In “Woods,” the eighth episode of Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta, Paper Boi aka Alfred Miles finds himself unexpectedly in the woods fighting for his life. In what he thought was going to be a chill day with Ciara, a former stripper-turned-Instagram model, quickly turns into a life-changing (but very dangerous) adventure. When his “lady friend” gives Alfred a harsh lesson about the modern fame game, he rejects any notion of its excessiveness and races out of the nail salon ironically entitled. That’s what lead to the young rapper’s voyage.
As the episode develops, Paper Boi departs by walking home only to find himself confronted with three boys who conveniently recognize him on an odd pathway next to the woods. Once they do, they give each other reassuring looks to suggest they are all on the same page for one deed — to jump and rob Alfred. The trio puts a gun to his head, leaving Paper Boi with no choice but to attempt to fight back. He struggles to battle back, but finds it in himself to do so and ventures off into the woods to escape the situation. This is the beginning of Paper Boi’s evolution.
Here are all the highlights from Thursday night’s Atlanta.
1. Instagram Models Have No Shame In Their Game — And Can’t Afford To
Ciara picks up Paper Boi from his house in a SUV-type car for a day out on the town. She points to a strip club asking Alfred if he’s ever been to that particular one because, if so, he may have seen her there. “I could have been grinding on your junk thinking you was just another dumb broke n*gga,” she boldly said.
The musician, who obviously had no patience for the conversation, replied, “Oh yeah? And I could have thought you were just another stuck up hoe with too many damn stretch marks.” Unphased by his low-level attitude, she begins hysterically laughing — continuing to tell him how happy she is to spend time with somebody who just “gets it.” She means someone who gets the young, rich, and famous life. As they cruise, Paper Boi’s buzzed-worthy song comes on the radio, and he finally cracks a smile — demonstrating he’s not really phased by much these days except for events that seem authentic to him.
From calling out Alfred’s manager, Earn, for not getting the artist free merchandise to demanding help from a white male employee at a contemporary boutique, Ciara is feeling herself on a whole new level — embracing all the attention fame has to offer while Paper Boi has no regard for it. It’s obvious that he’s at the point in his career where he’s numb to the perks and the advantages most dream about. There’s a moment when his lady friend takes a selfie with a fan, and Paper Boi just smokes a cigarette wondering why she’s so willing to do so. This event forebodes what is to come later from Paper Boi because it shows a contrast between how he responds to this situation as opposed to how he handles it later in the episode.
After doing so, they make their way to the nail salon where they get pedicures. Ciara goes on a tangent about her “brand,” claiming that she’s “Instagram famous.” “I can’t be selling my wigs out here looking janky,” she stated. “I got to compete with white girls with lip fillers and butt injections…spray tan shit. Everybody want to be a black girl but the black girls ain’t making no money from it.”
She then goes on interrogating Alfred about why he doesn’t post more on Instagram. He sticks to his guns, and replies, “I into what’s real,” referring to music as his priority and none of the background noise that comes with being a rapper.
She calls him out about being “real” claiming that being on the radio and making money isn’t real in the first place. Ciara is nonstop. From one subject to another, she is all about the business and no one can prevent her from taking every opportunity that comes her way. She tells Paper Boi that she thinks they could be good together and that the two can get money from it since they’ll be giving people something to talk about. This triggers Alfred, who lividly gets up out of the massage chair to leave the salon.
2. The Three Boys Who Could and Did
Putting his shoes back on in the parking lot, the MC begins to walk home, stopping to get food while he’s at it. As he makes his way to his destination, he comes across three boys. At first, they appear as fans saying they’ve been following his career from the start, but as they continue asking questions, they’re scoping him out. When the random strangers realize he doesn’t have a car, the boys exchange glances — giving each other the cue to rob him. The male to the left of Paper Boi throws a drink in his face and another pulls a gun out on him.
They start beating him up, so they can steal his wallet and chain — which is a direct reference to the theme of season two, Robbin’ Season. Alfred luckily fights them off, but realizes the last man he pushes to the floor is holding the gun. Paper Boi makes a run for it, entering a mysterious and eerie woods in the ATL.
3. Nothing Was the Same for Paper Boi?
Paper Boi finds himself in the woods with a bleeding lip and a vast amount of fear. In fact, this is the most terror viewers have seen from the character all season. Making his way through nature, he comes across a creepy older man who somewhat mocks him because he’s so petrified to be in the woods. Alfred continues walking off asking the man not to follow him.
Fast forward from daylight to nightime, Alfred, who is clearly suffering from exhaustion and hunger, hears a man humming. The impatient rapper yells, “Man, can you shut the f— up…Take your ass home!”
The mysterious nameless man responds, “You in bad shape.” And quite frankly, Paper Boi is in awful shape. Trying to avoid the outspoken male, Miles ignores him only to hear him babbling once more. When they see a dead deer on their path, the man utters, “That’s you, deer guts. That’s what I’ll call you…big old black boy deer guts. You’re stubborn and you’re black.” Again, Alfred shouts to leave him alone.
There comes a point where the peculiar man turns on Alfred in the woods, lecturing him that the musician better make a decision of how he’ll get out of the woods. Paper Boi doesn’t take him seriously — probably because every encounter with him has been filled with jokes and unthreatening gestures.
The man whips out his knife and raises it to Paper Boi’s neck. He tells him, “I’ma count to 30 and if you don’t walk out of here, I’m going to hurt you.” Alfred pushes out through the man, but as he’s leaving he trips in the woods making direct eye contact with the elder man. He quickly gets up and sprints as his life depends on it because at this point, it does. Paper Boi finds himself miraculously at a gas station. He stands there sobbing in shock.
Alfred makes his way to a liquor store to buy a soft drink when a fan asks if he’s Paper Boi. He replies, “Yeah, I’m Paper Boi. Do you want a picture?” Quite the different approach from the previous selfie incident earlier in the episode, the two take a number of selfies willingly. After their done taking photos, Alfred tells the young white kid, “Thank you. Be safe out there!”
Let’s just say, after experiencing a near-death experience, Alfred Miles is a changed man.
Atlanta Robbin’ Season continues Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.