Modern sports and ancient faith can be hard to separate. Baseball players frequently mention God and Christianity; touchdowns are the preamble to displays of humility before the being upstairs; and NBA stars routinely preface post-game interviews with their gratitude to the Almighty. In Survivor's Remorse, spirituality off the court and success within its lines mostly intersect on a case-by-case metaphorical basis. One is often used to illustrate something elemental about the other, without insinuating that either is paramount to what really matters: trusting the ones you love to help ensure you make the most out of this life.
Sure, Jimmy and Reggie can quibble in riddles over whether Cam or his boss better personifies Jesus in the story of Palm Sunday, or they can pester Father Tom about the petty distinctions between holy repentance and high-midnight deadlines. But at the literal end of the day, most dilemmas boil down to how well we reconcile selfish interests with sound perspective.
For Reggie, the defining variable is obvious: money. In his view as both manager and man, everything except currency is mortal and fake. It's a cold outlook. But by now, we know enough about Reggie's upbringing to realize he never quite warmed to notions of magical thinking, no matter if they pertain to unicorns, God, or a hard-working individual getting what they're worth. He sees Cam's value in a way no one else does — not even Jimmy, and maybe not even Cassie — as the sum total of his still-developing basketball skills and boundless selflessness. And he understands how those two qualities are far from mutually exclusive when it comes to what gives him value as a player and teammate (even if he's not the best rebounder). That is his ultimate leverage over Jimmy as they play cat and mouse over a contract extension, while the very real threat looms of opting out and heading to Milwaukee or Indianapolis as a free agent.
Meanwhile, not even Missy can be sure Reggie is thinking with his heart and head rather than his stubborn gut. She, Cassie, and M-Chuck (and, yes, Squeeze) are terrified at the notion of leaving their Atlanta enclave. Or in M-Chuck's case, saying good-bye to the "only older, straight, white-male friend" she's ever had to settle down among "a breeding ground for serial killers." (Jeez, Jeffrey Dahmer goes off the rails and a whole city's tarnished.) But Reggie insists that Jimmy's the one masking fear with confidence. He can smell it, even. And given his nose for odorous Latvians, that's not for nothing.
Cam lacks his cousin's cynical sixth sense, something else Reggie knows all too well. He's the kind of guy who throws millions at frozen-nose kids while innocently arguing that they don't need to "hoover up every $50 bill that's lying around." He sees Jimmy in uncomplicated terms — as an ally, not an opportunist accumulating friendship equity that can eventually benefit his bottom line. He teeters when faced with an ultimatum to accept Jimmy's midnight offer of five years at max dollars or hold out at his cousin's behest, but balks at putting a price on the limits of Reggie's trust. And yet, the gamble pays off: Jimmy caves to the caveat of another near-future opt-out clause. (The semantics are just that.) That part feels a tad fantastical, though it's in the service of demonstrating Reggie's continued path toward coming into his own. It's Reggie's story within the larger narrative of Survivor's Remorse, similar to how Missy and M-Chuck's self-exploration has been a focus in recent weeks. In "Mystery Team," the ensemble cast very much facilitates Reggie's signature moment. The extended Calloway clan, à la any successful starting five, is featured in rotations. Jimmy should just feel lucky that Cassie deems him a member.
The remaining question, as has been the case all season: What does that make Allison? Was she written into season two solely to set in motion the chain of events that led to Uncle Julius's death? Did Meagan Tandy's regular status in UnREAL directly affect her commitment to Survivor's Remorse? (Note her "guest star" credit in this episode.) It's hard to fathom how else this episode could transpire without Cam and Allison having a heart-to-heart about what a Midwest move would mean for their future. It's jarring, and a bit distracting. No more so, however, than Squeeze freeballing in his Nigerian agbada.
With a third and fourth season in the works, Survivor's Remorse finds itself in a funny creative pickle, one that parallels its protagonist's quandary in "Mystery Team." Another episode order has to make the writers more comfortable calling back to its own extended family of supporting players (Isa, Dealer Joe, Jupiter, etc.) and making the Calloways' world feel as lived-in and self-referential as its Seinfeld-ian inspirations. Yet, this show is a very different than anything Jerry or Larry David would ever produce, and it's still feeling its way through the heartening business of intimate relationships. Survivor's Remorse, like its incredibly empathetic characters, is on a journey toward self-realization. Just be prepared for the occasional detour through a "home for broke-down strippers."
Apart From All That:
- I'm not saying how I know this, but Southern metropolitan strip clubs do have some decent food.
- For the record, Milwaukee is a fine city.
- Jimmy had me at "Maybe if there were still papers, there'd still be some decent behavior left in the world."
- Squeeze is feeling a bit, well, squeezed.
- Again with the "fuckies."
- Semantics aside, kudos for the humane insight into the headline-grabbing muck that is contract negotiations.