In the Ballers universe, boys will be boys and girls, unfortunately, will be there to either service their needs or bring their asses down.
“Machete Charge,” once again, has several characters locked in an ongoing dick-measuring contest with some wannabe alpha male. But they also have to contend with women who are out to deplete them mentally, physically, or financially.
While Ballers hasn’t descended into full-on misogyny (so far, it has balanced out the occasional random set of naked and/or bikini-clad groupies by giving us a few confident, level-headed female characters), “Machete” does seem to be an episode in which the men, after weeks of battling with each other, band together to take down their mortal enemy: the woman.
That’s basically what happens when Vernon is targeted by an unseen woman looking to get a quick payday when she alerts him to some incriminating photos. Spencer, who begrudgingly comes to Vernon’s aid after he parted ways with Vernon last week, forms a “united front” with Joe, Jason, and even Reggie when lawyer Maximo Gomez (Clifton Collins Jr.) informs them about his client and the photos she has of Vernon smoking and toking it up with the ladies at Spencer and Joe’s boat party. (Joe keeps reminding everyone it was a “corporate event.”)
While Spencer and Joe assume they’ll most likely have to pay this gal $50K just to keep the photos from leaking, Maximo lets them know she wants half a million. Also, they learn that the ponytailed Maximo is a douchey lawyer with a chip on his shoulder, looking to take this front down just like his namesake (who created the episode’s titular strategy) did in the Cuban War of Independence. “Maximo means business, boys,” he tells Spencer and Joe. (“Maximo” actually means “the greatest,” which may explain his cockiness.)
If that isn’t enough to send Spencer on a wall-punching frenzy (before his meeting with Maximo, he tells Jason over the phone that he misses “the fuck out of hitting people”), he learns that this woman who’s out for a payday is someone he knows. Is it a former lover? A woman who tried to shake him down? His sister? The episode basically ends on that cliffhanger.
But Spencer and Vernon aren’t the only ones with girl trouble. Charles is still struggling with whether or not to break up his happy home by creeping on Julie with Sammy. She sends him a video of her butt bouncing around, which has our boy’s imagination running.
But even after he confers with Ricky (at a strip club, no less — we’ll get to that later), who ends up deleting Sammy’s number for Charles, he still wants to hold on to the video. Of course, this ends up being a predictably bad idea, especially when he emails it to himself and Julie catches it on their computer. (Julie sends the video over to their flatscreen, where Charles sees it when he gets home; they must have Apple TV!) Eventually, they have a heated argument, which ends with Charles splitting after Julie bruises his manhood. (Yeah, that Dunkin Donuts line was a low blow.) Even though Julie had every right to call out Charles for his behavior, this episode seemed to make her look like a cackling shrew of a spouse, making it almost okay for Charles to go out and explore. (Hey, man, his wife was getting mouthy!)
Perhaps he’ll end up back at the strip club, where Ricky is making a last-ditch effort to smooth things out with Alonzo. Ricky takes the advice of his girl Annabella, who still doesn’t know that Ricky got busy with Alonzo’s mom, who tells him to take the young Alonzo somewhere where they can talk out their differences. So, of course, why not a strip club? That ends up being a bad idea, too, since Alonzo shows up with his crew of brothers and half-cousins looking to drain Ricky’s shoebox full of cash, which he was just walking around the strip club with, all willy-nilly.
When it seems like Ricky cannot get Alonzo to stop being an asshole, against Annabella’s wishes, he calls on her uncle Frank for help. When Uncle Frank is first mentioned in the episode, we're led to believe he’s in the mob or something. But it turns out Frank is a cop. We find this out when Alonzo gets caught in his SUV outside the strip club (in broad daylight!) with one of the strippers, and Frank shows up to “bust” him. That’s when Ricky appears to save the day, talking Frank out of sending Alonzo to jail and finally getting Alonzo to quit with the assholery.
While that was an amusing ruse, I’m still concerned that Ballers might go down a bitter path when it comes to dealing with women. One of the smartest things the show has done is show how men, especially in the field of professional sports, are so regularly bitchy to each other, yet they are usually too preoccupied to call women the b-word. Considering that I’ve grown to like this show, I really don’t want Ballers to knock True Detective off its spot as the Sunday-night HBO show that makes women look horrible.
SOME STRAY THOUGHTS
- When did Rob Corddry’s Joe become the show’s most fascinating character? It seemed like just a few weeks ago I was lamenting what a poorly written Ari Gold clone he was. Now, he seems to be somebody I want to know more about, especially when we learn bits and pieces about him in the episode. (It turns out he’s a lawyer and he’s smoked crack.) Also, Corddry and Johnson are quickly becoming a great team together, especially when they have that back-and-forth about Joe’s crack-smoking days.
- Vernon has turned into the dumbest character I’ve seen on a show lately. It’s bad enough that this character appears to be devoid of a personality, as Reggie continues to do most of the thinking for him. But he seems to have a hard time thinking, period. It reminds me of when a commenter said last week that Ballers is Entourage, except Vernon and Reggie are the show’s Vinnie and E, while Spencer is Ari. It’s not a bad theory, but you to have to admit even when Vinnie and E were at their worst (and they had plenty of those moments), they still weren’t as stupid as these guys.
- Jason told Spencer the Cowboys might’ve found out about the photos through the woman’s “Flickr account.” While I know he was being facetious, who the hell still has a Flickr account?