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‘Atlanta’ Recap and Reaction: “Value”

Over Atlanta‘s first five episodes, Earn’s girlfriend Van wasn’t given much of a chance to shine. From Earn’s viewpoint, she’s a buzzkill that doesn’t believe in him. Sure, she bailed him out of jail, but he still treats her like she’s trying to make his life too boring.

This week, we got to see the other side of Van. When a jet-setting friend comes to visit, Van gets caught up in the whirlwind of her life. For just one night, she doesn’t want to think about her responsibilities. She has a lot on her plate. You can’t blame the poor girl for wanting to let loose once in a while. She shares a joint with her friend, and they go to a party.

atlanta-smoking
Hitting a joint on a rooftop in Atlanta is definitely letting loose.

The next morning comes too quickly, and Van finds herself woken up by her phone’s alarm. It buzzes to remind her that she has a drug test today. She proceeds to flip out and call her friend, who has no advice to offer. When Earn comes in and offers to take their daughter to get breakfast on the way to school, she asks him for Alfred’s number. He’s a little confused but agrees. This is the first time we have gotten a real glimpse of Earn acting paternally. Perhaps the way the characters are portrayed change based upon the viewpoint of the central character in each episode. With Atlanta, anything is possible.

Van calls Alfred and tells him that she needs his help. When she tells him what for, he laughs at her and points out that she used to berate him for his own pot smoking. He finally relents and tells her that a friend of his usually buys clean urine, puts it in a condom, and tapes it to his leg for the test.

Desperate to pass the drug test, Van goes through her daughter’s dirty diapers in an attempt to find clean urine. The segment is hilarious, with Van putting on more and more protective gear as the segment progresses. Finally, she has enough to put in a condom and tape to her leg.

atlanta students taking a test and one kid at the back wearing a whiteface mask
This kid is a little... odd.

She goes to work at the school and beelines for the drug testing in the nurse’s office. A coworker stops her and asks Van to escort a student to In-School Suspension (ISS) because he’s trying to get a rise out of her. The student is wearing white face paint in an attempt to cause trouble. Van tells her to get another teacher to do it and heads to the nurse’s office. Once in the bathroom, she has trouble getting the condom open and ends up getting the urine all over herself.

Distraught, she goes to her supervisor and explains that she smoked pot the night before. Her supervisor laughs and says “We all smoke pot,” but she fires Van anyway. She has a week to get things figured out and then she’s gone.

This relatively simple episode did a great deal to better establish Van’s character. Instead of seeing her in glimpses, viewed through Earn’s eyes, we get to see who she really is. Despite being the moral center of the show, she too can make bad decisions. After all, once she finds out she’s fired, Alfred texts her to ask how it went. She replies: “Fine. How much for an eighth?” Van may be on her way down a slippery slope.

Best Moments

  • Seeing Earn with his daughter was sweet. He really does seem to love her, despite his sketchiness otherwise.
  • Van is trying to pass the drug test at first by chugging Powerade. She is most of the way through the bottle when she reads online that drinking sports drinks will actually make the drugs show up in your system more. Sitting on the toilet, she swears loudly and looks completely dejected. It’s kind of funny, kind of sad.
  • The white-faced kid is bizarre and funny. His appearance fits in with Atlanta‘s slightly surreal vision, and the way he raises his brow at Van at the end is hilarious.

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