Partying at nightclubs has literal primal appeal. There’s the attack on your senses: the liquor, the thumping music, the blinking lights. There’s the hook up factor. There’s the ability to see and be seen. There’s the escape from reality, the potential for short-term gain and plenty of poor decision-making fueled by alcohol and drugs.
Not surprisingly, Earn hates this scene. He’s only at a club called Primal because his client Paper Boi is being paid $5,000 to appear and be, well, famous.
Problem: Paper Boi is a one-hit wonder and a bigger star named Marcus Mile is attracting all the female clientele. Paper Boi tries to catch the attention of the hotties but he can’t catch their attention. His only gambit: free drinks! It does work. He finds a lady who enjoys his company and his stories. They laugh. They drink. But when Marcus Mile leaves the club at 2 a.m., the party is over. The lights go up. The music stops. And Paper Boi tries in vain to get the woman’s digits. “Follow me on Instagram” is all she would offer. He wants a hook up. She doesn’t. She just gave him a good time –conversationally.
In the meantime, Earn is worried about getting paid. So he starts stalking the club owner, who keeps disappearing on him. After the owner literally disappears behind a fake wall, the bartender laughs at him. Earn bitches and moans about how much he hates nightclubs – and shots while taking down shots. “It’s a money suck, he laments. He says he’s only there for work. She isn’t buying it. But she helps him out. She provides him the word “fire alarm” on his check, which he figures out is the entrance to the the back room where the owner is.
Earn, now drunk from too many shots, enters the owner’s office and demands his money. Problem: he throws up while saying it. Not a good look. Earn is way too passive to project intimidation. The club owner confidently tells Earn he can only pay him $750 of the agreed-upon $5,000 for various reasons. Paper Boi didn’t perform. He drank too much. The owner had to hire an extra guard because Paper Boi’s “a thug.”
So Earn takes the $750 and slinks away.
But when Paper Boi finds out he was shorted, he storms into the owner’s office, punches him multiple times and forces the cash out of him. Amusingly, after Paper Boi departs, the owner says, “Boy’s going to be a star” before he has his girl call the cops. Later that night in celebration, as Earn and Paper Boi dine at a late-night restaurant, a news reporter on the TV notes the shooting outside Primal, plus an armed robbery by Paper Boi. That put a bit of a kibosh on the celebration.
Darius has the C story, so to speak. He leaves Paper Boi’s VIP area and bonds momentarily with the security guard. When he returns from the bathroom, the guard won’t let him back in. Wrong color wristband. “Meaningless!” Darius says to the guard before leaving to go home and play video games.
Donald Glover‘s dim view of nightclubs is summarized by that one word. Or maybe another Earn utters as well: “Pointless.”
The surreal moment of the half hour? Darius tells Paper Boi about a hip-hop artist who has an invisible car. Paper Boi doesn’t believe it. But in the parking lot, we hear shots and watch said hip-hop artist driving away – in an invisible car.
What does that even mean? Who knows? Is there some sort of metaphor about the emptiness of this life or that the emperor isn’t really wearing any clothes.