|Photo: Guy D'Alema/FX|
"Value" starts off on the right foot from the jump, opening with a woman sitting in a fancy restaurant. It's a bougie heaven of fine table cloths, mood lighting and vaguely 70's R&B-sounding background music. And in the middle of it all, swiping away at her smartphone with a slender manicured fingernail is the woman in question, Jayde, Van's best friend.
We quickly learn Jayde is a jet-setting, Instagram-photo snapping B.A.P. with a penchant for dating rich athletes and all white evening wear. The scene between the two is a fantastic slow burn, as they trade compliments and throw in sly digs couched in "I'm just sayin girl'"-style advice. In other words, it comes off like a conversation you can only have with someone you've known for eons who knows exactly how to hit you where you live.
The barbs keep comin' as Jayde tsk-tsks Van's living arrangement with Earn--along with her choice to eat Thai food with chopsticks, further solidifying her bougie cred--and invokes the episode's title, explaining she attracts big ballers and shot callers because she provides them with the value of her cultured, intelligent and beautiful presence. Nice work if you can get it, but quiet as it's kept, even the most beautiful black will eventually crack, or at least wrinkle. And as Van bluntly points out, Jayde's stock rises and falls on whether her current dude of the moment deigns to swipe a credit card on the left or right of her goddamn ass (nice "Tip Drill" reference!). Though Van may not want to live it up in Versailles a la black Marie Antoinette, the way her eyes dropped when Jayde recalled how she used to laugh at girls in her current predicament is evidence she's not exactly thrilled with the direction her life is going.
Van decides to bail after Jayde invites her latest beau Kevin and his friend C.J. to join them for dinner, but the two make peace over a blunt, and it's all love and smoke-filled Instagram shots. The decision to spark up comes back to bite Van in the ass the next day, as she gets a text from her job saying she's been selected for a random drug test. Jayde, as to be expected, is no help, and all Alfred can offer to do is try to get in touch with his clean urine connect. It's while waiting on that unicorn that Van, holding a trash bag full of her daughter's dirty diapers, comes up with the gross (yet inspired) idea to squeeze the piss out of them until she has enough for urine sample. Though initially sickened, I eventually found myself mentally shouting "Yaas! MacGyver that shit bitch!" as she cooked up the urine on the stove like a certain narcotic, then stomped through the school halls as if she were headed to do battle, in school suspension duty and Tobias Walner in whiteface be damned.
Unfortunately it's all for naught as she tries to open the condom with her teeth and gets a golden facial instead. Safety pins Van! Safety pins! Safety pins! Safety pins! Shout out to Bea Arthur. But I digress. Convinced she's about to be pink-slipped, Van admits she toked up, but, in true Atlanta form, her superior informs her the drug tests don't mean shit; the school doesn't have the resources for periodic screening and the random tests are really meant to keep everyone on their toes. Which apparently is good thing, since, according to boss lady, everyone is getting lifted to escape the realities of wrangling bad-ass kids and dealing with system designed to fail them day in and day out. Or something like that.
Either way, Van's still canned because she admitted smoking weed to a superior, but boss lady was kind enough to give her a week to get her stuff together. So it's off to supervise ISS and resist the urge to snatch a smiling, white-faced Tobias out of his seat.
Tragic comedy aside, it'll be interesting to see how this affects the dynamic of Van and Earn's relationship going forward. Up until now, Van could point to her job (and I assume her complete abstention, or least rare use of drugs) as proof she was the responsible one, the grown up to his aimless man child. And who's to say by the time next week rolls around she isn't already working somewhere else? But even if she found another job the next day, there's no way Earn's not gonna bring that up the next time she wants to rain his manager-of-a-rap-superstar parade.
--Even after the more comedic side "Value" kicked in with Van's search for clean urine, the show still managed to slip in some genuine emotion, like the look of disappointment on Van's face as she scrolls through Earn's phone and sees some trollop's selfie. The discovery likely stung even more than it usually would, since Earn actually did something selfless moments before, offering to take their daughter to get something to eat so she could get some extra sleep.
--Tobias' whiteface was at once WTF-worthy, hilarious and entirely of the moment, if you're up on your online consumption. If not, check this link.
--Alicia on Tobias: "He gon' get enough."
--No Darius this week, which surprisingly, didn't hurt the episode. But you'd have to think he'd have similar taste in cartoons as Alfred and would've been munching away on Captain Crunch, sitting Indian style in front of the T.V. when Van called.
--Of course Jayde would snap a selfie of her meal in the middle of a fight with her best friend. Of course she would.