The episode I've been dreading all season long has finally come and gone... And it was worth suffering all the anxiety!
This episode detailed the tragic origins of Uncle Ruckus who's upbringing and eventual family reunion are reminiscent of both "The Color Purple" and "Precious" - if they were done as slap-stick comedies. The delivery of the voice cast for the family (Especially Ruckus' daddy, "Mista") is superb. And Star Jones displays pretty good voice acting chops as well. Who knew?
The story starts off with Ruckus detailing what he believes to be the circumstances surrounding his birth. A white family gives birth to a white baby with a brown spot on his arm. The doctor warns that the spot is a sign of the irreversible re-vitaligo and that the child will continue to get "blacker and blacker and more blacker and blacker." The parents panic at the thought and the father steals away into the night (with Ruckus' usual comedic theme music playing in the background and given a more dramatic sound) and drops the child on the doorstep of a young black couple named Bunny and Mista. It becomes apparent very quickly that Mista is an @$$hole (tho a VERY funny one) as he treats Bunny like garbage. She convinces Mista to keep the child.
Ruckus' Nana comes to town to die (something she's been claiming will happen for the past 96 years.) Ruckus flees to the Freeman house and tries to find a reason to stay - even going so far as to volunteer to babysit the boys again! (see episode 12 of season 2, "Home Alone" to find out how that went the first time...) Granddad sees thru Ruckus' excuses and forces Ruckus to tell the tragic story of his upbringing. He recounts how Mista used to hate Ruckus and beat him for everything ("Did I catch you breaking my vase?" "Did I catch you having fun?" Did I catch you wanting to be sh*t?") followed by the same reaction every time from Bunny. "Oh sweet jesus, lord have mercy, my baby!" Bunny protects Ruckus from the emotional damage by telling him Mista only hates him because the white man makes Mista work so hard and because Mista's too lazy for white people. She teaches him all the "white history" of the world too. When Ruckus' Nana moved in with Bunny and Mista, the old hag drove Mista crazy and he kicked out Ruckus. The Freeman family finds the story so sad they allow Ruckus to stay. That's when Nana comes over to the Freeman house looking for Uncle Ruckus, and decides their house (and in particular, Granddad's armchair) is a much nicer place to die than Ruckus' shack.
Granddad tries to politely kick out Nana. Nana grabs a straight-razor and threatens to cut Granddad. Granddad gets pissed and tries to throw her out himself but Ruckus and Huey hold him back. Then the doorbell rings and Ruckus finds himself face to face with his whole family (Mista, Bunny, and his two brothers, Darrel and Darell) Mista brought the whole family just so he could watch Nana finally kick the bucket. Darrel tries to get Nana to leave peaceably, but Nana slices open his hand with the straight-razor. The Ruckus family reconnect over dinner at the Freeman's. Bunny tells Ruckus about all the proud, white accomplishments they've made thru the years. Mista got promoted by the white man, and Darell is married to "the most beautiful white woman to ever live" according to Bunny. Mista points out that Ruckus hasn't done anything with his life. When Ruckus tells him he works 47 different jobs, Mista laughs at the fact that Ruckus has nothing to show for all his work and calls him a "professional mexican" Then he shatters Ruckus' world view by telling Ruckus the cold hard truth that Ruckus was never adopted and is too deluded to realize he's black. Ruckus runs upstairs screaming about how he much he hates Mista ("YOU are the reason I say 'no relation' after I tell people my name!") Granddad, Huey, and Riley are in the bedroom trying to figure out how to get the Ruckus clan outta their house. ("Maybe we could use hounds to get them out. Boy! Google 'hounds'!") Ruckus runs into the bedroom and vents his frustrations, retelling the events of when he got kicked out of Mista's house. Mista rips him away from the rest of the family and drags him into a tree, a rake, and a a bear-trap - forever ruining his visage and posture. This sends the whole Freeman clan into tears again (HUEY: "That's like 'Academy-Award-Nominated' sad") Darrel comes upstairs to inform Ruckus that Nana has finally passed on. Granddad freaks out when he sees Nana's recently deceased corpse in his chair.
The Ruckus family decides to bury Nana in Woodcrest because Uncle Ruckus works for the cemetery as a grave digger for one of his 47 jobs and can get a 70% discount on a funeral. Darrel and Darell help Ruckus dig Nana's grave. Ruckus' brothers give him a new perspective on Mista when they tell him how hard he had to work for the white man and much of his dignity was taken by working for them. Indeed every job Mista is shown to have ends up with his back getting mutilated in some way. They help Ruckus realize that hia abuse was more than likely his misguided way of preparing them all for a harsh world.
At Nana's funeral (which Granddad drags the boys to because he has to see how such a tragic story ends) Darrel reads Nana's speech detailing her desire to die and her disappointment that her only child, Mista, didn't die before her. Mista takes the opportunity to berate Nana from the grave and Ruckus to his face. Ruckus loses his calm and tells off Mista with force in his voice. Mista gets ready to beat on Ruckus, but his bad back goes out and he falls into Nana's grave and snaps his neck. In the aftermath of it all, Ruckus realizes his hatred of the black man had a lot to do with Mista and realizes the time may come to stop hating the black man "and start pitying them for being so inferior to the white man."
An episode that could have gone very wrong very quickly, but always managed to stay fresh and perfectly balanced between comedy and tragedy - and actually gave Ruckus a good reason for his racism! This episode did a lot to redeem a character whose intense hatred of black people had reached a level where he was nearly completely unrelatable. And for the first time in an episode focusing on Ruckus, the Freemans did not feel shoehorned into the plot. This time they were basically the audience, watching the story unfold before them. Much better than trying to force interaction between them and Ruckus. McGruder has once again proven he can make a great episode about everyone's favorite self-hating racist. While no Ruckus-centric episode will ever be a perfect 10 in my eyes, this is as perfect as a Ruckus episode can be. 9.7/10 Now there's nothing to do but wait for what looks to be the most epic finale of The Boondocks thus far!