'Atlanta' Episode 6 'Value' Recap: The Misadventure of Van
Before Tuesday night’s (Oct. 4) installment of FX’s Atlanta, we didn't know much about Van, the mother of Earn’s baby daughter and his best friend (played by actress Zazzie Beetz). Critics had stamped her character as the critical, judgmental single mom constantly down Earn’s throat about responsibilities ranging from fatherhood to finances.
But in this week’s episode titled "Value," the tables are turned and viewers finally saw Van in a different light as the spotlight magnified the complexities of her life like never before, proving she's trying to figure out life like everyone else around her.
As much as Van, the sole breadwinner of her household who works at a school, tried to make ends meet for the sake of her daughter and seems to have everything under control, it's clear she doesn’t. When she meets up with a childhood friend named Jayde, her complexities are held up to a microscope. Unlike Van, Jayde lives a faster pace and more luxurious life, earning her bones by cuddling up to rich NBA athletes. From the time they sit down at the dinner table of an upscale restaurant, their starkly varying values are unloaded on Front Street. Instead of a budget-friendly glass of Chardonnay, Jayde insisted they cop an entire bottle of the finest and sweetest liquor.
“You flew Delta?” Van asked, trying to ease the awkward tension after Jayde threw a backhanded compliment about her. “No, private. it wasn’t the nice PJ, it was like rent-a-PJ,” Jayde said, sharing the details about her recent trip to Paris and her next globe-trotting excursions to New York and London. As Van marveled a bit at her friend's lifestyle, the conversation turned to Van’s seemingly humdrum life. "I’m busy, I’m good," she mustered up as Jayde mocked her, calling her a grandmother. “Sometimes I wish I had a kid, but then I’m like 'Oh God, no,'" she remarked.
The friends sat in silence as the awkwardness continued to rise. "You used to make fun of girls like you," Jayde continued, pointing out the cracks in Van’s life. "You need to think about our value. Why are you messing around with this broke ass n---a?" It’s a harsh reminder of reality but Van toughens up and barks back with jabs about they way Jayde chooses to live her rich and fabulous life. "Women need to be valuable," she continued. "Black women have to be valuable."
Later, Jayde’s local Atlanta cuddle buddy joined them, bringing a friend named CJ, who is challenged in both the looks and height department. As soon as the two take a seat and introduce themselves, Van makes a dash, telling them she’s going to the bathroom as she grabs her jacket and purse. However, she makes a beeline to the parking garage to escape the night’s looming madness. Like any concerned friend, Jayde pulls up in her high priced vehicle, hanging a joint out the window as a parting gift before her 9 a.m. flight. While Van, stamped as the only responsible adult in her life these days, warns she’s got work in the morning, she’s lured in by her friend and obliged.
Lighting up the weed, the two kick back in the car, laughing, putting the passive aggressive conversation in the restaurant past them, ultimately remembering what they liked each other in the first place. The relationship is just as odd as Van and Earn’s, but it works. "You look like an Instagram escort, you should be proud of that s--t,” Van said after taking a photo of Jayde puffing. "I love you Van," Jayde offered.
The next morning, after snoozing well into the morning, Van is greeted by an alarm and a message on her phone that reads "Drug Test Today." Scrambling to get dressed, get her baby ready for the day and figuring out how she’s going to pass the drug test after the previous night's smoking session, she calmly goes into panic mode and calls Jayde for help, who insists an athlete friend of hers could offer advice - lies. In a time crunch, Van asks Earn for Alfred’s number, making an excuse that her friend wants to meet him. Putting two-and-two together, Alfred -- who sells weed for a living when he’s not the rapper Paper Boi -- makes perfect sense to her. However, Alfred is quite cold to her plea for help, reminding her of all the times she looked down on him for his lifestyle choices.
"I can't lose my job because I am all that we have," she explained. He then suggested that she get "piss from somewhere, stick it in a condom" to pass the drug test with flying colors. She then conjures up the bright idea of using her daughter’s dirty diapers to extract the urine. Hauling a garbage bag of diapers back into her apartment, she pulled out latex gloves, scissors, a mixing bowl and a strainer -- an elaborate yet disgusting process indeed but Van’s only hope to prevent getting fired from her job.
Confident and dressed for work, she lifted up her dress, peering at the condom taped to her leg. By the time she entered the building and went to the bathroom to do the deed, her determination crumbled as she struggled to open the condom that had tied a bit too tight.
When the principal questioned why she didn’t participate in the drug test, Van confessed that she smoked weed. The principal went on to tell her that not giving her urine sample wasn’t a big deal due to school budget cuts and that she has to fire Van for taking an illegal substance. With a slumped facial expression, Van looked shocked. "Okay, let's say we had this conversation Friday. That'll give you the week to get your things together, okay?" the principal asked, flaunting her compassionate side and hugging Van.
Soon after, Alfred sends Van a text, asking how everything went. "Fine. How much for an eighth?" she responded. "I don't sell. Save my name as someone else," he said. "Girl, you sloppy AF."