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This week, in the episode “All Borders” things have come to a head on Queen Sugar. Charley’s mill has burned to the ground and the prospect of starting over has daunted the usually unshakable entrepreneur. It seems as quickly as Charley (Dawn Lyen Gardner) celebrated the high of the community coming together around her run for City Council, she’s been forced into defeat by the powers that be in Louisiana. They will torch the community itself if necessary for profit and power and she’s not going to be able to stop them.

Though Nova (Rutina Wesley) races to the scene to make sure everything’s OK, Charley and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) snub her. The two are united in their disdain at any attempt by Nova to get back in the family’s good graces, even in crisis. Fortunately for her, Calvin (Greg Vaughn) has returned at the right time and he’s there for her – with his foine self.

But Micah’s not so easily moved by a man he associates with his assault at the hands of one of Calvin’s NOPD brethren. Will Nova stick with Calvin this time? He admits that although he wasn’t brutal, he witnessed racist brutality and didn’t stop it. But he quit the force and changed his life because he wanted to be a better man for  Nova. Wow, he’s really in love.

Micah (Nicholas Ashe) is sure going to stick with Keke (Tanyell Waivers). She was frightened by the news of the mill torching and now Micah is back in her good graces. And I mean really back, because Keke wants to talk about prom plans that have nothing to do with dresses and corsages. Finally! This was a wonderful moment because Keke’s character has exemplified what it is to be a young Black woman with healthy self-esteem. Both actors deserve a hand for playing this scene with the reverence Keke’s choices deserved.

Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford) has a lil’ something up her sleeve while watching the destruction of her family as orchestrated by the Landrys. She calls Sam Landry (David Jensen) to the diner for a little chat, all the while stirring her food like the lady from Get Out. But she doesn’t have to daze him into cooperation – turns out, he owes Vi a mysterious favor. Oh? Landry says he wasn’t behind the mill fire. So was it his sister, Frances?

When Charley confronts her she denies it, but says she’s happy it happened. She says Charley was getting too uppity – with her nouveaux riche sports money and tawdry sex scandal. Ahhh, Frances (Annalee Jefferies) has finally shown her true colors but Charley did agree to collaborate with her. Fortunately, Ralph Angel has recorded the whole conversation. But while Charley is never one to run from a battle, she’s taking heavy fire this week and it’s getting to her. The farmers are upset that the mill has burned and don’t care that Charley says she can work it out. How, with no mill?

When she goes to the mill alone to see the damage and have a good cry, she’s met by Sam Landry who again says he wasn’t behind the fire. Can Charley even get a moment to cry? Nope. She’s disgusted by the Landry’s connection to Old World Energy. Even if Sam’s not directly responsible, he’s got a hand in it somewhere.

Ralph Angel has to let his workers go and his inmate re-entry program is being investigated after Benny’s (Jaren Mitchell) arrest. It might get shut down. Fortunately he has Deesha (Erica Tazel) by his side. But the outlook is unclear. Ralph Angel is struggling, once again going back into his ‘poor me’ bag, but Deesha reminds him he’s not the only person who’s had to go through something. Seems like Deesha’s a keeper.

Darla (Bianca Lawson) is going through her own issues, becoming more isolated and sad. Nova’s book revealed some of her darkest secrets to the world and they are haunting her. When she hears about the mill, she can’t get Ralph on the phone, so she goes to his place. He’s cozied up with Deesha. It’s awkward and its clear Darla feels more alone than ever.

Hollywood (Omar Dorsey) is back – Thank God – and so is the need for the family to come together as Aunt Vi gathers them, cooks for them and prays with and for them. You gotta love an aunt that’s so devoted to a family that she inherited, not created. Nova isn’t invited to dinner, but Aunt Vi prays for her anyway, mostly that she gets her mind right. She still doesn’t want any parts of her.

At least Prosper (Henry G. Stanton) is still talking to Nova, telling her she was wrong about that scene in her book when she thought her father, Ernest, was burying the guys who threatened her. Prosper says he did beat the guy up after he came to the farm with ill intentions. But Ernest  let the guy go and what he was really burying were the bloody clothes that reminded him of his capacity for violence. Ummm, Prosper, we hear you but we think you’re still looking out for your best friend. Nova seems to believe him, though.

This episode is full of beautiful, tender moments. I have in the past criticized Queen Sugar for making its men “too” perfect at times and not always allowing them to reflect the full range of messy human emotions.

But when Queen Sugar hits its mark, as it does in this episode, it shows that men can be both strong, supportive, loving and masculine as well as sensitive and vulnerable. Maybe the men on Queen Sugar are a little idealized. But it’s something to aspire to and putting that out into the world in a nuanced way is transformative. Love in all its myriad forms is showcased in this episode as a sustaining force in times of hardship and Lord knows, we all need to see and feel more of that.

So it was nice to see Ralph Angel leave his bed, with Deesha in it, to take Darla’s late night call. He knows something’s wrong and without saying it explicitly, he’s supportive of her. Whether they’re together or not, they have been in each other’s lives a long time and will always be because of Blue (Ethan Hutchinson).

Charley, though, is left to fend for herself after Romero (Walter Perez, Jr.) comes to see her. Charley can’t cry, can’t even drink a glass of wine without someone interrupting her. Is Romero coming to sympathize, soothe or support her? Nope. He’s found out about the two migrant workers killed in the storm on Charley’s watch. He can’t get past it. Well, bye, then, Romero. Can somebody find Charley a man who isn’t dependent or judgmental – or attracted to her sister? Sheeesh. It really is about time she caught a break. She’s been the strongest person in the family aside from Vi and is always trying to make things right for those she loves. When will someone, anyone, do that for her?

Until next week Sugar babies…what did you think of tonight’s episode?


PHOTO: Skip Bolen OWN