Dear White People Volume IV, Chapters VII and VIII: Don’t Think Too Much

It’s reunion time for the Winchester group we’ve grown so fond of. That starts with Lionel and Sam, who meet in a room at AP House that has been set up with chairs in a circle. They are meeting the others to talk about, and finish, their project, now that Troy has promised a big pay day. Sam is still upset at Lionel due to their argument over video chat that brought up old feelings about their time in Houston during senior year. So, let’s see what the aftermath of that was. We return to senior year to see Lionel in the show’s rehearsal room attempting to write a new Chester issue that he and brown eyes (aka Michael) are done. Sam and others then come into the room and he’s unable to get anything written. Sam starts to set up her camera, and Lionel, still upset at her, asks her to promise him she won’t use the footage in her thesis. She promises, but quickly going to the future, know that she broke that promise. Troy then enters the room and introduces his mom, Helen, as the new director. She asks Lionel about the writing, and he tells her he’s taking a page from A Chorus Line and  is having everyone prepare stories about their lives as a basis for the show.

In the future, Joelle enters the room, being the third person there, and is happy she got there before Lionel and Sam could kill each other. We then go back to senior year, where Joelle runs in late for the Varsity Show meeting, and takes her jacket off to see a shirt that says “Engaged AF,” which gets a reaction from everyone there. Helen then asks for Joelle to say a little bit about her and prompts Lionel to start taking notes. Joelle talks about what she’s been up to this past year, with Lionel noting she’s a woman of science and faith. She begins to go into detail about the study she’s been in, which interweaves those two sides of her, and sings “That’s How the Good Lord Works” by Sunday Service Choir as she does. During this number, Joelle notices that some of the patients have the same tattoo on their wrist and brings it up to her friend, who says she’ll take care of it. In the future, Joelle says that her recounting what she was doing in the study had been the sanest thing she did, and wished she had talked more about what she went through. Lionel tells her that they can help her with that now.

Returning to senior year, Michael comes into the meeting, not having quit the show, only Lionel, but it seems like the two of them still have feelings for each other. Later on, Joelle goes to see Reggie at AP House, who jokingly asks where he can get one of those “Engaged AF” shirts. Joelle reminds him of the engagement party her sister is throwing, and then her sister, Claire, shows up! Then, Big House starts on the TV, and everyone gathers to watch while Coco is in detention. Meanwhile, in the future, Coco is at the reunion, talking about how it was the worst experience. Transitioning back to senior year, we see that the male producer and Coco are arguing about the methods she’s using on the show. She doesn’t want to do as he says, while he is saying he is just trying to help her win. David then comes in, saying he threw a challenge so he could be eliminated and put into detention with Coco. We then see Joelle watching the show as her sister sets up the party with a LOT of balloons.

Fast forward to the actual party, Lionel is there, already drunk and texting Michael. Claire takes Reggie aside and gives him their grandmother’s ring to give to Joelle, since he hadn’t gotten a ring yet. So, he goes over to Joelle and pulls her outside to give her the ring. But, she doesn’t take it the way he expected. He comes clean about how he’s turned away the job offer and is expanding his app. He also tells her how he’s upset that she tells their engagement story in a way that doesn’t tell the full truth, and now it looks like she’s rushing to check boxes. Joelle tells him he’s scared of success, and he counters that she’s scared of failure. Claire comes out, having heard some of their argument and noticing there’s friction between them, and tells them that there’s no rush. There’s people who love them both in there and they need to celebrate and worry about the rest later.

Later in the evening, Lionel finds himself back in his room, drunk, when Michael knocks on his door. He tells Lionel he’s only there with Lionel as a client, nothing more, and they undress and have sex. The next morning, Lionel asks him how much he owes him, but Michael says he couldn’t afford him and leaves, as he starts singing “Friend Is a Four Letter Word” by Cake. Joelle and Al sing it too as they both see Reggie and Iesha walking together. Back in his room, Lionel types up the new Chester, having gotten inspiration.

Over on Big House, David tells Coco that they can use their time in detention to hang out and explore their connection, but it’s really the producers whispering in his ears, and Coco tells him no, because she came here to win. Back in the future, the group talks about how different they were back then. And then, another person comes through the door—Gabe. The credits start to roll and we see the mystery guy drawing the campus in his notebook. He looks back, with a weird look on his face, then continues drawing. The camera pans out and we see banners for the Varsity Show. Why is he there and what does the Varsity Show have to do with it?

Well, we might not find out until the end of the season, it seems. We now go to the eighth chapter, where we see Brooke has joined the reunion as well as Gabe. He asks Sam if she’s okay with him being here, and she tells him it’s fine. He then asks where Troy is, and she asks the group if anyone knows. “You’d think he’d tell us if he couldn’t come,” Lionel says. Brooke tells them that he didn’t tell anyone things in senior year, and now they’re all interested to know what she knows. We’re transported back to senior year, where Helen is talking about her history that shows up in her art, and thanks everyone taking part in the Varsity Show for inspiring her. Troy is annoyed because he doesn’t think it matters. But Brooke tells him that she’s talking about his grandmother, and because everyone has been sharing their personal stories, including her, people are way more engaged now. Helen then calls it a day and Troy attempts to talk to her, but she tells him to wait until the next production meeting.

It transitions to Troy having sex with someone but it’s not working because he’s thinking about his mom too much, so the girl leaves. He puts on Big House, where we see the detention students get to compete to get back in the game. The game, of course, is rigged for Coco to get put back in the competition. When she goes back in the house, she hugs Muffy, but knows she can’t completely trust her. The producer tells Coco that she needs to find something on Muffy so she doesn’t win, which Coco isn’t sure about doing yet.

Back in Sam’s room, she is with Joelle, who’s on the computer looking at her study and finds that one of the patients wasn’t removed that she had told her friend about. Sam jokes that she thought Joelle was writing one of her classic emails to Reggie explaining how he’s wrong and she’s right. Then Gabe comes by to give her a cut of his movie, and Joelle jokes right back at her about how she was just throwing shade at her relationship when hers isn’t going to well right now.

Elsewhere, Brooke knocks on Troy’s door, telling him he missed the production meeting, but he doesn’t care. They both smoke weed and get high, and Brooke kisses him, knowing he’s in his head, because if he isn’t being a “fuckboy” then something’s off about him. Troy just stares off at Coco on the TV, so Brooke turns it off and they start making out. She notices he’s having trouble and asks when it started and he tells her that it was a few months ago, to which she says that his two problems might actually be one problem. She leaves his room and he turns Big House back on.

On the show, Coco is talking to the producer, who is telling her to use other contestants’ fear against them, especially Muffy. So Coco goes to see Muffy and tells her that she’s not mad at her because she would’ve done the same thing, and that she just hopes Muffy only did it because she felt threatened and didn’t hate her. She starts “crying,” using Muffy’s white guilt and Muffy tells her she did feel threatened and doesn’t hate her, especially after all they’ve been through.

Returning to Sam and Joelle, Joelle is still looking through the study’s patients and find that there’s more that her friend didn’t take out from it.  Joelle tells Sam to stop sulking and watch Gabe’s movie, and then asks her what she should do with the study. Sam just tells her to go with her gut. Joelle does just that by going to speak with the professor in charge of the study and finds out he doesn’t believe in God, so the study was a farce for him to just make money. He also tells her that he knows she wants to go to med school at Harvard and has connections for her, but she’d only be able to use them if she didn’t speak out about what she found out about the study. Joelle leaves and starts to sing “Shackles (Praise You)” by Mary Mary, going back to her and Sam’s room to pray.

At rehearsal, Troy is visibly annoyed and Helen asks him if he has something to say, as Sam films. He tells everyone to leave, including Sam (she leaves her camera behind), and he tells his mom that what she said during the lockdown was just an act. She responds, saying that how do you tell your son you never wanted to be a mother. That’s the last straw for Troy, and he leaves.

Later at a party, Troy is feeling like shit, so him, Brooke, and Gennifer all take shots. Gabe goes to Joelle to give her a drink, and Sam joins them, taking the drink he has in his hands. He leaves to get himself another drink, leaving Sam and Joelle alone. Joelle can tell Sam watched his movie just by that interaction, and Sam admits that it was super good and hates that she liked it, but she still doesn’t like how he throws his integrity away by making it for someone bad. Joelle asks her if he really thew his integrity away, because maybe he was right to do it. She stood up to her professor and now she has no study, no Harvard recommendation, and no fiancé. Gennifer tells the two of them that they’re both hot, have hot dudes wanting to fuck them and spend time with them, and they attend an ivy league school—they shouldn’t think too much and do what feels good. She then starts singing “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan, and Joelle tells Sam they need to get drunk af, and join in to dance and sing. Troy and Brooke leave the party, acting super flirty and go back to his place. Meanwhile, Sam and Gabe go in the radio room to hook up.

The next morning, Sam wakes Joelle up bright and early, and she’s incredible hungover. But she forces her friend up because she’s keeping the promise she made to her the night before that they would go to church. Later in the day, everyone is sitting to watch Big House, where we see Muffy pick Coco for the final two. Then, each of them give their final statements, and Coco talks about how she got pregnant from a fuckboy and got an abortion that Muffy didn’t support. It’s then revealed that Coco wins Big House, and we end the episode with Troy looking directly into the camera, shocked at what she had revealed. We then go to credits, where we see the mystery guy walking through campus and then starting to play hackey sack with other people, giving us no clues as to what he’s doing there and what his purpose is. Until next time, with the final two episodes of the show. I, for one, am not ready for it to be over!

Isabel Maina

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