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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Black-ish has a little ditty about Jack and Diane (and product placement)

Illustration for article titled Black-ish has a little ditty about Jack and Diane (and product placement)

If nothing else, “Twindependence” will and should be remembered as the episode of Black-ish that finally addressed the Mellencamp-based origins of Jack and Diane’s names. And in doing so, it gets Tracee Ellis Ross to “sing” the iconic guitar part of the song, which is an absolute win in any context. Actually, everything she does in this episode is an absolute win, but at this point, that’s a given. As for the episode itself, “Twindependence” finds itself on a more clearly-defined path than last week’s great-but-slightly-off “Sink Or Swim.”.It’s not a risk-taking episode of Black-ish, but it is an episode of Black-ish, which at the very least allows it to be a moderately funny episode of television.

“Twindependence” asks and answers a lot of “what if”s, and that appears to be the driving force of the episode more than anything else. What if Jack and Diane decided to stop being twins? What if Zoey got a car? What if Bow had to step outside of her doctor comfort zone? Each question is answered, which is definitely a good thing. But in getting from point A to point B, “Twindependence” never exceeds the expectations of doing so. As a result, the MVP of the episode (alongside eternal MVP, Bow) is Ruby, who manages to be at her most offensive in the span of one scene but also exists as the embodiment of Jenifer Lewis’ infinite talent. If it feels like I say that every week at this point, that’s because it’s quickly becoming the case every week.

Jack and Diane’s plot is one that makes sense in terms of the twins’ constant dynamic, but it really only exists as the answer to that “what if.” This episode being the tipping point for Diane when it comes to all of Jack’s idiosyncrasies makes little sense outside of that, as this isn’t much different from any other episode for Jack and Diane. However, like the rest of the episode, it’s difficult to say that the plot itself is devoid of humor, because that’s not the problem at all. Diane getting so frustrated with Jack that she tries to smother him with his pillow is unsettling but funny (as well as the fact that the struggle led to the “J” above his bed being crooked), and the kids’ education about how odd it is they’re named Jack and Diane has been a long time coming.

However, the Junior part of that plot, with the night terrors and the closet and Junior’s new obsession with single room real estate, falls flat. And while Diane’s bed smooshing and snow angels are a nice touch for this alone time, the Junior/Jack stuff is mostly just a placeholder until the episode gets to the school lunch situation. But really, as much as the kids try (and Diane really is on top of things, as usual), this is Bow’s plot through and through. Her devolution of her med school “knowledge” of psychology/psychiatry as the episode goes on allows voice of reason Bow to be so in over her head that she’s better off staying out of it. Although, it doesn’t really explain why Bow completely stays out of the Dre/Zoey plot until it’s basically resolved at the end.

In an unsurprising turn of events, after purchasing Zoey a car, Dre finds himself worried about Zoey riding in cars with boys. Yara Shahidi does a really great job in this episode, especially since Zoey as a character has always been an enigma and a blank canvas—as this episode tells us, she’s both “an A-student and a chemistry wiz”—but when she is given something to really do, she gets it done. Her terrible “singing” in “Plus Two Isn’t A Thing” is even recent proof of that, and her very righteous anger in this episode after proving that she is just as perfect as once thought is great, albeit quite harsh at times. However, her plot is one part blatant product placement and one part tired trope about a father mistrusting his daughter. The latter was just a frustrating commercial during the Super Bowl, and I’m not talking about Puppymonkeybaby. Even the scene with Dre’s co-workers doesn’t land as well as it usually would, because it’s mostly just the characters reciting the same product placement points (only “sexy”) and pointing Dre into a direction that Bow confusingly doesn’t try to shut down. We know Bow is a busy woman, but her absence in the Dre/Zoey plot is just glaring. No one keeps Dre in check in this plot—Zoey can’t touch him—and as such, this week’s episode has the worst version of Dre. At least when he was drowning last week, we could all laugh.

Ultimately, “Twindependence” can be summed up by an early Diane quote from the episode:

“Half an hour. No twists. It’s like an episode of Entourage.”

Stray observations

  • As much as I do enjoy that Entourage line, it really hits the “too precocious” button.
  • In what is quite possibly the “whitest” moment of Black-ish, the episode opened with Nelson’s “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” music video. For a moment I thought I’d accidentally put on The Goldbergs, despite that being a song from 1990. The episode playing “Grindin’” and “Boss Ass Bitch” (sorry, “Boss Ass Chick”) couldn’t really recover from that.
  • The “one scene” that Ruby manages to be her most offensive in? The one in which she calls Bow “hybrid” and then calls Kobe Bryant, Chris Brown, and Ben Carson “the greats.” This is all then followed up by her complaint about the “22 languages” she has to know to drive in Los Angeles.
  • Diane: “I’m tired of being Jack and Diane. I’m just ready to be ‘and Diane’.”
  • Dre: “Now do it outside. At night. In the rain.”
    Zoey: “We are in a drought.” Meanwhile, I watched this episode and wrote this review to the sound of rain in Los Angeles since noon.
  • Bless Bow’s Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy FOR DUMMIES heart.
  • How excited would you be for a Buick Encore?