“They lie, cheat, and bleed black people dry. They take everything and I’ll be damned if I sit by while they do it again,” Charley says of the Landrys in “The Tree and Stone Were One.” The season’s ninth episode lays bare the impending battles facing each Bordelon.
The Landrys plan to use eminent domain to reclaim all of the farmland needed to build the private prison. It should be noted that eminent-domain laws have been used to bulldoze through black neighborhoods in the name of progress throughout the last century. It’s no mistake that the Landrys’ payoff is intrinsically tied to the destruction of black lives and livelihoods. It’s a familiar tale that’s steeped in the very soil the Bordelons and Landrys are fighting over.
I’ve always admired that throughout Queen Sugar, the land operates as more than just a setting or a plot point — it is like an inanimate character. The land is everything: It is freedom, it is refuge, it is a provider. What happens if it is taken away? I haven’t spoken specifically about this season’s cinematography, but Queen Sugar’s team of directors always pay close attention to the details of the land and this episode is no different.
The Boudreauxs extend an invitation to Charley for dinner and a discussion about other options for the land. At the Boudreaux’s home, Jacob’s mother is clearly the grand dame of the family. She holds court as she tells Charley that she will do everything in her power to prevent her brother Sam from building a prison for thugs and criminals on their family’s land. Her casual racism prompts Charley to tell her that she sounds just like her brother. “What difference does it make what I sound like as long as we both want the same thing,” Mrs. Boudreaux says, curtly and knowingly.
If the Boudreauxs and Charley fail to work together, the Bordelon’s only recourse will be the courts, and eventually, Sam Landry will be victorious with his plan to take the land and build the prison. Working together allows both sides to prevent the prison from even being approved by the local board — effectively killing the plan forever. “I understand that anyone willing to betray their own flesh and blood is someone I need to be wary of,” Charley tells Jacob and his mother. It seems that for this side of the Landry clan, blood is in fact not thicker than water — nor is blood more important than preserving the family’s honor. What the Boudreauxs want is for Charley to acquire the company shares of Colton Landry, Sam’s son. Charley leaves the Boudreaux family home with a dossier on presumably everything she needs to know about Colton and how to procure the company shares needed to stop the building of the prison. The old adage that the enemy of your enemy is your friend seems to apply here, but nothing with the Landry family is ever as it seems.
At the diner, Darla and Blue continue their conversation about custody, and this time, Darla has paperwork and a request for 70 percent custody. Ralph Angel is unwilling to concede that much time to Darla and is even more uninterested in attending the arbitration she requests: He vows to fight her every step of the way. What will happen if Darla and Ralph Angel continue this fight in court and the issue of Blue’s paternity comes up? At home with his sisters, Ralph Angel says that there is always something “trying to knock me off.” He’s concerned that Blue will want the fancy material things that Darla and her family’s money can provide. I finished that scene wondering if Ralph Angel’s concern is really about the prospect of Blue preferring his mother’s material things or the uncertainty that surrounds their relationship now that it’s certain he is not Blue’s biological father.
In Charley’s backyard, Nova finally comes clean about her relationship with Remy. “I will walk away if you want me to,” Nova tells Charley. She is ready to surrender her budding relationship with Remy if it will save her relationship with her sister. Like Charley said to Mrs. Boudreaux, the Bordelons don’t betray family.
The issue of land— who gets to tell its history and benefit from it —plays out in another form in the story line about Micah and his friends. They have settled on a doing a direct action on the grounds of an old plantation that profits from its antebellum history without acknowledging its horrid past. Micah and his friends have crafted a thoughtful and thorough direct action that incorporates red paint and burning candles to pay homage to the forgotten enslaved who once worked the plantation’s grounds. Unfortunately, even the best-planned direct actions can go wrong. There is a beautiful and brief moment where it seems like their protest has been successful, but the moment is fleeting. The shack the group used for their protest goes up in flames due to an errantly placed book bag next to a candle. My heart sank as I watched the flames engulf the shack and the surrounding land. I suspect that Micah’s newfound independence will come to an end shortly whenever, or if ever, the truth about the fire is uncovered.
In the episode’s last scene, Charley verbally splits Remy in two. “Nova and I are forever, we’re family. But you, you will always be fleeting,” she tells him. The only thing the Bordelons will fight for is their family and the land.
• How exactly did the Boudreauxs discover that Charley knew about the Landrys’ plan? Does every powerful person in St. Josephine employ a private investigator?
• Is it possible that the fire at the plantation will remain unsolved? I can’t imagine the consequences Micah and his friends will face if it ever comes to light.
• On a lighter note, I’d like to get my hands on a recipe book for Vi’s Prized Pies.