Black-ish, Season 1, Episode 13, “Big Night, Big Fight”
Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 9:30 PM (EST), ABC
So far, some of the strongest Black-ish episodes have been for holidays, such as the Halloween one. However, this Valentine’s one was unnecessarily acidic and mean-spirited. Andre uses World War I as an extended analogy for his Valentine’s day struggle with Rainbow. This year, he’s determined not to avoid the mistakes he’s made in the past, but before they even leave their bedroom, they’re at odds. What saves the episode is the hilarious story of the kids teaching Diane to be a nice person. Without that storyline, this episode would’ve been completely devoid of laughs.
Andre corrects his first past Valentine’s day mistake by buying Rainbow a full dozen roses instead of a sad “bucket rose.” However, when he sees Rainbow in her romper, he asks if she’s changing and she flies into a rage. In the car, Rainbow picks on Andre for his pronunciation of Valentine’s day, since he seems to replace the “n” with an “m” sound. She guesses correctly that he planned to take her to their usual Valentine’s day spot Fabiano’s, but he changes his mind at the last minute and shows up to a fully booked alternate restaurant. He bribes the host with cash and he makes them an awkwardly placed table extremely close to another couple.
Rainbow gets along great with her neighbor, who compliments her romper. Rainbow is immediately ready to order, but Andre takes his time, agonizing over what his decision will be. Since it takes him so long, Rainbow misses out on the last Short Rib, so she’s forced to just order whatever else will be fastest. Things start to get ugly as Rainbow accuses Andre of being a serial “ruiner” of things. Andre hides out in the bathroom where other men are going through similar fights with their wives. They form a sort of support group lead by the bathroom attendant. However, their banter is all very sexist and backwards. All they want to do is superficially placate or manipulate their wives so they can receive some sort of “special sex.”
Andre’s plan to make Rainbow feel sorry for him and apologize is thwarted when she immediately apologizes. Instead of graciously accepting her apology, he pushes too far and they start airing all of their unspoken problems with each other. Things get really heated to the point where they make a scene with the entire restaurant watching. Andre predicts that it’ll take months to recover.
While their parents were away, Jack and Diane unpacked all of their Valentine’s day cards. Jack received so many that they spilled out of his bag, which wasn’t even the entire haul. He had to leave some at school. Diane only received a handful. After Diane lets off a string of blistering insults, Zoey decides that they should all help Diane become a nicer person, or at least pretend she’s being nice to people. At first, she seems to do well with saying an insincere compliment aloud to each of her siblings. To Zoey, she says “You have nice hair.” To Jack, she says “You dance well.” And to Junior, she says “You’re good at computers.” She writes down the rest of her thoughts, which Junior looks at and realizes nothing’s changed about her. The big test of her new skills comes when she has to compliment the pizza guy. He’s so terrible-looking that all she can muster is “You were punctual and you have the correct number of limbs for a human.” That line made me laugh so hard I cried.
Soon Diane becomes a fake-compliment-giving machine. Without Diane, this episode would’ve been nearly unbearable. What makes it worse is that the only attention their parents give to this new development with Diane is that her siblings broke her and that they need to fix her. Rainbow and Andre make up by realizing that they actually enjoy fighting because it keeps their unhappiness from festering. Their make-up sex is great, too. Their storyline started from a weirdly hostile place that ended up in very conventional sitcom marriage territory. What continues to work is that they’re awful people who seem to be made for each other. Luckily, they have hilarious children like Diane who can carry entire episodes with their neuroses.
What saves the episode is the hilarious story of the kids teaching Diane to be a nice person. Without that storyline, this episode would’ve been completely devoid of laughs.