We opened at George’s Funeral (RIP my hopes for a quick resuscitation from Courtney B Vance), with another of the spoken word soundtrack choices that Lovecraft Country makes a specialty of (see listening guide below) below). Then, signaling the start of a new story arc, a title screen reads: “In the summer of 1955, a group of black men … moved into a house on the north side of Chicago.” Ten days later, three people disappeared inside the house… ”
Cut to a sunny day in a North Side neighborhood, as an excited Leti leads his suspicious sister towards a gothic-looking pile with closed windows and dust all over the place. It’s the least we can say. Yet Ruby is less concerned with the necessary structural updates to the house than with the necessary structural updates for American society. Her younger sister wants them to be black “pioneers” of integration and she is not so optimistic. “Last year there was almost a riot across town because a couple of negroes moved into an all white building. (Google “Trumbull Park Homes Race Riots”.)
Meanwhile, back on the South Side, life is not easy for the family George left behind. Tic stayed with George’s widow, Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), but having exhausted his welcome, he moved on to Montrose’s apartment. Montrose is also not in a good way, drunk in the middle of the day and reliving a memory of his youth and of George so worn out that even Tic can recite it. “Those white boys had surrounded you. Out of nowhere came a mysterious bat-swinging stranger like Jackie Robinson, hit home runs on all their heads, saving you both, and all he said before he disappeared was… ”- and Montrose intervenes:“ I got you, kid. ”
This brief moment of father-son bonding ends with an argument over what to tell Hippolyta about George’s death. Montrose wants to stick to their cover story; Tic thinks she deserves the supernatural truth. As these two great men clash, it becomes clear that Tic won’t be sleeping on the couch, after all.
And who has a spare bedroom? Amid the hustle and bustle of the day moving into Leti’s recently acquired ruined mansion, Tic shows up to announce his return to Florida. He’s convinced he’s sticking around when Leti’s new neighbors launch their harassment campaign with a cacophony of car horns. So when strange things start to happen in the house, Leti naturally assumes that it is the local segregationists who are doing nonsense. Or is it ghosts? Tic picks up a baseball bat and heads for the basement to investigate (he has it, kid).
These nasty ghosts and / or neighbors don’t let go on housewarming night, either. But there are so many other things – sexual tensions between Tic and Letitia, more R’n’B on the roof of Ruby’s group and gossip about “that new preacher” Martin (Google “Betty Moitz”) – that it takes a real hot cross on the lawn to attract the attention of party animals. This time, Leti picks up the baseball and starts destroying a row of racist cars.
Any sort of retaliation would be dangerous in this neighborhood, but what is powerful about Leti’s lemonade moment is that no one is trying to hold it back. Instead, wordlessly, Tic and the other men grab some weapons to make sure she’s allowed to finish and, when she’s done, Ruby quickly gathers the incriminating evidence in her boot and leaves for. to throw them. They got it, kid.
So what’s the deal with “House Winthrop,” as the officer who arrested Leti calls it? He’s haunted by the souls of eight black South Siders, kidnapped and supplied to the former owner, Dr. Epstein, for experimentation, that’s what. (Google “Tuskegee Syphilis Study”.)
Dr Epstein was a follower of Horatio Winthrop – one of Titus Braithwaite’s former cultist buddies – and the money for the house found its way to Leti via an elaborate ruse by Christina Braithwaite. But Leti does not know. She thinks it was a legacy from her and Ruby’s mother, leading to a big argument between the sisters (Great to see Wunmi Mosaku back after the last episode’s absence).
At least Leti still has Tic. And also a speed dial voodoo exorcist, apparently. (I remembered the uncle’s fate in Lovecraft’s The Shunned House.) Putting those lost souls to rest also has the added effect of solving that annoying neighbors issue.
Eevaphobia (n) is defined as an irrational fear of elevators. If you didn’t suffer from it before this episode, you do now.
- This isn’t the first time that baseball hero Jackie Robinson has made an appearance. Do you remember the Tic dream streak at the start of the first episode? The audio was borrowed from the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story.
- “I apologize for my sister’s rude behavior, but she gets it from her father,” Leti tells another boarder. So Leti and Ruby definitely have different dads, then?
Two Recommendations for Further Historical Context: Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America is a robust challenge to the myth of segregation as a strictly southern phenomenon. I’m also halfway through the Unfinished: Deep South podcast, which is about a 1954 Arkansas lynching, but also fascinating about the nationwide systematic economic oppression of African Americans.
Unsettled by this Ouija board scene? Emmet Till was indeed from Chicago and was lynched in Mississippi at the end of August 1955.
Leti’s trials and tribulations in this episode mean she doesn’t always have time to put on makeup. His manicure though? Always impeccable.
“And I’m dead too… and honestly, ever since I’ve been back, I feel like a ghost” – there’s a lot of Buffy energy in Season 6 about this Leti statement. The awareness campaign for PRT (post resurrection trauma) victims starts here.
“Hey Lei…” The voice you hear in George’s funeral scene is that of artist Precious Angel Ramirez, and its narration was written as a tribute to Leiomy Maldonado, the fashion dance legend (and choreographer of the Pose TV series), and originally appeared on the soundtrack of a 2017 Nike commercial.
Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino plays on the radio while Tic and D set the table for breakfast. The record was released in the spring of 1955, making it a rare piece of period-specific diegetic music for Lovecraft Country.
“Everything The Devil Has Stolen / God Returns It To Me” – Dorinda Clark-Cole had a gospel hit with 2008’s Take It Back, but the lyrics seem relevant to any discussion of multifaceted oppression.
Tic et Leti LoveWatch
Did you think we were going to have to settle for hand pressure in the basement, sweetheart? Hoo boy! This is the episode where Tic and Leti finally consumed their attraction, albeit via a frantic search in the bathroom, with a ghostly voyeur lurking in the corner. It’s not everyone’s idea of romance.
Quote of the week
“I got you, kid.