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ATLANTA actors (L-R) ZAZIE BEETZ, DONALD GLOVER, LAKEITH STANFIELD and BRYAN TYREE HENRY
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'Atlanta' S3E3 "The Old Man and The Tree" Recap

'Atlanta' S3E3 "The Old Man and The Tree" Recap

Earn, Al, Darius, and Van head to a trippy European party that leaves them all searching for answers. But the real question is, what’s really up with Van?

Spoilers ahead. 

We’re still in Europe and Earn, Al, Darius, and Van are strolling the streets on the way to a party hosted by one of Earn’s friends. When Al asks Earn whose party it is again, Earn explains that his friend Will knows him, and the guy hosting the party, Fernando, is a billionaire — his family “gave out the first loan.”  It’s not clear whether Earn means in life, or what, but either way Al is generally unimpressed. Earn says he doesn’t have to do anything at the party, Fernando just wants to hang out and it’ll be a good chance to soak up some game from a super rich billionaire. Earn nudges Darius to remember his brilliant weed subscription idea, and Darius lights up at the prompt. Earn explains Darius doesn’t need Shark Tank any more, this Fernando guy has real money and could invest in his idea. 

ATLANTA actors (L-R) LAKEITH STANFIELD, BRYAN TYREE HENRY, DONALD GLOVER and ZAZIE BEETZ

They get to the house, which looks like a shoddy storefront (Van says it’s giving “Tales From the Hood vibes”). Everyone is skeptical when they’re greeted by a bored British woman who no one can understand, until Earn’s homie Will appears and gleefully ushers them through the filthy house.They talk about European Hip Hop as they climb the stairs, and Al explains they don’t listen to a lot of it because they can’t understand what anyone’s saying, to which Will replies he’s happy for mumble rap because it gave Euro artists a “leg up.” Will starts listing European rappers he thinks are dope. Earn and Al are unimpressed until Will finally mentions 21 Savage (ha!). Finally, they get to a shabby door in the corner of the hallway, Will enters a code, and woah, they enter the real billionaire house, which is enormous, swanky, and even has its own Nando’s. Turns out the shabby house was just a “decoy,” which Darius points out. 

As Earn chats it up with Will, learning that his wife has recently divorced him, everyone spreads out – Darius and Al head to the indoor Nando’s and Van sticks close by, sipping champagne and examining the small sculptures on display. Actually, she does more than that, she slides one into her pocket (she’s still wearing the super cute coat she bought from her shopping journey with Darius last episode).

Earn sees her steal the sculpture and looks concerned but says nothing. Instead he asks if she wants to go check out this artist, T.J., who Will is funding to live in Fernando’s strange decoy mansion. Van shrugs and gamely follows along.

At Nandos, Al and Darius are ordering free food, and Al is super impressed with the decoy mansion’s entire set up when Fernando slides up and weirdly introduces himself, explaining that he doesn’t leave his property often but he still enjoys life’s better things, he just has them brought to him, like the Nandos. Darius wanders off to find the bathroom Fernando “doesn’t want anyone using” and Fernando asks Al if he likes trees. Of course Al likes trees, and they head outside, where Al blandly discovers that Fernando wasn’t talking about smoking, but a literal tree. He talks about changing the world for the better and bringing people together, which Al boredly entertains until Fernando mentions gambling, which immediately peaks Al’s interest. 

Meanwhile, Darius is wandering around when a North Korean woman mistakenly assumes he is hitting on her when he says, “excuse me.” She tells him she’s engaged, and he’s like, um, “congrats” but he was only asking her to move out of the way so he could get to the bottle of gin behind her. She’s embarrassed and profusely apologizes, explaining she used to live in L.A. for a minute and got “hit on Black guys a lot” because Black men out there love Asian women. “It’s a good culture exchange,” Darius offers, indulging her. “You guys love hip-hop, we like anime…” The lady laughs and agrees, before properly introducing herself, then heading off to finish her night just as a white dude slides up to Darius and declares the exchange was “fucked up.” Darius brushes it off as only lightweight racist but no, the white dude, who’s name is Socks (not Sox), isn’t having it. Socks Not Sox takes off his hat, revealing he’s losing his hair and Darius stares, remarking  that his hairline is “intense,” before telling him he should rock his hair like Moby. 

Van and Earn have found Will’s aspiring artist, T.J., who is very terrible at art and is scamming Will into funding his awful projects, which includes an installation of an old white man, naked from the waist down, rocking Supreme gear. “This piece has a deep sadness about it,” T.J. somberl tells them, which Van agrees is quite sad. 

In another part of the house, Al and Fernando sit down to play poker. After being told he has to put up $20,000 to play, Al flashes his cash, pulling stacks of money out of his backpack to show he’s game. 

After checking out the awful art installation, an oblivious Will shares that he’s already spent $500K on T.J. and his “art.” He tells Earn that the kid has an idea for him to basically support all of his friends by having them live in the decoy mansion as “influencers,” which Earn thinks is insane but doesn’t get a chance to express because the kid literally skates up to expound on his terrible idea that is obviously a scam. Will is clueless and eager to be down, and Earn, who is wildly uncomfortable tells them he needs to think about T.J. 's awful idea, using Doja Cat as an excuse before quickly walking away.

ATLANTA actors (L-R) BRIAN TYREE HENRY and DANIEL FATHER in Season Three, Episode Three

Back at Al’s poker game, he’s subjected to Fernando’s super weird story about a “pale Black man” who was naked and wet, and suddenly appeared in his room. “So you’re telling me there was a wet, ashy nigga who broke into your house? How he wet AND ashy?” Al laughs, adding that like the rest of us, he has a lot of questions. Turns out  the pale, wet Black man was a ghost, according to Fernando. Al’s not buying it but he looks bothered. “So, what’d you do?” he asks. Fernando’s cowboy hat, marijuana smoking friend injects, “He fucked him!” which prompts a round of laughter until Fernando gets even stranger. “The connection we shared wasn’t physical, it was much much deeper than that,” Fernando shares, adding that the ghost “cleansed him” but he was covered in ectoplasm when he woke up. Al laughs at the absurdity but Fernando asks if he believes in ghosts, then if he believes in God. Al shrugs and says yeah, and creepy Fernando ups the creep, saying “If you believe in God you have to believe in the  devil. There’s good and bad spirits everywhere. Why do you think there’s so much killing in the world? Why do you think I have so much money? The devil is just as powerful as God. Everything’s about balance.” Al jokes that God is on his side because guess what, he just won this weird-ass poker game. Fernando admits Al cleaned him out, then gets up and heads out of the room without paying. Al asks the other players if Ferando is going to get his money, as one by one, they all get up and leave the room as well, leaving Al pissed and wondering where the hell his money is.  Eventually he leaves the room, and as he wanders around the house, a laughing white woman streaks by and snatches his hat off his head, running away before Al can even address her.

Darius is still being followed around by Socks Not Sox, who has apparently told everyone at the party about Darius’ earlier run in. Only Socks Not Sox has completely blown it out of proportion, telling all the concerned white people who’ve gathered around that it was some “'12 Years a Slave' shit,” which Darius confusedly denies.

In another part of the house, Al is still reeling from Black ghost humping Ferndando not paying him and having his hat stolen by a random white lady. He runs into Earn who asks if he’s seen Van because she’s been acting weird and he wants to keep an eye on her, and also, where’s Al’s hat? They discuss Al’s likelihood of getting his $40K and Fernando’s weird story about the Black ghost, and Al decides he’s going to handle the situation on his own. Earn fills him in on his escapade with the terrible artist T.J. who’s scamming Will. Al tells him who cares? White kids scam all the time, “The hell you think Tik Tok is?” Al reasons that Black kids need to scam more just as T.J. skates up, thanking Earn in advance for having his back. “If this fool wants to pay for the culture, then let him,” he says, before laughingly informing Al that Fernando’s is definitely not returning to pay him. Al stomps off to find Fernando as Earn mulls everything over. He turns to see Van chatting in the pool room, and they share a smile through the glass that separates them. But you don’t even have time to wonder if it’s flirting because Van randomly pushes a waiter who’s walking by into the pool, laughing as she continues sipping her drink. 

ATLANTA actors (L-R) ZAZIE BEETS and DONALD GLOVER (foreground) in Season Three, Episode Three

Earn runs to her to find out what’s going on but Van laughs her random pushing escapade off. It’s a party and she’s just having fun. They sit down near the pool and Earn asks if she’s mad at him. Van has no idea what he’s talking about and laughs at his question. Earn tells her he talked to her mom, and their daughter Lotti is good, but Van’s mom is worried about her, and honestly, so is he. Van, who’s seemed off since last episode insists she’s fine, she’s just taking some time for herself, because that’s allowed, right? Earn says sure, she deserves a vacation and offers to give her money, a car, a place, whatever she needs, probably still thinking about her stealing that sculpture earlier. She laughs again and says Al’s got her, she’s okay. Earn apologizes and says he’s it’s his job to look out for everyone these days, and Van smiles, telling him he’s too inside of his head all the time, and he needs to live in the moment more. “It’s okay,” she tells him, placing a hand on his leg for a moment before getting up for another drink. Earn watches her walk away, laughing as she pushes yet another unsuspecting person into a pool. This time the person she pushed can’t swim, and almost drowns until someone finally jumps in and saves her. 

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We leave Earn to see that Darius is now knee-deep into Socks Not Sox’s exaggerated reenactment of his earlier run in. All of the white party goers are riled up in the name of anti-racism, as Darius sits cross-legged in his chair, bewildered and bothered by the turn of events, telling everyone it’s not that big of a deal, and why is this random white lady crying now? “I haven’t even met this woman but she’s definitely a cunt!” someone exclaims. The poor woman chooses that moment to wave at Darius from across the room. He tries to warn her away with a subtle head shake, but she doesn’t take the hint, and shouts his name, drawing the white anti-racist mob’s attention. “That’s her!” someone screams as they jump up and essentially mob her, literally pointing their fingers as she shrieks in fear. Darius looks on at what plays out like a real life Twitter moment, as the woman runs away, sobbing. “That’s ultimate white guilt,” an Indian man says when he sits down next to Darius. They talk about how capitalism and racism are hard to separate because something only has value if something else has less value, and also pontificate about Taco Bell. 

Al finally finds Fernando who’s bedroom is weirdly encased by windows allowing any and everyone to see inside. Fernando feigns sleep and Al can’t get inside, so he storms off, ready to exact his revenge somehow. 

Earn is wandering the halls and decides to tell Will to go ahead with T.J.’s scam plan. He cuts himself in on the deal, saying T.J. needs a manager and he’ll do it for 25% since they’re such great friends. Will excitedly hugs T.J. and Earn, as Darius walks in with Socks Not Sox behind him, and tells Earn they probably should be going because it’s getting “intense” upstairs. Turns out Al has figured out how to exact his revenge — he’s found a chainsaw and is currently trying to chop down Fernando’s beloved tree. Inside, Earn hurriedly calls a car as Will approaches Darius and apologizes for his fiancé’s racist behavior. Turns out the woman was Will's fiancé, but not any more because he’s calling off the wedding since racism drives him mad! Darius is still in disbelief as the three haul it out of the strange decoy mansion. Once in the car, the absurdity of the night kicks in and they fall into laughter, until they realize their car is being driven by Socks Not Sox, as they ride by Will’s now ex-fiancé, sobbing on the curb. 

As the credits roll, we see Van inside of a diner. Earn calls but she ignores it, and resumes reading her magazine, leaving everyone wondering what’s really going on with her.

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