Welcome back to another review of GT, my friends. We open our fourth season with some pretty bittersweet news. James has finally landed his big break and got a job working at a garage in Mississippi. The family is just about to join him. That is, until Florida receives a telegram that James was killed in an automobile accident. Despite the odds, I hope you enjoy the review.
Florida and Thelma were packing and chanting “Mississippi, here we come, right back where we started from”. Thelma got upset because Florida wrapped their gravy bowl into a newspaper picture of Clifton Davis. She then said she needed to iron him out but Florida stated she wrapped the iron inside of a picture of Ike and Tina Turner. Thelma questioned why she didn’t wrap their belongings in the want ads, for they wouldn’t need them again. Florida totally beamed at that remark and exclaimed how she knew in her heart James would make it. She and Thelma then quoted Martin Luther King Jr. with “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”. Thelma asked why they were bringing their old dishes to Mississippi when they’d be able to afford new ones. Florida answered they were precious to her, since she served James their first breakfast on those.
Michael came in with a box, which was the only one he could find. He stated he went to Mr. Ferguson’s mortuary and only found that one, the rest were full. He stated it wasn’t easy to move in such short notice, but James wanted the family with him in Mississippi right away. Thelma started to wonder what it would be like to be rich for a change. Florida reminded her that they wouldn’t be rich, just better off then they were at that time. Michael stated they could be poor and still be better off than they were. J.J. came in with a bald head and one earring. It turned out to be one of Thelma’s. Florida made J.J. give it back and told him to do something about his head (like what?), so J.J. took the bald wig he had on in which he faked them out with. Thelma berated him for goofing off and getting off work.
The phone rang and Florida, thinking it might be James, answered. It was a girl asking to speak to a Mr. Goosebumps. J.J. got on but it turned out to be for Michael. His girlfriend, LuAnn, said she wanted to see him. He explained that he was helping around the house and was the only one working. He then excused himself to go see her. J.J. stated he was reluctant to let his paintings to the moving men, as they’re always breaking things and bumping into things. He questioned if President Ford was ever a moving man. Thelma said the way James described Mississippi, it sounded like the promised land. Florida told them when she was young many southern blacks migrated to Chicago, believing it was the land of opportunity. She then wondered if on the way they met some people heading up north to Chicago and they yelled to each other, “go back, go back”. J.J. responded they had nothing to worry about because as soon as she gets there the south shall rise again. Willona came in with a suitcase to let them borrow. She said she was saving it for her next honeymoon but the hinges were getting loose as well as her. She let on how much she would miss them and was throwing them a party that evening. Thelma requested don’t let it be too good or they won’t want to leave, Willona said that was the idea.
Bookman came to the door and J.J. was eager to tell him after all the trouble he gave to the family. Florida told him to wait, for they didn’t want him to kick them out before they were ready to leave, as the family was hiding the boxes and other moving stuff. He came to announce the hot water was being turned off but will be back on in the morning. he questioned why they don’t take cold showers like him, J.J. answered they weren’t married to Mrs. Bookman. This led to an argument between them and Florida said for J.J. to save it, because Bookman was leaving. J.J. said arrivederci and Bookman took offense, stating he was born right in Chicago (duh). Michael came back in a daze. The rest of the family concluded he looked as if he were in love. When they all joked about it, Michael angrily told them to stop. He announced that he was very much in love, and not going to Mississippi with the family.
Florida told Michael that he couldn’t stay in Chicago because he had no place to stay. He said he could’ve stayed with Willona (why didn’t he say he could stay with LuAnn and her family). Florida said he couldn’t stay with Willona, he asked why not. When they asked her, Willona answered “don’t get me involved”. Florida explained to Michael that as important as his first love was, the family was more important. James had a new and better life waiting for all of them in Mississippi. She then concluded if he still didn’t want to go, that was tough because he went if she had to pull him down there by ear. That evening, at the Evanses farewell party, Michael was waiting for LuAnn to arrive. When Willona asked him to get some ice cubes from her apartment, he told J.J. to lay off and told Thelma not to give any funny looks. A few minutes later, LuAnn came in and J.J. tried to play the name guessing game. He got every guess wrong till Michael came in and corrected him. Bookman came in to comply he received two complaints about the music and the noise. He reminded them that the rules stated three complaints and they’re evicted. They told him that was only two, he said the third was when Florida said she couldn’t understand him. J.J. took this as the perfect moment to tell him right out. He insulted him about his dumbness, fatness and lack of kindness. Bookman promptly considered them evicted but J.J. told him he couldn’t fire them because they quit. He said they were moving to Mississippi and spelled it out for him with M-I-crooked letter crooked letter-I-crooked letter crooked letter -I-humpback humpback-I. Florida told him to take their apartment and stuff it, so the other tenants can have some heat. An appalled Bookman left.
Michael and J.J. went to tell LuAnn and his girlfriend, Olivia about their big move. LuAnn was understandably devastated but Olivia told one of J.J.’s rivals she was free for him to date her. When they went to read their telegrams from family and friends, Willona found one from Mississippi and Florida took it. She believed it would be from James, with one of his ‘have mercy’s. The telegram read ‘We regret to inform you that your husband, James Evans, was killed in an automobile accident’. (Automobile may have been hard to decipher during Florida’s shock while reading it) J.J., Thelma and Michael displayed heartbreaking looks and Michael broke down.
Original airdate September 22, 1976
Written by Austin and Irma Kalish
Directed by Gerren Keith
Guest Stars Johnny Brown (recurring), Kimberlee Nickerson, Rose Marie Cooper
Bookman becomes a recurring character this season
This episode was very touching. John Amos was let go from the series due to differences with the producers over the show’s direction. I thought it to be too heartbreaking for the family to be on their way out the door to move to Mississippi when suddenly, they receive this bad news and it spoils everything. Why couldn’t they just have it where James was working an extra job out of town and was on his way home when he was in a bus crash or something. I will say there was very fine acting in that scene from Florida and the kids, displaying how devastated they all were.