Mary Jane is in a quandary. How much of that is her own doing or that of a very cunning Ronda Sales? There’s room for debate here.
Mary Jane’s little brother, Paul Jr., appears in New York City as a real estate agent lounging in a $15 million apartment and suited like a dashing grown man. Did they just quickly wrap up and redirect P.J.’s storyline from the past two seasons, or is P.J. being purposely vague and that $25 million-bid-rigging deal in Los Angeles is just lurking in the background?
At Great Day USA, Justin has coolly slid into a good-ole-boys-club vibe with Garrett, assisted by Ronda’s benevolence, allowing him to do her dirty work against M.J. Sidelining all of M.J. and Kara’s projects, Justin assigns M.J. to a segment on a new social media app, which looks like a lazy copy-and-paste version of Facebook Live called “Whatagwan.” Or at least I believe I heard a very proper pronunciation of the popular patois term for “What’s going on?” That garnered a laugh out loud.
The real story of this episode takes place in Garrett’s office, where Justin gives M.J. his evaluation of her interviewing style, pulling a clip that helped propel M.J. to prime-time nightly news. Justin is ever so calm and calculated as he goes full-blown Clarence Thomas on M.J., accusing her of ambushing, race-baiting and pushing her “own agenda.” The critique sounds as if it was ripped straight from the “alt-right” “alternative news” sources, like the paranoid Alex Jones’ Infowars, without the overt paranoia but all of the racist overtones.
It’s not clear what Garrett’s actual goal is or what, overall, motivates his actions, but Justin gave him a clear out by being a black man headily willing to berate a black woman for taking a stand. The evaluated clip is from season 2, when M.J. landed a viral interview with conservative author Elizabeth Foy, who was promoting her book advocating for charter schools and school voucher programs. In the full interview, M.J. uncovered that Foy’s book is right-wing propaganda funded by an anti-public-school organization that is pushing for private and religious schools. The clip is from 2015, before we ever thought that Foy’s carbon copy, Betsy DeVos, could end up being secretary of education. What foresight.
Mary Jane was just starting to put herself back together in her personal life after she had come completely undone with her new beau, Lee. But forever in the spirit of doing too much, M.J. hops on the dream of them moving in together after 2.5 weeks of dating. Sure, New York City is expensive, but M.J. is still cycling through a middle school outlook on relationships because she’s turning 40 in two months.
Lee, a man of much patience, for a millisecond entertains the idea and quickly stumbles back. Moving in together is illogical for myriad reasons, but M.J., in an odd burst, attempts to force Lee’s hand. First night, she asks him to play out her sexual fantasy and say he loves her; first week, curves him hard; second week, apologizes and forces him to commit to moving in together? Sis, no!
In an attempt to combat Justin’s microaggressions, M.J. finds inspiration in everyone’s favorite reality star, Cardi B, who’s playing a slightly more extreme (if that is possible) version of herself as Mercedes on the reality show Family Brawlers. Really, they just threw a trash wig on Cardi and made her a character with children; otherwise she’s still her same over-the-top self.
Where Justin is cool and together, M.J. is headstrong but unsure, giving him the ability to still manipulate the situation. M.J.’s idea to bring Mercedes on for an interview is approved, with Justin as the producer. M.J. still hasn’t learned discretion or discernment as she attempts to call Justin out. Girl, no—in order to defeat him, she has to play him at his own game without losing her cool. He’s not going to react to M.J.’s hollow verbal jabs, since he’s always a dagger that hits her harder.
M.J. is best on her toes in the heat of the moment, at least when it comes to her career, and that’s where her potential win comes as Justin forces her to use a set of questions that are entirely out of touch with a personality like Mercedes. In true Cardi B fashion, Mercedes puts in no effort to hold her tongue about what she perceives to be a stuffy and out-of-touch interview style from M.J. The on-air interview ends up being a disaster, so when M.J. hops into Mercedes’ dressing room to give her a read on what Mary Jane is not, she lets the “bad bitch” come out.
This meets with Mercedes’ approval, since M.J. showed she wasn’t the siddity black girl trying to act white that Mercedes assumed she was. M.J.’s goal was to humanize Mercedes in an interview, but Cardi B is the one who ends up humanizing M.J. A cellphone clip of the dressing room confrontation goes viral with the support of other black journalists, who address the requirement to “double-speak,” or code-switch, in order to make it in mainstream media.
Justin’s undercutting of M.J. has seemingly backfired on him, until Garrett assigns M.J. to doing web videos. It appears to be a demotion—most people are attempting to get from the web to the TV screen—but the open quote of the episode, “My strength came from lifting myself up when I was knocked down,” could be the precursor to the truly big break Mary Jane is looking for in New York City.
Kara, who is much more adept at strategizing, seizes on the opportunity to turn baseball player Orlando Lagos into an anchor, as we all cross our fingers and hold our breaths that she doesn’t bed him too quickly. Kara works her magic as a skilled producer and turns Orlando into a primed-for-TV sports analyst. Then they celebrate the win—in Kara’s apartment. Hopefully Garrett doesn’t use Kara’s personal relationship with Orlando as a reason to block her blessings.
For now we got an episode that ended on a high note, with Mary Jane working toward emotional maturity in her relationship with Lee, and both she and Kara making progress in their careers against misogynistic odds.