‘Underground’ Recap: Things Come Full Circle In “Auld Acquaintance”

Christmas time should be the season of giving, but on Underground, we know there is no such thing.

After being caught teaching other slaves to read and write Daniel is back to work, but this time without his eyes to guide him. As a punishment for his perceived crimes, he’s been blinded. As one of the skilled carpenters on his plantation, I was actually astounded that this was done to him. It moves well beyond the realm of cruel and horrific, but then again so is the institution of slavery. During the antebellum period, a slave was worth the equivalent of what a car is worth today, which means that labor would be extremely costly to lose. Knowing this, I’m unable to reconcile why Daniel’s master would choose to blind him when his sight is such an integral part of his work.

Further North, Cato is plotting and planning. After stealing Mr. Donahue’s unfinished biography of Patty Cannon, and giving it to the infamous slave catcher, the two discover that Donahue doesn’t have too many kind things to say about the diabolical red head. He seems specifically perturbed that she has not been able to catch Harriet Tubman. Patty’s blood lust for Harriet is Cato’s way in. He provides her with some information that she did not have previously, the song of freedom. “Heaven’s Door” is actually the opening credits for the series; however, it’s not a song from the period (John Legend produces it). Still, songs similar to it are what guided the enslaved on their way to freedom. With the song, Cato is able to find his way into Georgia’s safe house. Unless he’s back in touch with his humanity, things are probably going to get really bad for everyone.

The history books tell us that Patty Cannon was actually a real person. It is said that she lived in a house that straddled the border between Delaware and Maryland, and she made her money by selling free Black people into slavery. This is what she put Cato up to in last week’s episode. However, the real life Patty Cannon would have already been dead during Underground’s timeline. After being arrested for four counts of murder in 1829, the infamous slave catcher hung herself in prison.

In Ohio, white abolitionists have turned their back on Georgia after discovering her Black ancestry. It’s amazing how Underground draws parallels to “well-meaning” whites and liberals in the present day. However, Elizabeth is fed up with their treatment. Under Harriet’s guidance, she helps the Sewing Circle devise a plan to steal money from a pro-slavery church on Christmas Day to keep the boarding house up and running. After doing a little sin to help the cause, Elizabeth decides she won’t be stopping there. Determined to do whatever it takes, she blackmails her white comrades into donating to the cause.

Down South on the Macon Plantation, James is preening like a peacock in the Big House. Mistress Suzanna has pitted him against T.R.; a devious plan that I’m certain will play out in years to come. Though he obviously feels guilty about exposing Rosalee, he wants no parts of her escape plan. After all, despite the horrors that surround him, his life is pretty good. He even tells Rosalee that she messed everything up when she ran. Rosalee might be branded and back in her old housedress for the moment, but she and Noah aren’t the same people they were when they first left Macon. They won’t be sticking around this time.

Somewhere between South Carolina and the rest of the world, August and another one of Patty’s men have Ernestine tied up in a boat. Though she tries to escape their grasp several times, she and August bond over the memories of their sons. During her last attempt to escape through a thick fog, August kills the other man and he and Stein head back down South. But why though? None of this makes sense, and I still don’t trust August. Perhaps this is his chance to escape Patty Cannon as well.

Meanwhile, as Christmas dinner is served on the Macon plantation, Noah is out for blood. Furious that Rosalee kept her pregnancy hidden from him while dragging him back down South, he takes out his rage on the drunken overseer, Bill. With a helpful housegirl on their side, Rosalee and Noah escape with James, setting Macon Plantation ablaze on their way out.

Underground airs Wednesdays at 10PM ET on WGN America.