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Atlanta Season 3 Gets Delightfully Absurd With The Old Man And The Tree

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Al spends the majority of the episode getting closer to Fernando. At first, he is impressed by the billionaire’s lifestyle and willingness to protect it; however, things turn sour pretty quickly. The two play a poker game with some of Fernando’s friends, during which Fernando reveals that he was once visited by the ghost of a naked, soaking wet Black man. He goes on to explain that he and the ghost shared a sort of “deep connection” that resulted in him being covered in the ghost’s ectoplasm. 

The weirdly erotic tale causes Al to laugh and crack jokes about Fernando being a ghost f***er, which, honestly? Fair. Fernando asks Al if he believes in ghosts, to which Al says he hasn’t really thought about it. Things get from bizarre to downright creepy when Fernando presses on, asking Al if he believes in God. When Al says that he does, Fernando goes full horror movie by saying, “And if you believe in God, you have to believe in the Devil. There’s good and bad spirits everywhere, Alfred,” explaining that the Devil is just as powerful as God, and that the nature of the world involves the pursuit of balance. After this exchange, Al wins the poker game, but Fernando leaves abruptly without coughing up the cash that Al is rightfully owed. When Al asks the others if Fernando intends on paying him, they dodge the question and abandon him as well.

Al is pretty taken aback, and eventually goes upstairs to Fernando’s room and demands his winnings while the old man pretends to be asleep in his bed. This causes Al to resort to more severe efforts to get Fernando’s attention, meaning that the rapper decides to take a chainsaw to Fernando’s beloved tree. Damn.

“The Old Man and the Tree makes a point to depict the culture shock that Al/Paper Boi is experiencing while on tour. There’s the whole misunderstanding of the term “trees,” during which Al mistakenly assumes the billionaire is offering him weed only to be disappointed when he realizes Al was referring to a literal tree. Earlier in the episode, Al also mentioned that he doesn’t listen to U.K. rappers because he doesn’t really understand what they’re saying most of the time, and he reiterates this sentiment when he mentions that he can’t understand the woman sitting with them at the poker table. He isn’t particularly tactful about expressing this, which leads to some unspoken tension, and nobody tries to help him understand. Instead, they move on. 

It’s also worth noting that Al does not engage in code-switching. For those unfamiliar, code-switching is the act of modifying one’s speech and behavior to better match the environment and company. An article in the Harvard Business Review describes it as “a strategy for Black people to successfully navigate interracial interactions and has large implications for their well-being, economic advancement, and even physical survival.” Al’s apparent disinterest in changing himself, even temporarily, based on the company he’s in is admirable — but this is also increasingly becoming a source of conflict. At one point in the episode, he expresses his frustration with the fact that he can’t handle things the way he would in Atlanta — although he ends up doing so anyway, likely to everyone’s detriment.



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