Atlanta (Recap) | North of the Border (S2 E9)

by Bryan Washington | via Vulture

“North of the Border” is something like a tiny road movie: Earn, Al, Darius, and Tracy take a cross-state trip to play a college show in the boonies. The result is as mortifying and surreal as you would expect — and it’s also the last thing Al needs after his labyrinth through the woods. But above all, the trek to play a show that Al notes he’s performing “for free” (despite Earn’s insistence on Spring Fling’s $60,000 down the road, afterwards, someday, maybe) condenses and magnifies the ways that Earn isn’t worth shit as a manager.

He is not very impressive in that regard. We’ve seen hints of that all season, between Clark County’s manager making advances in the foreground, materializing at all of Al’s events with more money than Earn ever seems to pull, and Earn’s outright refusal to act as a hard-line advocate for Al. How many scenes this season have we seen Earn working to make Al more money? More than five? More than three? You’d really have to squint to find them.

At their current trajectory, the split was bound to happen. But, of course, Earn has to fuck it up a little bit more, in what ultimately becomes a master-class performance in six parts.

1. For starters, Earn fails to book a hotel room for the show that evening (or, as he claims, “It’s not a hotel per se”). Attempting to finesse Al with their accommodations just to save a couple hundred dollars, he pulls up a fledgling IG model’s on-campus apartment“You know,” says Darius, “Any bad bitch rolling with 3K followers, it could be tough. She’s got an unrealistic worldview on how the world works.” “She’s only got, like, 300 followers,” says Earn. “That’s even weirder,” says Darius. — she’s a young woman with footprints lining the top of her ceiling — in hopes that Al won’t think too hard past the feet. But when Earn piles the trio into the car with the promise of a place to stay, Tracy decides to tag along as security — and does Earn bar him from traveling with them? Or reprimand Al for enticing Tracy with $200? Absolutely not. And, if anything, he all but encourages Earn to post up with Violet, their host. (Or, as she describes herself, the “magnificent crocodile” to Al’s “beautiful white crane.”)

2. Even on the job, Earn is aloof. Once they’ve reached the actual concert venue, performing in TLC-esque attire, he allows Al to move around unencumbered. Our heroes run into Clark County and his manager (who notes that the show was good for a “college set”), and Al is left to talk to whoever, to the point that he’s getting pulled aside by total strangers. Earn’s hands-off approach is so bizarre that Darius even comments on it after a young woman majoring in modern literature talks to Al about her “Paper Boi Paper.”

3. Even Earn sees, from the outset, that bringing Tracy along is a bad idea, but he tags along anyway and soon exacerbates the situation. After Violet dumps a drink on Al for talking to the “Paper Boi Paper” woman, and then calls Tracy a “broke-ass security guard,” he actually pushes her down the stairs. Earn catches her, just barely, but the damage is already done, and Violet calls her brother and his friends. (It’s worth wondering what Clark County, shepherded by his manager, is up to during all of this.)

4. What follows is an actual cross-campus chase scene, because Earn is really bad at this! He even raises his hands in protest, calling on Violet’s friends to reconcile as “black people” who are “nonviolent.” From his brawl in last week’s episode, we already know that Al is Atlanta’s very own Dae-Su, but what reason is there, specifically, for him to be in this situation in the first place? Or for Tracy to perform a running jump punch? There isn’t, but Earn has created this situation nonetheless, so our guys find themselves on the wrong end of a pursuit, flying through buildings, entirely lost.

5. And then they end up in a frat house that’s in the middle of hazing their pledges. While the scenario is innocuous enough for the frat boys, there is, again, no reason for Al to be there. As White Boy 1 says, “Dude, I’ve gotta tell you, you’re one of my two favorite rappers. You and Post Malone.” (As if this weren’t enough of a paradox, Darius notes aloud that he was thinking about joining the NRA. White Boy 1 replies, “Y’all are crazy.”) Once Darius and Tracy wander off to scope the house’s gun collection, Earn and Al play audience to the naked pledge’s serenade to D4L’s “Laffy Taffy,” which is exactly what it sounds like. At this point, Al has checked out. He’s done. He notes that “Tonight was some bullshit,” and Earn actually agrees with him … by blaming Tracy! And he’s genuinely shocked when Al reveals that, in fact, it’s his fault. This is the moment that Al tells Earn, straight-up, that he’s been talking to Clark County’s manager. (Earn asks, “For what?”) But even after all of this, Al hasn’t cut off his cousin entirely. This isn’t the deathblow we’ve been waiting for — but, of course, that doesn’t stop Earn. . . .

Click HERE to read the rest of the recap, “North of the Border.”