Last week’s season premiere of Being Mary Jane was titled “Getting Nekkid,” This week’s episode is “Getting Naked,” and as Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) explained to Lee (Chiké Okonkwo), the difference is in your intentions and the ever-running theme of vulnerability.
“Nekkid” implies that you are naked but “up to no good.” “Naked” is to be exposed. There are multiple layers in the titling of the episode, which opens up with the Post-it Note that M.J. left behind for Lee but that serves as an omen for her—“Make yourself at home, but don’t get too comfortable”—just as the episode quote reminds us all that homes aren’t safe:
“You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.” —the Big Bad Wolf
Little Red Riding Hood was on her way to Grandma’s house when she forgot her mother’s instructions to keep on the path and not stop. Full of good intentions, she was distracted along the way by strawberries and butterflies, giving the wolf enough time to disguise himself as her grandmother, then swallowing Little Red whole.
Kara (Lisa Vidal) warns M.J. to stay on the path. They have a plan and a goal to find Ronda Sales’ (Valarie Pettiford) weaknesses and replace her as lead anchor on the Great Day USA morning show. But M.J., who has long admired Ronda’s work, is dazzled by Ronda’s offer to mentor her.
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It’s prickly; they are both aware that M.J. is a potential threat to Ronda’s position of power. Can there be sisterhood between two black women in a sea of white? Sure, but sisterhood, camaraderie and trust take time to build. We can share a bond, but I don’t need to expose myself to you prematurely—or ever, really—to be supportive. Yet M.J. uncoils, making herself vulnerable and exposed in precisely the wrong situation.
While she takes too long to realize that she needs to pick herself back up with Ronda, M.J. quickly becomes tightly wound with her British-Nigerian lover, Lee. He is uncharacteristically determined to woo a woman who showed him her full crazy the first night of what was meant to be a one-night stand. So Lee has two teenage kids by the same woman—not a big deal for a 40-year-old man—some baggage is to be expected. More importantly, is he a good parent?
But M.J. has become the fuccboi we are constantly reminding our homegirls and ourselves to steer clear of, taking advantage of Lee and wasting his time. And here is Lee, patiently, emotionally available and, at the moment, willing—as if his momma and fifty-eleven aunties ain’t got a bevy of proper women for him to choose from in London, Lagos, Enugu and Houston.
Lee could be everything M.J. was willing to pay a matchmaker $20,000 to find for her, yet she can’t be open and honest with him; M.J. even takes the bait Ronda dangles in front of her with Corey Blanchard (Travis Winfrey), the head of Ronda’s nonprofit. Kara consistently warns M.J. to stay focused because Ronda is not her ally and Corey is not the “black unicorn” M.J. is daftly in search of.
Kara too quickly unravels an embezzlement scheme among Corey; Ronda’s husband, Ellison (Al Mitchell); and their nonprofit that is building schools in Kenya. Corey and Ellison are supposedly siphoning donation money to pay for “Becky with the brownstone,” Ellison’s mistress. It’s a story that could craftily force Ronda to resign and elevate M.J. But M.J. double-crosses Kara, in the name of a sisterhood Kara supposedly can’t understand because she’s not black, by telling Ronda everything before she and Kara break the story to their producer Garrett (Ashton Holmes).
M.J., with all good intentions, lost focus. She’s distracted by the dresses, the galas, the beige men who look nice on paper, and dropping names of her enemies over champagne night caps—thus setting herself up to be swallowed whole as soon as Ronda reveals herself, not as the benevolent matriarch but as the big badass wolf who hires the same man who got M.J. fired from CNN, Jason Talbot, to be senior producer of Great Day USA.
While we pray that M.J. finds the ability to harness the power of vulnerability in career and love, I guess we will also be spending this season with heads bowed in prayer asking if we can find Niecy (Raven Goodwin) some damn common sense. Her baby daddy, Dante (Cesar Cipriano), has conveniently made himself available right as Niecy is about to collect her settlement check from the case against the police who assaulted her during a traffic stop. Halfway slick without an ounce of suave, Dante simply lucked out on Niecy’s insecure search for love and attention against the constant railing she gets from her family.
In a moment where you’re hoping Niecy just looks out for herself, she brings Dante to her lawyer’s office to finalize her settlement. Niecy switches from setting up a trust for her children to taking cash out on the settlement, then throws all sense out the window by buying a $45,000 Hyundai that’s not in the least bit fit for transporting young children. Did we all stop to ask what kind of two-door Hyundai is over $30,000? She could have been cute in a brand-new Elantra for under $20,000. Sis, how can we save you from yourself and Dante?
It’s not even love, but the search for love, that has Mary Jane and Niecy making crazy-bad decisions. Let’s hope at least M.J. gets the self-reflection she so needs in opening herself up to Lee.