Ballers Recap: Sterling Cooper Strasmore Pryce

John David Washington as Ricky, Dwayne Johnson as Spencer. Photo: Courtesy of HBO


Laying in the Weeds Season 2 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 4 stars

How dare Ballers get this good this late in the season? How dare it! I wish the last two episodes had been the first two episodes because this is some season–three–Mad Men realness. Dwayne “Skała” Johnson is serving up a Don Draper extravaganza. I love when things on this show have consequences and the stories are rooted in reality and emotion. Who knew?!

Skała is still fired and helping Tracy prepare for her move. Is anyone committed to this story line or this character? This show has absolutely no idea what to do with women. So much so that, at this point, I’d prefer if they’d just eliminate women completely. Let Skała live in some femaleless alternate-reality Miami. No Gloria Estefan. No Eva Mendes in the “Miami” video. No Trina. That one is gonna be the hardest to live without, but we’ll all manage. While he’s packing up his girlfriend’s relevance, Skała reveals that he lost his job. He forgot to tell her. Their relationship is in a great place. She wants to know what’s going to happen to them once she moves and if he will ever gets his life figured out. Neither of them know what to do or say, and she tries to convince him that he has other options — maybe she could get him something on camera at ESPN? He believes there’s some way to fix everything so he’s not giving up on his goal yet. Which is …? This show really needs to clarify what makes Skała tick. What does he want? Why is he doing this? Any of this?

The first thing he wants is his stuff back from his office, where thankfully, Joe is waiting for him with his prized possessions all packed up. Joe is covering his ass by telling the clients that Skała has jury duty to explain his absence. He’s still going to hold his Draft Day party to keep up appearances and try to keep everyone happy. Joe wants to know when they can drop appearances because Skała has no job, no prospects, no registration, no working hips, and no more Vicodin. What he does have is rich football friends he can hit up for money. Enter Denzel Jr. — Skała goes over to his place while Denzel Jr. is practicing his synchronized-swimming routine. He needs $12 million so he can buy ASM because he only comes up with terrible ideas we all know are going to fail. Why do they fail? Because he’s asking an unemployed football player who can’t decide if he’s gonna play another season or move to Israel for $12 million.

Meanwhile, Joe is preparing the rest of the ASM office staff for the dystopian Hunger Games–esque future where they have to compete for Skała’s old office. He delivers a stirring speech and names some of the background extras. Travis is off with Jason and Skała getting fitted for a suit for some interviews with team GMs. Travis is on his own because literally everyone else around him is a colossal fuck-up. They’re gonna want to see if Travis is honest so Jason and Skała force him to reveal the name of the porno he shoplifted in college. I won’t repeat the name, but I can tell you it’s about some maternal figures who could use a towel.

Denzel Jr. and Charles argue about Charles pulling some strings to get Denzel Jr. an offer from the Dolphins. Charles put his reputation (and new job) on the line to get Denzel Jr. that offer. Denzel Jr. snaps back that he doesn’t know what Charles wants. He’s changed positions more times than one of those maternal figures in Travis’s adult-film collection. Heyo! Charles lets him know that his priorities are family, friends, and football, in that order. Maybe Denzel Jr. just can’t understand that.

Travis sits with a couple GMs (including Dulé Hill) and manages to come off as a competent, reasonable person. A first. Skała is at a bank asking for a loan for the dumbest business idea. How did that conversation go? “Hello, I recently got fired from my job as a financial manager for being deemed financially irresponsible. I would like to borrow $12 million to be a financial manager.” They work in a bank, Skała. Needless to say, he doesn’t get the loan.

It’s time for his Draft Day party and — hold up, Joe is bringing the potato salad? Can we TRUST his potato salad? You know you can’t just be eating any ol’ potato salad. Everyone is coming into the party with a problem that Joe and Skała have to solve. Spice wants to come by the office to talk to them about his stocks and Travis is stressed about his projected draft position being so low. Skała and Joe give them ribs and beer to calm them down. Jason is at the draft in my hometown of Chicago. Jacksonville and Baltimore are both looking at Travis, but Vernon’s prospects aren’t looking too good. Dallas is eyeing other non-stupidly-injured players. Charles and Denzel Jr. are still icy toward each other and Charles’s wife tries to help Charles see things from another perspective. Denzel Jr. stood up for Charles in the past, so maybe it’s time Charles let Denzel Jr. do his own thing.

Halfway through the party, Skała and Joe try to figure out just how much money they’ve scrounged up. Denzel Jr. can give them $5 million and they can ask Joe’s mom for some more. They’re hoping they can take a strong (but smaller) offer to Anderson and he’ll want to sell to Skała and Joe over Andre. Charles runs into Denzel Jr. as he’s coming out of the bathroom and tells him he should take the Rams’ offer. Charles will be there (over the phone, at least) to help him maintain work-life balance and build some “off season” relationships.

Downstairs, Dallas is picking up someone who can replace Vernon, and Jason asks Skała to break the news gently to Vernon. He’s scooped by Reggie shouting, “FUCK YOU, DALLAS” from the other room. Travis is getting more and more nervous as pick after pick goes by without his name getting called. As Skała sees everything he’s built crumble around him, he goes looking for Sizzle. Sizzle is banging some girl on top of Skała’s laundry. Ballers, never change. Skała has Sizzle make a phone call to the Ravens GM to get. Travis. That. Offer.

Somehow, it works and Travis is drafted sixth to the Ravens. Champagne gets popped and everyone is celebrating when Sizzle makes a toast: “Here’s to Skała striking out on his own! Fuck Anderson for firing you! Fuck infrastructure!” Awkward.

Ballers Recap: Sterling Cooper Strasmore Pryce