After dedicating last week to the one-woman show that was Aisha Hinds’ Emmy consideration reel, Underground returns to form with “28”. We check back in with my favorite character whose story-line has yet to be connected to any other character, Daniel. Looks like he’s changed his mind about not teaching other slaves to read and write and he’s leading a group class when his young daughter runs in to warn them they’ve been found out. They all run and scatter and show writers I swear fo Lawd if y’all kill off Bokeem Woodbine’s character I’m gonna be incongittdambsolable.
Elsewhere, Noah reconnects with an old ancestor of Gambit from the X-Men. Mon cher is wise enough now to travel strapped but Noah’s got the drop on him with Rosalee as back-up. Look at teamwork making the dream work, y’all! They plan to use this man to help them get back onto the Macon Plantation to rescue Ernestine and Rosalee’s younger brother James. I almost forgot that they don’t know Ern doesn’t live there anymore. If you could call that living.
Speaking of which, over on the gullah plantation the overseers are aggressively searching for codeine in the slave quarters. The master has promised severe punishment for any slave caught with contraband. Hicks is beaten severely and a metal caged face mask is placed upon his face as punishment. Animals. Ernestine watches on, knowing she can do nothing to stop it. Clara approaches her, high on power. A few episodes back when Clara came to Ernestine asking for her guidance on how to seduce the master’s son for the cheat codes to an “easier” life I had a feeling that request would come back to bite Ern on the tailbone. Clara knows that ‘Stine knows a thing or two about rootwork and wants her to concoct a poison to kill Hicks with it as retribution for her forced abortion.
Ernestine tries to warn her that taking lives is not the same as playing with them and that any blood spilled by her hands will change who she is as a person permanently. Clara’s not trying to hear any of that and she maneuvers a power play, demanding Ernestine make the poison or she will convince Master Mathews to change his mind about sending ‘Stine back to the mainland. Careful, Clara. Ernestine is not one to be trifled with long-term. Just ask Master Macon. Oh, that’s right. You can’t. He’s dead.
Patty Cannon is having a grand old time over at Cato’s mansion with her goon squad as they proceed to torture him. Ugh, I hate her. She’s shaving off his eyebrows and tells him if he doesn’t do exactly as she says his life and the life of the woman he loves will be in peril. Her plan is to use him to capture free black people and sell them into slavery and my plan was to cuss my television screen out every time Sadie Stratton said the n-word. I know it’s T.V. and these are (mostly) fictional characters but I was deep in my emotions during these scenes and did I mention I hate her? Oh, I did?
Cato goes along with this plan and we see him follow a similarly butter pecan-complected man into a Greek bath house where he proceeds to strike up a friendly conversation with him and then oops upside his head. As we see Patty’s goon squad throw this guy into captivity he pleads with Cato because he’s, “a free man!” but Cato just shrugs and tells him, “ain't none of us free”, coldly. He sideways has a point even though he is an unimaginable asshole. He is later reunited with Desi and explains to her that he struck a deal with Patty. In exchange for their lives and freedom he owes her thirty free souls. A piece! Desi is disgusted by this news, saying it would be better to live in slavery than to trade one’s freedom for the lives of thirty others. That’s all well and good and all but Desi has never experienced slavery. Well, yet. Cato frees her from her end of the deal and makes her a slave instead. Now he only owes Patty twenty eight more. Be careful what you ask for.
Rosalee and Noah, somehow through the power of television magic, make it all the way back to the Macon plantation over the course of the commercial break and as they hide in the fields outside of Rosalee’s mother’s quarters they spot a different woman coming out of Ern’s old place instead. Rosalee’s emotions get the better of her and she almost runs out to the house to find out what is going on. Noah stops her, wisely suggesting that they be a bit more strategic with their next move.
As Rosalee waits on Noah for the 411, he returns with Coral. Coral dimed them out when they initially escaped so Rosalee isn’t in the mood to break bread. Coral tells her that her mother has been sold and that her younger brother lives in the big house and is the favorite of the Macon widow Suzanne. The plans done changed and since Coral’s not cut out for field life she wants to come too when they bounce. Rosalee is like, “nah, you wasn’t shooting with me in the gym!” but Coral is all like “tough tacos, I’m going.” *sad trombone*
Clara’s father comes down to the big house to have a word with his daughter. He’s heard rumors about what she’s been up to and he wants to see it with his own two eyes. Clara reminds him that it was his lack of genuine concern in the first place that makes him partially responsible for her current behavior. While they squabble, Ernestine sidles up to Master Mathews to put a bug in his ear about his girl Clara. She pleads with him that if he loves her or even thinks that he does he needs to save her from herself and convince her not to go through with any plans she may have hatched. Later, ‘Stine meets up with Clara at her lover’s house to discuss their deal. Master Mathews is off riding horses but Clara seems to be making herself right at home.
A young slave girl serves the two women a drink and sheepishly asks Clara about a missing bottle of twenty-four. Ernestine knows that this will mean severe punishment for this girl so Clara dismissively tells her to tell him she drank it because he won’t care in the slightest. Sure, Jan. Clara admits to Ern that it was her who whispered in the master’s ear to get all of the codeine removed from the island, a preamble to the revenge plot she has cooking for Hicks and Ernestine. Clara, Clara, Clara. Girl, new broom sweeps clean but old broom gets corners. The “poison” that she demanded Ernestine make to murder Hicks, the very “poison” that she slipped into Ernestine’s drink was nothing but lemon water. Ernestine just looks on at Clara like Kung-Fu Kenny staring down Don Cheadle. Clara is out for blood but she won’t have hers.
She tries to appeal to Master Mathews about Ernestine’s duplicity but she’s too late. Ernestine has slipped through the cracks and gets back to the mainland. Her timing could not be more perfect as she bumps right into the likes of none other than August Pullman. Ohmerghad, can she ever just catch a clean break?
Rosalee gives Noah a pocket watch for Christmas but what she really needs to be giving him is the news that he’s gonna be a father before she messes around and goes into labor right then and there. And seriously, Noah, you can’t tell that ol’ girl is in her fifty-eleventh trimester?! Anywho! They hatch a plan to retrieve a big green book that’s kept with the overseers. It documents all of the slaves that have been bought and sold and will help them locate the whereabouts of Ernestine. While Noah is taking care of that Rosalee will sneak into the big house and rescue young James and then the four of them will be on their way.
Of course, things do not go according to plan and one of the overseers returns to the room before Noah has a chance to leave, forcing him to hide under the bed. Getting out won’t be a problem though because he’s soon running to the attention of some calamity in the big house. It would appear it may be too late to save poor James because when Rosalee wakes him up he screams out in terror. The overseers capture Rosalee and all Noah can do is look on from his hiding place. He pulls out his pistol ready to kick in the barn door wavin the four-four but Rosalee gestures for him to stop. She pleads with her captors who are readying themselves to brand her that she is with child and Aldis Hodge captures all the joy, heartbreak, fear, surprise and anger in just one look. My heart was breaking right along with him as the overseers brand her cheek anyway.
Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.