that she can’t sing but Joe tells her that she can learn. He asks Young Simone if she likes Etta [James] and to just do it. She’s timid and he tells her to push past her fear. Young Simone gets better at each try until she’s waking up the whole house with her vocalizing. And it’s beautiful. 

Graduation Day.  JT is in his cap and gown for graduation. Holy shit, his mom looks like a supermodel. This is what drugs do to you. Just say no, Kids! Mama T hands JT a letter from his Dad, which he tosses aside. She reminds JT that Dad is still Dad and being mad won’t change anything. We learn the Tucker family is moving to Oklahoma in a month.  JT tells his mom that all their problems need to stay here: the drugs, the memories, and the Dad!

“If you don’t forgive your Dad, you’re going to end up bitter and angry just like him. Promise me that won’t happen.”

Don is on his way out the door when Delores asks what he’s decided to do about “Carter.” Delores mentions they can probably make it work with the two extra Soul Stop shows they have planned for the month. Don is bitter about his parents and doesn’t want to help. Delores, however, reminds Don that they’re family and he should do right by his Dad.

Still of Perri’ Camper as Delores Cornelius and Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

The Club.  Herschel is in a spot of trouble and his liquor license is on the line. He knows his liquor license is the lifeblood of his club so he tries to bribe his way to legitimacy. When bribery doesn’t sway Mr. Liquor License Guy, Herschel gets physical. Gerald is the voice of reason (who’d have thought that?!?), trying to keep Herschel from strangling Mr. Liquor License Guy. Gerald tells Herschel they should cash out and leave town. 

Commercials. 

JT is performing in a club and gets an offer to sell his song. JT begins to experience the disillusionment and disappointment rampant in the music industry when dreams and reality collide. 

Gerald is meeting with Mr. Liquor License Guy early at the club. Mr. Liquor License Guy tells Gerald he wants to make a deal with Gerald, he thinks Gerald should have a club of his own. Gerald tells Mr. Liquor License Guy that that’ll happen one day. Gerald is promptly knocked out by a hooded figure who crept up behind him. 

The Clarke Residence. Joe and Brianne call Scumbag Pete out on his fiscal shenanigans, noting that Scumbag Pete kept the money owed to Brianne from when their mother died. The Clarkes threaten to call the IRS on Scumbag Pete for not paying taxes on all that inheritance money. Scumbag Pete tells them this time it’s different; you see, he wants the money to open a club, not to gamble it away.  Brianne is skeptical. 

“That’s blood money, Pete. Take it and my brother is dead to me.”

Scumbag Pete responds that he never intended to call the cops on them. Exit Scumbag Pete. 

Gerald regains consciousness and Herschel is sitting in his ransacked office and the safe is open. Gerald has real fear in his eyes as he asks Herschel how much money is gone? Herschel tells Gerald that it’s all gone. Gerald is scared because Herschel thinks he’s in on it because he and Herschel are the only two that know the safe combination. There’s also that pesky conversation they’d had earlier when Gerald advised Herschel to liquidate. Well, Herschel is now sufficiently liquidated. Gerald goes into negotiation mode. 

“Let me do my job. I’ll get you your money back.” 

Instead, Herschel tells Gerald to shut the place down. 

Andrea is getting JT a car for his graduation. She buys the car from her old drug dealer. JT comes home to find Tick (Reshaun Jones) there with Andrea. She tells JT he needs to stay here and find his dream. She thinks his singing is special and she wants to support him by staying in LA and staying clean. 

Mmmm hmmmm, that’ll work out well …

Don and Delores are at a production of Soul Stop, the forerunner to Soul Train. Don’s partner, Ernie, drops by the set for a money drop. Delores approaches with a problem and a solution; the host didn’t show up but, no worries, she thinks Don should do it. He’s skeptical but Delores is all encouragement!

Don is a natural, of course …

“Alright hounds and honeys its time to get down. You can bet your bottom dollar this next act will quench the thirst of soul.”

Commercials.

Gerald and Pearl share a drink at the club as they talk about it closing down. She ‘fesses up that she staged the robbery, and knocked him out. Gerald asks how long her and Mr. Liquor License Guy, Spence (Christopher Whitley) [but we’re going to keep calling him Mr. Liquor License Guy], were screwing? Pearl says all she did was for “them” and even though it cost them half of Herschel’s money, it was worth it so they would be able to keep the other half.

Gerald shows his hand and produces Spence’s half. Pearl knows Spence is dead and that Gerald killed him. She gets groggy and slumps over; he poisoned her. Gerald uses her un-smoked cigarette to light the place up as he walks out.

A total mic drop moment as you see Gerald’s more unsavory persona taking hold. 

Don at his Dad’s house. Mamie telling him there are good days and bad days. Don uses his newfound cash stream to help out his Dad. Don’s step-mom is a bitch, snatching the money from Don without a thank you. Instead, she tells Don that she’ll need more money next month. Don feeds his Dad, Carter (Derek Morgan), some dinner and mentions that he might quit the force to get into radio. Their conversation is interrupted by a news bulletin. Walter Cronkite reports that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis that day.

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

The horrible news spreads to the Clarke Residence as well as Ma Mabel’s Diner. Everyone is just devastated. 

Gerald meets up with Herschel in the parking lot as Club 100 Proof burns to the ground. He hands Herschel the two bags of money. Gerald says he wants to head to LA and leave this Memphis shit behind him. Herschel gives Gerald one of the bags of cash so he can start his club.

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: BET)

1972. Finally in the present, we see Encore in the recording studio. JT is singing his “Mama was a rollercoaster” song from the last episode. Gerald comes in for a monetary donation from the recording producer (TJ Jackson). Gerald likes what he hears and offers Encore a spot at his club, opening for Ike and Tina. Simone is smart enough not to answer the question about her age this time from him. 

Still of Jason Dirden as Gerald Aims from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

Commercials. 

Encore is out celebrating their big time gig. JT asks Simone to start over with him somewhere else. He needs to get away from this. She doesn’t give him an answer. 

Scumbag Pete’s club swan song is Brianne in her red dress.

Yes!!

Brianne croons “Feeling Good,” originally made popular by Nina Simone in 1965 (most recently popularized by Michael Buble). Brianne’s voice is so melodic. The show stops the music just as it gets good. GRRRRR!!!!

Still of Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: BET)

Don is getting checked out by a doctor and asking if he has the same “old-timers” disease his dad died of? The doctor tells Don it’s exhaustion and advises plenty of water (ahem, Don hears scotch) and rest (ahem, Don hears cocaine). The doctor’s shadow has barely darkened the door jamb when Don snorts a line of coke. Good plan!!  

Finally, back at Brianne’s place following her successful night of signing, Brianne plants a kiss on Nate … then promptly asks him to leave. 

Whaaa?

Still of Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke and Shannon Wallace as Private Nate Parker from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: BET)

Don has a punching bag installed in his office to take out his frustrations. I see Dick Clark’s face behind some of those punches.

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 109. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

The episode ends with a reprise of Brianne’s version of “Feeling Good.” 

She totally nailed it! 

And scene.

***

Thoughts.

I needed this episode A LOT earlier in the season. This episode deepened our emotional connection with some vital characters. We got insight into what made them who they are. We also got the intersection of how these characters came to cross paths.

Gerald and the betrayal that hardened him into the Janus-like figure we’ve seen this season.

Simone’s voice and talent was something she had to work at and overcome an illness to attain.

JT, well he’s been in the school of hard knocks his whole life, and we just saw more of it.  JT looks aged from our trip back to 1972.

We finally got to hear Brianne tonight and she didn’t disappoint. My only complaint is that I needed MORE! She was fantastic!

Finally, Don. It was interesting to see his metamorphosis from cop to Soul Show and then to Soul Train in the present. His calm, detached cop demeanor was something we saw again when he dealt with Dick Clark.  Old habits die hard.

Only (real) complaint? Why was Private Barker necessary? Kendall could have moved out on his own if that was needed. Brianne’s story was compelling without Barker. If it went somewhere, I can see the attraction of introducing the storyline. But, to just leave it with a kiss and a kiss off … seemed unnecessary and diluted the ultimate thrust of Brianne’s story arc.  Unless, we’re not done with Barker?

Join me next week for the  Season Finale of American Soul. As the show has been renewed by BET for a Season 2, we can rest easy that, no matter what happens next week, it won’t be the end of Don and the Gang and their collective story. And as always, thank you for reading!

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