Dear White People Volume IV, Chapters V and VI: The Midpoint

We are now at the midpoint of the season, and Sam and Lionel have a hard time agreeing on what the exact midpoint of their project is. But, before we get into that, there’s some drama that takes place. Sam and Lionel are watching back footage of their interview with Joelle when she asked if they wanted her to talk about Reggie. Lionel says how they should’ve pushed her on that, but Sam says they’ll find someone else to talk about him. We then cut to Sam an Lionel on a video chat with Troy when Al pops in suddenly and tells them that he hadn’t been there for them, the Varsity Show wouldn’t have happened.

It then takes us back to senior year, where Al goes up to Iesha during a protest and asks her why he didn’t know it was happening. She’s kept him out of the loop because he won’t quit the show and side with them. He enters AP House, and him and Brooke start reading lines for the show. Ms. Bernadette doesn’t like the language they’re using, however, and tells them to essentially talk more “black,” whatever that means. Troy suggests they use Lionel’s work, but Ms. Bernadette wants to use the traditional material. With no progress being made, Troy calls it a day. Brooke leaves the stage and tells Troy and Lionel that this is a disaster, and they all agree that they need to get rid of Ms. Bernadette, as well as Michael, because they are both ruining the show. Al interjects and tells them he might have a solution. He begins to look at past Varsity Show tapes, hoping to find something self-incriminating. Then, he stumbles on something in one of the videos, and takes it to show Lionel and Troy. When they see the video, which has Ms. Bernadette doing a distasteful performance where she’s emulating what she believes a black person sounds like. Troy is amazed, and tells Al to make sure Sam is at rehearsal tomorrow, so he immediately runs over to her room to do so.

Soon after, Reggie comes in because him and Joelle were going to go out, but Joelle tells him she forgot to tell him she had class. She asks him how Rose Umbrella’s going and they start talking, meanwhile Sam is on her computer looking annoyed. Joelle then leaves for her class, leaving Reggie behind. He turns on Big House while Sam continues working, getting increasingly annoyed that she can’t focus on what she’s doing because Reggie is being a chatter box. She gives in and starts talking to him, and he tells her about the app he’s working on and how he isn’t sure about it because he’s pushing Night Fort and his offer to work with them away. They have a conversation about the work they put in to advance their people, and Sam tells him they they “are addicted to the struggle.” She notes how she isn’t doing the things she normally would, like joining Iesha in the protests or investigating the administration. Instead, she’s been taking a bit of a backseat with her thesis.

At that point, Gabe knocks on the door to talk to Sam, and Reggie takes that as his cue to leave. Gabe asks her if she wants eyes on her thesis, and that he brought the rewrite of the film she didn’t want him to make, because he wants the best filmmaker he knows to give him an honest opinion. She doesn’t say much, so he tells her he loves her and leaves.

The next day at rehearsal, Joelle goes up to Sam and apologizes to her for leaving Reggie with her, but she tells her it was fine. She starts to set up her camera, while Al tells Troy that Black AF and Iesha just uploaded the clip of Ms. Bernadette. Speaking of Ms. Bernadette, she goes up on the stage and starts to tell the students how she’s been protecting them from something, and that this is a “safe space to do unsafe things.”

Then, you can’t make this up—she begins to reenact the exact monologue from the clip that was posted, in the exact same voice. We then cut to the next day on that same stage, where she is with Dean Fairbanks, saying her actions were out of line. She pulls the “I am not a racist” card, and before she can go any further, the Dean says that she will no longer be the director of the Varsity Show, and that Troy will be until they find someone else. 

Troy leaves AP House to find Iesha, who is outside protesting. He tells her that he took measures to get Ms. Bernadette fired, and that he’s working to change the system that the Varsity Show presides in. Back in the future, Iesha joined the video chat, and Lionel tells her that they want to hear what she has to say.

We return to the past to find Reggie working in the computer room on code for the app. Iesha comes in and tells him that he needs to get BSU to protest with Black AF, but he tells her it won’t be easy since most of BSU supports the Varsity Show. Iesha isn’t happy about that, and tells him that he and Sam are exactly the same because they each stand by someone who is the opposite of what they stand for. That doesn’t sit well with Reggie, but he moves on from it, continuing to work on the app. He tells Iesha he’s been having trouble with the graphic design part of it, and she offers her help, and makes sure to mention to him that she came to Winchester not to protest the system, but to rebuild it.

Hours later, they are still working on the app together, but Reggie isn’t happy. He doesn’t think it does enough and that it’s not a big enough win. He’s interrupted when Joelle texts him that she can’t make it to dinner, so Iesha asks him if he wants to go blow off some steam. She takes him to a gun range, telling him it helps to confront what you’re scared of. She then asks him about Night Fort, and he tells her that he is going to accept their offer after he wraps up Rose Umbrella. They then have a conversation about protest, and Reggie says that “anger only gets us so far,” but Iesha counters by saying, “suppressing it gets us nowhere.” They both start singing Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai as they take turns shooting at the target paper. As they do, the white men in the shooting range sneak looks at them, clearly intimidated or scared at the fact there’s two black people handling a gun. “I wish there was a way to track folks like that out in the world,” Iesha quips, and that seems to spark an idea for Reggie. He tells Iesha that he’s changed his mind about Night Fort and wants to expand Rose Umbrella as a modern Green Book, where black people can mark safe spaces for them to go to.

In the future, Lionel is amazed that that’s how they came up with New Green Book. Sam tells them she has to leave the video chat quickly, and when she does, everyone asks what’s up with her. Lionel says how they can’t talk to Reggie about New Green Book and that with these interviews, they’ve been unpacking a lot about themselves, but Sam hasn’t quite done that yet.

Returning to senior year, Sam and Gabe meet up for coffee and Sam tells him that the script is in a good place and not a complete piece of shit. Gabe asks for her to stay during winter break and help him, and then in the meantime he can help with her documentary. He tells her it’s beautifully shot but it needs a character at its center, like Iesha, but Sam says no way. Gabe asks her why she’s so mad at him, and she tells him point blank that he tends to want things without considering how those wants hurt others. Back in the future, Iesha says she’s an asshole, not having understood Sam’s perspective, and then Sam logs back on.

We go back to senior year, at another rehearsal, where Joelle goes up to Sam and notices she’s in a mood, so she leaves her be to warm up. Troy then goes up on stage saying they have an answer for the Varsity Show and introduces Lionel. He announces that he was going to pass out sketches he wrote, but realized they were bad, and that instead it should be a shared, collaborative experience. Lionel says he wants everyone to bring their own stories and they can create something from that. Since it’s right before winter break, Troy gives them the day off so they can come back from break ready to go. 

Michael goes up to Troy and Lionel, commending them for telling people to empower themselves while he and Lionel write the show themselves, and tells Lionel they can do that while they’re in Houston. He leaves and Troy whispers to Lionel that he needs to handle that. Sam overhears everything and waits outside the room for Lionel to leave so she can talk to him. He asks her how she is, and she begins to tell him everything that she’s been dealing with. Lionel tells her he’s going to Houston with Michael but it won’t be that great because he needs to fire him as a writer of the show. Sam suggests that she comes with them, and Lionel agrees to that. They then look out the window to see Reggie and Iesha talking, wondering what that could be about. We cut to the credits and we are at Winchester, but all we see is the sky. But then, we focus on one person—the mystery driver—and now we’ve seen his face. Who is he, though? This isn’t a character we’ve seen before. What is his significance? Will we find out in the next chapter?

Well, in the sixth chapter, we start with Gabe and Sam in the future, talking about his movie and how it won an Oscar Sam is upset because he’s allowed to make mediocre stuff that wins awards when she has to try ten times as hard just to get a chance to make a movie. He tells her that he feels so much shame because he failed her. But, he gets interrupted as Sam gets a call from Lionel, and it seems like her conversation with her ex was just a simulated one. When she gets on the phone with Lionel, he asks her if she’s okay and wants to unpack Houston, since that was the midpoint for them as the two central characters.

We return to senior year, where Michael, Lionel and Sam have arrived at Lionel’s family home in Houston. Aunt Yvonne comes out to greet them, believing Michael is just a friend and that Sam is his girlfriend. Lionel’s cousin Cookie then comes outside and tells Sam that she’s a fan of hers and loved the podcast episode with Iesha and how she called Sam out. As they head inside, Aunt Yvonne tells them that the boys and girls are sleeping in separate rooms, not realizing that that works perfectly for Lionel and Michael. Lionel takes him up to his room, and Michael tells Lionel he thought he was out to his family. Lionel explains how he’s come out multiple times but his Aunt just ignores it, praying it’ll pass. Michael then mentions how he has a perfect opening for the Varsity Show and Lionel feigns liking it.

In the girls’ room, Sam and Cookie are watching Big House when Lionel comes in to tell Sam he doesn’t know how he’s going to tell Michael that he doesn’t want to work with him. Sam doesn’t think she can give relationship advice, especially since she had fled Winchester so she wouldn’t have to see Gabe over break. Cookie shushes them both so she can watch Big House, and we transition to the show.

Muffy is talking about how Eve was a bitch and tried to come between her and Coco, while producers are whispering in the background what her and Coco should say. Coco replies that she doesn’t want to talk about Eve and that they need to get rid of Taggert. Muffy suggests they put Coco up for elimination with Taggert so she is able to save Coco and boot him out. In the future, Sam and Lionel watch Coco’s interview, where she talks about how the show felt like “some kind of psychological prison.” The two of them are trying to figure out the midpoint, and Sam suggests it was the lockdowns and Troy’s stuff, which Lionel doesn’t know about.

So, we go back to senior year, where Troy is talking to everyone who is part of the Varsity Show, but everyone clearly wants to leave, so he calls it and leaves with Brooke. She wants to fill the director spot, but he’s distracted and not listening to her, because he’s about to go see his Dad, but he isn’t excited to do so because he’s fallen back in love with his mom. They run into Reggie and Joelle, who not so enthusiastically tell them that they’re going on a study date, so Brooke offers them her water bottle that, let’s just say, does not have water in it.

Troy goes to see his dad, who is in his office with his mom. But, his dad leaves for a call, leaving him stranded with his mom. She apologizes to Troy for not seeing up the dinner with him because she was too busy, but Troy tells her it’s okay because he was busy too. Before he can elaborate about his work with the Varsity Show, though, an alarm starts blaring. Meanwhile, Joelle and Reggie are walking through a stairwell when they hear the alarm go off as well, and they can’t get through the doors—the campus has been put in a lockdown. The two of them sit down on the stairs and Reggie tries to get close to fool around, but Joelle tells him she’s got to study, and as soon as it’s winter break, she’s all his. He digs in his backpack to pull out the water bottle Brooke gave them and takes a picture of him drinking it to send to Iesha.

In the future, Lionel tells Sam that he doesn’t want to skip over what she did, so they go back to the present in Houston, where Cookie is watching Big House while Sam and Aunt Yvonne cut veggies for dinner. Meanwhile, Lionel, Michael, and Uncle Ed  are watching football. Michael is acting macho (like he likes sports), so Lionel kisses him, which seems to bother his Uncle a bit. Sam comes over and Lionel tells her that he got a notification that there’s been a lockdown at Winchester.

Back at Winchester, Joelle and Reggie are still stuck in the staircase, and Reggie wants to have sex right then and there. Joelle puts down her textbooks and asks if he has a condom. He begins to take everything out of his backpack looking for one, and as he does, Joelle finds a gun license application. She becomes upset, and a text Reggie gets from Iesha makes it worse, because he admits he’s been hanging out with her. They start to fight, because she’s upset he’s doing things that aren’t career focused and hanging out with a girl that doesn’t like her best friend and now has convinced him to buy a gun. Reggie counters, saying that Iesha gets what he’s trying to do—self empowerment and elevating the needs of the community. Joelle gets a kick out of that, because she’s literally becoming a doctor, which does exactly what he says he’s doing. He tells her she only wants the money, but she tells him he’s walking out of college with a six figure salary to play video games, while she’ll still be going to school and be in incredible debt. But, that’s not the point she’s trying to make. She’s mainly upset at Reggie because he’s been dodgy and lying. Reggie tells Joelle that he isn’t lying, he just can’t get her attention, and that he’s been holding her down since the beginning of their relationship and she can’t focus on what’s right in front of her. Joelle tells him that she sees him, but he doesn’t agree. She then goes on to say that he wants an Iesha type, but Reggie says she just doesn’t get it. So, Joelle asks why they’re dating in the first place, and he responds by saying he loves her and that everyone says they work together. But, she’s too busy for him, and he desperately doesn’t wan’t to lose her, because she’s wifey. Joelle tells him she loves him too, but doesn’t understand what he’s saying. He states, with extreme clarity, that he wants to marry her. They both look at each other, having gone through an emotional rollercoaster, when they get an alert that the campus is safe.

Meanwhile, Troy is locked in with his mom, who says she was glad that the gallery brought her back to town. He laughs at her, saying that if he’d known that’s what it took to see her again, he would’ve done it when he was ten. She attempts to set him up with contacts to help with the Varsity Show, but he turns them down. She then compliments him for being a leader and doing it without the support of a mother, and tells him she’s sorry. He tells her that he hasn’t been the best either, but she tells him he doesn’t need to be and it’s on her. Troy’s dad then comes in saying it’s all clear and asks if they talked about the Varsity Show. Troy says they did, among other things. His dad is happy, now that Troy’s mom will be the new director—which is something they did NOT talk about. Troy is shocked but not surprised that this meeting was all about that, and he tells her he’ll see her at rehearsal, and walks away, obviously feeling a lot of emotions about this new situation.

In the future, Sam says that this felt like the midpoint for her, but decides to look at what happened in Houston first. So, we return to Houston in present day, where everyone is gathered around the TV eating dinner while watching Big House. Aunt Yvonne asks about the Varsity Show and what role Michael plays in it. Lionel tells her that he’s his boyfriend, because yes, he’s still gay (much to his aunt’s dismay), and that Michael’s also a capable playwright. Sam is filming all of this, when Uncle Ed says that what Lionel said sounded a bit like shade. Michael says they wouldn’t be working together if Lionel didn’t think he was good, but then questions him about it and asks him about his audition, which Lionel lies about. Michael gets mad at him and tells him to be straight with him. Lionel tells him that he loves him but they can’t work together creatively, and Michael can’t be a part of the show anymore. Meanwhile, on Big House, Coco, much to her surprise, gets expelled. She gets angry at Muffy, telling her what kind of person betrays their best friend for something they didn’t even need. Taggert interjects with something stupid, and Coco starts yelling at everyone, and specifically calls Muffy and David Out. But, then the host says that Coco isn’t actually expelled and that she’ll be put in “detention” with other expelled contestants. Back in real life, Michael leaves the house angry, and Lionel follows him, and so does Sam with her camera, ready to film whatever happens between them.

Michael goes outside with his luggage, a car already there to pick him up, while Sam is filming it all. In the future, Lionel tells Sam that he needed her, but she was filming instead of helping him. She tells him that she needed the intimate moments with him because what she saw was him being bold and taking the rings on his life. Returning to present day, Lionel and Michael start singing Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) by Mint Condition. Michael asks him once more if they can write the show together, but Lionel doesn’t answer. He takes that as a no and gets in the car as Lionel tells him he’s sorry, but the car drives away. Lionel turns around to see Sam right behind him, having filmed the entire thing.

Back in the future, Lionel gets upset because he had asked Sam to stop filming and she didn’t listen, and then she had the nerve to use that footage and sabotaged their friendship, having used pain for art. Sam tells him they’re the same, because he did that exact thing with the books. She had gone through a lot that winter break with Gabe, and Lionel tells her he knows she’s still carrying that around. The two of them decide they’re done working together, just as Troy hops on the call to tell them that his company will be financing their whole project. We then cut to the credits, where we see our mystery guy navigate his way through the food court before he sits down and starts eating. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where this is going, and we only have four episodes left to find out.

Isabel Maina

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