Ballers Recap: Shake It Off

Ballers. Photo: HBO
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Editor’s Rating

It’s all about fresh starts and second chances in “Gaslighting,” which has the show’s main players getting a new lease on life, making some career-altering decisions, or realizing they need to change their whole damn attitude.

Spencer is the one who starts the episode walking on sunshine. After getting the news that his CAT scan came back clear (although the doctor said that his symptoms are more psychological, he still took it as a victory and roped her into an awkward but pleasant hug), dude was flying down the street, bumping Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” without a goddamn care in the world. (I’m sure the sight of the Rock car-seat-dancing to T-Swizzle has already been GIF'd and reposted all over social media by now.)

This good news also gave him the confidence not to back down from Anderson, who reprimanded Spencer and Joe about the scandalous photos (and video!) sent by Angie. While Spencer told him this is what happens when you do business with pro athletes, Anderson doesn’t want that “trash” and “bad shit” at his company, fearing the institutional clients would jump ship if they found out about it.

Getting chewed out by Anderson, who tells Spencer to meet up with Angie and settle this before he shuts down the whole operation (not before telling Spence a couple of times he doesn't want him working there in the first place) is enough to make Joe contemplate leaving the company before Anderson fires him. As he speeds down the road all pensively in one scene, he reaches out to his star client, Victor Cruz, who just happens to be with a friend at a tattoo parlor. Joe asks Cruz if he would still be his client even if he worked someplace else. Cruz says yes, but in return for his loyalty, Joe ends up getting a back tattoo of the Giants wide receiver.

Joe texts a photo of his new body art to Spencer as he finally mans up and meets with Angie (Angelina Assereto) at a dingy yet familiar bar. I gotta say, for a showdown this show has been leading up to for about three episodes, it was kind of meh. Thankfully, Angie isn’t the crazy, evil gal we were led to believe. She’s just a 30-something concierge clerk/stripper — Spencer prefers to think of her as a “go-go dancer” — who may or may not be raising a son. (She briefly screws with Spencer’s head when she hints that it might be his.) She also wanted to get back at her old flame, Spencer, who didn’t even notice she was at the party — by taking down Vernon? Even though she says she wanted to strike a blow against the “boys’ club” that passes around and eventually ditches girls like her, going after Vernon still didn’t make a lick of sense. Nevertheless, Spencer sincerely apologizes, which Angie accepts — along with the check — as she hands over the flash drive with the photos to him.  

As for Charles and Ricky, they both have some choices to make. After hearing that one Dolphins player is out for the season, Charles goes to Seifert to see about getting on the field again. Actually, this happened after he was the center of a bet at his dealership, where both co-workers and clients wagered he couldn’t move one truck off the showroom and another up the ramp, prodding him even more to get back in the game. (The whole scene was so ridiculously staged, I kept expecting it all to be a ruse executed by the slick Seifert himself.)

Meanwhile, Ricky found out that having a threesome didn’t make him forget Annabella. (He did arrange morning-after gift baskets for the ladies, since “it always worked for Jeter.”) His “fun house” compatriot (and diehard ScarJo fan) TTD tells him he needs to do something bold if he wants his girl back. This means the both of them taking a trip to Bulgari and picking out something that says, “I’m sorry.” Ricky eventually gets a ring for $400,000 (not before screaming, “What the fuck? How much did you say?” off-camera), which he presents to Bella the next day, conveniently near a fountain. But Bella, who first throws Ricky off his game when she asks him if he’s proposing, of course tosses the ring in the fountain and tells him he can’t buy her forgiveness.

Although it’s starting to look like this show doesn’t know exactly what to do with Ricky (it’s like all he does in every episode is mess up and apologize), the writers have recognized how well John David Washington can pull off being comically pitiful. I’m sure this entire subplot was written just so we could see Ricky fish around in a fountain on his hands and knees, saying, “Baby, come back!” to both Bella and the ring.

As okay as it seemed, “Gaslighting” is yet another uneven episode where the show once again halfheartedly balanced the comedy with the drama. As I’ve followed this show, I often sense it’s at odds with itself. I get the feeling the writers wonder if they should get really real, exposing how dark and decadent the lives of pro-footballers can be, or if they should just keep things light and silly. If the coming-up-next promo HBO aired afterwards is any indication, there will be a lot of drama and conflict afoot — along with the possibility that Ballers will definitely, finally get real. 


  • Thankfully, it was a Reggie-free episode. We did briefly get Vernon, in a floral robe, calling Spencer (who was still in positive “Shake It Off” mode) for an update on the photos.
  • Troy Garity’s Jason also wasn’t around. I guess he was taking time off to forget the sight of his mom getting her May-December stroke on from last week’s episode.
  • Did anyone else find it a bit stereotypical — and a bit racist — when Cruz’s tattoo-receiving pal called out Joe for using “a lot of big words,” like interpersonal and hypothetically?
  • “Most importantly, I wanna hit somebody in the muthafuckin’ mouth!” Tell us how you really feel, Charles!
  • Was that Spencer’s CAT scan on his iPhone wallpaper? Is he that proud of it?