Recap: Between God and the land in Queen Sugar’s “Study War No More”

Season 3, Episode 7 | Grade: 9.2/10

Writer: Anthony Sparks | Director: DeMane Davis

Charley at Violet’s 60th birthday surprise party. | Photo credit: Photo by Skip Bolen © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN.

After its one week hiatus, Queen Sugar returned with with incredibly shocking revelations. Charley’s season long quest of discovering the truth about the Landry-Boudreaux family as they’ve uprooted a number of black farmers from their lands has taken an unexpected turn to her shock. This episode in particular is now a turning point for the rest of the season and series.

Tonight’s “Study War No More” opens with Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford) and Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey) talking about celebrating her upcoming 60th birthday before the conversations quickly turns to her contracts with Jarrett Rawlings. Apparently his proposal to invest in her pie business in the previous episode was too good to be true as he wants 60 percent of her business, leaving her with only 40 percent. She instead decides to pitch to him the idea of having her own shop: “I do not want to spend the rest of my life in somebody’s kitchen pumping out pies like a well paid mammy.”

Hollywood then gifts her with an empty box with a promise to give her anything her heart desires but the mention of her soon becoming Violet Bordelon-Desonier makes her visibly uneasy as she laughs it off. As a matter of fact, she has this same look throughout the episode.

Violet gives an easy stare during her talk with Hollywood. | Courtesy of OWN

Charley (Dawn Lyen Gardner) sits alone at a fancy restaurant for breakfast when she notices that Davis has made the front page of the New Orleans Daily News paper, quickly folding and tucking it in her purse. She then stumbles on Romero’s phone number — a thoughtful reminder by Sparks for Charley to put herself first and find new love. Just then, Boudreaux (Lea Coco) appears after he’s been constantly reaching out to her since their hangout over shots that ended in him kissing her.

In their brief encounter, Boudreaux is still sweet on Charley, even apologizing for scaring her off. Aware of Davis’ (Timon Kyle Durrett) secret love child that has since gone public, he’s understanding yet he still wants to take her out on a proper date. “I like you,” she starts before surely drawing the line between business and pleasure for the meantime. I told y’all before that one taste of the honey that he’ll want more.

Since their explosive argument, Darla (Bianca Lawson) takes the first step to reach out to Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) about having Blue (Ethan Hutchinson) over her house during the weekend. He brings up Aunt Vi’s birthday party which throws a monkey wrench in Darla taking him out in the city. It puts her in an uncomfortable position as we all know that Vi no longer cares for Darla since learning the truth of his paternity and she promptly ignored her. This push and pull between Darla and Ralph Angel proves to be taxing as it often comes across as if he’s preventing her from having Blue. This moment continues to confirm that idea.

The first of many revelations in this episode comes from an intimate conversation between Prosper (Henry G. Sanders) and Nova (Rutina Wesley) about how he became a farmer. The veteran and former musician took the money he made and leased acres of land to support his family and share the obstacles of black people trying to own land. As the conversation shifted towards Ernest, Prosper said their friendship started from trust and he reveals a sad secret: Ernest was once suicidal.

After the death of Nova and Ralph Angel’s mother True, Ernest was struggling with his loss, holding on to the land, supporting his children, and called Prosper when he reached his breaking point.

Prosper: “He was starting to wonder it if was all worth it. Everything. Your father was wondering the fields with a gun that night.”

Nova: “Daddy was strong.”

Prosper: “None of us are so strong that we can’t find ourselves in dark places. Just so many things you don’t say. Stuff only God and the land knows…”

Vi’s look of surprise with the arrival of Hollywood’s mother. | Courtesy of OWN

Aunt Vi has a kaleidoscope of facial expressions as an unexpected guest accompanies Hollywood at the house before her birthday lunch: his mother Willa Mae (L. Scott Caldwell). Through the “bless your hearts” and fake laughs we can expect some discomfort as Hollywood tells his mother to behave. “It’s not everyday a woman reaches 60. Past is the past,” she reassures. Instead of the expected “monster-in-law” story line, Willa brings a thoughtful gift of a “Vi’s Prized Pies” apron. Just as quickly as Vi asked him where she’s staying, she did a 180 offering her the guest room as the two women happily chatted. (“Ha ha ha, oh God.”)

Every character introduction serves a purpose as Willa Mae has a heart-to-heart with her son as to where he fits in Vi’s life and we get a backstory. We can see why Hollywood loves the way he does because he feels his father never reciprocated his love to his mother. Despite his heart, she expresses how he often loses sight of himself (i.e. his ex-wife LeeAnne) and how on her own Vi she doesn’t need him. She stir things up by bringing the things he truly wants in his life. “What about all the things you always want to do? And I’m going to say it…kids,” she says.

“You’re so busy taking care of her. When are you going to take care of you?” — Willa Mae

Lovely shot of Charley under the tree during the party-. | Courtesy of OWN

One moment I loved was the shot of Charley alone under the gorgeous tree as Prosper walks over to join her, glad that she can still see the beauty in things. Questioning if her energy is that obvious, he asks her hows she’s been since discovering the truth about Davis. He talks to her about the love of his life being his second wife and he never remarried after her — assuring to Charley that her love story isn’t over.

“You can stay distracted by your past or focus on your future.”

Things come to a head when Hollywood cheers to Vi for her birthday and their upcoming wedding as he calls her Violet Desonier and she gives that sour face. When they’re alone she says that she doesn’t want to change her name for him because she doesn’t want to be or feel owned. This offends and upsets Hollywood as he feels he has always lovingly sacrificed for her and that she’s hell bent on making him feel unwanted. “I don’t need you,” she says. “But I want you.”

It’s clear that her wounds from her first marriage to Jimmy Dale left scars on her but she also has a tendency of pushing Hollywood away more than before. The next morning, his mother gives him another heart-to-heart about the scars she endured as a woman of a certain age and to worry about Vi giving him her heart and not taking his name. The two resolve their issue and decide to have the big wedding after all and all is good with my pretend auntie and uncle.

“I know I’m blessed to have a man who wants to be mine as much as he wants me to be his.” — Aunt Vi

The biggest revelation comes from “Vicky with the tea” (Lara Grice) as she has finally struck gold on what the Landry-Boudreaux family has been up to, warning Charley that she needs to have a seat.

Charley calls a meeting with the family as she reveals that Sam Landry’s plan of uprooting black farmers from their leased land. They have partnered with the government to build a private jail in St. Josephine by using their political connections to win a contract by leasing their lands to the government and cashing out. The only thing that’s in their way of completing the deal is the Bordelon land that Ralph Angel and his sisters own. It’s an every revolving cycle of prejudice and systematic oppressive as the Bordelons once were slaves who once worked the lands and now the possible future could imprison people. And as always the Landrys will have a hand in it.

Landry’s plan to acquire black farmers’ lands and build a jail now jeopardizes the Bordelon’s land. | Courtesy of OWN

This moment also made me question Boudreaux’s intentions with Charley and his persistence to get in touch with her. Romantically pursuing her while scheming to take back her father’s land. The question now is how can Charley tackle this monster plan with the government involved? Most importantly (I’m curious), when will Nova address this in her book about black farmers.

Other Episode Notes

  • It was big of Ralph Angel to give the parolee Benny another chance as the two sits to have a conversation about Benny having unexpected company sparking the fight between him and Darla. He gives him another chance by letting him keep his job.
  • Keke (Tanya Waivers) brings clarity to her absence by addressing how Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) has been spending almost all of his time with his friends and her history with them. (Aunt Vi shutting down their kissing session made me chuckle. So old school).
  • Trihn (Vivian Ngo) making her appearance as Ralph Angel’s “work friend” at Vi’s surprise birthday party was a nice surprise and the hilarious smirks from the family were even better.
  • Aunt Vi’s birthday party, everyone dancing to “Who’s That Lady?” by The Isley Bros., and just the joy of black “get-togethers” warmed my heart. Good food, good people, dancing, happiness — everything have me flashbacks.
  • Remy (Dondre L. Whitfield) and Nova coming face-to-face with one another adds more internal conflict, especially when he’s alone with her when she’s sitting in the fields and when they were at the kitchen sink. I was bracing myself for Charley coming around the corner.
  • Darla noticing Ralph Angel. Blue, and his “work friend” Trinh at the gas station was tense as they stared at each other until he rode away. I know that was a sting.
  • I was happy for Charley that she took Romero up on his offer to meet at a diner. He opens up to her about his family in Mexico and saying how he puts everything into his work to keep his mind off things, something that immediately struck a chord with Charley. I’m interested to see where the writers will take her love life.

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Ashley Gail Terrell

Creator of ASH LEMONADE. Entertainment Writer: Ebony, Essence, VIBE, The Root, Black Girl Nerds, HuffPost, Paste Magazine, & more.