Recap: Protecting Your Own in Queen Sugar’s “Your Passages Have Been Paid”

Season 3, Episode 11 | Grade: 9.0/10

Writer: Channing Godfrey Peoples | Director: Rachel Raimist

Charley receives a visit from two detectives looking for Micah to discuss the Sweetbay Plantation fire. | Photo credit: Photo by Skip Bolen © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN.

Tonight’s episode entitled “Your Passages Have Been Paid” shined a light on the complexity of being a parent (or mentor) protecting your children.

The episode opens with an intimate shot of Darla (Bianca Lawson) in bed, emotionally heavy as she breathes and fights back tears. The weight of the tug-of-war between her and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) is taken its toll.

Emerging from the bedroom for breakfast, her mother Darlene (Michael Michelle) greets her, asking about the letter from her sponsor about her sobriety that could give her case leverage. Darlene having her hands in this custody battle has made Darla visibly uneasy and the situation more complicated.

Nova (Rutina Wesley) is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with completing the draft of her book but a text from her book agent with critiques is a roadblock. She calls her friend Sierra (Deja Dee) to get her thoughts on the critiques and like always, Sierra delivers the truth with love. She suggests that Nova tell her story throughout the book as well rather than focusing on her family. How did those moments impact her? The choices she made? What experiences shaped her?

Looking over the old clippings from Nova’s activism, Nova is cautious about pulling her skeletons out of the closet including her ex-boyfriend Calvin.

“Your book, your voice is worthy.” — Sierra

“Vicky With The Tea” (Lara Grice) arrives at the Queen Sugar mill to deliver some unsettling news to Charley (Dawn Lyen Gardner) about Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) being a person of interest in the Sweetbay Plantation fire. Micah and his friends are huddled around their lockers, concerned for their friend Ant who was arrested in the previous episode. They’re afraid as cops came to one of their homes and their parents are asking questions. Just then Charley emerges in the hallway eyes zeroed in on him. Outside, she confronts him and he reveals that the arson was an accident. Angered, she draws the line by banishing him from engaging with his friends. Defiant, he instead pulls out his phone to text Nova and makes it clear that he’s going there instead of home. Oooh if only Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford) was around to deliver one more read. “So you think you’re grown now? Calling shots?”

Switching into business, Charley is now caught between supporting the black farmers and working with the Boudreauxs to take down Sam Landry (David Jensen) as she has now secured the 10 percent of shares from Colton. She has to play coy with the farmers about the new jail being built on their land and as they urge her to represent them.

“‘To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’ James Baldwin said that but he was also witness that anger is wasted if it’s not followed by action.” — Nova

Nova’s heart-to-heart with Micah was that of accountability and understanding as she questions him on the intention of their protest. Though she understands why they were offended from the mockery of the plantation tours, she reminds him that the structures housed their ancestors. It was a lovely exchange from a seasoned activist mentoring a blossoming activist in Micah. Micah has always been fed by Nova in a way he hasn’t been from Charley.

Charley listening to Frances. | Courtesy of OWN
Frances telling Charley about being the “good daughter” in the family. | Courtesy of OWN

Speaking of Charley, she has a meeting with Frances Boudreaux (Annalee Jefferies) who has more in common with her than she thought. It’s as if a magnifying glass was held in front of Frances and Charley could see her same experiences as “the good daughter.” Her daddy’s will read aloud and her brother getting the majority share, and her trying to make her father proud even in death and still looking for his approval. Sounds familiar?

The meeting about the prison proposal was cringe worthy as the sheriff boasting about escaping will be “next to impossible” and “once you’re in, you won’t get out until we let you out.”

Frances and Charley trade glances before Frances interrupts to remind Sam that they should vote first. Sam reveals with a smile that they voted three days prior before the next step of getting the Parish Council vote, unbeknownst to them. Their confidence in taking him down is clearly shot to hell. Desperate, Charley takes a stand arguing about the bylaws but he argues back that he followed the bylaws by sending a memo. They didn’t get the memo, they don’t get to vote. What now?

Ralph Angel, Darla, Darlene, and their lawyers meet with the judge. | Courtesy of OWN

The custody battle got dirty fast as Darlene’s presence is brooding as she gives Ralph Angel death glares. Darla’s lawyer mentions the 70/30 custody that he declined only for his lawyer to mention that Ralph Angel is seeking full custody of Blue (Ethan Hutchinson). The news blindsides Darla and Darlene, who goes on the warpath from judging his economic stability to mentioning housing a parolee and his escapades with a few women earlier this season.

Darla checks her mom from attacking him but Darlene suggests that Ralph Angel take a paternity test, which he reveals he did.

“I took the test. He ain’t mine but I raised him. I’m on his birth certificate. Blood don’t mean you can just take him away from me. I did my research. Y’all can’t just take him away from me.” — Ralph Angel

The last few moments of the episode sums up the angst of both Charley and Darlene as mothers wanting to protect their children and fearing their futures. For Darlene, sitting in Blue’s room holding Kenya, she holds every story that Darla has told her about Ralph Angel’s actions and his efforts to block her. She can’t help but to take it personal as any mother would.

“I can hear the pain in your voice,” Darlene says. “All the stories you’ve told me about what’s been going on, Blue’s behavior, the women. I can’t listen to everything you’ve told me and watch my daughter’s heart break and do nothing! It’s my job to protect you.”

Darla and Darlene talk. | Courtesy of OWN
Charley consoles an emotional Micah. | Courtesy of OWN

Darla understands her mother’s anger but she doesn’t want to fight dirty and take Ralph Angel away from Blue. She admits that she will always love him but that together they need to figure out how to coexist for their son.

Charley watches Micah from the bedroom door and goes to lay beside me. Coming to grip with everything he cries, “I messed up” as Charley consoles him with tears in her eyes. It reminded me of last season when Lorna held Charley in her arms as she cried over her personal struggles. Seeing the two of them in this light, mother and son, vulnerable was delivered beautifully by Ashe and Gardner. Like Charley expressed to her mother about wanting to know her place in the world and be accepted, Micah wants the same. He’s in a space as a black teen with the trauma of being profiled, the downfall of his father, and wanting to belong rather than exist.

Other Episode Notes:

  • Aunt Vi’s business being featured on Wake Up NOLA sweet departure from the heaviness of the episode. Her light is shining but as she’s interviewed about her perseverance, she stirs clear of mentioning her lupus diagnosis.
  • It felt necessary for Nova to bring reality to her nephew’s often romanticized version of her as an activist and her imperfection including her past as a weed dealer. She reveals that it was her weed that got Too Sweet arrested.
  • Nova encourages Micah and his friends to help Ant from the outside to prevent any more of them being locked up. Ant’s mother is suspicious that they weren’t involved since they’re so intertwined with one another. This saga is long from over.
  • Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett) returning served an unexpected purpose as he has caused so much hurt to Micah and Charley. Their talk was a way for Davis to own up to his behavior but holding up to be better than him and to have another hard conversation about Micah’s experiences. We see how important it is for Micah to feel empowered rather than the victim. Like Nova, Davis urges him to not make a bad situation worse.
  • That awkward hug between Charley and Davis spoke a thousand words.
  • Nova reuniting with Too Sweet since he was mentioned a few episodes back was full circle. He glows as he’s now successful in school and working in the library. She tells him the truth about her being involved in his arrest which is why she was hell bent on getting him released in season one. Instead of being angry, he’s understanding and reminds her that she was there when he needed her the most which counts. His return was the key to her opening up about her story in her book.

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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.