A Look at House of Lies- Season 5, Episode 6: “Johari Window”

So what happens when you mix House of Lies, racial diversity, hair products, and Keegan-Michael Key?  You get one hell of a fun episode.

Johari Window- Ron and Marty talk security

The episode begins with Marty unable to start the elevator at K&A because he’s not using a key card.  Luckily, another employee is.  Upstairs, he runs into Ron Zobel and rants about the new clearance levels.  Apparently, Ron emailed Marty about this.

The company is in a sketchy hood that is susceptible to cyber threats.  Some security measures are needed to keep the company in business.  Marty interprets this as Ron making a power play for his position.

Johari Window- Clyde introduces Jeannie to Seth

Seth Buckley is also at K&A.  He speaks with Clyde about launching major initiatives in his first term- this could break the bank.  Clyde advises him to set priorities.  All of Seth’s moves will face opposition, and he knows that.  In today’s political world, the ‘no’ has been internalized.  People don’t reach for anything anymore, but when we stop shooting for the moon, we die as a society.

Jeannie enters to tell Clyde that the group is getting ready to leave.  She doesn’t think much of Seth’s empty promises.  And she doesn’t notice the bit of cream cheese on her face as she talks.  He picks it from her lips to prove that he cares about his constituents.  Clyde then introduces Marty to Seth.  Doug forces an introduction, but hey, it’s time for the pod to leave for its hair appointment.  Buckley wants Jeannie’s number.  Go figure.

Johari Window- Let the church say Amen

As Doug grabs supplies for Tess, Marty kicks off a time freeze to fill us in on where are: the annual Braxton Brothers international beauty convention- one of the largest trade exhibitions for Black hair.  Would you believe that Black people spend over $700 million a year to get their hair did?  You know, I can sort of believe that.  And there’s actually a break in the time freeze for the good folks to say ‘Amen.’  I love that.

Johari Window- Devin, played by Keegan-Michael Key, is almost ready to make a deal

As for the anxious looking White folks, though?  These are the clients- executives at Delcour, the third largest beauty company in the world.  Delcour sees opportunity, so K&A has to colonize the colonizers.  Marty then speaks with Devin, played by Keegan-Michael Key, who is almost ready to take the offer.  He can’t maintain an edge unless he has final say over Planet Curl’s operational budget.

As Devin takes a call, we get another time freeze.  Marty explains that Devin is CEO of Planet Curl and soon-to-be head of Delcour’s Planet Curl division.  The pod speaks on Devin’s behalf, saying that he grew Curl to $70 million in sales alone last year.  However, Jean-Michal, played by Jonathan Kells Phillips, tells Marty that Delcour just wants a deal right now.

Johari Window- On the golf course

So on the golf course, Devin and Donald Faison play with Marty and Rita.  Marty asks if Rita ever saw The Color of Money.  If she’s going to hustle, she needs to start making shots.  Devin offers to skip the Delcour deal since he can make more money playing golf.  Donald asks Rita for a recommendation on a hair salon for his wife.  Devin, though, says it depends on the texture of the hair.

Johari Window- Devin touches Rita's hair

To prove his point, he runs his hand through Rita’s hair and notes the health and color of it.  Since Devin is from Detroit and Rita is from Virginia, Rita brings up a place called The Carriage House that is supposed to have the best soul food in Detroit.  Back to golf, Marty swings and hits a less than great shot.  Rita tells Marty to check Devin: he looks and says that he’s Black, but isn’t.

How does she know?  Because The Carriage House is in Chicago, not Detroit.  Plus, you don’t put your hand on a Black woman’s hair.  That much is true.  Rita ups the ante: play the back nine at $300 a hole.  The guys agree, but then Rita hits a damn good shot.  Also, Devin loves Bagger Vance.  You know, Will Smith’s character from that movie?

Johari Window- Pod learns the truth about Devin's background

Back at the office, Doug has good news: Devin is African-American, but only in that his family emigrated from Cape Town.  Jeannie enters and learns the news.  Marty breaks the news, and Jeannie is surprised that his Black-dar didn’t go off once.  But then, Jeannie’s White-dar never went off, either.  Doug, meanwhile, doesn’t see why a White person would want to be Black outside of sports and music.  Okay, the fuck?

How do you proceed with a Black CEO that turned out to be White?  No fucking idea.

Johari Window- Clyde asks Jeannie to not fuck Seth Buckley

Clyde follows Jeannie to talk about Seth Buckley.  On one hand, he’s smart with policy and politics, but he keeps pestering for Jeannie’s phone number.  Jeannie, though, is interested in the idea of going out with him, even if Clyde is against that.  Well, she wants to fuck Seth’s brains out.  Clyde warns Jeannie that Seth has a real shot at becoming mayor.  This could have serious repercussions on all of Los Angeles.

But Jeannie likes to play to a big room.  She figures that when Clyde says don’t fuck things up for Seth, he’s really talking about himself.  But really, she has no interest in fucking Seth.  But if Clyde wants to fuck Seth in her bed, that’s fine.

Johari Window- Devin and Marty get real

Devin stops by the office to talk with Marty, who asks Devin if there’s anything he wants to say anything about his past, his blackground, or biological parents.  Marty comes right out and says that Devin isn’t Black.  He knows that Devin is a phony.  The pod will still make the deal, but Marty wants Devin to drop the theatrics and get real.

So Devin decides to get real.  He tells Marty that he applied to Wharton three times as a White guy and was denied admission.  He checked African-American the fourth time around and got right in.  What’s worse than discrimination is feeling invisible and void of culture, as well as guilty of crimes he didn’t commit.  If Devin steps out as a Black man, people see him, for better or worse.

Devin being Black has worked out for a lot of people.  He then throws it back on Marty by asking him how many Black people he’s hired at K&A.  Has he done any mentoring or community boards?  Marty should thank Devin for the work he’s done.  In a lot of ways, Devin considers himself Blacker than Marty in areas where it count the most.  And not in his dick, but his heart.

Johari Window- Jeannie tries a French accent

So Marty immediately switches gears and tells Jeannie to pull up everything on Asantewa Hair Care.  Marty considers Asantewa the value buy and what Planet Curl was 15 years ago.  Jeannie asks Marty what he’ll do when asked why he switched gears.  In response, Marty tells Jeannie that Devin is about to have a real Black experience: unemployment.

Johari Window- Jeremiah and Rita screw around with Marty

That evening, Rita gloats in being right about Devin, but Jeremiah doesn’t consider this a joking matter.  He got a call from the State Department: Marty’s Black card is being revoked, but he’ll have help for the retest.

Johari Window- Marty, Jeremiah, and Rita give Roscoe some career advice

Marty then spots Roscoe, who is awake despite having a modeling gig tomorrow.  It’s actually in two days, but either way, Roscoe won’t go.  Being straight edge is more than Veganism and abstinence.  Modeling doesn’t give off the right message.  Now part of this could have to do with Roscoe modeling for the Sears Catalog.  Don’t knock it though, as Jeremiah reminds us that big models like Tyra Banks got their starts in catalogs.

Even though Marty didn’t want Roscoe to be a model in the first place, he also doesn’t want his son to just pack it in because fame and success aren’t being handed to him.  Sometimes, you’ve got to eat some shit.  The trick is to figure out the minimum amount of shit you have to eat and still get what you want.  Rita, a bit simpler, tells Roscoe to keep his Eyes on the Prize.  Ha, funny.

Side-note, Sears is apparently still a thing.  I honestly did not know that.

Johari Window- Ron tells Marty to close the deal

The next day, Ron Zobel goes to Marty’s office to talk about rumblings he heard about Marty fucking up an $80 million acquisition deal because Devin hurt his feelings.  Marty is still going to give Delcour an entrée into the Black hair market, but Zobel doesn’t like the idea of Asantewa.  Planet Curl outshines Asantewa in sales index, distribution, and every metric.  Marty sees it as a value based approach.

Ron tells Marty that Delcour isn’t shopping for a bargain.  While Ron goes to perform damage control with Devin, he tells Marty to close Delcour like a fucking big boy.  In response, Marty tells Ron to get the fuck out of his office.

Johari Window- Jeannie finds Seth at her office

So, that evening, Jeannie finds Seth waiting outside of her office.  Seth knows that Jeannie isn’t interested in dating, and he respects that, but he still wants to give her an opportunity to say no for herself.

Johari Window- Marty tells Clyde and Doug that they're pulling the plug on Asantewa

As Doug and Clyde enter the office, Marty tells them that they’re pulling the plug on Asantewa.  Doug and Clyde don’t understand the flip-flop, but Marty found a way to make Planet Curl work.  Clyde, though, focuses in on Jeannie talking with Seth.

Johari Window- Clyde finds Jeannie talking with Seth

Seth tells Jeannie that, in his spare time, he coaches youth league because he loves basketball, not because he wants to stump.  Yes, he hangs out in South Los Angeles for fun and he sees a lot of himself in those kids.  Clyde pops in and that is Seth’s cue to leave.

Johari Window- Pod presentation

The next day, the pod makes their case: all employees of Planet Curl will be absorbed into Delcour.  As the deal is finalized, Marty has something crucial to add: Devin needs to fire Jean-Michal.  No joke.  If Delcour is banking on an image, then understand that, in beauty, you live and die by how the world sees you.  Marty presents the image of Devin and his family.

Johari Window- High tech lynching

Devin feels this is a high-tech lynching.  Jean-Michal is livid about this revelation.  He fires Marty, but Marty cautions Jean to weigh his options.  If he fired the Black consultant who told him about the White man he hired that’s pretending to be Black, it would not look good.  Furthermore, Devin almost blew everyone out of the water.  Don’t let him ruin a good relationship.

There are three qualified candidates lining up for this position.  Devin asks Jean if he’s willing to make that risk.  When he got to Planet Curl, it was a mess, but now it’s poised to hit $100 million in sales this year.  Doug, though, points out that all of the candidates are amenable to doing business the way that Delcour sees fit.

Devin now offers to back off of his demands for budget control.  The pod offers to stay ahead of the narrative of how Devin and Jean found a solution to their problem, but in Devin’s mind, there is no other fucking solution.  Planet Curl may be the chocolate cookies, but Devin is the White guts that make it all delicious.  He’s a real Oreo, not a fake Oreo like Marty.  That would be Devin’s cue to leave.

Johari Window- Marty shows up at Roscoe's photo shoot

Later, Marty shows up unexpectedly at Roscoe’s photoshoot.  Marty didn’t want to miss this for the world, though.  Roscoe won’t wear his Santa hat, though.  This is the worst day of Roscoe’s life, so that makes it the best day of Marty’s life.

I think Marty’s words to Roscoe about figuring out the minimum amount of shit to eat ring true for him as it did his son.  Hell, even the whole pod.  Even if they absolutely abhor their clients or what they believe in, you’ve got to, as Ron puts it, close the deal and get on with business.

Johari Window- Devin tells Marty that being Black has worked out well for him and others

It’s hard to do that with a client like Devin, who might not be true to who he is, but he’s looking at the bigger picture and thinking beyond Black and White.  For my money, it’s an odd thing for Marty to tackle by going after Devin based on his color since he seems to still be good at his job.  However, I get the feeling that Marty is doing this on principle, not necessity.

Johari Window- Marty and Devin talk Blackness

Though Devin did have a point: Kaan & Associates isn’t exactly an advertisement for the United Colors of Benetton and Marty doesn’t really surround or immerse himself in Black culture.  But then, Marty isn’t pretending to be Blacker than he really is.  He’s a businessman first.

Johari Window- Marty closes the deal

A crafty businessman, I’ll give you that, given how he turns things on Devin and convinces to turn on him.  But more than that, the pod is willing to spin a narrative about how they solved a problem that Devin feels was just conjured up to get him out.  Be that as it may, Marty managed to stay one step ahead of Devin, despite getting blindsided by the surprise about his racial upbringing.

Johari Window- Devin out

I don’t know if this is the last we’ll see of Devin, but someone like this, given the business he runs, I think this could have warranted two appearances.  Or at least a follow-up, because I am interested in seeing how he operates his company and, like “Holocracy,” maybe get to meet some of his employees.  That and I just like Keegan-Michael Key as an actor and comedian, so it’d be nice to see him on here again.

Johari Window- Jeannie learns that Seth teaches kids in his spare time

On the other side of things, you’ve got Jeannie potentially warming to Seth Buckley, much to Clyde’s chagrin.  All I can say is this will be interesting to watch unfold, because Jeannie would do this just to piss off Clyde.  At the same time, though, there’s a real look of wonder and curiosity in her face as Seth talks about seeing himself in kids who society has shunned.

It’s a noble cause to take up and, from what I can tell, he doesn’t do it for fame, so I’m curious to see whether Jeannie will truly take a shining to him and how this could affect Clyde.

After our party cruise adventures, “Johari Window” gets right back to business with the pod taking on a very interesting client with an equally interesting past.  Devin’s ethnicity made for some great humor on the golf course, but also a great moment when the pod managed to get him ejected from the Delcour deal.

At the same time, it progressed Roscoe’s storyline by having Marty, Jeremiah, and Rita advise him on how to get what he wants in a career he doesn’t fully like.  And with Seth still eying Jeannie, things can only become more troubling for Clyde.  I would bet money on it.

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