WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
Everyone has been on one. The idea of a fun evening — one where you possibly even meet a celebrity — only for everything you put into it falling down the drain.
Your gas money. Your outfit. Your hopes.
In this week’s episode of Atlanta, titled “Champagne Papi,” Van goes on a dummy mission. She and three of her girlfriends dress up and board a shuttle bus to go to a New Year’s Eve party with hopes of meeting Drake.
This is the second episode of Atlanta that is fully dedicated to examining the minutiae of the nightlife in Atlanta. The first episode to do this, “The Club,” from last season, saw Paper Boi make a club appearance, with everyone having their own dummy mission in one way or another. Paper Boi spent the night thinking he was getting to know a girl, only to learn that she had a boyfriend; Darius was kicked out of the club for not having the right wristband, despite the bouncer knowing he was there with Paper Boi; and Earn spent the night chasing a shady club promoter who refused to pay him his fee.
“Champagne Papi” shows that the nightlife is just as fruitless for women as it is for men. Van came in trying to get a photo with Drake, so she could stunt on the ‘gram while Earn is seemingly living his best life on his own page. But she ended up simply dodging a thirsty guy, ripping her dress, stealing one of Drake’s jackets, and. more-or-less, making a fool of herself. Her friend Terry ends up sitting on the couch, getting pissed about a famous black man who has a white girlfriend. Her other friend Candice, of course, leaves with the DJ to go to another party hosted by T-Pain. And Van’s third girlfriend, Nadine, spent most of the evening terrified after eating an edible (before winding down during a conversation with Darius.)
As always, the only winners of the nightlife are the ones who can hustle other patrons. Of course, Drake wasn’t at the party; a pair of enterprising ladies brought cardboard cutouts of the 6 God and charged women at the party to take photos with it. Many of the women felt the need to pay for those photos to save face, but seeing the cutouts seemed to be the point when Van finally snapped out of the quasi-groupie haze that she had spent the night in. “It’s all fake,” Van says at one point.
Even though I have a similar perspective of the nightlife scene and of the entertainment industry, this episode was my least favorite of the season. The pacing dragged, and the laughs weren’t hearty enough to make the payoff worth it.
But there was still some comedy. A woman in the party bus was crying tears of joy about attending the party, only to hilariously not be let in once she arrived. Terry was upset about the white woman dating the celebrity, only to find out that she was actually a good girlfriend who had been with him through thick and thin — but she gave Becky bars, regardless. And the idea of Drake being secretly Mexican, while having an abuelo watching TV in a random room of the house, is some of the random material that makes Atlanta special. “Champagne Papi” improves on the second viewing (as does every episode of Atlanta), but it doesn’t measure up to the rest of the season so far.
I spent most of the episode being put off by the way Van was behaving: being so thirsty for the photo, taking the jacket, and wandering around the house so aimlessly. “She’s better than this,” I thought. But I had to remember just how rough the relationship with Earn had been, and the identity issues that surfaced in the episode “Helen.” None of us are at our best selves after a breakup, and it appears that Van is still really trying to figure out who she is.
The Soundtrack For “Money Bag Shawty”
Roy Woods, “Little Bit of Lovin”
Jlin, “Never Created, Never Destroyed”
David McCallum, “House of Mirrors”
Big-A Prado featuring Nino Cahootz & Amy Luciani, “Mudd”
Vince Stapes, “Samo”
Gizzle, “Oh Na Na”
The Theorist, “Passionfruit”
Nevelle Viracocha, “DIRRTY GAME”
YBN Nahmir, “Bounce Out With That”
Fuego, “Cuando Suena El Bling”