Dear White People Volume IV, Chapters I and II Recap: Winchester Senior Year Varsity Show

Volume IV, the final volume of Dear White People, opens in the future, where Lionel is a bestselling author of Dear White People Volumes 1-3. He is doing a virtual signing of his books and wearing a mask, signaling that it’s a parallel world to the Covid one we are living in. After he finishes the final meet and greet, someone puts one of his books in front of him, and we see that it’s Sam, who has come in person to get her copy signed. She asks him when they’re getting a volume 4, and he doesn’t have an answer to that. She then goes to leave but gets locked in because there is an outbreak of some kind. They sit down and she asks again about volume 4 and why he hasn’t written it yet, since their senior year was one for the books. He tells her that she already covered it in her documentary. She then looks over at his books and says that he stole her title. He counters by saying she stole his life. We don’t get a reasoning behind that, as Sam just mentions his other book he wrote that was not popular at all and hated by critics. She pulls it out and asks him to sign it. She then tells Lionel that if volume 1 was about the fallout from the blackface party, volume 2 the alt ivy stuff, volume 3 the Moses Brown scandal, then volume four has to be about The Varsity Show.

We then go to senior year, where Troy is explaining to the group consisting of Lionel, Sam, Joelle, Reggie, Coco, and more what The Varsity Show is—sketches and broadway-style musical numbers put on by students. Back in the future, Lionel says the publisher dropped it, but Sam says she’ll help him shape it. He’ll write it and then she’ll do the TV adaptation, because there’s more in them that they have to create and put out.

Returning to their senior year, Troy tells the group that they should do this show. AP house would be running it, and it can help increase black applicants for the college. He proposes that it should be an all black 90s musical, but no one is interested, saying they’re too busy, or that they’re preoccupied thinking of their lives past college.

Later on, Gabe goes up to Sam in AP house and tells her that Dear White People was put on the Winchester homepage. Lionel and Troy walk by, talking about the show. Reggie and Joelle then come by, and Joelle tells them that Reggie is being scouted by top tech companies. While they’re all talking, Lionel’s boyfriend Michael sits down at a piano. Sam then mentions how Gabe’s no longer a student, but is working on getting people to see his movie on career day. Elsewhere in the room, Coco and Muffy get excited about emails they both got, and Sam has no idea what’s going on. Michael then starts playing the piano and singing “Round and Round” by Prince. Joelle starts singing along with him, then everyone else joins in on the celebration.

In the future, Sam asks Lionel if he wants that feeling back of running around like life was a 90s musical, because that can be done with them working together. Switching back to senior year, as everyone leaves AP, Lionel asks Troy if this has anything to do with The Order, but Troy tells him to be quiet about that.

Sam and Gabe walk towards where career day is happening, and Sam is telling him that if the film screening goes well, he won’t need Winchester anymore. The two of them start singing “Round and Round” until they end up at the desk to get their badges. Sam is sent to the side of the building for the students, while Gabe is sent to the opposite side for non-students, which looks a bit sketchy.

Sam talks with various people about the documentary work she’s done. The first person doesn’t actually listen to what she’s saying, the second tries to ask her out on a date, and the third talks about how she loved her work, and then mentions something that isn’t even hers. Meanwhile, Gabe goes into the room for his screening, which just looks like a cleaned out storage room. Theres a bunch of empty foldout chairs and a super old tv, and he’s left in there to watch his movie all by himself.

Afterwords, they both meet outside and are both disappointed with how their day went. Sam doesn’t want to be stuck doing another student film, and then apologizes to Gabe, since he’s still doing things on campus and hasn’t gotten his break yet. He then starts to sing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. Sam can only afford to shoot her student thesis on campus, but she already did something like that, so she doesn’t know what else she has. The two of them part ways and Sam goes into AP house, running into Reggie and Joelle. Joelle tells her that Reggie just got offered a six figure deal for one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Sam congratulates him, and then runs into Coco. Sam asks her if everything’s okay, and Coco says she’s signed an NDA so she can’t say much, but just that all her career aspirations are about to come true. Sam then runs into Iesha, who introduces herself that she’s new to AP, but the documentary Sam did on the blackface party was a hit at her high school, and she hopes to get to see her in action. Sam walks way, feeling like a failure. Then, in the future, Sam says she’s still feeling like a failure. Lionel tells her she’s not; that she change the culture at AP house and made such an impact.

Going back to senior year, Troy tells Lionel that he want him to write the musical. He isn’t sure about it, but Troy thinks he would be great. Lionel and Michael then walk over to career day. As they walk, he notices that the campus literature stand is still filled with his, but everything that white people wrote has been taken. Later, Lionel is back at his room when his boyfriend comes in and tells him how he performed the best thing he ever wrote, and they didn’t get it. Lionel then brings up that he should write the musical instead of him, but Michael responds saying that maybe they could write it together.

The next day, Sam is scrolling through her phone when she overhears a conversation that Black AF is having about Troy’s plan. They are not happy with it, and Sam inserts herself in the conversation to get more information. They say how it shouldn’t be happening because of how its systematically excluded black people and black culture, and is also being held at a building named after a slave owner. This sparks an idea, as Sam starts singing “Round and Round” and makes her way to Troy’s dorm.

She asks him if there’s a bigger story with The Varsity Show and if The Order is involved. He doesn’t give anything away. So, she tells him she wants to film his announcement at caucus tomorrow and make her senior thesis documenting everything about The Varsity Show, because she believes Troy’s about to make history. He agrees to let her do that.

In the future, the door unlocks. She asks Lionel if they’re going to do volume 4 together, and he agrees, then leaves. He goes to leave after her, but the door locks, leaving him stuck. Then, in the credits, we see a white person listening to Dear White People while driving. Where is this person going to, but more importantly, who is this person? It might take us some time to find out, but we unfortunately don’t find out in episode two.

The second episode opens in the future with Sam and Joelle talking about the orgasm pill over video chat. Lionel joins them while they’re talking about it and has the conversation move on to the volume 4 that him and Sam are working on. Joelle asks them if they want her to talk about Reggie, but they say no, they want her to talk about herself. Sam tells her that she shined so bright that year. “Is that how it looked?” Joelle asks.

We go back to senior year where Joelle is talking to one of her advisors about medical school. She wants to add another class to her schedule, and the advisor tells her to add something fun so she isn’t too stressed out. We then transition to post “Round and Round” jam session, where Reggie is telling Joelle that the show might be what she’s looking for. As he heads off to career day, she tells him to not be nervous about the recruiters because he’ll knock it out of the park. He walks into the room, nervous, as everyone starts to look at him. They then sing “Wanna Get With U” by Guy, and one of the recruiters offers him a big deal. Meanwhile, Joelle meets up with a friend for coffee who tells her she’s working on a study and wants to recruit Joelle even though she’s an undergrad. She says yes to being considered, then goes to meet up with Reggie. He tells her how amazing his day went and that he was invited to an exclusive party next week. He then asks Joelle how Jesus coffee was, and she said it was great and never thought she could hold space for her faith and medicine at the same time. You can tell she’s excited, but will it be too much on one plate for her to handle?

Over at Black Caucus, the main groups, CORE, Black AF, and BSU are gathered round. Reggie starts the first session and introduces Troy, who says that they’ll be bringing The Varsity Show to Winchester and it will be an AP production. Everyone begins to argue about the ethics of it all, especially Black AF, who strictly oppose it, by saying that it’s cakewalking. Cakewalking was a dance slaves did that their masters would turn into a competition—the best one would get a slice of cake. Modern day interpretation is that it is black people using white systems to, essentially, earn a slice of cake for themselves and their people. Iesha brings up that Beyonce cakewalks all the time, and everyone else freaks out, saying she’s crossed a line by going after Beyonce. Nevertheless, some of the students think Troy’s show is a good idea, and agree to take part. During this entire conversation, Sam is sitting back, videotaping it all for her senior thesis. 

Later that night, Big House, a college reality show, plays on the TV in AP house. Suddenly, Muffie and Coco are on it and everyone freaks out about it. Troy then asks Joelle if she’s trying out for the show, but she isn’t sure yet, especially since she received an email from her advisor telling her she shouldn’t do both the study and the show. But, that email is mute, because the next day, guess who’s at auditions—Joelle. She’s talking to her friend about the study application, and her friend mentions an essay question that Joelle did not see. She asks her if she can email it, but her friend says she’ll need it by 5pm, which is in fifteen minutes. So, Joelle opens up her computer and starts typing away as auditions begin. Everyone starts badly singing “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, until Joelle gets called up and knocks the socks off everyone.

After auditions, Joelle and Reggie go to the exclusive party he had been invited to and wait in line for entry. She tells him she accepted the part in the show, because who is she to say no. When they get to the security guy, he asks for ID, and starts to get a little belligerent, when someone from within the party tells him that the two of them are with him. He leads Reggie and Joelle in, talking about how he had dropped out of college to start his app. Then, the woman from the company who made Reggie the offer calls him over and asks him why he hasn’t responded to it. He just says he’s taking the time to think about it. In the meantime, Joelle gets an email that she got into the study, and we see her calendar become overlapped with conflicting things. Now she has school, the show, and the study to do, which sounds incredibly stressful.

They go back to AP house and everyone is hanging out when Reggie asks if he can have the floor. He tells everyone that him and others have been or are sex workers, and a friend of his was robbed by a client. He explains that there’s been an uptick in violence against them, and no one wants to help because of the stigma surrounding it. Lionel tells Michael he has his support, and that others should support him too. Michael talks about SESTA/FOSTA, a law that makes online sex classifieds illegal. All he wants is safety and protection for himself and others who are offering consensual services. He starts to sing “Rub You The Right Way” by Johnny Gill, and as she’s doing that, Reggie starts to write in his notebook, and says he thinks he has an idea to help them.

In the future, Lionel says to Joelle and Sam, “So this is when rose umbrella started.” It jumps to the credits, where we see the white person still driving, now in the nighttime, and continuing to listen to Dear White People, this time an episode where Sam introduces Iesha onto it. Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

Isabel Maina

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