Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Black-ish, "Collateral Damage."
Things aren't looking any brighter in the Johnson household.
Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) are still having marital troubles, and the possibility of a permanent (or prolonged) split seems more likely after Tuesday's episode, which saw the couple trying a separation, to disastrous results.
Ever the evolved, modern parents, Dre and Bow separate with a method called "nesting," in which each takes turns being in the house on alternating days of the week, a strategy that's supposedly easier on the kids.
But the separation isn't particularly easy on the four older Johnson children (baby Devante does not yet have an opinion). The separation hits Junior (Marcus Scribner), Diane (Marsai Martin), Jack (Miles Brown) and Zoey (Yara Shahidi, who returned from college and her Freeform spin-off, Grown-ish) differently but profoundly.
The kids partially take over the episode's narration, normally handled by Dre. Junior tries to man up and support his parents in whatever way he can, from giving progress reports on the house to an inspirational graduation speech about love and commitment. Diane becomes even more distant and cold. Jack tries to make everyone laugh. Zoey is more prone to fighting with her boyfriend.
There's a moment when the writers lead you to believe that Dre and Bow might just be able to reconcile, for the good of the family. After visiting a jeweler who has long been inspired by their marriage, and listening to Junior's graduation speech, they express how much they enjoyed spending the day together. But when Dre suggests Bow spend the night and she says she can't because she has work in the morning, their brief detente ends.
The couple fights, and fights dirty, in front of their kids and their parents, about the fact that Bow went back to work without telling Dre. And it spirals, as these fights do, until the kids' distress stops them. Even Diane — normally stoic — gets emotional, the surest sign that the problems are serious.
Dre and Bow decide they need "more than space" from each other, but whether that means divorce, a more formal separation or something else is unclear. But what is clear is that the Johnson kids aren't spared from the fallout, even though Ruby (Jennifer Lewis) and Pops (Laurence Fishburne) try to reassure them.
Next week marks the show's season finale, and the laws of sitcoms say that Dre and Bow should find a way to work it out by then. For once, I hope Black-ish doesn't surprise me.