This week, the veteran actors of Black-ish get some significant time in the spotlight. Jenifer Lewis, Laurence Fishburne, and special guest Lorraine Toussaint are funny and touching all at once, especially when “Auntsgiving” reveals the backstory to Ruby and Pops’s relationship. Unfortunately, Dre’s fragile masculinity threatens to ruin the good times. It’s a tried-and-true part of his shtick, but these “manhood” issues are wearing thin. Isn’t it time for Dre to grow up?
In the middle of preparing dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, Ruby catches a chill and her eyes start to itch. Bow thinks it’s salmonella poisoning from eating raw batter, but Ruby knows the truth: It means evil is coming. Sure enough, a knock at the door introduces us to Pops’s older sister Almaviligerais (Toussaint), or Aunt A.V. for short. She basically raised Pops, and she’s the only one who can keep him in place. In other words, she and Ruby are archnemeses. Ruby knows Aunt A.V. is a snake and suspects she’s up to no good, so she tries to figure out what’s going on.
It turns out that Pops used to have a condo where he’d meet his mistresses when he was married to Ruby. In order to prevent Ruby from getting the property or any profits from its sale in the divorce, Pops put it in A.V.’s name. He recently sold the condo, and now A.V. wants her half of the money — or else she’ll tell Ruby the truth.
Meanwhile, we learn there’s a long history to A.V. and Ruby’s beef. It goes much deeper than typical in-law spats, which prompts “Auntsgiving” to roll out one of Black-ish’s unheralded strengths: Its era-specific flashback sequences. It’s always a hoot to see these actors play younger versions of their characters in the exaggerated styles of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. We learn that Ruby and A.V. used to be best friends until A.V. stole Ruby’s boyfriend. Ruby came over to fight A.V. but Pops stepped in, refusing to let someone attack his sister. It was love at first sight: Ruby was distracted by Pops’s big arms and pants that held no secrets, they ended up making out, and eventually got married.
In the present day, Ruby cuts up A.V.’s and Pops’s clothes, ruining all of his linen and her Chico’s clothing. A.V. spills the beans about the condo’s sale to Ruby. Pops splits the money between the two women, but it’s not enough for Ruby to forgive A.V. for covering up Pops’s frequent infidelities and for telling him to divorce her. Does Ruby still have feelings for Pops? There’s still an attraction there, to be sure, but it seems to be more from familiarity and possessive than any great love. Pops clears the air when he tells Ruby that A.V. said he had to divorce Ruby because she deserved better than his tomcatting ways. Ruby loved him so much, she would’ve put up with anything he did and that wasn’t fair to her. A.V. was looking out for her friend in the best way she knew how. After learning all of this, the two women reconcile, and it’s honestly quite lovely to see Ruby with a friend and not leaning on Dre as her only confidante.
Speaking of Dre, he and Bow spend the night at a fancy hotel to reconnect and have some time alone before the baby comes. They’re both excited about the “babymoon” and having sex at least five times to offset the cost of the hotel room … until Bow realizes she is no longer experiencing morning sickness. She’s sad because this is her last pregnancy and she loves being pregnant. Dre reminds her she loves getting pregnant, too, but it’s not good enough to pull her from the blues.
Bow admitting that she enjoys pregnancy stands out, especially because it’s rare for female TV characters to express similar opinions. The typical pregnancy story lines are filled with abrupt hormonal crying, mood swings, shock about weight gain, and a fear of losing sex appeal. “Auntsgiving” takes the subject in a remarkably different direction. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised to see Bow say she loves being pregnant, especially given her concerns about being a particular kind of feminist role model. Maybe Bow is over all that. I hope so.
Regardless, Dre orders a couple’s massage to help Bow relax, but he requests two “sensual women” because he can’t tolerate the idea of a man touching Bow in such a familiar fashion. She calls out his double standards, so he ends up with a male masseur. Dre whines the whole time, and when it’s all over, he’s curled up in a ball like he’s traumatized. Bow is ready to make things happen, but Dre is in tears because a man gave him a massage. What is Dre so afraid of? Is he really that worried about letting a man help him relax? Dre’s childishness wears me out sometimes. I’d like to see him stop acting so childish.
After the massage, Bow and Dre get ready to check out, having failed to “reconnect” during their little trip. Of course, the night isn’t totally finished just yet. After realizing they don’t need a fancy hotel to spend time together, they wind up having sex in the elevator … and in the car… and almost in the garage when they get home. Looks like the babymoon was a success after all.
Meanwhile, I’m still wondering what happened to Johan. Did he go back to France? Did someone explain his absence and I missed it? The season suffered overcrowding problems in earlier episodes, so I wouldn’t say Black-ish needs him, but it would’ve been nice to say good-bye.
All the same, “Auntsgiving” is a funny and sweet episode. I’m glad to see the show focus on Ruby and Pops, and A.V. lends a nice wrinkle to their relationship. Lorraine Toussaint and Laurence Fishburne are better known for their dramatic work, so this episode is a refreshing testament to their comedic talents. Let’s hope A.V. pays another visit to the Johnson family very soon.