Roots: The Complete Miniseries

Season 1 Episode 8

Part 8

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jan 30, 1977 on ABC

Episode Recap

The episode opens on April 10, 1865 with the reading of a copy of the surrender notice by General Robert E. Lee as telegraphed to the town. Tom's brother Lewis, who was in town at the time, races home to let everyone know that the war was over and that they were now free. Plantation owner Sam Harvey returns to the plantation to find his slaves celebrating and he informs them that if they wished, they could remain on the plantation to help with the crops and continue to farm the land.
Meanwhile, the adjustment to their new state of affairs has been difficult for the local white population, and they mull over how to deal with the turn of events. Arthur Justin, a local attorney who is now a Senator, arrives in town and meets with shop-owner Evan Brent, who is bemoaning his change in fortune. Justin suggests an analogy of how they might deal with the apparent setback. He recites a saying from the parables of "Br'er Rabbit" - "When he can't get through one way, he change his way. And by and by, he get where he wanna be."
Not long after, word comes to the plantation that President Lincoln has been assassinated and this news suddenly changes the dynamic of the situation. The locals go barreling through the Harvey plantation, setting fire to the barns and some of the cabins to terrorize the farmers. But Tom is determined not to be run off so easily. Since he is the town blacksmith, he decides to mark the horseshoes of all who use his services so that he can determine who has been doing the raiding. Meanwhile, the Senator is out to buy up much of the land in the county and eventually buys the Harvey plantation for $5000, a mere pittance of its real worth. He immediately institutes sharecropping at the plantation, which would be carried out under the administration of shop-owner Evan Brent, ironically one of the lead night riders.
The newly freed slaves were given a share of land to grow crops, but had to pay the costs of the seed, tools, animals, and other essentials needed to manage the crop. Inevitably, the costs would be higher than the value of a season's harvest, forever keeping the worker in debt while the owner benefited from the arrangement. Thus Justin had found that "other way".
Once Tom has identified who has been doing the raiding, he insists on taking his evidence to the local Sheriff and giving the law a chance. However he finds he has no support from the others on the plantation, including his own wife Irene or his brothers Lewis and Virgil, despite his eloquent and idealistic arguments. Lewis responds by betraying 'Ol George, which causes suspicion between them and prompts 'Ol George and his wife to consider leaving. However Ol' George is eventually offered a well-paid position as overseer at the plantation and decides to stay.
Defiantly, Tom brings his evidence to Sheriff Biggs and pleads his case. Biggs takes it and sends Tom home, eventually confronting Evan Brent to warn him. He notes that by law, when the Circuit Court arrived in town in the near future, he would be required to turn over the evidence to them. However he suggests that he would not stand in Evan's way if Tom was taken care of, which would essentially render the evidence moot if there were no witnesses to testify about it.
Brent and the other raiders heed the advice, don white hoods to mask their identities, and confront Tom in the middle of night, tying him up for a whipping. After they start the whipping, Ol' George suddenly intervenes in a feigned bid to do the whipping himself as official overseer of the plantation. The raiders reluctantly agree, however this forces Ol' George to use the whip for real for the first time in his life. But his intervention saves Tom's life as he is able to convince the raiders to leave without killing Tom themselves, which was their original intention but not Ol' George's.
As Tom begins to recover, he bitterly tells his brother Lewis to go dig up the floor and bring him what was hidden there. Lewis returns with the gun that Tom secreted away after killing Jimmy Brent and Tom takes it and promises to use it on Jimmy's brother Evan as revenge. But suddenly Martha comes running in to tell them that someone was coming. And as they all hide, Tom points the gun at the door and tells the intruder to enter slowly... And in walks Tom's father, Chicken George...
The next morning, George announces that he has bought land in Tennessee using the winnings he saved from his 2 prized fighting cocks and he invites the family and the rest on the plantation to come with him to settle there. When he hears the protests from his family about how they could never successfully leave Virginia in one piece, George hatches a plan using tactics learned from his service in the British military - all with the help of 'Ol George and his wife Martha.
And so as part of their plan, the plantation workers give everyone in town their total obedience, including going to the Sheriff to beg that the charges be dropped against the night raiders. Senator Justin becomes suspicious and is not so easily convinced by the sudden changes in demeanor. So he hatches his own counter-plan to determine what trickery was underway. However George has a contingency for that possibility too. And in a literal battle of tactics and wits, the scenario plays out, concluding with Chicken George having the last word and a well-deserved checkmate.
This allows Tom to put Evan Brent into the same position as he was in - tied up, terrified, and ready to be whipped. But Tom can't go through with the actual whipping so instead; George walks over and warns Brent that if they are bothered again before they left the county, he would kill him personally. And with that, the Harvey plantation clan loads up their wagons and ride off with 6 new mules (received as part of the ruse) -- destination: Tennessee.
When the group arrives at George's property in Tennessee, George grabs one of his grandsons - Bud - and tells him the story that his mother Kizzy told him about her father Kunta Kinte. And Tom continues the story, describing the Mandinka words that had been passed down to him by George. And finally George finishes with a prayer to his grandfather, Kunta Kinte, in celebration of their freedom on their own land.