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Season 4, Episode 9 | “Family Ties” | Oct. 15
First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the respect. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? Unless you’re Missy and Reggie Vaughn, in which case, first you get $480,000 from a trust fund and then you get … pushback.
Poor Reggie. Poor Missy. The two spent so much time discussing the big issues in their relationship. And just last week, it seemed a financial future disentangled from dependence on Reggie’s (RonReaco Lee) cousin Cam (Jessie T. Usher) had appeared. But maybe they started counting that profit a leeeeeetle too soon.
In the penultimate episode of Survivor’s Remorse — Starz announced this week that the season four finale would end the series — Missy and Reggie encounter a roadblock to buying an abandoned school from the city of Atlanta and flipping it into yogurt shops and lofts: Cam. Or rather, Cam’s need to do good.
When Reggie tells Cam about his newfound investment opportunity, Cam wants no part of it. Not only does he not want to raze the school, he wants to save it. He’s down for making money, but he wants to do it the right way. And to Cam, replacing a school with yuppie paradise just isn’t right. Cam is generally a laid-back guy. But he snaps a bit when Reggie tries to get him to rethink his position on the development deal, telling his best friend and cousin that he doesn’t want to be babied. He’s morally opposed to it, and he’s not budging.
Survivor’s Remorse is produced by LeBron James. For the most part, Cam and his family have existed, at least for me, as completely separate characters. Perhaps their experiences are informed by James’, but this show never felt like a thinly veiled adaptation of his life. Until now. Watching this episode, I wondered just how much the relationship between Reggie and Cam mirrors the one between James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter. Especially since Cam started exhibiting the deep interest in social justice causes that we’ve come to expect from James.
Survivor’s Remorse has done a great job of offering a 360-degree view of the debate between Reggie and Cam. On the one hand, Cam’s curiosity about why the school was closed and put up for sale are admirable. He doesn’t want to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline or educational segregation. But there’s a big difference between him and the Vaughns: multiple income streams. Cam gets money from his endorsement deals and his team contract. The Vaughns get money from … negotiating Cam’s deals. And so part of what allows Cam to act on his high-minded principles is that he’s more than set for life, and so are his kids, and his kids’ kids. That’s not the case for Missy and Reggie. The beauty of Survivor’s Remorse is that it makes it hard to choose a side.
Cam has to be reminded of how his wealth makes his daily life different from most. For instance, Allison (Meagan Tandy) and Cam are proceeding toward their wedding with a dinner including Allison’s parents and Cassie (Tischina Arnold). When Cam suggests hosting the dinner at his Buckhead mansion, Allison has to gently remind him that his enormous wealth — and his house, which is such an obvious indicator of it — can be intimidating. So they do dinner at the Pierces’.
Cam’s fortune is bound to present issues for Allison’s career too. DJ Khaled makes a guest appearance as a nurse who works with Allison at the local hospital. After seeing her giant engagement ring, he thinks the worst: Did Cam cheat? Is he beating her? There’s skepticism, echoed by a hospital patient, that this is a partnership of true love and nothing else. And that presents another question: What happens to Allison’s career after she’s married and doesn’t have to work?
My favorite bit of this episode, though, takes place between Cassie and Cam’s father, Rodney (Isaiah Washington). Cassie, on her route to Catholic confirmation, visits Rodney in prison. She’s dressed in a black turtleneck and a long white, A-line suede skirt that offer subtle visual references to her Catholicism and to her now-chaste relationship with Rodney.
Washington and Arnold expertly play out the tension between two people who once shared a fiery connection. The flames are still evident, even with Rodney still imprisoned in Boston and Cassie in a serious relationship with Chen (Robert Wu). It’s a scene that hits you in the gut as Cassie asks Rodney for forgiveness. Rodney, on the other hand, exhibiting that smooth charm that must have drawn Cassie to him as a young woman, asks for a “family visit.” As “If You Were My Woman,” plays over the scene, Cassie politely demurs. But she assents to giving Rodney a peek at her booty as she swishes her way to the visiting room vending machine. Corporal act of mercy, indeed.
Season 4, Episode 8 | “Future Plans” | Oct. 8
With season four coming to a close soon, Future Plans mostly functioned as a setup for the final two episodes. But more significantly, it revealed the way the season’s puzzle pieces fit together to form a larger narrative.
After broaching the subject of ring shopping with Allison in last week’s episode, Cam has plowed ahead with the engagement. He bought a giant ring, he asked Allison’s parents for her hand in marriage and staged a thoughtful proposal. We have liftoff on this engagement.
Meanwhile, Cassie (Tischina Arnold) has been faithfully attending Father Tom’s Sunday school classes, and now she’s just got one corporal act of mercy to make before she’s confirmed in the Catholic church. What’s touching about Cassie is that she has so many questions about her faith. She talks to the statue of Mary in her yard and she’s the most eager participant in her confirmation classes. Cassie illustrates the nuances of what it means to be spiritually engaged. Even though she’s sure she wants to devote herself more deeply to her religion, she’s not always sure about what exactly that means.
All the while, Chen (Robert Wu) has been a supportive partner. He’s not especially religious, but he’s been sensitive and engaged in Cassie’s journey. Theirs ends up being an illustration of how two people of differing levels of intensity when it comes to spirituality can coexist in a romantic relationship. Cassie doesn’t spend her time constantly proselytizing Chen, and Chen hasn’t pressured Cassie about her newfound religiosity. It probably helps that Cassie’s found a religious community that doesn’t shame her for her sexual relationship with Chen, given that they’re not married.
Reggie (RonReaco Lee), always the practical strategist, urges Cam (Jessie T. Usher) to think about the future to which he’s committing himself by marrying Allison (Meagan Tandy). And the issue that Reggie raises is class. Both he and Cam spent most of their childhoods without their fathers. Cam’s father was in prison and Reggie’s was abusive. Allison, like Missy (Teyonah Parris), comes from a loving, stable, two-parent background. Cam, Reggie warns, is going to have to do more than just show up.
Survivor’s Remorse began this season by asking what a healthy relationship with your parents looks like, and now we know why: It has a huge effect on your romantic relationships. Hearing Reggie’s advice to Cam, I thought of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Lemonade and 4:44. A significant portion of those albums are about confronting how Bey’s and Jay’s pasts informed — and nearly tore asunder — their relationship. Jay grew up poor and without a father in Brooklyn, New York’s Marcy projects, while Bey grew up in a two-parent home in Houston. Some of the most affecting themes in both albums touch on how Jay had to unlearn the hatred he’d picked up for himself and for black women to be a better partner. And Beyoncé, after being hurt by the manifestations of that hatred, had to learn to forgive Jay so they could move forward.
By introducing Reggie’s father, Cam’s father, and Missy and Allison’s parents, it feels like much of season four has been laying the groundwork for deeper interrogation of those themes — I certainly hope so, anyway. It’s an area rich with ideas that haven’t been explored deeply on television, and if there’s a writing staff and directing corps with the chops to pull it off, it’s Survivor’s Remorse.
In some ways, Missy and Reggie have functioned as a test case. The two are about to embark on a journey together as real estate developers, if they can unshake the $480,000 they need from Missy’s trust, two years ahead of when she was originally scheduled to get it. Missy’s parents have given a tentative yes, assuming they can persuade their trustee to move ahead. All this comes after uncovering their differing attitudes about money, and where and how those attitudes originated.
It seems we might be learning what a healthy romantic relationship looks like for M-Chuck (Erica Ash), too. Out of all of the characters, we’ve had the biggest window into M-Chuck’s introspection and growth as a person. We’ve watched her deal with discovering the identities of her three possible fathers and the way she’s still working through the boundaries of where her mother’s privacy ends and her own trauma begins.
Now that she’s confident enough to write about those experiences for her freshman comp class, it looks as though she may have found a possible friend, and maybe more, in her classmate Therese. The class was asked to write the first paragraph of their autobiography anonymously. When they turn their papers in, the professor distributes them so they can be read aloud.
Upon hearing her essay being read, M-Chuck snatches her paper away before her classmate can reveal that she was a product of her mother being raped. Seconds away from tears, she storms out. But later, she gets a call from Therese, who already knows more about M-Chuck than possibly any woman with whom M-Chuck’s ever hooked up.
Remember when M-Chuck and her therapist were trying to work on her tendency to drown out her problems with semi-anonymous sex? Perhaps Therese will mark a turning point.
Season 4, Episode 7 | “Optics” | Oct. 1
Talk about perfect timing.
The writers and executive producers of Survivor’s Remorse must be cackling with glee at how prescient its latest episodes have been. Last week was the furthest the show has gone in exploring Cam’s nascent interest in athlete activism, pitting him in a possible showdown situation with his team owner and boss.
This week’s episode is about the harder to see, and harder to acknowledge, byproducts of white supremacy. It starts with M-Chuck, who, after getting invited to a private, advance tour of Atlanta’s new Museum of African-American Life with Chen, raises her trademark ire.
They haven’t even finished walking across the parking lot when she does it. M-Chuck (Erica Ash) is pissed that Atlanta’s new museum of African-American history is called the Leonard Moskowitz Museum of African American Life. Her rant about the building’s name is essentially a skewering of narcissism and a need for, if not absolution, loudly signaling that you are one of the “good” white people.
Atlanta’s fictive museum of African-American life is a stand-in for the newly opened Blacksonian, where the Walmart brand appears prominently in the lobby. But the message of Optics is broader than that. It argues that white people are often guilty of taking something that’s supposed to be about blackness and black people and making it about themselves, status and reputation-building. And the wealth that allows them to do this, of course, is a side effect of the advantages bestowed by the omnipresence of white supremacy. (This is why it was so important that Brad Pitt and Plan B understand the value and importance of getting out of the way.)
M-Chuck, incensed by the fact that Moskowitz (Saul Rubinek) has plastered his name across the front of the museum, presses Chen (Robert Wu) for a meeting with Moskowitz.
“How would you feel if you went to the Holocaust Museum and it said ‘Brought to you by Tyler Perry?’ ” she asks.
Moskowitz gets defensive, telling M-Chuck that Jews were also oppressed by “whiter white people” (true) and were also enslaved by Egyptians (also true). He brings up common arguments: Your brother is rich, how could he possibly be oppressed? And: You’ve had a black president, which means black people are clearly doing better. Plus, Jewish kids are obsessed with hip-hop. Black kids are not going around milly rocking to klezmer, he argues.
The most powerful, subversive and truthful thing that Survivor’s Remorse writers did was to put these words in the mouth of a man who sees himself as an ally, rather than a swastika-waving, “blood and soil”-chanting, tiki-torch-wielding racist. Optics offers a critique of white liberalism that echoes Get Out, Brit Bennett’s essay for Jezebel, I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail.
Recently, I had a wonderful conversation with writer and professor Crystal Fleming about this topic. Fleming is an associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at State University of New York, Stony Brook, and author of Resurrecting Slavery and the forthcoming How to Be Less Stupid About Race.
“White supremacy … exists not only on the right among conservatives or Trump supporters, it exists on the left. It exists pervasively and systematically throughout our society,” Fleming said. “What tends to happen is, even in the so-called liberal discourse, is a focus on progress, is a focus on things that have changed, rather than a focus on, No. 1, the fact that, again, white supremacy continues to exist and, two, that it doesn’t just exist in certain pockets of society or, you know, in a Klan rally.”
As M-Chuck faces off with Moskowitz, she tells him, “This museum is not yours. It’s ours. So if you’re going to give it, give it graciously.”
Moskowitz fires back: “And if you’re going to receive it, receive it graciously.”
Oof. Wasn’t Jelani Cobb just talking about how “ungrateful” is the new “uppity”? It’s one thing to see the words. It’s another to see the idea reflected on a screen.
It takes another white person, Moskowitz’s wife, to persuade him that his actions were both wrong and offensive. M-Chuck telling him wasn’t enough.
These ideas also show up in the B-plot of the episode, as Reggie (RonReaco Lee) is trying to persuade Chen to give him access to his real estate deals. Reggie is hosting the weekly rich guy poker game in his basement (the same group to which he lost enough money to buy a house).
After Reggie has once again taken a beating in the poker game, he pressures Chen to let him invest in his business deals. And here, things get complicated. Chen informs Reggie that the relationships he has with his millionaire friends are “friendships of convenience.” His relationship with Reggie and his family, on the other hand, is personal and valuable to him in a different, much more priceless way. He doesn’t want to destroy that. Reggie still wants in on Chen’s next development deal, despite the fact that the stakes are much higher for him if things go wrong. The chasm between Reggie’s upper-middle-class net worth and those of his poker buddies is a great example of the difference between being rich and being wealthy. Or, as Chris Rock would say, “If Bill Gates woke up with Oprah’s money he’d jump out a f—ing window.” It also illustrates how difficult it is to bridge this wealth gap if you’re starting from behind. It’s damn near impossible.
White supremacy is not just the practice of neo-Nazis but also “the social and political and economic dominance of people socially defined as white,” Fleming said. “So we’re talking about systemic access to resources, and that this is something, again, that even … among Democrats and liberals, people don’t want to talk about it. It’s easier to talk about racial disparities without admitting which groups are actually being systematically disadvantaged and advantaged by those disparities.”
The folks behind Survivor’s Remorse have already aired an episode called Reparations. Off the strength of Optics, I wouldn’t mind seeing them attempt to make a case for them. Then again, maybe they already have.
SEASON THREE, EPISODE 10 | “YAY AREA” | SEPT. 24
There’s no question that Marshawn Lynch would pour up some Hennessy with Spencer Strasmore. Because, in the end, Spencer did everything he could to prevent the NFL from turning its back on The Town.
In the first nine episodes of season three of Ballers, Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) dedicates himself to leading the charge on relocating the Oakland Raiders from the Bay Area to Las Vegas (which was approved in the real-life NFL earlier this year). In Sunday’s season finale, however, Spencer experiences a huge change of heart after his business partner, Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg), pulls a last-minute okeydoke by pledging his checkbook and resources to a competing group also seeking to deliver the NFL to Sin City.
Yet in a presentation in front of NFL owners and executives, including the beautifully cutthroat Candace Brewer (Emayatzy Corinealdi) — the only woman and person of color on the committee of league representatives, mind you — Spencer, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), their boss Brett Anderson (Richard Schiff) and his deep-pockets little brother Julian Anderson (Steven Weber), who’s called in at the 11th hour for reinforcement, explain why “the reality is, the Oakland Raiders, they need to stay in Oakland.” His group argues against relocating a third NFL team in two years (after the Rams left St. Louis and the Chargers left San Diego) by proposing a new, state-of-the-art stadium to be built in Oakland, which would be privately funded.
After deliberation, the league approves the privately funded stadium — but in Las Vegas, not Oakland, leaving Spencer with a huge choice to make: Will he continue to support the Vegas push after the NFL screwed him out of his new Oakland plan? Or will he return to Miami to continue his work as the beloved financial and social adviser to NFL players?
Before the episode gets to what the future holds for Spencer, two of his clients, Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) and Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), reach the brink of huge decisions themselves. Charles takes a meeting with the Los Angeles Rams for the team’s open general manager position, while Ricky takes to his Instagram Stories, with his pregnant girlfriend, Amber, to announce his retirement from the NFL, telling the world that he’s picking a new life as a father over a “roller coaster of a career” full of concussions.
Although Brett and Julian Anderson don’t want to pass up on the opportunity to spearhead the construction of a new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas, Spencer chooses loyalty over money and power by backing out of the deal. He and Joe return to the Anderson Sports Management offices in Miami, where his team is packing up boxes under the impression that the company will be sold to fund the Las Vegas stadium. Yet Spencer announces that not only will the company be retained, but expansion across the country and to encompass more athletes from different sports is also in store.
But maybe as Charles moves up in the front-office ranks of the NFL, and Ricky moves on to a life after football, they won’t need an adviser anymore. We all know, however, that Spencer will still need them.
Season 4, Episode 6 | “Reparations” | Sept. 24
Well, this was a little uncomfortable.
Survivor’s Remorse has begun to unleash the Big Questions of its fourth season. And the ones presented by the Reparations episode are good ones: Just what are our obligations to our fellow man? And how do we determine them?
Written by Victor Levin and directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Reparations looks at those questions from both personal and existential angles. Let’s run them down, relationship by relationship:
Missy and Reggie
We know that Missy (Teyonah Parris) and Reggie’s (RonReaco Lee) marriage is not a relationship of full transparency, given how little Missy knew about Reggie’s father before he turned up bleeding in the hospital. But that lack of communication seemed more about respecting boundaries: Reggie didn’t want to be bothered with his father, and he didn’t want to bother Missy with him, either. It didn’t seem to matter to him that they all share the same last name, or that Missy and Reggie’s relationship has clearly been affected by Reggie’s relationship with his father.
But now we’re getting into trickier territory: money. Reggie lost $123,000 in a high-stakes poker game and called it a “business expense.” He didn’t hide it from Missy, but he didn’t discuss it with her either.
That was enough to spark an eyebrow raise until Reggie dropped a bomb: Missy’s father made him sign a prenuptial agreement, and neither one of them told her.
So now we’ve got questions about Missy and Reggie’s obligations to disclose things to each other, and also about whether Missy’s parents are obligated to treat her like an adult. Missy’s parents, played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Vanessa Bell Calloway, think they don’t need to treat her like an adult until she starts behaving like one. Their reasoning is that they’re protecting the wealth they’re planning to pass down eventually. It will be hers one day, but it isn’t yet, and to them, Missy hasn’t done much to demonstrate her adulting abilities. She quit her job as a lawyer to play housewife to Reggie and work the charity circuit. Or, as Missy’s mother put it: “You might call yourself a feminist, but you live like an Eisenhower-era wife.” And that raises yet another question: What are Missy’s obligations to her own feminist principles?
Cam and the world
Cam (Jessie T. Usher), doesn’t really belong to a person. Sure, he’s dating Allison (Meagan Tandy), but Cam belongs to Atlanta. He belongs to his teammates. He belongs to black people. He belongs to a whole list of larger groups before he’s accountable to Allison in the way Reggie and Missy are accountable to each other. Part of that is because Reggie and Missy are married and Cam and Allison are not. But it’s also because Cam really is a sort of public servant. He sees himself, his celebrity and his wealth as tools for improving the world on a range of issues, be it “frozen nostril” kids, prison reform, clean water or his latest cause: pensionless black ballplayers who were the victims of a racist basketball league.
Cam feels obligated to everyone because of his large fortune. His role as a franchise player makes him uniquely suited to serve as team representative (an official intermediary between players and team management) because he has some clout. And because of that clout and his money, Cam can help the black ballplayers who came before him and have no retirement fund.
As Reggie reveals, Cam is spending nearly 25 percent of his pretax income on charity. He’s doing it not just because it makes him feel good but because he’s started thinking about his legacy. Reggie, on the other hand, would prefer it if Cam started thinking more about his obligations to himself.
Cassie, Chen and God
The great thing about the relationship between Cassie (Tichina Arnold) and Chen (Robert Wu) is that it feels like a relationship between equals even though Chen is a billionaire and Cassie’s son Cam is merely one of many on his payroll. Still, it’s clear that Cassie is struggling to fully trust Chen, even after he defended her to his kinda-racist parents and repeatedly demonstrated his devotion to her.
The more M-Chuck (Erica Ash) delves into the history of who fathered her, the more Cassie has burrowed into her Catholicism. And because Chen wants to make Cassie happy, he’s happy to indulge in spending on various saintly statues, even if he doesn’t know why he’s buying them.
But this week, thanks to M-Chuck’s big mouth, Chen now knows why Cassie’s recommitted herself to her faith: She’s leaning on it to help deal with the emotions dredged up by the revelation that she was raped by three boys when she was 17, a gang rape that resulted in M-Chuck. How much of that is Cassie obligated to tell Chen? Obviously, it’s up to her what she wants to reveal and when (or it would have been, had M-Chuck not inadvertently spilled the beans).
But on some level, Cassie’s trauma isn’t just hers once it affects her relationship. Chen only worried that Cassie was cheating on him because he didn’t know she’s been seeing and texting her priest. And he didn’t know that because then Cassie would have had to explain why she’s been seeing Father Tom so much. OK, so leaving your partner in the dark when you’re in a committed relationship seems unfair. But what exactly is Cassie’s obligation to Chen, especially if they aren’t married? Is anyone ever completely honest in a relationship? Should they be?
SEASON THREE, EPISODE NINE | “CRACKBACK” | SEPT. 17
Crackback noun / crack·back / ˈkrak-ˌbak / a blindside block on a defensive back in football by a pass receiver who starts downfield and then cuts back to the middle of the line. This is the definition, according to Merriam-Webster, of the word given to this week’s episode of Ballers. It’s a fitting title, because as season three draws to a close, every major character gets a blindside slap in the face.
Let’s start with the polarizing protagonist of the show, Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who’s been trying his hardest all season to be the man behind the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Last week, we saw Spencer and his partner, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), tell their team at Anderson Sports Management that they’ll be selling the company to go all in on relocating an NFL team to Sin City.
But maybe Spencer and Joe pulled the trigger too soon, because at owners meetings in San Francisco, he gets wind of the fact that there is a competing group also looking to move the Raiders to Vegas. The catch? This group is endorsed by the league, while Spencer’s is not. Fast-forward to a fiery exchange over drinks with Candace Brewer (Emayatzy Corinealdi), the sexy and tough NFL executive who advises Spencer that the best play is for both groups to join forces, with Spencer’s team taking a back seat in the deal.
This certainly isn’t what Spencer wants to hear — and, unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Spencer receives a call from his business partner, Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg), who informs him that he’ll be giving his investment and huge plot of land to the NFL-endorsed group.
Back on South Beach, Larry Siefert (Dulé Hill) is officially fired as general manager of the Miami Dolphins, after his assistant general manager Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller) went over his head and persuaded the team to hire Larry Csonka as head coach. Siefert anticipates that Charles is next in line to be Miami’s new general manager, although the team’s owner has different plans. Charles is told that he’ll remain in the No. 2 assistant general manager spot, forcing him to consider resigning.
Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) is on the brink of signing a new deal with the New England Patriots despite being recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The Patriots offer a huge two-year, $20 million contract, with $16 million guaranteed, but before putting ink to paper, Ricky confesses that he’s had a months-long concussion and wants to receive medical help before deciding whether to even play again. The Patriots immediately pull out of negotiations.
Will Spencer be responsible for delivering an NFL team to Las Vegas? Will Charles remain in the front office of the Miami Dolphins? Will Ricky retire? These are all questions to ponder after a blindsiding episode nine. Hope the finale has all the answers.
Season 4, Episode 5 | “The Gala” | SepT. 17
The writers of Survivor’s Remorse are fearless when it comes to using comedy to tackle tough social issues. But sometimes you just need a big belly laugh, and this week’s episode delivers.
Oh, dear. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said “belly.”
Let’s explain: Cam (Jessie T. Usher) is holding a gala to raise money for his charity, the Calloway Philanthropic Trust, or CPT. And because it’s Cam, the road to money for fighting frozen nostril syndrome, mass incarceration and contaminated water supplies is paved with blue cocktails, doughnuts and vomit. Lots and lots of vomit.
Cam is a bleeding heart. And because he wants those around him to feel people’s pain just the way he does, he collaborates on a virtual reality experience for his gala guests.
There’s just one problem: Cam subjects his guests, who are gathered at his Buckhead, Atlanta, mansion in their swankiest black-tie ’fits, to a variety of way-too-real horrors. And so the gala attendees, wearing the virtual reality headsets developed by Chen’s (Robert Wu) company, experience life in prison, the world as experienced by a baby with “frozen nostrils” and the life of a child whose fingers get gnawed on by rats. By the time they get to maggot-infested water, everyone, full of too much sugar and alcohol, starts vomiting. And because they’ve neglected to take off their virtual reality headsets, they’re bumping into each other and slipping. Things got a little too real. Uncanny valley, indeed.
Written by Lauren Houseman and Allen Maldonado, The Gala combines a healthy dose of Survivor’s Remorse’s rapid-fire wit with some disgustingly funny slapstick. And it allows Erica Ash a spotlight to show off as M-Chuck.
When their diabetic professional auctioneer goes down, thanks to an inability to say no and an appetite for doughnuts, M-Chuck is forced to step in as auctioneer. Fortunately, this takes place before everyone’s emptied their stomachs onto the floor and tables and bathrooms of the Calloway residence.
M-Chuck is half shame artist, half insult comic and 100 percent talented at separating people from their money, as we see with her raunchy routine auctioning a pit bull puppy from one of rapper Pitbull’s own dogs. Once she finishes college, it’s not hard to envision M-Chuck as a director of development for a very, hmm, distinctive nonprofit.
Her brother, on the other hand, continues to inadvertently make the case for a life in politics once his basketball career is over. For one, it’s clear that Cam is driven by a need to help others, almost to a fault. But he’s also settled into a life of relying on others to think for him, which tends to get him into trouble. Although he put Missy in charge of organizing the gala, he took it upon himself to include the virtual reality project and instructed Missy not to watch it beforehand. And when his house was being blanketed in upchuck, Cam decided to yell at himself by yelling at Missy.
Cam: “How did you f— this up?”
Missy: “How did I f— this up?”
Cam: “I’m a professional athlete! A product of the culture of American idolatry, which means I am no longer capable of sound judgment. When I’m right, I’m right. When I’m wrong, I’m right and my people are wrong!”
I told you this guy could run for public office.
So, Cam is clearly good-hearted. But he lacks focus and he hates saying no. Which is how he ends up with a gala raising money for three unrelated causes. I keep wondering whether he’s headed for a major financial crisis from giving away so much of his money and committing to bad investments, but it’s Reggie’s (RonReaco Lee) job to protect him from himself.
As for the gala, it was miraculously successful because folks pulled out their phones and started giving money via the “Cam Calloway Get Woke” app as soon as their stomachs settled. You have to wonder what sort of saints Cam managed to assemble, as most folks in that situation would be demanding a refund and a pledge from Cam to cover their dry-cleaning costs. But maybe that’s just bad form.