Being Mary Jane Season 4, Episode 4 Recap: Getting Schooled

Photo: Courtesy of BET
We learned last week that Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) is pushing 40. Her birthday is just around the corner. Yet as this week’s episode titled “Getting Schooled” proved, she still has much to learn. Or depending on you look at it, unlearn.

At the office, Mary Jane is incensed by a viral video and she’s determined to get it on air. In the footage, Calhoun, a teenage boy, wears a trendy leather jacket and a kilt while standing in a line, dancing freely outside. Then out of nowhere, the New Jersey teen’s father appears from behind and begins shoving and assaulting him, urging him to get in the car. His father is embarrassed at what his son’s chosen to wear.

In MJ’s new downgraded role as a web correspondent, she sees the story’s potential. Of course our Chief Cockblocker in Charge, Justin (Michael Ealy), disagrees. Justin’s need to challenge MJ at every turn has grown tired. However, this time around his problem may not be malicious. Like some women and men of a certain upbringing, both Justin and Ronda (Valarie Pettiford) see the father’s harsh reaction as merely a parent disciplining his son. Instead of a man abusing his kid due to society’s dated views on masculinity.

The story is shelved for airing on TV. Though as the web correspondent, MJ is free to cover whatever stories she sees fit. It quickly makes it’s way to Good Day NYC’s homepage and gets loads of traction. Way to make it work, MJ. Garrett finally tells her he wants an interview with Calhoun. Score!

Speaking of scores, there’s another sexy B story heating up: Kara (Lisa Vidal) and a cute baseball player named Orlando Lagos (Nicholas Gonzalez). During last week’s episode, Kara strategized a plan to get Garrett’s (Ashton Holmes) attention. She needs the producer to recognize that her talents don’t just revolve around Mary Jane. So she took 34-year-old Orlando under her wing and single-handedly began molding him into an anchor. It’s all very Michael Strahan. The two get close... they sleep together.

Though, Kara isn’t impressed. But here’s the plot twist, instead of casting him aside, or just dealing with the frustration of sexual mediocrity, she takes MJ’s advice: She tells him he’s awful and teaches him a few tricks. Ever the determined athlete, Orlando rises to the occasion and gives Kara a few home runs. Finally, BET gives us an adorably funny sexy scene to lighten the mood.

Orlando isn’t the only one being forced to deal with his flaws. The father-and-son story placed our perceptions of masculinity under a microscope. Specifically Black masculinity. While Justin and Ronda were on the wrong side of progress, MJ seemed like our progressive heroine. And you know how that goes, just when you think Mary Jane is the paradigm of progression, she fumbles.
Photo: Courtesy of BET
Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) and Lee (Chiké Okonkwo) get real during a conversation about masculinity.
New boyfriend Lee (Chiké Okonkwo) is Black and British. He drinks tea, he sits with his legs tightly crossed...he occasionally wears skirts...

“You should see me in my kilt,” he says one night while she discusses her story. “You have a kilt?” she says alarmed. “My mother has an ancestor in the Gunn Clan...it’s a long story.”

MJ is uneasy. She can handle a “cool young teen” wearing a kilt, but her man? Nah. “There is a puritanical streak in this country that always amazes me,” Lee says. “Why do we do that, question a person’s sexual orientation based on what they wear?” This was fumble one.

Later, after multiple attempts, MJ finally tracks down Calhoun for an interview and ignites an impassioned discussion between father and son. Though, Calhoun schools Mary Jane when she makes an assumption about his sexuality.

She notes that if he told his story on Good Day NYC, “It would mean so much so many people...with gay-bashing on the rise.” And this was fumble two.

“Ah, that’s right because I wear skirts I must be gay, right?” he responds. “It’s cool, a lot of people make that assumption, my dad does.” MJ’s clearly stepped in it and she begins to backtrack. This is such a human moment. With one question, Calhoun, a teen, forces MJ, a grown woman, to see she’s not as progressive as she thought. Calhoun agrees to come on, and the interview is a success.

Remember that moment earlier between Justin and Mary Jane, when he dismissed Calhoun’s father’s attack as just good parenting? While meeting in MJ’s office after the interview she asks him, “Can you imagine having to deal with this abuse all day at school, coming home and getting an extra dose from your father?”

“My father dropped a lot of hard truths on me too,” he says.

“Must’ve been tough,” she responds. “I got no regrets,” Justin says, quietly while staring off into space. “I’m not a victim I’m a winner, it made me a stronger person,” he says as if to convince himself.

And there you have it: The cycle of bullying.

Missing from this episode? MJ’s family in Atlanta. Aside from her baby brother making a few appearances, I miss the Pattersons. In prior seasons, MJ’s family played such a major role in her life. Here’s hoping we get an update on Niecy’s situation next week!
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