TV Recap: American Soul – You Want To Run With The Big Boys?

American Soul
“Nothing Ventured … Nothing Gained” (Episode 108)
March 19, 2019

Last week on American Soul, the Soul Train national tour got underway and the gang experienced racism up close and personal. At home, Delores finds out about Ilsa and Don’s affair and Don walks out leaving it unresolved. If things weren’t bad enough for Don, he’s also under siege from his old business partner who wants his cut of the Soul Train riches. And back in LA, JT is brought in by the police for questioning on his role in the cop killing. Catch up on all of last week’s action with our complete recap here.

Now, continue reading for this week’s action-packed episode of American Soul ... BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!! 

Still of Kelly Rowland as Gladys Knight from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

Ooh, honey. Gladys Knight tearing it up on The Soul Show. Wait. The whaaaaa?!? The Soul Show, Dick Clark’s answer to Soul Train, hosted by Tyrone Taylor (Jarrett Michael Collins) (this seems to be based on Dick Clark’s real life program, Soul Unlimited, a Soul Train ripoff that was hosted by Buster Jones and only lasted a few weeks).

Still of Kelly Rowland as Gladys Knight from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

Don throws an object at the TV screen and shatters it. Brooks tries to bring him back to reality by focusing him on Season 2 and not another Dick Clark production. Brooks isn’t concerned about Dick Clark.

“Big whoop, Dick Clark is doing another dance show.”

Don is skeptical he’ll get another season and lays into Brooks, who thankfully, calls out his bullshit.

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Brianne and Simone are shopping for a dress for Brianne to where to a party being thrown by her brother, Pete. Brianne is having second thoughts about her dress choice for the party.

“My mama used to say it’s a sinning sort of woman that wears a red dress.”

Andrea Tucker comes up behind them asking if Simone has seen JT. She’s in need of her medicine and he needs to help her feel better. Andrea is so jittery and just, junkie looking. Brianne is massively uncomfortable, pulling Simone away. Mama Tucker gets mad, shouting that Simone is an “uppity little bitch.” Brianne shuts that down right quick. 

Still from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: BET)

Flo is at Kendall’s place picking on him for his John Denver album. She knows all the words as she serenades him with “Take Me Home Country Roads.” And she’s got a set of pipes. Kendall is packing up and moving in with Flo. Well, that escalated quickly. Nate appears, trying to talk Kendall into staying. Kendall is still pretty steamed at him. The phone rings to break up the stand-off, it’s a rep from Rhythm Roads Records asking if Encore wants to come record a record. 

Club 100 Proof. Gerald telling Don he’s had some rivals in the past, but he knows the right way to take care of them … arson!   Don has other ideas. His friend, Conrad Johnson (Todd Anthony), arrives. Don asks for a few T-Bones for his business meeting. Conrad advises him to hit Dick Clark where it hurts, publicity. The negative kind. He suggests they stage a protest to pressure the network into cancelling Clark’s pretender show.

“We put our people out there. Telling the world what they stole from us, public perception turns.”

Gerald overhears this and shakes his head at what he’s hearing and Don can see him.

Tessa auditioning for a dance troupe, Dance Zeitgeist. She is clearly nervous. There’s a classic frenemy conversation playing out between Tessa and Evelyn Douglas (Nikeva Stapleton). These twp have definitely crossed paths before. Evelyn turns out to be the co-director of the troupe and is running the auditions. Awkward! The audition runs begin and Evelyn is impressed by Tessa, despite the bad blood. As Tessa gets lost in the moment, this huge smile erupts across her face.

Still of Iantha Richardson as Tessa Lorraine from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: BET)

Simone and Brianne’s conversation about meeting Ms. Tucker continues at home and it’s supremely bitter. Brianne grounds Simone … including Soul Train appearances. Simone shows her teenager side with a classic, “I hate you,” aimed right between her mothers eyes. Nate offers to go to the family party with her in San Diego. Brianne accepts his offer.

Tessa’s audition is going well, she’s in the finalist cut and is about to be shown the next audition routine when a little boy runs up to Evelyn, his father in tow. Evelyn introduces him as the creative director and her husband, Prescott Mayer (Bryan Patrick Murphy). Tessa bristles at the sight of him. For his part, Prescott reacts similarly when he sees Tessa. Tessa isn’t paying attention to the routine and starts to walk out. Prescott stops her asking her to wait. Tessa isn’t having it.

“For what? For Evelyn to steal something more than my routine and my fiancé? I think we’ve done this dance before.”

Exit Tessa. 

Commercials.

Reggie and a few of his boys roll into Ma Mabel’s diner when JT is working. JT slides the gun from behind the counter into his belt. Reggie signals for him to come over. Reggie tells JT the word on the street is that he is a snitch, despite reassurances from JT that he’s got his back. Reggie tries to intimidate JT by reaching into his wallet where a spent bullet falls out. He offers JT a job to prove his worth and that he’s not a snitch. JT agrees to do it … cause he’s an idiot! Kendall walks in and sees all this going down.

Don is with an house office call making banker, counting out a withdrawal. Don thinks there should be more. The teller tells him his wife has an account but any withdrawal would need her approval. Don questions that his wife opened an account? Dang, is Delores making moves against Don? Gerald informs Don the protest is underway and its obvious he is not happy about it. Gerald tries to persuade Don there are better ways than this.

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Tessa tells Patrick about the audition and her run in with Evelyn and Prescott. Patrick tries to comfort her, but it ends in an argument. He accuses Tessa of being walled off because of those two clowns.

Kendall tries to put JT on the spot saying a recording studio offered Encore 1/2 price recording if JT still  their money. To Kendall’s shocked surprise, JT pulls the cash from his sock. I think Kendall is actually a little disappointed. But, he does the right thing by his sister and tells JT that he has options and not to do what Reggie is asking him to do. Kendall tells JT to do what’s necessary to prevent Simone any more pain.

Outside Dick Clark’s studio, Conrad and Don’s protest is underway, but Don is doubtful that the outcome will be positive … the suits are still meeting. Conrad tells Don to keep the faith. Don phones home and reaches his new answering machine; he hangs up without leaving a message. Then Don calls Gerald.

“No fires, no fatalities. Just shake this shit up.

Oh, Don.

Commercials.

Don greets Gladys, petitioning her to be loyal to him, to his show, and to what it stands for in the black community. Don walks onto the set of The Soul Show and meets its host, Tyrone Taylor. Tyrone has a case of star struck and offers anything he can do to help. Don tells Tyrone to take him to his boss.

Still of Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius and Kelly Rowland as Gladys Knight from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

Prescott shows up at Tessa’s door asking to talk. She’s icy as he makes small talk. Tessa cuts to the chase and tells him that she can’t easily erase the memory of her bestie boning her fiance.  Tessa has her ducks in a row when she shuts down Prescott’s claims that he’s changed after how he hurt her. Oh yeah? Tessa tests Prescott by asking after his son.  Turns out the boy if 4 years old which means Evelyn was preggers when Prescott was still with Tessa. No Bueno, Prescott.

Detective Lorraine picks now to walk in. If there wasn’t a pissed mist in the house before, there definitely is now. Prescott excuses himself, wishing Tess (as he calls her) a pleasant night, adding that they’ve held her a spot in the callback auditions for the following day. I can’t read Tessa’s face. Alone, Patrick blasts Tessa for seemingly running to Prescott after they fought.

“Tessa, you want me in your corner, you might want to make a little room. ‘Cause it feels full already.”

Don meets Dick, asking how much it will cost to make this all go away. Dick claims Don stole the idea for Soul Train from him, that the concept of Soul Train is based on American Bandstand so there shouldn’t be an issue. Dick needles Don by throwing his offer from last week in his face.

“You should have taken the deal, Don.”

Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” plays in the background, with the lyric: “rid me of the problem.” As Don replies that he was about to give Dick the same advice.

Commercials.

The protest outside Dick Clark’s studio turns ugly with punches being thrown. Don looks around to see where the mayhem is coming from and sees Gerald, who gives him a knowing look. Don is asked to come in by security, as he breezes past Conrad and pretends not to know who’s out there fighting.

Pete’s Farewell Party, San Diego. Brianne’s bother, Pete, owns Pete’s Blues Joint in San Diego. It’s been bought by a new owner, so this is the last hurrah for this hallowed hall. Brianne shows up with Nate.

JT comes home to find his Mom passed out and some stranger watching his sister. She comes to and blames JT for this situation, saying he should have been home. He picks up his guitar to let go of his frustration.

Brianne and Nate look at the memorabilia on Pete’s walls. They see a picture of her singing from her younger days. It touches a nerve in her. She takes the picture outside and shatters it.

“I look at the girl in that picture, and all I see are the dreams I lost. Music is the breath in me. I walk around here and I remember how long I’ve been holding my breath.”

Nate bolsters her by reminding her that her dreams are hers and still inside her. Brianne’s got one more thing to do, as she heads back inside. Nate puts the now loose picture in the garbage. Aww, Nate, you shoulda kept it.

Still of Shannon Wallace as Private Nate Parker and Kelly Price as Brianne Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: BET)

Commercials.

Tessa and Evelyn are in the studio. Evelyn is asking about her talk with Prescott and Tessa has a curt response. Evelyn asks if Tessa joining the troupe is about Tessa living forward or holding onto the past? She offers Tessa a kind of veiled apology for the hurt she caused back in Germany.

“I’m just saying, if you were here for what was, maybe what you are is enough.”

Still of Iantha Richardson as Tessa Lorraine from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: BET)

Kendall and Simone are awaiting their slot at the recording studio and Simone is stressing that JT isn’t there. The Commodores are in the studio ahead of Encore. Lionel Richie (Brandon J. Shaw) offers Simone and Kendall some words of encouragement for their recording.

Still of Katlyn Nichol as Simone Clarke and Jelani Winston as Kendall Clarke from BET’s “American Soul” episode 108. (Photo: Jace Downs/BET)

JT has his mom in a medical office waiting room. As the doctor escorts her back, she knows something is up. They’re approaching a locked room and several men subdue her. She’s been admitted to a mental asylum as JT walks away. 

Tessa arrives at the audition and does the audition on her terms, to her own piece and music. The panel allows it, as Prescott indicates that she choreographed the audition piece, so this will, in fact, level the playing field. Patrick shows up to support her. She is impressive, showcasing a hybrid of her classically trained ballet moves with a sprinkling of her Soul Train influences; reflective of who she is now.

Tessa comes home. She opens up to Patrick about what’s behind her wall: her pain about the affair that broke her heart, losing her best friend, and an abortion she’d had after finding out about Prescott’s cheating. She tells Patrick they are enough, the two of them together.

Club 100 Proof. A cake that says “So Long, The Soul Show. ” Conrad celebrates with the crowd, telling them the fight was hard, but they prevailed. Don finds Gerald in the back room paying off the protest protagonists. Don has buyer’s remorse, seeing the seedier side of Gerald’s talents firsthand, but Gerald checks him.

“You want to run with the big boys, Don? You got to be a big boy.”

Don calls home again, this time leaving a message. He acknowledges that Delores is mad, but he’s reminiscing about how they used to be. They have an anniversary trip planned. He hopes she’s still coming and he loves her. Then he sways and collapses to the floor, unconscious.

End credits.

***

Thoughts.

I feel for JT. He’s trapped in a no way out situation with both his mom and Reggie. He’s burning the candle at both ends. Reggie is out there spreading rumors he’s a snitch and Reggie is also lining up the next job for JT to either get nabbed by the cops or killed in the job like poor Latch. Then that shit with his mom. Snap! I was initially writing that they were taking her to rehab intake and then the camera lingered on the mental asylum plaque. Add in Kendall setting him up like he’d spent their pooled money for the recording studio. (Sorry JT, I also thought the money was gone, not because you’re a bad guy, but the down on your luck saga was stacked against you.) This guy is trying so hard to stay good, but he’s beset on all sides. Next, Simone is going to be pissed he missed the recording time slot. Maybe they can ask Lionel Richie to fill in for JT’s vocals.  

Tessa and Patrick. Oooph. Patrick is hurrrrrrt after their first exchange, begging Tessa to open up to him. The fact that Tessa knocked her audition out of the park as a “geriatric” dancer in front of her frenemy, Evelyn, is just sweet revenge and the fact that Patrick was there shows what kind of man he is. Then we get Tessa’s back story on this elusive Germany time of her life and it’s a doozy. She was betrayed by her best friend and fiancé, lost a baby, and quit dancing as a result. The bitterness she felt explains a lot about how she’s been this series. She comes away feeling vindicated, whether or not she gets the gig.

Brianne. Brianne. Brianne. I need your back story, girl. I love her presence in this show. She’s a genuine character and very relatable. What we’ve seen in this episode is as much as she’s allowed us to see of her vulnerability and her strength. Her strength, for not knocking Andrea Tucker on her scrawny ass for calling her daughter an “uppity bitch.” And her vulnerability in what we saw in the exchange with Nate over that broken photograph. There was a reference early on in the show, when Sgt. Clarke called home. Brianne was on one line and Simone was on another one with Simone telling him about a gig she had coming up and Momma wouldn’t go. Sgt. Clarke said he used to go to all her shows. Something happened to her singing career – maybe an unplanned pregnancy?!? – and it doesn’t appear to have been on her terms. I’m wagering the one thing she’s gotta do before she leaves San Diego is belt one out of the park, vocally.

Don. Saved you for last. I’ve decided you’re a bit manic-depressive in your dealings. You literally don’t know what you want. Scratch that. You know what you want: Soul Train. But, you are conflicted in how you want to make it successful and not being very likable in your choices. You’ve isolated your family by walking out without a conversation about your affair with Ilsa (who is nowhere to be found now…), you’ve won battles to keep your show intact and yours, but you seem to be alienating those around you. Tessa is gone, Brooks is becoming marginalized episode by episode, and Gerald is showing his true colors and you’re getting cold feet now you’ve seen what he’s capable of (and he doesn’t even know what we know, yet). You don’t seem to have a lot of allies, my friend. A NY Times article written soon after Cornelius’s death in 2012 quoted one of Don’s friends talking about Don and his friendships.

“You could fit all of Don’s friends in a phone booth and still have room.”

Ouch. And now your health isn’t the greatest; a glimpse at the health problems that will plague him for the rest of his life. This show is doing a good job to show his go-it-alone attitude.

Other than Kelly Rowland returning as Gladys Knight at the top of the house, this episode didn’t have any musical acts performing and I have to admit, I kinda miss it. This episode was very tense for me, with all the stories between Patrick and Tessa, Tessa and Evelyn, Tessa and Prescott, JT and his mom, JT and Reggie, Brianne and her past and Kendall doubting JT. I definitely could have used some Lionel to soothe my nerves. There are only two more episodes left in this season of American Soul and the dramatic pressure is evident. I have to see what happens to JT; I’m invested and I don’t have a good feeling about him. But I want to be hopeful.

American Soul airs on Tuesday’s at 9/8c on BET. Thank you for reading along this season to our recaps. Join us next week for the second to last episode of the season!

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