‘Ramy’ Season 3, Episode Two Recap: Egyptian Cigarettes

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Ramy

egyptian cigarettes

Season 3

Episode 2

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

Photo: Jon Pack/Hulu

Ramy is going to Israel, despite his misgivings in the last episode. And in an unexpected twist, Uncle Naseem comes along, the two of them riding in style in a private jet like Taylor Swift. In a surprisingly touching moment, Naseem, who is Palestinian, drags Ramy to the bathroom and says he’s thankful to the Jewish men who are taking them to Israel because now, he can finally see Palestine while also making money. But unsurprisingly, as soon as they arrive, Naseem gets held by the IDF — this won’t be a lighthearted episode.

The episode is filmed on location in Israel, highlighting some of the realities of Israeli and Palestinian life and delivering one of the strongest episodes of Ramy. The nuance and care with which they handle so many of the controversies while maintaining some of the series’s humor is extraordinary.

After the IDF takes Naseem, Ramy still doesn’t realize how serious the situation is — he just starts swiping through Israeli Tinder. While Naseem is being held, Ramy meets Ayala, the head of the Diamond Club and Yuval’s aunt. Though she initially looks relatively harmless, she tells Ramy it’s hard for her to trust a Muslim, so he must prove his faith won’t get in the middle of their business dealings, which is pretty sinister. As a test, she orders him to draw the Prophet to prove he’s not a “fanatic,” only for her to say later it’s all a joke. But the joke goes on long enough to make me wonder if she really does find it difficult to trust Muslims.

Meanwhile, back in IDF interrogation, an officer trying to unlock Naseem’s phone tells him he can comply or they can send him home. “I am home,” says Naseem. This episode plays with the idea of home and identity, as Naseem, finally in his homeland, isn’t allowed to enter.

Back in Ramy’s world, he’s unconcerned with his uncle, and instead, he ventures out to meet the Tinder girl. During the taxi ride, the camera lingers on the country’s beautiful landscape before an unexpected checkpoint cuts the idyllic drive short. Ramy displays an impressive level of ignorance and privilege here, at one point asking if there’s a separate line for Americans. As if his blue passport will grant him special access, bypassing actual Palestinians who likely have more important business than meeting a Tinder date. At his date’s house, they discuss checkpoints, and Ramy has the audacity to compare the checkpoint to the Lincoln Tunnel to his Palestinian date. It only gets worse when they share a passionless kiss, and the woman says it feels strange — no chemistry.

“It’s like kissing a family member,” she says. “A cousin or something, you know?”

As we remember from previous seasons, Ramy knows what kissing a cousin is like. But he’s annoyed that he came all this way and went through the checkpoint only for this woman to reject him. “Are we supposed to have sex because you went through a checkpoint?” she asks, and he cruelly asks her if she has that many options, given the occupation. Ramy is still as entitled as ever. For him, women are just objects — a means to an end.

Somehow they move past it, and Ramy opens up to her about his sexual performance issues, his porn addiction, and the upcoming business deal. She tells him he should do the deal, even with the Israelis. The whole conflict, she says, is not about religion. It’s about the government, and they act like there’s a war when there isn’t because the Palestinians don’t have an army. It’s such a simple exchange, and yet it’s so important, considering the conflict is often framed as two parties at war when the Palestinian people are not fighting a war; they are merely trying to keep their homes and survive.

When Ramy heads out to the Diamond Club’s business dinner, his selfishness and ignorance rear their ugly heads when he can’t find a taxi. He steals a kid’s bike to get to the checkpoint, and within moments, a group of kids on bikes are chasing him down. Ramy eventually falls, and the kids kick him and take his jacket and the bike, leaving him shamefully on the ground.

Now disheveled at night in a foreign land, Ramy runs to the checkpoint, but his passport is in the jacket the kids stole. He tells the IDF guard that a gang of Palestinian kids attacked him and took his passport. The guard calls for reinforcements and calls it a “terrorist attack.” When they arrive at the kids’ house, they kick down the door, dragging the kids out and beating them with guns while Ramy watches in horror. They grab another kid and throw him in the truck. In the end, Ramy gets his passport back, but he doesn’t say a single word to help the kids.

It’s somewhat surprising that a comedy like Ramy would delve this much into the horrible treatment of the Israeli government against Palestinians, but Ramy has always been a courageous show. Still, this is likely the heaviest, most complicated topic Ramy has dealt with during its run.

Meanwhile, Naseem is never able to get into Israel. He can’t set foot in his homeland beyond the airport and interrogation room. The IDF guard, trying to soften the blow, says he got him an aisle seat. “The things you take from us, and then you give me an aisle seat? Fuck you,” says Naseem.

Ayala finds Ramy sitting outside her house alone after missing the business dinner. He tells her about what happened and asks how she can live here, given what the government does. Israel and America both like to hide the truth, she says. She asks Ramy if he’s proud to be American, and he says, “sometimes.” Well, sometimes, she’s proud to live in Israel. She says she’ll use her connections in the army to make sure the Palestinian kid gets home.

And then, in an absolutely wild moment, as Ayala is walking away, she tells him to unbutton his shirt, then his pants. He complies and pulls his pants most of the way down because of course he does; he’s Ramy. She then agrees to the business deal with him and asks if he’s hard. For the first time in a while, he is. Ayala is not actually interested in him romantically or sexually, but it seems like she wants to express her dominance. Ramy works for her now, and she controls everything, even his ability to perform sexually, it seems. Ramy, meanwhile, is turned on by her power over him. She’s the only woman he’s met so far that he can’t hurt or use.

Back home in America, with newfound access to the Diamond Club’s suppliers, Ramy is now selling jewelry behind his own jewelry counter as his uncle Naseem looks on. He didn’t care about elevating Naseem’s jewelry business, it seems. He just wanted to elevate himself.

• To connect with Ramy, Yuval tells him the chicken is both kosher and halal: “We kill animals in the same way.” Weirdly, he’s making kind of a profound point, not unlike the point that Ramy’s Tinder date made. It’s not about religion. In fact, Judaism and Islam have a lot of similarities, as was established in the last episode.

• There was an interesting moment on Ramy’s date when she tells him she was starting a lingerie company, and he asked if her family was okay with that. She responds, “Muslims in the West are so fucking uptight.” It really upended some stereotypes about Muslims that even I have, as a Muslim American. Here in America, we always view the Arab world as more conservative, but she flipped that notion on its head.

• This episode sticks to themes of home and identity. Ramy is both Egyptian and American. Despite America’s atrocities, he probably wouldn’t live anywhere else. It’s his home, just like Israel is now the home of so many Israelis. But at the same time, it was taken from the Palestinians, who are still being attacked and violently removed from their homeland. And people like Naseem don’t even have a sense of home. Is New York his home? Ramy was born in America, but not Naseem. Naseem can’t enter his actual homeland.

• Ramy’s jewelry counter is called “Maktoub,” which translates to “it is written,” a callback to his musing on fate in the premiere.

• When Ramy learns that Ayala’s mother is a Holocaust survivor, he says, “Congratulations,” to everyone’s dismay. In an attempt to explain, Ramy digs himself deeper and deeper, telling them it’s something special to beat the Holocaust. He says, “You just had a baby. Congratulations. You survived the Holocaust. Congratulations.” I could barely watch it because it was so cringey but also so funny. He goes further and says, “Just from the bottom of my heart, congratulations … And Allahu Akbar. Because God is great.”

• After Ayala told Ramy to draw the prophet, my heart started racing, because if there’s one thing all Muslims know, it’s that any depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are strictly forbidden in order to prevent idolatry. Outrage and violence have broken out for this very reason.



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