For our cold open, two brothers in mechanic’s gear are fixing up a vintage 50s car while listening to a 50s radio station. The older brother, the developmentally disabled Archie, is prompted by the nostalgia wave to point out a picture of the family from before his brother Ray was born. Ray, meanwhile, is more nostalgic for the fact that those were the days that their now deceased father was keeping “the coloreds” in their place. So he’s not too thrilled when a young black boy comes by selling candy, with his murderously racist outbursts upsetting Archie.

Over at the shop, Johnny is minding the place solo, buying a box of old junk from a customer when Archie comes in, sees a vintage 1954 Chevy factory radio in the box, and buys it from Johnny. Johnny is fairly pleased with himself for making back the money he spent on the box of junk, until Micki and Jack get back and realize that he sold an item before checking it against the Manifest. Which, of course, lists a 1954 Chevy radio. Archie, meantime, has given the radio to Ray to put in the car, which mostly prompts Ray to go on some more racist ranting. Which leads Ray to drinking, and tracking down Elliot, the boy from earlier, and “accidentally” shooting him, in a scene that’s fairly uncomfortable in light of modern “stand your ground” laws. Ray flees in the Chevy, smearing blood on the radio dial, causing the car to glow and travel back to black-and-white Mississippi in 1954, to the town the family lived in before he was born, a few days before his father would commit the murder that got him executed. Ray is just thrilled to find himself in a time and place where he can get away with beating and harassing black men, and very quickly attracts the attention of the local Ku Klux Klan, which gets him invited to…his family home, where his father is, unsurprisingly, ranting about “the coloreds.” Ray tries to talk his father out of killing the black man who he and the Klan harassed earlier in town, not because it’s wrong, but because there will be a witness and they’ll all go to jail for murder, but ends up participating in the killing anyway.

The gang stakes out Ray’s house, Jack having figured out that the radio allows a person to travel back in time to 1954, making this possibly the most specific cursed antique yet. Ray rushes home to find his father, learning that nope, he still got executed for that murder he did, so Ray announces that he’s going to kill another black person. This enrages Archie, who tries to stop him, and gets beaten to death for his efforts. The gang breaks into the garage to try and stop Ray and Jack and Johnny get dragged back to 1954 as well. Ray goes to warn his father, and makes plans to kill the lawyer who got him prosecuted. Jack tries to warn the lawyer, and doesn’t get far, as a white man telling a black man “you better be careful” has the result you would expect. Meanwhile, Ray goes for an Oedipally charged talk with his mother, learning that she very much does not share her husband’s opinions on race, and is fairly upset with him since it’s obvious his beating of Archie has caused brain damage. Jack steals Ray’s Klan scrapbook and takes it to the Sheriff, leaving the office just in time to see the lawyer being abducted, and gets himself abducted when he tries to stop it. At the rally, the Sheriff, who is just coincidentally the Grand Dragon, accuses Ray of being an FBI infiltrator, and orders him burnt at the stake. Johnny hotwires Ray’s car, and escapes with Jack and the lawyer, and Ray is burnt alive by his own father. And Jack and Johnny return to the present of 1989.

Oof, this is a rough one. It’s not just that some elements are little hard to watch in light of current events, it’s that the writers and producers apparently saw a story about a racist villain as an excuse to go way over the top. The language is remarkably tame, unsurprising given syndication restrictions, but the racists are still completely cartoonish, and it wears on you when so much of the episode is given over to them. The only saving grace is that the heroes are fairly active in the story and involved in events and the “nope, time is fixed” approach to time travel.

A Very Robey 80s

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