Underground Season 2 Episode 5 Recap

WGN screenshot
WGN screenshot

This week’s episode of Underground was titled “Whiteface” and it was so jam-packed with plot that I half-way expected the little boy from that one episode of Atlanta to make an appearance. He doesn’t, by the way, but with the season at the midpoint the show has a lot of ground to cover so I guess it’s for the best. We begin with a minstrel show, run by Mr. Cato Powell himself. The white audience has their racist expectations supplanted as the cast of all-black actors are actually dressed in white-face and are there to make fun of their audience’s lower-classed brethren. Seems this crowd is only interested in the Ghost In The Shell flavored white-washing and they all decide to head for the doors. Cato could care less, he’s laughing his black top-hat off up in the balcony like a light-skinned Statler and Waldorf.


Elizabeth Hawkes is still reeling from being hit in the face with a rock at last week’s rally and she decides to calm her nerves by writing a poetic letter to William Still. Her iambic pentameter is cut short when Georgia’s house is raided. These dudes don’t have a search warrant and they don’t seem to think they need an invitation. They’re accusing everyone of harboring a fugitive of the law and somebody must have passed Rosalee some smelling salts because she springs to life just in time to hide behind the walls before the men search the place. Georgia is taken away and I’m starting to think Elizabeth is the opposite of a good luck charm.

We return to the gullah plantation with my girl Ernestine and the other slaves are showing her she’s part of the family by publicly shaming her like they did with Clara a few episodes ago. They wanna know what drugs she was taking, why she tried to kill herself, her shoe size and where is Bucky and what has he had. Ernestine stands to her feet to address the crowd. She isn’t buying what they’re selling though and she proceeds to read them for filth for their hypocrisy. Clara is impressed by her epic mic drop and follows her down the shoreline to ask for another favor. Clara and her favors. Didn’t you sleep with Ernestine’s man? Clara wants to know how she can become a self-assured temptress who makes the master putty in her hand like rumor has it Mama Black Rose was able to do back home. Ernestine reluctantly obliges to Iyanla her life.

Cato is still having a grand old time after his latest Philadelphia Minstrel Show at the mansion. A friend of his, a white foreigner who isn’t used to America’s particular flavor of racism, warns Cato about courting danger from these northerners but apparently he’s not over his breakup with Desi and he’s acting erratic. Cato just wants to watch the world burn. Later on this cockiness almost gets him killed so he’d be wise to be a bit more cunning with his revenge plots.

Georgia returns from the courthouse and hips Elizabeth to the fact that they need to move the “cargo” to a safer place because the block is hot the block is hot. Elizabeth tells her (and half of the damn neighborhood) that she knows that Georgia’s been “passing”. Um, ok. It had never dawned on me that the actress playing this character was supposed to be anything but a black woman with a light complexion and friends in high places. This is an interesting tangential storyline for Underground to tackle and I’m here for it.

Elsewhere, Detective Stabler’s been locked up in the Special Victim’s Unit eating his food like a toddler when in walks Patty with her smarmy-ass face. She has a proposition for him: track down and capture the Black Rose in exchange for his freedom. Not like he has much of a choice. After giving him a bath and a shave they head out to Philadelphia to crash Cato’s white party. In attendance is William Still and the infamous Frederick Douglass played by show executive producer John Legend. Legend has shown he has the chops to handle the performance but my mind kept coming back to those “Because Of Them We Can” memes where a kid dresses up like they’re favorite black hero. (Sorry, Chrissy. Please don’t drag me on Twitter. Actually, do. It would earn me so many cool points.)

This was more of a cameo for Legend and shoutout to the hair and makeup department for giving Legend the same blow-out I get when I try to blow-dry my hair on a humid day. It will be interesting to see if he makes a return in the coming episodes. Cato gets some news that his old London colleague has just arrived and he’s brought a plus one! He has his henchman politely send his guests home so that he can converse with the dastardly Patty and her silent partner, August Pullman. Even though the two are outgunned they quickly lay waste to Cato’s henchman and they force information out of him. Well, more like “asked one time” and he sang like a canary. Oh, look! It’s Desi! Great timing, girl.


As Elizabeth escorts the leader of the abolitionists via carriage with the “cargo” they are ambushed by a couple of KKK Kosplayers. They tie Lizzy up to a tree and threaten her with a knife as she screams for them to “do it!” I was all like, “Girl, bye” until I remembered her husband did just die. Plus that eye jammy. She deserved that cathartic cry.

Speaking of tears, somebody must have been cutting up onions in my room because Noah is back from Philly and he and Rosalee finally get their reunion scene. The two of them haven’t been together since a quick glance in episode one and it’s presumably been a few months. When I tell you I cried! I know these are fictional characters and all but to think of everything Noah’s been through just to be able to finally give Rosalee that ring. Good Lawt! After a wonderful speech to Elizabeth about carrying Noah’s baby Rosalee chickens out about telling him even though she’s showing out the wazoo. She does let him know she has plans for a trip back down to the Macon plantation to rescue her family on Christmas day and she wants Noah to go back down to Georgia with her. He’s at first a little reluctant but he’s so impressed by how headstrong and courageous she’s become he finds it hard to oppose. My only gripe would be that the scenes could have been given more time to breathe before it cut away to something else but I guess time and production schedules wait for no man.


Back on the gullah plantation Ernestine has been giving away all our womanly secrets on how to catch a man. Step 1: Shuddup and indulge his ego. Step 2: See Step 1. Ernestine has for the moment gotten her footing back and she kicks Hicks and all the generational cycles of abuse to the curb. ‘Stine’s plan works as Clara is able to seduce the master’s son. Clara is so excited about the news, envisioning an easier life for herself when Ernestine tells baby girl the real plan is for her to use those pretty eyes to get her off Gullah Gullah Island.

Looks like a Christmas family reunion is in the works!

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.



Haven't seen the latest yet, but John Legend as Frederick Douglas? Yeah, no.

Can we just stop with the whole famous singer turned actor bit? It's really annoying. There are working actors, trained in their craft, who deserve an opportunity to do what they do best.