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‘The Quad’ recap: A battle of the bands turns into a fight for Cecil Diamond’s life

Celebration turns to panic at one of GAMU’s most important events, leaving viewers in limbo

Season one, episode seven: The Quad — “Go Tell It on the Mountain”

If fans were expecting a conclusion to the sexual assault allegations, they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Disappointing, yes, but the twist and turns of Wednesday night’s episode only add to the drama Georgia A&M University (GAMU) has had since the very first episode.

This week begins with Danny Brown and fellow GAMU drum majors practicing for the upcoming Black Collegiate Classic Battle of the Bands, which will soon take place at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta. It’s one of the band’s largest events, and as Brown and the Marching Mountain Cats gear up for the show, Cecil Diamond is at a bar chatting it up with the fellow band directors from other universities, telling one of his old, dramatic tales from a wild night he had and discussing who will win this year’s battle. The men, flexing their muscles and their money, put up $1,000 for the winner to take home.

Back in his office Diamond, reflecting on his memories, begins to compose a piece that he decides to debut at the Battle of the Bands. He phones his sister — one he doesn’t speak to very often— to tell her about the new music he’s written in hopes that she finds time to listen it to just as they did when they were younger.

Meanwhile, Eva Fletcher is still battling her soon-to-be ex-husband after being served divorce papers outside of her home. She doesn’t seem to mind ending the marriage, but draws the line at paying spousal support. Shortly after preparing for her deposition with her lawyer, Fletcher is visited by football coach Eugene Hardwick, who acts as if his starting quarterback Terrence Berry and Fletcher’s daughter, Sydney, aren’t the focal point of GAMU’s most recent crisis.

Putting all emotions aside, Hardwick delivers news about a potential $10 million television deal with Celebration Sports Network that would highlight GAMU’s football team. Since network representative James Green would only discuss details of the deal in person, Fletcher agrees to join him for dinner.

Back on campus, the sexual assault group looks for Sydney, who still hasn’t returned to GAMU since the allegations surfaced. In Sydney’s absence, her best friend Madison Kelly has been chosen as the messenger and speaks on Sydney’s behalf. Later in the episode, Kelly becomes a little shaken after Berry rolls up on her, urging Kelly to review the surveillance tape and trying to convince her that the incident wasn’t rape. Kelly returns to her dorm room to review the footage once more, but quickly closes her laptop and calls to check on Sydney.

Back in Fletcher’s world, her deposition is anything but pretty. In a brief session, she’s asked about her affair with Jason, the teaching assistant whose charming ways are part of the reason Derek Fletcher is asking for the divorce and $20,000 a month in spousal support. Eva’s answers are cold, and her body language is that of a woman ready for battle. After being given an ultimatum of either paying the spousal support or having an investigation launched into her spending of public funds by the state of Georgia, Eva lets out a bitter laugh before unleashing Derek’s past indiscretions.

Eva asks if Derek is still in love, and he replies that he is. Derek, per Eva’s request, recounts the time they started dating, when he first fell in love with her.

Except, the story wasn’t about Eva at all.

Derek goes on to explain how his then-girlfriend became pregnant, but she didn’t want to keep the baby. In a tragic turn, his girlfriend and their unborn child both died after losing blood.

When Eva entered the picture, Derek was still grieving. During the relationship, Derek called Eva by his deceased girlfriend’s name during intimate moments, and even made Eva wear earrings that once belonged to her. As Eva tells her side of the story, it becomes clear why she’s against spousal support payments.

Trouble on the horizon

In a desperate attempt to repair his frayed relationship with his sister, Diamond drops by to visit her at work, practically begging her to listen to his new music while trying to make amends for things that happened in the past. Diamond leaves after encouraging his sister to attend this year’s Battle of the Bands. In the band room, Diamond excitedly approaches Brown, proudly displaying his handwritten sheet music. He asks Brown to make copies of the new music, and to be sure all copies were returned after practice.

Back in the dorms, GAMU’s backup quarterback BoJohn Folsom is hanging with new friends Tiesha Tyson and Junior (Miles Stoter) when his parents drop by for a visit. Folsom’s father informs him that he’s already had lunch with a University of Georgia assistant coach and tells his son he’d like to speak to him in private. Folsom excuses his friends, but they stay in the room anyway.

In the past, Folsom’s father made it clear that he wants his son to play at a larger school, but Folsom wants to continue his education and football career at GAMU. The perceived disobedience leads to a shoving match, with Folsom’s father punching his son in the face. Before he could land another blow, Junior interferes, backing Folsom’s father against a wall to de-escalate the situation.

Folsom’s father tells his son if he wants to stay at “Colored U,” he can. Before Junior could properly responds to the father’s racist remarks, the parents exited the dorm — and possibly Folsom’s life — for good.

During band practice, Brown is listening to Noni Williams play the new music perfectly. She was good, but maybe a little too good. Brown questions Williams about taking a copy of the new music, which she denies. He also informs her that he now knows she was behind his beef with Berry at the fundraiser, and promises she will be “humbled” after the Battle of the Bands.

Now alone in the band room, Williams continues to practice until Clyde Taylor, band director of rival school Southwestern Delta University, walks in and makes small talk. Soon, Taylor cuts to the chase and offers Williams a spot in his band. Taylor, who has been desperate to win the Battle of the Bands over GAMU, hands Williams a business card and asks her to send him a copy of GAMU’s new music in exchange for a full music scholarship to his university. Williams refuses, but seems hesitant to return the business card back to Taylor.

As the event nears, Diamond reaches out to his sister for the last time to remind her that she’ll have tickets to the Battle of the Bands.

At the same time, Fletcher meets with Green and Hardwick for dinner. The next day, Green puts an offer on the table with a catch: The deal would only be valid if starting quarterback Berry gets kicked off the team, and exclusive access is granted when it happens. Hardwick and Fletcher agree to make their decision at a later time.

It all comes crashing down

Finally, the day we’ve all been waiting for.

Participating historically black colleges and universities take the field in the arena for the Battle of the Bands while GAMU practices backstage.

Diamond, who finds his sister and father in the crowd, seems to be relieved. It’s almost showtime. As Diamond gives his band a pep talk before its performance, he stops midsentence after hearing Southwestern Delta University playing the new music he’d written specifically for his sister and the competition. The announcer proudly boasts that the music is written and directed by Clyde Taylor — the composition is appropriately titled “Slaying the Lion.”

Diamond automatically blames Brown for the mishap. Brown, who knows Williams’ deceitful actions were the reason, temporarily loses it when Williams flips him off. Brown takes her saxophone and breaks it before storming away. Diamond, refusing to be defeated, comes up with a backup plan while delivering a fiery speech that demands that the band members give their all to this performance. The band would now play Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” a song that eerily foreshadows the events that follow.

Diamond opens with a quote from James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain before the band lets loose. As promised, members give their all. The band sounds full and seems to be a crowd favorite. Diamond appears to be pleased with the performance, but conducting with so much vigor leaves him light-headed. Soon, his vision blurs, and it’s clear that the band director has overexerted himself. Diamond conducts until the symptoms worsen. He stands still for a moment before falling backward off the observation podium and landing on his back. The music is replaced with gasps from the crowd. Band members rush to Diamond’s side as he lies on his back, eyes closed and not moving. A stream of blood flows from the corner of his mouth before the episode ends.

On top of determining Berry’s fate, viewers are left wondering if this is the end of an era for the Marching Mountain Cats. It seems impossible for all of GAMU’s drama to be resolved in two remaining episodes. All we can do is wait.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.