Only Mary Jane Patterson can turn her birthday into an opportunity to shame Niecy for her spending habits and then confess to her dad that she had an abortion six years ago. Just when the road to being less awful seemed to be her chosen path, M.J. reminds us all that she is committed to being terrible.
For her 39th birthday, M.J. feels like she deserves a $30,000 red Birkin bag and a new Tesla. Her job is barely secure and Cece is still extorting her, but this seems like a good idea to her. Whatever makes her feel good about doing “Whiskey the Cat” stories.
No one remembers that it’s M.J.’s birthday. Mama Patterson was just released from the hospital after a fall. When M.J. shows up at her parents’ house, she is taken aback when Patrick doesn’t mention her birthday. P.J. flew in from Los Angeles to check up on their mom, but M.J., being the self-centered doll that she is, assumes that he’s in town for a surprise party. She thinks that everyone is pretending not to remember her birthday. But folks legit have their own problems.
Patrick is popping pills with co-workers. In the break room. He credits his top-selling performance to the drugs. Patrick, as the old adage goes, can’t get right.
M.J. finds out that Mark is selling his house when she drives by the “For Sale” sign. “I hope you get bubble guts in Nigeria” is her way of saying she’ll miss him. SNC presents the Nigeria news package to Mark on his last day. He makes a forgettable speech and delegates who gets what in his office.
Her family may have forgotten about her born day, but the SNC crew comes through with a cake and presents. One of her co-workers approaches her about doing a story on Barbara, the developer P.J. works with, who is being accused of bid rigging. If M.J. does an investigative story on Barbara, her brother could face prison time.
Kara is succeeding at home with the kids. They’re not even mad that she has to bring them to work. And they’re talking to her about the silly YouTube videos they’re watching. Kara comes clean: She needs sex. ASAP. She also shuts down M.J.’s idea that her family is throwing her a surprise party. If no one called to invite Kara, then there’s no party.
Of course, M.J. shows up and there’s no party. It’s a hard lesson for her to learn that it’s not always about her. M.J. yells at P.J. about Barbara’s bid rigging. P.J. not only knows about it but also has his own scheme that he thinks will earn him $25 million. He thinks it’s the American dream to get rich by committing crimes, since white men do it all the time. It shouldn’t take M.J. to remind him that he’s black. He’ll never get away with it.
In a sweet moment, M.J. bathes her mother, who scolds her about everybody making such a fuss over her. Mama Patterson thinks back to the days when she could dance the night away, but now her legs won’t allow her to. She reminds M.J. to dance whenever she can. And wishes her a happy birthday. If don’t nobody else care, Mama cares.
Niecy walks in with shopping bags full of discounted items. Despite having two kids, living with her grandparents and making minimum wage, she spent half her first paycheck on stuff she doesn’t need. M.J. snaps when Niecy gives her a candle for her birthday. God forbid that someone do something nice for her without her being inclined to shame. M.J. doesn’t even see the hypocrisy in her own lavish spending and then scolding Niecy for hers.
Daddy Patterson takes up for Niecy even though he doesn’t agree with her wastefulness. M.J. can’t stand to see her parents taking care of Niecy. She confesses to having an abortion almost six years ago, blaming it on not wanting to be a burden to her parents. She claims that had she known she would be welcome with open arms, she could be at home on her birthday with her 6-year-old. Daddy Patterson hugs his daughter to comfort her. The truth is, M.J. had an abortion because she didn’t want to be a statistic like the ones she abhors. M.J. got the abortion because she wanted to be the one in the family who was successful.
Mark remembers his friend’s birthday. Not sure who M.J. is going to hang out with now that he’s leaving. Lord knows, M.J. can’t afford to lose any friends. He’s scared but more scared to not do what he wants to do. M.J. and Mark have their final dance-off, doing just like her mama told her: “Whenever you get the chance to dance, just dance.”