Black-ish Recap: Two American Kids Growin’ Up

Miles Brown as Jack, Marsai Martin as Diane. Photo: Ron Batzdorff/ABC
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As Dre suggests in this week's introduction, people tend to be fascinated with the close bonds between twins. But is it really as great as we think it is?

In "Twindependence," Diane tires of being a twin and wants a separate room from Jack, who's devastated by her announcement. Her chief complaints? Jack talks too much, and he constantly puts himself in danger. Diane is always saving him from hazardous stuff, like the rusty nail that's tucked in a sandwich. Thinking back to her psychology rotation, Bow tries to resolve the tension between her kids, but soon realizes she was too busy having sex with Dre to remember any lessons from that semester of med school.

Dre and Bow want to keep the twins together in the same bedroom, but don't really explain why. I'm surprised the show didn't go back to the gender well here. Why not suggest that Diane doesn't want to share a room with a boy anymore? Jack ends up moving in with Junior, who acts like a slumlord. After shaking him down for a hefty bag of jelly beans, he forces Jack to sleep in the closet.

Diane has always had a cutting personality, but when she refuses to let Jack sit at the same cafeteria table with her, it felt like she'd tipped the scale to outright meanness. My heart went out to Jack as he searched for a table that would welcome him, especially as Diane watched with a growing smile. But I should've known not to count Jack out. After he lands at the cool table with Al Pacino's grandson, Diane begins to doubt her plan to distance herself from her womb-mate.

While Diane is busy second-guessing herself, Dre and Bow give Zoey a new car for her birthday. (This turns into a lengthy Buick endorsement, but the show's got to do what it's got to do.) When Ruby sees the car, she thinks Dre bought it for her and launches into elaborate praise for sons who look out for their mothers. Bow is practically glowing as she begs Dre to correct Ruby. Dre ruins Bow's fun and tells Ruby the truth. Stunned, she once again calls upon Black Jesus to help her through the pain.

At work the next day, Dre boasts about buying Zoey a car until his colleagues point out what she'll probably do in her "mobile sex box." This workplace scene slips in a few more Buick endorsements, and is largely flat, except for one notable moment: Daphne mentions that Zoey is a straight-A student and a chemistry whiz. Is this a new development? We've seen Zoey earn praise for her marketing savvy, her trendiness, and her beauty, but not necessarily her book smarts. It's great to see her get this kind of recognition. Black-ish does strong work with subtle knocks against stereotypes, so defining a popular, pretty girl like Zoey as smart — especially in a field notably lacking in diversity — is a smart move.

After the work conversation, Dre turns into Overprotective Sexist Dad. He refuses to let Zoey drive the new car, which suits Ruby just fine since she plans on using it one way or another. To get the car back, Zoey must pass a series of ridiculous tests like learning German, memorizing random capitals of the world, and knowing how to check for extra parts. Zoey passes with flying colors — while the radio friendly version of PTAF's "Boss Ass Bitch" accompanies her — but after Dre adds yet another task, Zoey refuses to play his games anymore.

Meanwhile, Bow has been watching internet videos about psychology and reading a For Dummies on the subject, so she sits the twins down to mediate their differences. But Jack no longer wants to reconcile. He's popular now. Diane, on the other hand, sits with a substitute teacher who tells uneventful stories. She wants her brother back. No resolution happens in this session, but good news: We FINALLY get a John Cougar Mellencamp shout-out.

The kids have never heard of "Jack & Diane," so Bow does the world's worst rendition of the song's famous guitar opening. She wants them to see they belong together, but hesitates to explain the exact nature of the relationship described in the song. Jack presses her to reveal more about his and Diane's namesakes. Bow admits that (Mellencamp) Jack and (Mellencamp) Diane are actually a couple, so (Black-ish) Jack fires back with (Black-ish) Diane's catchphrase, "This feels right to you?" It's further proof that Jack is now the cool one.

Now, I'd like to take a minute to acknowledge how weird it is that Dre and Bow named their kids after Mellencamp's song. In the first verse, Jack puts his hand between Diane's knees and asks her to take her clothes off. Why would you name your twin babies after that? It's creepy! Do people actually do this? I don't understand.  

Okay. Let's get to the happy endings.

At school, Jack ends up defending Diane from his cool friends and Diane watches helplessly from afar as he bites into another nail sandwich. Later, Jack goes back to his old room and the two start talking like nothing had ever changed. I loved seeing the twins laugh with each other again.

Zoey takes the car without permission, which angers Dre until he checks the navigational system and realizes she went … to the library. Bow scolds Dre for thinking Zoey would change overnight just because she got a car.

Both Dre and Bow realize they have to trust their children more to solve their problems on their own. They need to trust that they've raised their children to do what's right. It's a sweet ending, and it's topped off with Diane saving Jack from falling out of the bed while asleep. The Johnson kids are alright.

And that brings me to a big point: For a season-and-a-half, Black-ish was obviously a vehicle for Anthony Anderson. Dre's shenanigans took up a lot of room, but now every character gets time in the spotlight, and the show is much better for it. "Twindependence" is proof that Black-ish can entertain us in all sorts of ways — even when Anderson isn't the loudest actor in the room.