Looking at the Bordelon siblings from the beginning, you can see the contrast between Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and her siblings, Nova (Rutina Wesley) and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe)—from the color of their skin to their lifestyle and upbringing. Since Season One, Queen Sugar has alluded to the relationship between Ernest and Charley’s mother, Lorna (Sharon Lawrence), as an affair on Nova and Ralph Angel’s mother, Trudy. There was a moment in “Evergreen” when Charley acknowledged flowers sent from her mother with a message of condolences, to which Nova and Ralph Angel side-eyed one another. In “I Know My Soul; Charley addressed feeling like the “other daughter,” and Aunt Vi, accusing Lorna in a previous episode of “stealing” Ernest, furthered that thought.
Tonight’s episode, “Fruit of the Flower” (written by Dana Greenblatt), finally unearths the truth about the relationships Ernest had with these two women, giving Nova an epiphany about herself.
Sharing a conversation over lunch with Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) and his girlfriend, Keke (Tanyell Waivers), Lorna shares that she met Ernest in San Diego. But then you’re left to ask:
What made him leave Louisiana for California? What was he doing there?
In the opening scene, a frantic Nova leans on Charley to help her pick a wardrobe for her upcoming television appearance, leading to her sharing that Robert (Alimi Ballard) gave her keys to his apartment. Being as free-spirited as she is, we see her wheels turn as the direction of her relationship deepens, telling Charley, “I’ve always been able to see the end at the beginning.” (See also: her awkward phone call with him.)
Arriving unannounced to Charley’s apartment, Nova unexpectedly comes face-to-face with Lorna, and the tension and discomfort among them is almost overwhelming. Lorna breaks the mood to make amends and clear her name from the mistress narrative that she “stole” Ernest from Trudy, as Nova believes, praising her mother as a “heroine.”
“On our first date, he told me that the woman he loved did not love him enough
to marry him. Trudy and Ernest were already broken up when I met him. And he came to California, and he was away from his home and his land for the first time, and it was the love of his life that sent him away.” —Lorna
Lorna’s admission gives Nova an unexpected look at the parts of herself that mirrors her mother’s ways—wanting a free-flowing relationship versus the desire for tradition. She further explains that though Trudy was pregnant at the time, she let Ernest go so he could have the life that he and Lorna wanted but Trudy did not. It’s a strong parallel to the weight of Nova’s apprehension about not knowing what’s next in her own love life with the man she’s pushing away. Just like her mother.
“She said, and I will never forget this. She said, ‘I fell in love with someone hiding inside you and I don’t wanna hide with you.’ And I thought she was so brave for letting him go even though she was expecting you.” —Lorna
Stunned by this truth, Nova confronts Aunt Vi about her disgust for Lorna and to know her version of what happened in Ernest’s love life. Her discomfort and prejudice towards white people is visible, but the series doesn’t excuse it—even from a disagreement with Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey) about inviting his white co-worker over without warning her. Nova expresses to Aunt Vi that the root of her anger came from her, and now, knowing the truth, she needs to get to know Lorna for herself.
Despite Lorna’s tendency to be “the queen of brutal honesty,” as Charley puts it, her presence has been a great addition to the storyline for Nova and Aunt Vi to face the past tensions in order to move forward. When Aunt Vi and Lorna cross paths again, they push through their division to find common ground by talking about the one person that meant the most to them. Lorna is emotional over his death, affirming, “I really did love him… and I never meant to hurt anybody.”
“Sometimes we don’t mean to but it happens anyway. That goes both ways.” —Aunt Vi
The ability for Nova to see herself in her parents’ relationship leads her to Robert’s apartment. She sincerely breaks her walls down to him, saying, “I’m tired of pushing you away”: “You go through your whole life knowing exactly why you are the way you are, and then you get one new piece of the puzzle and the whole picture changes.”
Ashley G. Terrell is a freelance entertainment writer based in Michigan. Her work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, The Huffington Post, Black Girl Nerds, and more. She is currently working on her first novel and is the creator of the blog, The Carefree Black Girl Chronicles of ASHLEMONADE. You can follow her on Twitter>