Every Ballers character says they’re willing to do absolutely whatever it takes to make their dreams come true, but are they? They are … but are they? Yes … but really? Sure, they’re ready … but what if they’re not? This is the episode where the rubber hits the road or the nipple-piercing. More on that later.
It’s four in the morning and Dwayne “Toka” Johnson is lying awake, staring at the ceiling. Everyone else is being productive: Vernon is packing up to go to training camp, Charles is at the stadium very early to work, and Joe is setting up the office. What does Toka do? He picks out his favorite light-colored plaid suit. How can anyone pick their favorite light-colored, subtly patterned suit? He’s going to swagger into Anderson’s office and dazzle with his tailor’s skill and an $11 million check. It lacks the impact of dropping a bag of hundreds on a desk, but I guess he decided to be “professional” this time. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Anderson is not interested in Toka’s money anymore.
Toka handles it in the most professional way he knows: by screaming in Anderson’s face. His former boss grew a conscience and wants to mentor Toka. He knows that Toka can’t afford to do this deal, financially or spiritually. Anderson communicates only in allegories. He says he’ll rehire Toka if he can figure out a way to get his registration. Then, he can purchase a part of ASM and actually do his job like a productive member of society instead of driving to barren lots to learn lessons about his past. They hug it out and when Toka walks out of the office, he pretends to jerk off onto Joe’s face. Ah, male friendship.
Denzel Jr. is literally swabbing the decks when Jason arrives with his new iPhone cochlear implant so he can be hands-free. Denzel Jr. can’t wait or lower his bride price anymore. When he gets a call from an unknown number, he’s supposed to drop everything and answer. Denzel Jr. is all of us after we’ve sent out several “u up?” texts at 2 a.m. We’ll take whatever we can get.
Vernon and Reggie (and the pit bull) are stuck in their own little bottle episode on the way to Dallas training camp. Vernon is going to show up early to prove himself worthy of his spot on the team. Reggie is just there to supply the tunes. As they get closer to Texas, Vernon offers Reggie a salary of $3,000 a week. I feel like we’ve been leading to this moment for a while, but I could have done without it. We get some great scenes of Vernon working his ass off, but is it all worth it? No, really, I’m asking.
Toka heads to a doctor in the basement of the Sun Life Stadium to ask for another steroid shot. Instead of his shoulder, he wants it injected directly into his gaping, pus-filled, festering hip wound. “Listen, doc, the Vicodin isn’t working so just shoot it into my eyeballs.” Toka is falling apart, physically and emotionally.
Toka gets a phone call from his friend at the NFLPABSB to find out exactly what happened with his registration. Toka thinks that Andre tanked the whole thing but Good Ol’ Clyde lets him know that a former friend, Ed George, filed the grievance. Ed was one of the players who gave Toka money during the whole Andre-Condo-gate. Ed is at the rookie symposium in Canton, mentoring some of the NFL’s young upstarts. In Toka’s mind, Ed is the only thing standing between him and his registration, and this is the episode where you’ve got to pull out all the stops, so we’re taking a trip to Ohio, bitches!
Meanwhile, Charles is forcing a new recruit to crawl under an oversized sweater-drying rack when Dulé calls him into his office. Dulé has noticed that Charles is showing up for work at the crack of dawn and Dulé has been watching him from on high. Dulé never sleeps. He offers Charles the opportunity to be second in command. He’ll be going on the road for months at a time. Us humble viewers know that Charles just promised his wife that he’ll be home more often and be an involved parent. Nevertheless, Charles decides to lean in and drive his wife into their manny’s arms. But we never see what happens when he has to tell his wife about it. Whatever, I guess. Women and their emotions are just figments of imagination on this show.
Joe surprises Toka on the flight to Ohio and says this is their last shot to make their dreams come true and they wouldn’t do anything to screw that up, right? Oh, don’t worry. They screw it up. Toka goes to talk to Ed in his hotel room. He interrupts Ed during a House Hunters marathon, because that’s the only thing to do in hotels. Ed tries to close the door on Toka’s foot, but Toka storms his way in. Ed tells him to get the hell out of his room. All Toka did to become a financial adviser was pass an accounting exam. We all watch Last Week Tonight — that’s not enough. Toka feels bad about losing Ed’s money, but Ed reveals he was forced to live in his car, work in a coffee shop, and thought about killing himself. He’s glad he never went through with it, though, because now he can tell Toka, “Fuck. You. You have no right managing anybody’s money.” Damn.
Joe senses Toka’s despair and gives him a minibar bottle of booze and takes him to a strip club.
FINALLY. Finally some decadence and disgusting behavior on this show. Everyone has been trying to clean up their act all season, so we never got any fun strip-club scenes. That’s what makes America great. Joe and Toka are throwing money around and doing coke in an Ohio strip club. This is rock bottom. When Joe tries to get onstage, Toka tries to defend his honor and they both get thrown out. Okay, this is rock bottom.
When they wake up the next morning with the worst hangovers in history and Joe’s new nipple piercing, they realize all is lost: their money, their reputations, and even Toka’s phone (because he threw it in a urinal and pissed on it). Joe can’t leave with nothing and needs to make one final bang (like impact, not a bang-bang, y’know). He asks Ed to accept Toka’s apology and give him a chance to be held accountable.
Back in Miami, Denzel Jr. is making breakfast while his hangers-on debate which of them is a bigger piece of shit. Suddenly, the phone rings. He has to go to an undisclosed location and do whatever it takes. The New England Patriots are waiting to put him through his paces. They don’t care that he doesn’t have shoes on — that’s how they do it in New England. He impresses them and Belichick is ready to offer $1.5 million. How much is your legacy worth?
Back at the Rookie Symposium, Toka finds himself being introduced to speak in front of the rookies about fame and fortune. His beautiful suit is in tatters. He looks like a disgraced man in a Doonesbury comic. He limps up to the mic and tells his entire sob story. He went from being surrounded by hos to driving away everyone because of his own selfishness. He opens up about losing Ed’s money and tells the rookies, “If some of you assholes don’t smarten up, that’s what you’re gonna wind up with. It won’t be some shark in a $5,000 suit, it’s gonna be your brother, sister … someone who everyone says, ‘He’s a good guy.’” It’s a great performance from Toka. Everything is laid bare and the rookies eat it up (in a round of applause led by Travis, naturally).
Toka limps offstage and right to a hospital to get his hip replacement. He’s even willing to take an Uber home when he checks out. No one needs to pick him up. I think that’s a metaphor.