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'Atlanta' Episode 5 Recap: Paper Boi's Absurd Adventures With His Barber

Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles in the episode "Barbershop" of Atlanta.
Guy D'Alema/FX

Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles in the episode "Barbershop" of Atlanta. 

In “Barbershop,” the fifth episode of Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta, Paper Boi blindly sets out on a series of adventures with his barber. Unaware of what he’s about to embark on, his barber, Bibby, is a bold character who tricks Al into thinking that a quick favor for one of his girls will be a hasty task. As the episode develops, that's definitely not the case for the poor rapper, who is in desperate need of a haircut.

Bibby nearly gets the two in trouble with the law throughout the course of events and somewhat strings Paper Boi along for a series of very unnecessary activities. The episode consistently tests Alfred’s patience, proving he’s evolved in demeanor and character from season one. The events get so absurd, a viewer can’t help but empathize with Paper Boi, who literally just has a simple desire to get a fresh cut.

Here’s a full summary of Thursday night’s Atlanta.

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In what is probably the worst barbershop experience ever, Alfred's day takes a complete turn when his barber enters the shop a little too extra. The 23-minute episode demonstrates that sometimes the barbershop isn’t as serene as it may seem. In fact, Al may have had one for the books, beginning his time there completely unacknowledged as the barber complains about Mexicans via his Bluetooth device. Bibby (played by Robert Powell III) asks Alfred what kind of do he’s going for and the rapper responds saying he wants "the usual" for a magazine shoot. Paper Boi looks at his watch to imply that he’s in a hurry, which Bibby acknowledges but then quickly gives Al his phone to watch a video while he steps away. In a matter of moments, the cell phone Alfred is watching rings and the caller I.D. solely displays the raindrop and peach emojis. As the barber makes his way back to Alfred, he answers the phone and tells his demanding girlfriend that he’s about to pack up and head out.

Bibby convinces Paper Boi to go with him, and from that moment on, there’s no going back for the young star. Al, who only has part of his hair cut done, sets out on the adventures with a hair salon cape in hopes of having his lines and edges in tact soon. Little does Paper Boi know that Bibby goes to his girlfriend’s house to cut her son’s hair. In an effort to defend himself, the barber blames their tardiness on Paper Boi, who he claims is a magician — explaining why he’s wearing a cape. Alfred really got played and thought that Bibby was going to cut his hair at his girlfriend’s house. Did he? Nope. 

From one stop to another, the barber asks Paper Boi if he’s hungry, which he admits he is. Bibby then drives to a construction site, where he offers his client some scrappy leftovers. Paper Boi, furious and disappointed, asks if they can go back to the barber, so he can finally get that fresh cut he made an appointment for. After denying scrapes, Bibby (without shame) asks for Al’s help with loading lumber into his truck. While loading the wood, a woman arrives accusing them of stealing the lumber that was meant to remodel her home -- alluding back to the overall theme of the season, Robbin’ Season. Driving off in silence, there’s a point where Bibby asks Paper Boi if he thinks she’ll call the cops on them. Paper Boi replies saying, “I’m still on probation n*gga, so I hope the fuck not.”

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, the course of events does. Alfred thinks they are headed back to the barbershop until Bibby makes an abrupt U-turn to chase after three young teenagers. Unaware of what’s happening, we discover that Bibby caught his son ditching school. Paper Boi watches Bibby scold his son from the car, hoping the shenanigans can soon come to an end. Once Bibby’s son discovers that Paper Boi is in the vehicle, he mocks him for his raggedy hair. The rapper exits the car only to put the teenager in check saying, “You know why it’s (his hair) fucked up? Because your crazy ass daddy was suppose to cut my damn hair, alright. And what the hell matter anyway n*gga? I’m a regular ass person. I need to get my hair cut sometimes. Famous people need to eat, and shit, and brush they god damn teeth. I’m regular bro, alright?” Once he puts him in check, the obnoxious teenager asks Al if he can put him on the music scene, which is pretty bold for a kid who was just poking fun at a notable artist. Paper Boi, sick of the situation, walks off and, alas, they are back on the road for their next adventure.

Now, Bibby’s son, Lamar, has joined them and Bibby is driving without any worries, disregarding the road as if he was invincible. Sure enough, as Paper Boi warns him to pay more attention to the road, the barber stubbornly continues navigating in his own way -- eventually finding all three of them in a hit-and-run situation because Bibby has warrants, Alfred has weed on him, and the son has no license.

Finally, they make their way back to the barbershop. Bibby receives a phone call asking for something and he tells the caller that he does have that certain something -- which they don't clarify in the episode -- on him and that he'll drop it off to him at that moment. Paper Boi, who definitely had a day’s worth of frustration snapped on him, grasps him by the shirt and threatens him for that haircut. Bibby obliges, giving the rapper the do he deserves after such a extensive day. When Paper Boi stands up to walk out of the barbershop, Bibby has the audacity to ask him to pay for his fresh cut. Alfred responded to him saying, “You dragged me out of here. You ruined my whole goddamn day. You almost got me in trouble with the fucking cops. And you almost killed me with your goddam driving.” What did the barber say? He mentioned that they had a good day. Can you believe he considered this a normal thing to do with a customer? Paper Boi paid for his hair cut by throwing his money to the ground, showing no remorse or pity for the barber.

When Paper Boi returns to the shop for another haircut following that incident, he schedules an appointment with a different barber at the same shop. When the new barber asks him what type of cut he gets, Alfred, looking bemused, is not sure because he’s always had the “usual” with Bibby. Glaring off to the distance, Paper Boi can only wish he’ll look as fly as he did when Bibby gave him a fresh (far from) “usual” cut.


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