Proving that the first two episodes were no fluke, episode three of Black-ish, The Nod, solidifies this comedy as consistently entertaining and finding the funny in standard sitcom tropes (Dre is worried about Andre’s lack of friends) by giving them a fresh lens through which to view the dilemma (The importance of ‘The Nod’, a non-verbal acknowledgment of ‘I see you’ between black men).
We begin with Dre dropping the kids off at school: Zoey is the queen bee holding court as she floats through the crowd. Andre goes unnoticed, more concerned about safely transporting his behemoth of a model, a Hobbit’s Shire, than anything else which draws a frown from Dre. The frown gets deeper when as they approach another black father and son coming the other way, Andre gives no acknowledgement to them via ‘The Nod’ and even deeper when Dre questions why his son didn’t give ‘The Nod’ Andre gives him a blank look, not knowing what ‘The Nod’ is or why he would be compelled to give it to a person he doesn’t know.
Fast Forward to Dre in full foaming in disbelief rant at the dinner table, Pops joining in the ranting with poor Andre stuck in the middle. Rainbow attempts to defuse the situation by pointing out that Andre has a different perspective on The Nod as it relates to the acknowledged bond of The Struggle shared by the men in Dre and Pops’ generations because Dre hasn’t had to endure the hardships that they did. Can’t they look at this as a good thing? Pops and Dre disagree- this is just another example of the children not having a sense of basic black things. Andre gives up trying to reason with his father leaving Dre to lament that his kids have nothing left to struggle for-which, no, Rainbow, can’t be a good thing.
Later, Dre and Andre go through his class roster, Dre determined to find some black friends for Andre to connect with on their shared Struggle but the pool is very shallow which Andre never really noticed (which earned Dre another side eye from his father- which he didn’t notice).
Unable to take it anymore, Dre becomes determined to find some black friends for his son and after nearly getting arrested for propositioning a group of black kids at a bus stop and striking out a second time by getting rejected by an upscale bourgeois black social club that didn’t quite see eye to eye with Dre on his goal of ‘blackening’ up his son, Dre follows a fellow black co-worker’s advice, Charlie (who seems to not know the urinal rules, but whatever, he’s a fellow ‘struggle’ brother) and takes Andre back to the hood – a pickup basketball game to be precise- so he can get up close and personal with other brothers still the struggle and make some connections.
Which given we know how horrible Andre is at basketball (Episode 1) means that this endeavor is a bust. The only thing Dre connects with is the floor or the sweaty crotches of the other ballers, which earns him no friends or respect. Getting desperate, Dre invites Charlie and his son, Eustace, over for dinner (despite having to repeatedly tell Charlie to pump his brakes on his boundary issues). Rainbow and Dre send the boys off to hopefully bond while they entertain Charlie who finally uses up all their patience and ‘Struggle’ empathy when (after an assortment of c’mon man! No-no’s) he emerges from Dre’s closet wearing his custom Nikes. Without socks.
Dre is ready to throw Eustace out along with his father until he realizes that Eustace and Andre have bonded- not over being black, but over their nerd love of Hobbits. It’s then that Dre acknowledges that his son does share a common struggle with other boys of his generation but it’s a different one: that of being a nerd.
Over in ‘B’ plot city, Rainbow becomes determined to win over Diane to follow in her medical footsteps (seeing the other children as a lost cause) and does her ample best to win her daughter over to the nerdy job instead of Dre’s cooler job in advertising where she only has to go to school for four years vs seven or more for medical school and doesn’t wear the same thing everyday unlike her mom. Rainbow seems to be fighting a losing battle until Diane gets a glimpse of the blood and gore and death one can find in an Emergency Room and now having a taste for blood, gleefully (and a little creepily) informs her mother that she wants to become a doctor. Despite Diane’s unnerving glee in confirming that no one can ever prove a doctor’s certain culpability in a patient’s death, a win’s a win and Rainbow celebrates winning over Diane. Until the wee one changes her mind again. Or earns the moniker of Dr. Death Johnson in twenty years.
This episode – the A story that is- was one that really spoke to me because I was totally Andre in my youth in a) having a majority of non-black friends to my parents’ torn puzzlement and concern b) didn’t really keep a running tally on the number of black kids in my class or school, which for them had been SOP growing up and c) my struggle was less about being black in my mind and more about- you guessed it, being a nerdy, smart kid. Thankfully my parents stopped short of picking up black kids off the street to be my friend and ultimately accepted, like Dre, that a unifying bond from struggle can come about from shared experiences that run more than skin deep.