The third season of Atlanta has been cutting deep. New episode “Trini 2 De Bone” follows a white family in New York City, whose Afro-Trinidadian nanny Sylvia unexpectedly dies, leaving their son Sebastian in mourning. Episode writer Jordan Temple spoke with Okayplayer about “Trini 2 De Bone,” and shared how series creator Donald Glover wanted this season to be like an album — specifically Ye’s Graduation.
“[Donald] said ‘Trini 2 De Bone’ is like the song ‘Drunk And Hot Girls,'” Temple said. “What he meant when he said that, is it’s off the beaten path. It’s a different tempo — there are different tones and to enjoy it you have to be patient.”
Temple also explained the series’ anthology, which departs from Paper Boi’s European tour into narratives that prominently feature white Americans, and addressed the criticism the season has faced because of this.
“For people who are thrown off or dislike the deviations from the principle cast, I’d say when the season is done go back and watch the episodes with the cast only,” he said. “For people who appreciate the season’s theme [in which] white people are cursed by their own racism, go back and watch the step out episodes and the episodes with the cast. Boom, two short seasons of high quality television. It’s all in the same world.”
“Trini 2 De Bone” begins with middle-aged white man Miles Warner jogging to Sada Baby in his headphones, only to return home to see that his wife Bronwyn is frustratedly watching Sebastian (primarily referred to as “Bash” in the episode) because their nanny Sylvia hasn’t arrived to take their son to school.
Miles offers an eggs benedict to Bash — who’s in the middle of watching The Proud Family — and opts for the “bland” dish to be topped with spicy mango curry, a flavor that Sylvia has clearly made Bash fond of. Miles then gets a call that Sylvia is dead. In disbelief, Bronwyn takes Bash to school while both parents prepare him for the news.
Distance between Bash and his parents is evident when Bash asks Bronwyn if she’s upset that she missed yoga to take him to school, pointing out that Sylvia usually walks him to class. Leaving Bash’s school, Bronwyn talks to Miles over FaceTime, offended that Bash’s teacher called out their absence during “Family Picture Day.” Miles offers to make Sylvia’s death one of many “teachable moments” for Bash.
Later, the parents awkwardly try to break the news to Bash, with Miles coldly revealing that Sylvia died after Bash asserts that his parents are “old.” Bash shares a willingness to attend Sylvia’s funeral, mentioning that, “Maybe Sylvia went back to Trinidad and Tobago.”
A haunting follows the Warner family as a mysterious knock on the door is followed by an unattended package addressed to Sylvia. The package has returned from earlier but Miles doesn’t open it. Instead, Bronwyn suggests that the package could be brought along with Sylvia’s bags, dresses, and wigs left around the apartment.
Miles and Bronwyn’s disdain for Afro-Caribbean people is evident when they attend Sylvia’s funeral, where Bronwyn quips that they’re “practically in the islands.” The family is met by Sylvia’s daughter Khadija, who engages in Trini patois with Bash. (Also, quick Easter egg: When Miles parks his car, Paper Boi homecoming posters are seen in the background, possibly foreshadowing the crew’s return to Atlanta before the season is up?)
Inside the funeral home, Miles insensitively declines taking Sylvia’s funeral pamphlet and marches Bash to Sylvia’s casket to give him a close look at her deceased body, making the funeral a cultural exhibit. Bronwyn wears a Telfar bag at the funeral, a false allyship that replicates Miles listening to rap music. Family friend Devon tells Miles how much Sylvia loved the family, offering his child care services and a business card. Making a timely cameo is Chet Hanks as Curtis (who Sylvia also used to babysit), adopting her Trini patois despite being from Tribeca.
Bash praises aloud while the funeral officiant speaks. Sylvia’s children and grandchildren are introduced. The officiant reveals that, prior to becoming a nanny and mother, Sylvia was a ballet dancer for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company in Harlem for several years. As Sylvia was first of her Trinidadian family to move from her country to New York, the officiant rejoices that her nephew plays for the New York Patriots. The revelation comes as a shock to Miles, who presumably didn’t get to know Sylvia during her life.
In tribute to Trinidadian dancer and choreographer Julia Edwards, students and alumni from Hillcrest High School’s dance program – founded by Sylvia – come to perform a ceremonial limbo dance to David Rudder’s “Trini 2 De Bone.” All in attendance are joyous except Sylvia’s daughter Princess, who stops the performance.
“Who do you think she sacrificed to take care of those children?” Princess asks. “She was with other people’s children. She should have been taking care of her own! I needed you mommy and where were you?” Princess grieves, punching Sylvia’s casket.
A fight breaks out while Miles and Bronwyn attempt to shield Bash from the chaos and leave the ceremony.
“It’s okay, we’re just sad,” Devon says, attempting to calm the tension. “This is how we sad.”
The ride home for the Warner family is just as tense as their arrival, and the parents don’t acknowledge their role for causing stress within Sylvia’s family. At home, Miles marvels over the slave-oriented history of the limbo dance, but Bronwyn is fearful that Bash would consider them absent parents. Miles assures Bronwyn that Sebastian can “handle what he saw” but Bronwyn is doubtful, worried that the funeral may have frightened Bash and that Sylvia’s influence may have seeped into her son’s life.
In the middle of their slumber there’s rapid knocking at the door. Miles opens up to discover a third delivery package attempt: their son’s “Family Picture Day” portraits have arrived with Sylvia posing beside Bash. Miles and Bronwyn only remember Sylvia for the service she provided, but her ghost reminds the family of the sacrifices she made as a Black woman to tend to children outside of her own.
From slavery to modern-day child caretaking, Black women have historically assumed the role of doing domestic work for white families. The anthology of the third season provokes white viewers to acknowledge their privilege, noting that racism is an escapable plague and shouldn’t be an avoided topic within white social circles.
“The purpose of diverging from the main storyline is to truly drive the point home that racism isn’t a problem for Black people to solve,” Temple said. “Racism is something that affects white people and is a problem for them to discuss within their most intimate settings [or] families.”
While Earn, Paper Boi, Darius and Van are in foreign circumstances in Europe, back in America white characters are being placed in Black environments foreign to their usual social settings. With just three more episodes, we’ll see how the series continues to tackle the uncomfortable truths of race relations.
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