|Courtesy: Quantrell D. Colbert/FX|
"That's why you came here. To feel better about yourself and stunt." So are the sage words of a bartender to Earn as she calls bullshit on his too-cool-for-school attitude towards the nightlife. After going super high-concept for last week's "B.A.N.," Atlanta brings things back to reality--well, as much as series like Atlanta can tolerate reality--in this week's episode, "The Club."
The episode follows our three heroes (Darius is back! Yay!) over the course of a night at Primal, a club where Paperboi is scheduled to perform. However, it quickly becomes obvious that Alfred's night won't be bottle poppin'' and lip lockin' with models, as he rants to Earn and Darius about his hatred of rose slander and mistrust of club denizens and promoters, endures a middle finger from a random girl and deflates at the sound of golf claps from the crowd when the DJ gives him a shout out.
What's worse, he has to fight for big baller and shot caller space with Marcus Miles, another local rapper who has seemingly mastered the art of the club stunt--and has an invisible car! With some creepy eye encouragement from Darius though, Alfred manages to attract his own crowd, until it dawns on him that everyone around him (except perhaps a superfan who rapped an entire verse to one of his songs and sang the hook back to him) is using him for the V.I.P shine, and he channels his inner Martin and tells them to get ta steppin'. At very least, he should've gotten fanboy's cell number in case he ever needed a new hype man, a position I assume Darius currently occupies. But whatevs.
Meanwhile Earn, as acting manager, has the unenviable task of making sure his cousin gets paid. That means dealing with Chris, a shady promoter so adept at giving the slip he'd make Waldo scratch his skull-capped head in frustration while mumbling "this motherfucker..." After bonding with the aforementioned bartender over shots, he finds Chris in a secret backroom, only to be bullied into getting $750 of the $5000 they were promised. Earn blames it on his physique and the fact that he drinks juice is common knowledge, but throwing up mid-sentence probably didn't help matters.
Earn and his cousin's nights converge thematically when a girl Alfred seemingly made a connection with blithely lets be known she has a boyfriend once the club shuts down (Marcus Miles bought the bar and took it home with him. Ballerific or selfish? You decide.). Alfred, annoyed, asks why she wasted his time, but like Earn's strobe-lit confidant, she recognizes the function of the club and has a clear-eyed view of her place in it.
"That's why you came here. To party with cute girls like me and have a good time. We did that," she says before walking away. Alfred goes from annoyed to pissed off when Earn tells him about being shortchanged by Chris, and proceeds to go full on Frank Lucas/Tony Soprano/(insert your favorite real-life or fictional gangster here), taking his money and Chris' liquor before chucking the deuce.
"That boy's gone be a star," Chris says to a female employee as she helps him up. "Call the police." Those two sentences encapsulate so much of what we've seen and heard from Alfred, both in "The Club" and the seven previous half hours. Whatever his talents may be as a rapper, lyricist or performer, much, if not all of Alfred's notoriety has been built on controversial tweets about Caitlyn Jenner, fighting the Biebs and other incidents like this, where he gets in his feelings and assumes the role of asshole gangster rapper, confirming the biases of people like the charity basketball game reporter and Chris.
Slapping a slimy promoter across the face with a stack of cash is hilarious, and, love or hate it, the kind "did you hear about the time" kind of tale that attracts an audience. But it also gets you wanted for questioning for armed robbery. If all Alfred really cares about is getting paid, then it shouldn't matter to him if all he's known for shooting a guy outside a convenience store or getting into a fight with a teen idol. But if that's not the case, he'd do well to think about the kind of fame and audience he wants, and perhaps craft a more enigmatic public persona like Marcus Miles.
Except for that hitting folks with an invisible car part.
--Earn hates shots. It's a personal choice.
--Darius: Question. Have you ever had to throw out another bouncer?
Darius: How was it?
Bouncer: Hard. He knew all the moves.
--Not for nothin', but Darius cleans up nice.