Atlanta Season 4 Episode 4 Recap: Light Skinned-ed

Family is a word that begins with “F” and ends with “Y”.

It can also be better associated with three repeating “F” words in succession, begging the question, “Y?”

Season 4 Episode 4 Recap

We check in on Earn (Donald Glover) outside of a domicile we’ve seen but once in the series: his old house. His mother Gloria (Myra Lucretia Taylor) greets him most affectionately, as opposed to when we first saw her. His father Raleigh (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) is also in a chipper mood, now that he’s retired.

He’s not accompanying them to church, however. Lord, no. Even as a retiree, he’s a busy schedule to hold true to.

Earn asks to grab a bite to eat, but Gloria is on a schedule herself, en route to pick up Grandpa and Aunt Jeanie. They’re apparently back on talking terms, though Gloria swears her sister is simply keeping her father because she’s waiting to collect his pension. Additionally, her house is that of a hoarder, so the living conditions aren’t exactly the most favorable.

Her plan? Steal Grandpa for the afternoon. Multiple times, Gloria swears that it is Jeanie who has lost her mind, so maybe today’s the day to get a little crazy herself.

Elsewhere, Raleigh’s a man on a mission. He’s at the mall to get a new phone. The mall is in its most rare, pure state: empty. The pep in his step says it all. Retirement’s treating my guy not too shabbily.

With all aboard, Earn’s still a bit hungry, but not nearly enough to rummage through Aunt Jeanie’s (Michole Briana White) purse for cough drops. You know those hunger pangs you get sometimes? Kinda like the stomach pains you get when you know something’s a little off? Well, Earn can provide for the entire car, as Auntie wants Earnest to beg forgiveness at Sunday service for fornicating an unmarried Van, leaving her in sin.

Upon arriving at the church drop-off, as Aunt Jeanie exits, Earn signals to his mother through the window this is her only window for stealing away with her father.

She peels away, leaving the two behind, though only one is truly left in the dust.

In church, as a black pantomime troupe is in the throes of catching the holy ghost in front of an enraptured congregation, Earn attempts to throw the scent off of his mother’s deed. Aunt Jeanie is more than a little suspicious. With that, Earn excuses himself to go to the bathroom, leaving him just enough wiggle room to call a higher authority.

Getting his shoes shined, his father asserts that Earn’s digging into his “me time.” He’s afforded but three hours every Sunday of rest before the kids show up at the mall.

Hell, god created Sunday for a day of rest anyway! Let’s call it his father’s way of keeping holy the Sabbath.

Left to fend for himself, Earn attempts to make a break, only to be met with a voice from behind. Hey, all roadblocks don’t have to be right in front of you!

Aunt Jeanie confronts him and though he swears he doesn’t know where her sister took Grandpa, she wants to put a boot on the situation.

Earn immediately uses Alfred as an excuse and after a little acting exercise of how many ways one can say “So,” she demands to join him.

Back in the mall, Raleigh’s enjoying the Heavenly atmosphere within the edifice. In an all-white get-up, staring at an all-white SUV with the shades of white interior of a mall, you’d think the dude had died and gone there already.

Stridently denying a kiosk worker, he’s laser-focused.

That is until he’s stopped by a worker at a hat kiosk, complimenting his look, suggesting a hat to complement his look. Consider her flattery the hook.

At the studio, Al (Brian Tyree Henry) is throwing down Uno cards with ??? a fellow artist. The person clearly knows not the rules of the game and thinks al’s cheating, but all fun and frivolity is cut short by a ruckus outside the studio door. Al grabs his heat, only to see earn and Aunt Jeanie approaching.

Aunt Jeanie demands the entire room save for Al to kick rocks. ‘Crazy’ as Gloria may think she is and strapped as everybody in that studio maybe, she is an elder and commands respect.

Al absolves himself of it all but also spills the beans before realizing that Auntie wasn’t 100% in the loop.

Thus ensues her martyrdom speech of how the whole family is against her. She looks to straighten out the shit toot suite by calling Uncle Willy and having him patch in Aunt Pearl as well. Lastly, she’d like Pearl to add Gloria. Family meeting! Al sure as fuck ain’t happy to bear witness to something his cousin lassoed him into.

Willy (Katt Williams), formerly Alligator Man currently living his best life barbecuing something fierce, asserts that his sister kidnapping their father is by virtue impossible since ‘kid’ is in the word. Pearl (Teresa L. Graves) asserts that Jeanie is ‘out of her mind’ just like Gloria’s been saying. Gloria’s simply listening to the foolishness, shaking her head.

Jeanie’s worried that dad has dementia and though Willy disputes that, Pearl just advises her to simply inform Gloria how to administer his meds. End of call, right?

Jeanie’s having none of that. She’s accusatory of a few things, like not helping pay for her daughter’s tuition but then boils it down to a singular sentiment- the trio hated her because of her having the least melanin.

This, of course, is met with a chorus of laughter. They simply don’t like her because she’s “evil,” with Pearl even saying that if police were involved, she wouldn’t bemoan her “light skinned-ed” status.

Fucking Aunt Jeanie drives the knife in by citing Gloria’s whole stunt as due to their father not remembering Gloria throughout her life; not her birthday, Christmas, or graduation. Now that he’s on his way out, she bets her sister can’t even talk to him because he remembers not who she is.

Gloria, listening on the other end, visibly upset hangs up without a word spake. Pearl confirms her assertation that Jeanie is evil and hangs up. No need to put it in quotes this time.

Before Willy can seize the opportunity to ask for the money he loaned Jeanie for Keisha’s student loans, she immediately hangs up.

At the chapeau stop, Raleigh’s feeling a few of the hats. He’s brimming with happiness from the compliments the vendor (Tatiana Neva) is laying on thicker than molasses. His surname may be Marks, but he shouldn’t have to be made out to be one. A sale is a sale, though.

That’s when she brings out the big gun. She tells of a hat that isn’t available to the public yet, but one she swears can only be right for him.

Extracting a garish brim, Raleigh is besotted. Maybe taking it out of ‘storage’ made it seem more special to him, but we all know it’s in there for a reason. It’s red with a cross on it. It’s Hell disguised as Heaven. Plus, it’s fucking unsellable.

At the studio, the cops question Jeanie and she tries to snake her way into having them believe Gloria’s a danger to her own father. This prompts them to prove this with a call to both of them.

Grandpa (Bob Banks) claims he’s compos mentis. That is until he claims to be in Egypt and had been for two weeks before his daughter can thank the officer, abruptly hanging up.

With the Chi-Lites “I Want To Pay You Back” serving as the soundtrack in his head, Pops is walking tall through the mall. That is until he notices his Heaven on Earth has been converted to Hell with the church crowd flooding in. I love me some delicious irony.

Heading for a surreptitious exit, he’s stopped by a youngin’ (Kelvin Hodge) amused by his choice of newfound headwear. He proceeds to blatantly insult him and revel in it before wanting to take a picture for the Gram.

He mockingly begs to take a picture with him to the amusement of his friends and the abject cringe of the rest around. Raleigh relents, perhaps being half embarrassed by a young black man begging and half just wanting to get out of an uncomfortable situation, and agrees to take the picture, with sheer disappointment painted on his face. Fucking assholes.

Back at the lab, Earn and Al both are cornered, Jeanie outside complaining to the cops. Earn certainly doesn’t want to grow old and bitter like them and Al feels that. He asks an employee (Jessica Craig) for another way out and she informs him of the ‘Shmurda’ exit.

The dude had the FBI and three baby mamas after him, so the escape was built, though it turns out that Auntie made her way to that side as well.

The staffer assures them that so long as they walk out and never look back, they’ll skate scot-free. Too bad it didn’t work out the same for Bobby.

Inside his car, Poppa is contemplative. His visage will soon be viral. His moment of sunshine will be a punchline for all the world to see and comment on. Defeated, he continues on into the restaurant.

After their ‘dinner’, which Earn asserts it wasn’t since it’s 5 pm, he sees his father’s not looking himself, though he plays it off and requests the bill.

He also wants to cover it, despite their MasterCard bill last month being a bit on the weightier side. He doesn’t want his son taking care of something he feels he can still pull some weight on. Sadly, it’s misplaced masculinity, but it’s what he’s holding onto now after the day he’s had.

Gloria notices the table didn’t get any bread, and when she asks if they can get it in a to-go box, the young waiter gives her the run around before Pops slams his fist down and demands the bread. He’s had too much of those whippersnappers and their lack of respect for one day.

Now that it’s out of his system and his authority yields results, he’s up for a Redbox rental and so is Grandpa! The rightful balance has been restored as Gil-Scot Heron’s “Save The Children” takes us out.

Season 4 Episode 4 Takeaway

The power duo of Stefani Robinson and Hiro Murai bring back Earn’s parents in a way that was at first uplifting, but then heartbreaking.

Last I remember seeing them was in the Pilot and they dispensed some hard-earned advice to their son, but it was for the better.

We get to see a bit more of Earn and Al’s family dynamic as they are two successful adults and how they want to learn from the past so as not to repeat it, which is a lesson to be learned, no matter the age.

4/5 Stars.

Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski is a script writer who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He's written for pop culture and film websites alike. You can hear him on Spotify (After the Credits) and reach out on Instagram, X or by English Carrier Pigeon.

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Family is a word that begins with "F" and ends with "Y". It can also be better associated with three repeating "F" words in succession, begging the question, "Y?" Season 4 Episode 4 Recap We check in on Earn (Donald Glover) outside of a domicile we’ve seen...Atlanta Season 4 Episode 4 Recap: Light Skinned-ed