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‘The Chi’ Doubles Up in ‘Feeling the Heat’ (Season 2, Episode 5)

There’s nothing better than a team, and The Chi’s “Feeling the Heat” is filled with both long-awaited alliances and not-so-dynamic duos.

The second season of the Showtime series has been a nice unfolding, artfully balancing the emotions of joy and grief. This episode is no different and has strong visuals of pure happiness punctuated throughout the drama-filled plot: people playing in a pool at Tuley Park, kids in the spray of a fire hydrant, the feel of an open freezer door in the grocery store on a sweltering hot day. It’s all very visceral but that balance is also very necessary for a show that may be fiction — but fiction that’s representing a real-life community of people.

Undoubtedly, the most memorable scene of the episode is when Kevin seeks the companionship of Brandon after his father dies. Kevin comes over and asks Brandon to line his hair up. As Brandon works the clippers, Kevin starts to ask Brandon about missing his own father, who died when Brandon was 5. He says it’s hard to miss someone you don’t remember, but gives the advice that you’ve got to hold onto the memories that you’ve got. It might’ve been said for Kevin, but it’s also a message for himself as he continues to try to both honor and mourn the loss of his little brother, Coogie.

As Kevin is finally able to let his emotions out and cries, Brandon just continues to cut. And this is visceral in a different way. Brandon may be physically doing a simple task for Kevin, but it means so much more: It means he’s there for him and it’s also an act of brotherly love.

The scene is powerful and further solidifies the relationship between Brandon and Kevin as their friendship moves from purely chance to full reliance. It’s familial, and in that moment, with Kevin crying into his hands as Brandon cuts, it represents a lot — all at once — for the audience: the importance of black brotherhood, mentorship, and just being there for each other when things get hard.

Here’s what else happened in Episode 5.

Brandon and Emmett mean business

Emmett approaches Brandon with an idea: He and Brandon should go into business together. He won’t only help Brandon with the food truck’s operations, but also help with marketing and sales. Reluctantly, Brandon agrees. And the two are adorable together — figuring out the day’s problems and learning from each other.

For the audience, this budding connection between Brandon and Emmett is rewarding. For a season and a half, we’ve been rooting for both characters, and they’ve still continued to make mistakes and fail because of their own shortcomings. But this feels right. Emmett is a great salesman; he can sell pretty much anything. But he doesn’t necessarily have the best ideas on what his business should be … most of the time. And Brandon is extremely talented. But nothing about running a business comes easy to him.

Personally, I’m rooting for this team, but there’s a problem: Douda, publicly known as well-known pizza restaurateur Otis Perry. Most importantly, he’s the boss of the 63rd Street Gang. Reg tells him that Brandon’s taco truck would be the perfect way to clean their money, but that Brandon likes to be on the straight and narrow. So Douda approaches Brandon and tells him he likes to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Brandon and Emmett see it as a sign that their hard work is paying off, but meanwhile, we know it’s the start of a whole lot of trouble.

Jason Mitchell as Brandon and Jacob Latimore as Emmett. (Elizabeth Morris/SHOWTIME)

Kevin and Keisha mourn

The last time we saw Kevin in Episode 4, he was fly because it was picture day. When we first see him in this episode, he’s getting dressed for his father’s funeral, who died from a heart attack. Kevin’s parents seemingly had been apart for a while, and there’s some light family drama at the funeral. (You know: This person doesn’t like this person because of how this thing went down a million years ago. Totally normal black funeral kinda drama.)

His sister Keisha, who was closer to their father, is super distraught. She even blames their mother for it. But Kevin and his father weren’t close, and the episode deals with the question: How do we mourn those we may love, but had a complicated relationship with?

Keisha’s upset with how Kevin’s mourning. She seems to want him to be just as angry and upset and sad and she is. Kevin doesn’t cry at the funeral, and that frustrates her. As the siblings fail to see eye-to-eye in their grief, Kevin seeks solace in Brandon, who’s no stranger to loss, grief, and complicated feelings.

Alex Hibbert as Kevin and Birgundi Baker as Kiesha. (Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME)

Rafiq helps Ronnie’s redemption

Ronnie sees a kid cutting his grandmother’s grass and immediately approaches him. He finds out that Common Rafiq has been sending him to take care of Ms. Ethel’s lawn since she’s been in the hospital. Rafiq works in the community, and last season, he tried to help Ronnie heal — both physically when he was shot and also emotionally after he realized he killed an innocent kid. (Reminder: In Season 1, Rafiq shared that he accidentally killed someone. That drove him to find Allah while in prison.)

Ronnie finds Rafiq at the community center that his mosque is now helping to run. There’s a lot going on, and the place is a cooling center that day, but the air conditioner breaks. Ronnie is able to actually do a little good and fix the AC, and a grateful Rafiq asks him to come back and look at a plumbing problem. But he gets scared and doesn’t show up. He thinks everyone in the center was staring at him that day and that he’s not welcome there.

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine as Ronnie and Common as Rafiq. (Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME)

Rafiq shows up at Ronnie’s/Ms. Ethel’s house, though. He’s determined to get through to him. He tells him how through Allah and being of service to others, he was able to forgive himself. Rafiq tells Ronnie that he can’t just isolate himself, and Ronnie agrees to go back to the center the next day.

But, he doesn’t wait until the next day to try to do a little service. When he looks across the street and sees kids trying to play in a little bit of water spraying from a hydrant, he gets a big wrench and goes to help. He gets the water to fully come out in big streams and plays with the kids as they all laugh. It’s another way that the writers of The Chi remind audiences that people aren’t generally all good or all bad, but the result of a series of circumstances, which the second season continues to unfold for Ronnie especially.

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine as Ronnie. (Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME)

Toussaint and Cruz bump heads

The two detectives and a SWAT team raid one of the 63rd Street Gang’s stash houses that Reg is responsible for. Before they leave, the sergeant says they have to follow protocol. It is a South Side raid under her jurisdiction and she wants it done by the book, none of the “renegade” stuff they do on the West Side where Toussaint was sent from.

Not surprisingly, Toussaint doesn’t listen. And Cruz is later pissed at her for using excessive force, saying he’s “not going to be part of [her] training day bull—-.” She tells him that she’s not buying his concern for black men because he took the “bogus confession of another black man and put him in prison.” She asks him why this is personal to him as he storms out of the room.

Got thoughts on this episode or season of The Chi? Tweet me at @ArionneNettles and let me know.

Top image: Adrian S. Burrows/SHOWTIME

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