It was bound to happen eventually, though I’m a little surprised that we’re at this point before the season finale. After all the discussions Alfred has had throughout the season with people talking about his need to upgrade on a manager and the harrowing experience he had in “Woods” where he finally learned to accept the life that comes with being a rapper, it could be seen as curtains for Earn. Now Al decided to give Earn one last chance to prove himself. Paper Boi is performing for a Pajama Jam festival hosted at a Atlanta college and Earn promises that while this is free, it will open Paper Boi up to the college demographic and ensure payment for events later down the line. I can see where Earn’s head is at, but he then fucks it all up by revealing that he decided rather than booking a hotel, he negotiated with a female fan of Paper Boi to stay at their dorm. That’s strike one for Earn.
Tracy also hops on the bandwagon to the college, even though he serves no purpose on being there (Then again, neither does Darius unless you count as a cook?). He deems himself Paper Boi’s security, but you can already tell things aren’t going to turn out well with Tracy involved, especially not after his gift card scheme backfired and his knack of stealing. Violet, the girl who allowed the group to stay at her dorm, is revealed to be insane and clearly not someone you want to get on the bad side of upon the group’s arrival and her luring of Al into her room. Of course, once Pajama Jam is finished and Al has performed, his simple interaction with some female fans sets Violet off and she pours a drink on him. Tracy, in his bodyguard role, proceeds to push her down a flight of stairs. Luckily Earn is there to catch her, but he gets a slap as a reward and the group needs to escape from Violet’s brother and his band of friends ready for a fight. This situation escalates even further when Tracy suckerpunches the brother, before yelling for everyone to book it. This is kinda strike two for Earn since he allowed the Violet situation to happen by getting her to house them and him not really putting his foot down about Tracy coming with.
The escape eventually leads everyone to a frat house while on the search for weed to decompress over the night’s events. This frat house turns out to be in the middle of some hazings, so Earn, Al, Darius, and Tracy get to relax under a confederate flag overlooking several naked white teens while they smoke the weed they so desperately searched for. The situation gets even weirder as one frat boy brings Darius and Tracy along to show off the gun room, while the frat boy left behind tries to strike up conversation with Paper Boi and show off his knowledge of rap. This culminates in “Laffy Taffy” by D4L being played and the frat boy forcing all the pledges to dance to the song, while they’re still completely naked and can’t see through the bags on their heads. The frat boy notices it’s time to give all the pledges mud baths and sets off with them as well, leaving the room to Earn and Al. And this is where the night takes a turn.
The two initially have a laugh about the night’s events before Al reveals it wasn’t so much of a humorous laugh, but one of exhaustion. He wants to address the problem and Earn is ready as well, offering that Tracy has to go. That’s not the person Al has in mind though and straight up tells Earn he’s the issue instead. He hasn’t been doing his manager job at his fullest potential or maybe he has and it’s just not good enough. Al reveals he’s been talking to Clark County’s manager on the side and is thinking of finally making that switch now that Earn failed in his last shot at proving to Al he’s worthy. Now that Al is fully committed to his career as a rapper and not just having it as a side hustle, he needs to make those money moves and something has to shake for him to rise up. The thing that disappoints me the most here is that Earn doesn’t even retort back on anything. Maybe he knows Al is right about him or maybe the chip on his shoulder that Uncle Willy warned him about is showing once again. Earn just stands up after the one sided conversation and walks out of the room, basically proving Al right.
The following day doesn’t help Earn’s case as they return from the frat house to Violet’s dorm to see all their belongings scattered across the lawn. Not only that, but much of the clothing and accessories in those belongings are completely destroyed. Earn notices that his laptop is missing from his belongings and starts to bang on Violet’s door to let him in, taking this as a slight too far. When this fails, he even pulls the fire alarm in hopes that she’ll come out of there. Everyone pleads with Earn to knock it off and just leave with them, but Earn still has the pent up frustrations that he didn’t express to Al from the previous night, so he has to take it out on something. Even when the crew finally departs in the car that was also beat up by Violet and her girls, Earn takes offense to Tracy dogging on him and decides he wants Al to pull over so he can fight Tracy. Measuring up Earn and Tracy, you already know this isn’t going to go well, but Earn just needs something to let his anger out on, so Al obliges and Earn promptly gets his ass handed to him. Tracy pleads with Earn to just back down, but his pride refuses and he continues to get back up, until Tracy bodyslams him to the ground and he no longer can.
“North of the Border” is a tough episode for Earn and it’s something that has been hinted at all season. Not only was the arc around what Al will do with his career solved in this episode, but also the arc of Earn’s downward spiral. In the first episode of the season, Earn told Uncle Willy that he was afraid of being someone like him – one who had the smarts to do something great, but just let stuff happen to them until they became nothing. What we’re afraid of most are the things we can see ourselves becoming, so Earn has only completed his fear with how he’s acted all season. He ruined his relationship with Van by using her when he needed her rather than being an actual boyfriend, he ruined his relationship with Al by being a shitty manager, and now he’s ruined himself by the above and getting his pride literally beaten out of him by Tracy. Is there a redemption arc in the making for Earn or will he just continue to be in this rut. Al took the signs that were being shown to him and upgraded himself, maybe it’s time for Earn to do the same.
North of the Border – 5 out of 5