Ain’t no ‘Grave’ can hold Underground down!: Recap and Review

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Recap

The show opens right at the tail end of the last episode, with Rosalee and Cato dragging Noah to Ledger in safety after the explosion by the teepees. The bullet wounds are deep, and Noah is losing a lot of blood. Cato is hell-bent on leaving right now, as the men after them are still out there, and while they’re preparing to leave, Noah is having hallucinations of Henry all around him. Rosalee is given the directions to where they are to head next, and right as they are to start going into the coffins for hidden transport, one of the men helping them asks if there were supposed to be four of them. An awkward silence fills the room, and it’s Cato who breaks it by letting them know in a somber tone that one of them didn’t make it.

We jump over to John Hawkes, and him visiting his brother, Tom’s, plantation. He is sitting at the dining table, looking on at Ernestine as if wanting to say something, complementing her preparation of his eggs, and as soon as one of the house slaves is out of ear shot, he turns and asks her, “Your daughter is one of the Macon Seven, isn’t she?” A worried look comes over Ernestine’s face, as she moves closer, but to her relief, he tells her that the last he had heard, they had made it through Kentucky. She thanks him for the information, and makes her way to the backroom, where Tom is fretting to her about the fact that Sam has ran off, at the same time that the Reverend is there for his nomination announcement. The Reverend is impressed that even though John is a sympathizer to the slaves, he is a man of God. After some exchange of pleasantries, John states that he has to go into town, but reassures Tom that he’ll be back for his brother’s announcement.

Over in a shed, one of the men that were helping Noah and his group escape is being interrogated and tortured for information about the whereabouts of the runaways. Hitting him profusely with the butt of his rifle, Jeremiah Johnson laments about how he understands, and even respects, the system they have created to shuffle runaways on to freedom, but reveals to the bleeding man the one flaw in the entire arrangement, and he plans to extract that bit of information from the beaten man. As Jeremiah turns his back, however, the mess of a man finds a sharp piece of glass and suddenly charges after Jeremiah- but not before August stops him cold in his tracks, with a bowie knife thrown to his back. August decides to join Jeremiah’s team, under one stipulation: he gets the girl, they get the rest. Jeremiah agrees, and states that they are traveling in caskets, due to the three dead bodies left behind.

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Once at they get to the place the caskets were headed, Rosalee quickly gets out to check on Noah. Noah is still seeing visions of Henry, as he’s hallucinating more and more. She recognizes right away that he has a fever, to which Cato begins to state that he’s not going to make it. Rosalee states that they need to get some of the medicine from a nearby doctor she heard about from the wagon drivers. Cato doesn’t want to waste anymore time on him, and wants to head straight on to freedom, but Rosalee puts her foot down. She walks up to him, nose to nose, and tells him that they aren’t going to lose anymore people, and that she’s the one with the instructions on where to go to next. Cato, understanding that he can’t do anything else without her knowledge, concedes, and asks what her plan is. She tells him that they’re going to steal some fancy clothes, and pretend that they’re free slaves on their way to New York City. Gussied up, they make their way to the doctors’ home, but once there, the plan begins to unravel. As all hope seemed lost, it’s Rosalee to the rescue, using all the things she learned about, working in the big house, to make small talk with the doctor, ultimately getting invited for dinner.

Once they are invited for dinner, however, they begin the search for medicine in the doctor’s cabinet. Unfortunately, all of them are locked, and Cato immediately begins to worry, grabbing hold of a nearby scalpel and heading for the direction the doctor walked off to. Rosalee, however, calms him down, mentioning that if this house is run like the big house she’s from, the house slave will have a copy of all the keys. Sure enough, in a moment of honesty and transparency, Rosalee persuades the house slave to let her borrow the keys to get the medicine they need. While his is going on, Jeremiah and August make it to a nearby general store that was broken in to, and meet the sheriff of the town. August recognizes the movement of some boxes, finding some clothes that belonged to Cato and Rosalee. They realize that they’re in this town, and that they will go door to door looking for them.

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We get back to August and Ben digging graves for the dead bodies, as Ben begins to question the motives of why August does what he does. Ben asks the paining question of whether or not August would go after Jay if he ran off. August states that it isn’t anything personal, it’s a way to make a living, and they need it. He pulls out the bank notice he’s had in his pocket, and shows Ben. He mentions that this is why they do what they do, so that they’ll have a house to come home to. Ben, unamused, tells August that he doesn’t have to do anything, that August chooses to do it. He has a choice, always. Ben just thinks that August picks the easier one. Later, he shows the bank statement to Jeremiah, who explains the notice to him a bit more: that isn’t a notice of eviction, it’s a notice of how much the bank is willing to buy the house back, due to the amounts of mercury that was found in the land. Mercury was used in the mining of gold, and Jeremiah tells him that he could honestly sell it to the highest bidder. Blown away by this news, August stumbles over to Ben, and tells him to feed and water their horses, to which Ben asks if they’re going home.

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Back at the Macon Plantation, Tom is preparing for the grand announcement, as he walks and talks with the Reverend about final additions to the event. As he is making his way down the staircase outside, a wagon pulls up, with a gentleman stepping out of it and revealing Sam under the sheet, bound and beaten. The man explains to Tom that Sam tried to bribe him to let him go, and so he brought him back to Tom. The man makes a comment that if he hung the Macon Seven up for all to see, that no slave would ever runaway from his plantation, ever. Tom thanks him for his advice, and states that he isn’t going to hang anyone, but that he’s going to make sure that Sam gets a punishment he won’t ever forget. In the same shed where Noah was kept when they brought him back, Sam is sitting on the floor as Ernestine comes in, stating that she’ll be the one to do the “punishment”, that if you cut too deep it’ll never heal. Sam says that it would be better if he just died, to which Ernestine hushes him, stating that with this punishment, at least he’ll still be alive. Sam lays chest down on the table, just as Tom and the Reverend enter the shed. Ernestine pulls out a large sharp knife, and just as she is about to cut Sam’s achilles tendon, Tom stops her. He says he doesn’t want this to happen, infuriating the Reverend, causing him to leave in a huff. Ernestine looks longingly at Tom, thanking him with her eyes for saving her son.

All the while, Noah has come to – somewhat – and is seeing visions of Henry all around him. Driven by the madness of the fever, he decides to go out of the barn they’re in, and wanders off in the middle of a sugar cane field. Back at the doctor’s house, the doctor introduces his brother, which happens to be none other than the town’s sheriff! The sheriff, looking suspiciously at the two, eye the couple all night, all the way to after dinner drinks. Rosalee sells it so well how she isn’t a house slave, but a Quadroon, being of African and European descent. The sheriff, still suspicious, asks her if she can play something on the piano for them, as she stated that she took lessons while she was privately tutored as a child. As the doctor leaves to go “check if something’s in his eyes”, the sheriff states that they are too cultured to be slaves, but the coincidence is too much to ignore, and asks to see their papers. Cato begins to fumble through the papers Pearly Mae had forged for them, laying two of them on the table. The sheriff, being persistent, demands they slide them over to him. As it seems that their charade is up, and their journey stops here, a deputy comes in, telling the sheriff that they’ve found one of the runaways, and that he’s in a nearby sugar cane field. The sheriff leaves without a word, out the door in a hurry. As soon as he’s gone, Rosalee tells Cato to go quickly help Noah, and she’ll get the medicine.

As Noah wanders through the field, continuously calling out for Henry, one of the men in Jeremiah’s gang find him and tackle him to the ground. In a vision, Noah sees Henry right in front of him, calling on him to keep fighting, that the rest of the group needs him. This gives him the courage to shortly snap out of it and fight back, knocking out the man who overpowered him. Cato finds him soon after, joking that he guesses that Noah didn’t need his help after all. He tells Noah that Rosalee is on her way with medicine to help Noah get better. To their dismay, however, she never makes it, as she is captured by August. They use her as a ploy to lure Cato and Noah out of the field, but Noah tells Cato that if they go out there, they’ll have no chance of saving her at all. As August hands over Rosalee to Jeremiah, telling him that they’ll come for her, and when they do, him and his boys better be ready.

While this is going on, Tom is preparing to meet the rest of the influential men of the community, as Ernestine walks over to him, and, lovingly, encourages him that if he shows them who he truly is, he’ll do just fine. With a final true smile from Ernestine, Tom walks into his study, where men from all over discuss with him about the politics and psychology of slaves, turning into a ferris wheel of conjecture. After seeing all them, the Reverend, who sits idly by, walks over to Tom and tells him that he wants to truly climb this ladder of “success”, it will only depend on how bad he really wants it. Later, we see Ernestine delivering some food over to Sam, but is unable to find him in his room. She frantically asks people nearby if they’ve seen him, but no one is able to tell her. She continues to wander off, looking for him, when suddenly she is grabbed from behind by some men, and taken away, placed in the hot box, naked and alone. All the while, Tom is giving a authoritative speech about the power of the South, and what it is built on. As men look on, nodding their heads in agreement, Tom builds in his speech, rousing up the crowd with cheers and shouts, speaking about the decisions that make a man. And as he builds to the crescendo of his speech, the camera pulls back, and you see it: Sam has been hung right beneath where Tom is speaking. His body swings back and forth, as men continue to shout and cheer in agreement of Tom’s words. Sam is dead.

Later, John visits with Tom, finding him in his cellar. Tom’s drinking when John walks in, recognizing the look of disapproval in John’s eyes. Tom tells him that he needed him today, but John asks if he could’ve stopped him from lynching Sam. Tom responds confidently, “It’s better to be the one with the rope, than the one hanging from it,” pouring John a drink. John looks long and hard at Tom, and slowly steps away from him, only to turn shortly, take one last look, and walk away.

Review

The episode, titled simply “Grave”, skillfully ends the second act of the series, and starts the third act, as we see that their descent into the thick of it has only intensified, not only with the death of Henry, Moses, and others, but now with the capturing of Rosalee, the death of Sam, and the utter diminishment of the unique relationship between Ernestine and Tom. The series has reached the pinnacle of chaos in tonight’s episode, and ends with a twist that nobody saw coming. Honestly, I’m still floored by the death of Sam, I did not see that coming.

As always, the acting continues to impress. Jurnee Smollett-Bell stole the show tonight, giving a headlining performance that revealed a new side of Rosalee, one filled with empowerment and ingenuity. Seeing her go toe-to-toe with Cato really laid the foundation of how much she was going to take charge of tonight’s episode, and honestly, I’m kind of upset that she was the one who got captured. I was hoping that it would’ve been someone else, like Cato or Noah. Mostly Cato. How great would it be to see Cato be the damsel in distress, and have “house girl” come and rescue him? Insane! But, nevertheless, I have no doubt that they’re going to keep the ball rolling with her character in the next episode, and still give her many more opportunities to shine in the series.

Have I not said that the music and score of this show is amazing? Because it is! It’s incredible! Underground has become the biggest sensation in scoring for TV in a long while! My favorite moment in the whole show, truly, is the point where Rosalee gingerly walks over to the piano, and starts playing it, causing Cato to almost break his neck when he turns to look at her. But it isn’t the act of her playing that won me; it was the piece that was played. It swelled, it built, the moment that you’re hearing this, and you see August deciding to go back home, knowing that he does have a choice now, and hearing the music create a sense of thoughtfulness and heart, it instantly had me in love with the scene. As a pianist, myself, the appreciation of this particular piece soared high above the other outstanding musical moments in the show, and had me needing to wipe my eyes for….allergies.

All in all, tonight’s show was incredible. “Grave” was such an appropriate name, as each main character – symbolically – dug their own “graves”, and set wheels in motion that cannot be undone. From Tom’s decision to hang Sam, to August’s choice to leave the hunt and go home with his son, to Jeremiah deciding to hold Rosalee hostage; all made decisions, all requiring consequences. Who knows what next week will bring, and as the series comes closer to it’s end, I can’t wait to see how all this explodes in the seasons finale!

What did you think about the episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Underground airs Wednesdays nights on WGN America.

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Eddie Villanueva Jr.
Eddie Villanueva Jr. 306 posts

A movie connoisseur of only the finest films, and an Encyclopod of geek and nerd knowledge. And if you know what an Encyclopod is, you're cool too!

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