If golf is a good walk spoiled, then telling your husband his alcoholic dad's in town as you're about to get down in a public park is pretty much sexual sabotage. But what choice did Missy have? As Coach Healey tells teenage Cam in a drug-induced flashback, "People in love have the right to speak up about how they feel." And Missy's never been one to withhold any emotion on the rage-to-compassion spectrum. Her nature is to ask questions and get to the core of how Reggie feels, know him deeply and help carry his burden.
But as we know, Reggie's default is distance and distrust. He can't entertain the idea of a conversation about his deadbeat dad without a chance to blow off steam. One doesn't have to infer too much to gather that, historically, Trent was more likely to take feelings out on his family by lashing out.
Cassie isn't all that different from her nephew. She has, as we learn tonight, suffered through the terrible trauma of a gang rape at only 15 years old — an assault that led to her pregnancy with M-Chuck. And ever since, she's had to re-route and reconcile grief over what was taken from her in order to unconditionally love the daughter who was conceived by that terrible act. No wonder Cassie's been seeking to articulate miracles and malice in spiritual terms. That quest started long before Julius died.
What's most affecting throughout "Second Thoughts" — for which writers Marquita Robinson, Benjamin Neivert, and Brendan O'Malley deserve more than honorable mention — is the notion that we can live for 100 years and hardly ever know our true selves, in large part because the people who gave us life or shaped us can only know themselves so well, and so on. Looking backward is no more or less important than moving forward. Weigh one more heavily than the other and, as Cassie advises her son, we fall apart.
Cam, like Missy, is prone to good-natured probing. It's how, despite warning M-Chuck about opening Pandora's box with a P.I. to ID her father, he found himself in possession of a painful truth about his mother. And while Missy's only begun prying open that door into Reggie's past, Cam's been pushing his mother for weeks, to the point where she confided and then demanded a clean slate before heading off to China. That information is now Cam's to share with or keep from his sister, and he can probably tell Beckwith to cease hiring an outside investigator.
After several hours of inadvertently LSD-triggered introspection, including an imagined conversation with the CGI fetus that his high-school girlfriend Lindsay aborted, Cam's gut leans toward full disclosure. And along the way, we get Survivor's Remorse first lengthy flashback in some time, one featuring iconic Boston comedian Lenny Clarke, who returns as Coach Healey in a more animated posture than last we saw him.
The three scenes co-starring Clarke, Jessie T. Usher, and Kati Salowsky feel a bit like Louie homage, though Louis C.K. would no doubt contest that his standup owes as much to Clarke's influence as anybody else's. And it's a great turn for Clarke, as he parks Cam and Lindsay outside a women's clinic teeming with pro-life protestors and bestows bitter wisdom: "People who are just like the people who'll help you in there died so you have this right. Respect the freedom you have by respecting the fervent opposition others in this world have to you having this right." Has there ever been a more Boston moment in TV?
Of course, that exchange also illustrates what's been so unique about Survivor's Remorse from its own beginning: It embraces a deft bipartisanship that doesn't delicately bypass difficult issues. Whether Cam's descent into wacked-out delirium is out of step with the episode or maybe even a tad cliché is in the eye of the beholder. But with Julius gone, Reggie preoccupied, and mom tight-lipped as she's off to China, a hallucinated fetus may as well step up as Cam's surrogate sage. Not like he can call his father.
Apart From All That:
- Ten points if you recognized creator Mike O'Malley's voice as Figgy the fetus. (Brushes shoulder off.)
- Nice casting choice of Marlon Young as Trent.
- Cassie's "fuck, it can't even matter to me" is devastating. Tichina Arnold is amazing.
- Not sure I would have taken the Listerine strips if they weren't laced with acid.
- I love the "Well, we were going at it about 10 minutes" aside. Three's Company-worthy.
- You gotta wonder if someone watched the scene with Cam and Reggie and thought, "Wait, acid lasts for hours. We need Reggie to acknowledge that he's been there all afternoon."
- The stage is set for a solid finale. Can't wait.