Atlanta Season 1 Ep. 5 Recap 'Nobody Beats The Biebs'

Photo: Guy D'Lema/FX

"Oh I know who you are. You're the guy who shot someone." So says a local reporter to Alfred as he attempts to woo her with promises of trips to Benihana's, before she shoots him down, saying she's not into the whole "gangster thing" as she smiles away and continues texting on her phone.

The conversation happens early on in "Nobody Beats The Biebs," which manages to further explore the nature of celebrity while throwing in some good old fashioned racial politics for good measure, and is a telling moment. His music aside, much, if not all of Alfred's notoriety has come from that convenience store showdown, and has grown from a simple (if violent) altercation to a tale of Paperboi blowing some dude's brains out. Yet is somehow ol' boy is free to participate in charity basketball games.

Speaking of which, Alfred, with Earn is tow, is super excited about hitting the court with a roster that includes Jaleel White, Lil' Zane and Lloyd, telling Earn he's sure he'll make MVP. No shade, but Alfred strikes me as one of those dudes who treated every P.E. basketball game like it was game seven of the NBA finals, screaming for the ball while he waited at the three point line and nearly getting into a fight before bell time because someone was "foulin' too much." But that could just be my 8th grade trauma talking.

Anyway, close to game time, Justin Bieber--who in a Louie-style twist, is black in Atlanta's universe--strolls into the building with entourage in tow. He quickly proves that, not unlike the real-life Biebs, he possesses a boundless capacity for acting a straight fool, going on a one-man assault of assholery that includes smashing his hand into the face of the same reporter who spurned Alfred's advances, and taking a pre-game piss in the hallway.

Alfred's not amused, and that, mixed with his own competitiveness, culminates with he and the Biebs tussling on the hardwood. But just like his real-world counterpart, Justin redeems himself with a few shallow gestures; a paper-thin apology, flipping his hat forward, getting religion and debuting his latest single, all under the space of five minutes. A head-shaking Alfred makes one last play for the reporter who's bopping along to the Biebs' latest jam, but she summons her inner Andre 3000 and offers a word of advice: Play your part P-Boi, play your part. "People don't want Justin to be the asshole. They want you to be the asshole," she says. "You're the rapper. That's your job."

It's hard to disagree with her. The same qualities that make folks squirm at the ATM are also the ones that allow Alfred to get into a stupid fight with a teen heartthrob or shoot a guy at a convenience store and emerge relatively unscathed. That's a confining box to be placed in, but most celebrities' public personas--rappers perhaps more so--typically consist of one or two defining characteristics. As Alfred's profile rises, he has to decided whether wants to embrace that role (even more than he already has) or decide to push back against it.

Meanwhile, Earn had his own good day that went sour courtesy of Janice, a chain-smoking manager who mistakes him for a former co-worker named Alonso and invites him up to the press room. Earn wisely keeps his mouth shut about his true identity and works the room, taking cards (of course he doesn't have his own)-and possibly making some legitimate headway for himself and Alfred.

Little did we know that Janice was simply lying in wait (or waiting until that fifth to drink kick in--hey oh!), as she launches into a rant about how Alonso betrayed her and sold her out to Gayle--fucking Gayle!--and how she plans to lay waste to his miserable little life. Earn tries to come clean, but is met with an order to "wipe that sharecropper's smile" off his face before she storms off, declaring she'll sure make he dies penniless. Aw, its fun to make random, racist-ass enemies.

Darius' story was disconnected from Earn and Alfred's plot wise, but it certainly fit thematically. With presumably nothing better to do, Darius decides to head to the local shooting range, choosing his firearm and getting two boxes of ammo. So far, so good, at least until some of the other customers realize the target Darius is popping caps into is a dog.

A couple of rednecks march over to Darius and tell him he can't shoot dogs, to which Darius responds by asking why human targets are more appropriate.  A Middle Eastern man (one who came more than a little stereotypical I might add) jumps in and comes to Darius' defense, citing the dog lover's Mexican target, but no matter. Kids like dogs, dogs' lives are always more important than humans', so shooting a target of a dog is morally reprehensible. So sayeth the rednecks. Soon the owner comes in, points a gun at Darius and tells him he's got to go.

Why the store owner needed a gun to tell him that I don't know. I guess calm, slightly quirky but non-threatening black men are some scary motherfuckers.