Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Reggie and Missy Have a Big Argument About Proper Etiquette in 'The Thank You Note'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 3.03 "The Thank You Note"

After meeting a wealthy Atlanta couple, Reggie and Missy argue about the importance of modern manners and the role that etiquette plays in social affairs.

This season of Survivor's Remorse started in a very dark and emotional place. The death of Julius hit everyone in the family really hard. It meant that the show couldn't start the season in a way that it typically does. Things had to become a little more serious and depressing. Humor was still frequently found in those opening episodes of the season. But they succeeded because of how strong the characters are right now. A surprising death of a family member only works as a plot point if the reaction to it is strong. The show succeeded in that endeavor. But now, it's finding its way back to the comedic structuring and storytelling that dominated during the first two seasons. Death and mourning are still going to be a huge part of this season. However, it's also exciting to see the family members embrace new opportunities in their own unique way. They do so to honor Julius but also as a way to keep on living.

So "The Thank You Note" takes the Calloways on a hunting journey where the family gets to discuss the morality of hunting and the proper etiquette when it comes to high society. It's absolutely fantastic that Missy has a prominent role in the A-story of the episode. She is rarely asked to be the active role in the main story of any particular episode. She's a solid character on the show. But she has never had as much focus or importance as she does throughout this episode. She comes from a society very much different than the Calloways. It's still completely unclear how she met Reggie and became a part of this family. But she provides a differing opinion for the family. She comes from a world different than theirs and is able to challenge them on everything that they say. She can frequently be just as ridiculous as they are. So, it's nice to see her become the focal point for a harsh critique of societal norms. The show has done a fantastic job in the past breaking down familiar and commonplace social mentalities. And now, Missy finds herself as the only person who cares about writing a thank you note.

Missy and Reggie have always been very mindful about trying to climb the social ladder of Atlanta high society. For the first two seasons, they've largely been distracted by the scandals of the Calloway family to really be effective with that. And yet, Reggie has made friends with some very influential people. Sure, the episode last season that saw him playing high stakes power with LeBron James and Tom Werner was awkward. But it also led to new opportunities for him. Opportunities that would take him away from the rest of the family. Sure, that didn't work out when it came to Jupiter. Nor does it seem like anything will happen with Tom Werner and his NHL deal. In a throwaway line, Reggie reveals that the deal fell through because of the selfish Canadians. So now, Cam is once again his only client. That's important because the family really needs to be there for each other right now. But when the opportunity presents itself for Reggie and Missy to impress a wealthy couple in Atlanta, they take it hoping it can open new doors for them. Sure, it's hilarious to see the entire family out hunting and then lamenting the fact that they will be eating the birds for the foreseeable future. But it also highlights just how crazy both Reggie and Missy can be in chasing their own dreams for success. That provides some very nice and insightful comedy throughout the entire episode.

Missy hasn't really enjoyed her life in Atlanta so far. It has been an isolating existence for her. She is happy for all the success that Reggie has with his career. It has also reconnected her with her roots. After that awkward haircut at the start of the second season, she is finally starting to really rock the natural hairstyle. It looks fantastic on her now as it has grown out. And now, she is really excited about becoming friends with this couple who takes the family out hunting. Plus, Reggie proves himself to be really good with a gun too. He credits it to all his video game time - just now with birds. But the two of them have a really good time together. It's the happiest they have been since Julius' death. That's so important for their journey this season. Sure, the two of them have a fight unlike anything they have previously had on the series. It happens at the family dinner table too where everyone sees and then mocks them for it. Missy needs Reggie to write a thank you note. That's how she was raised. Even though he thanked them numerous times on the day, Missy still believes they need to do this. Reggie disagrees. It's funny to see them argue their differing opinions. But it's even better when the situation forces them to act even crazier than they were while around the dinner table with the family.

Reggie writes the thank you note because Missy tells him to. He even writes in cursive where the q's are especially difficult to write. It's hard and trivial to him. And yet, he does it because he wants Missy to be happy. This makes her happy. She knows what to do in these types of situations because she came from this type of world - unlike the rest of the Calloways. She knows what to do. She knows that they are being judged by the quality of this thank you. It seems incredibly pointless to Reggie. In fact, the show breaks down the gender politics of this practice. The guys couldn't care less about the need to write thank you notes. They simply oblige because their wives make such a big deal about it. Missy only does so because she needs to make a good impression on this family. It's something she believes she needs to do in order to remain friends with them. They had never interacted before Julius died. His death made this connection. And now, she's exploiting it to the best of her ability. Sure, Reggie makes the biggest error in misspelling the wives' name. That forces Missy to act out and need to replace the letter before the couple gets it. The postal officer isn't able to help at all due to federal punishment for tampering with someone's mail. But Reggie is able to just deliver the letter to the husband who couldn't care any less. Guys are able to make these silly mistakes and not be punished for it. It's a stereotype that Missy uses in order to fix this massive error. She makes such a big deal about it. But the story ends in even funnier place when the wife sends a thank you for the thank you note and thinks that Julius' name is Julian. So now, the situation has been reversed. Missy can judge the other person. Will she? Or will she forgive the mistake in order to climb the social ladder?

Elsewhere, M-Chuck finally attends a therapy session. It was something she was ordered to do after punching Cam in the face last season. She chose not to attend because she didn't believe she needed to do it. But now, she is being forced to do so or face going to jail. So, she's attending reluctantly but therapy could really help her deal with Julius' death. Of course, M-Chuck does most of the talk. The therapist just sits there and listens to everything that M-Chuck has to say. It's a fantastic and hilarious monologue for Erica Ash. It's even more wonderful once you realize that the Dorchester accent becomes thicker the louder and angrier she gets. It's a minor detail that just builds and builds throughout the scene. But M-Chuck also spends a lot of time complaining about her family. Sure, a lot of it does play as exposition for story that will become important later on this season. She latches onto the idea that she really knows nothing about her father. Cassie has always kept that information from her. They know that Cam's father left after Cassie was pregnant. But Cassie refuses to share anything about M-Chuck's father. M-Chuck wants to know the truth. Cassie thinks it's foolish to go to therapy. She doesn't think it's right to blame everyone else for one's problems. And yet, it could be good for this family. Only time will tell if the session went well or not. Odds are it probably didn't.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Thank You Note" was written by Victor Levin and directed by Geeta V. Patel.
  • Did the Tom Werner NHL deal fall through for Reggie because Werner was too busy to return this season? He's an executive producer on the show. But that title feels like he's there in name only and doesn't have much input on the actual story. Plus, he's easily busy with other stuff as well.
  • Cassie and Julius were going to start doing a podcast together. She bought all the equipment too but they weren't able to record before he died. So now, she's doing it in order to honor his memory. Plus, the title of the podcast is wonderful - "Things That We Think That You Should Think Too."
  • However, it doesn't seem like Cassie's podcast is going to be all that successful. Chen doesn't know if the equipment is working properly. Plus, the questions Cassie is asking of her guests aren't providing any interesting conversation - unlike the debates the family usually has.
  • Jessie T. Usher is one of the leads of the show. And yet, he has such a minor role in this episode. He ducks while the family is out hunting. He starts the conversation about the need to hunt. And then, he gets Cassie to go to therapy with M-Chuck. But the majority of the episode is about the rest of the family.
  • The debate about the need to hunt is overshadowed by the proper etiquette with thank you notes though. Allison starts an honest conversation about society needing to evolve with each generation. But then, that dialogue really doesn't go anywhere.
  • All of that pheasant is going to go to waste, isn't it? The family is sick of it after just one meal.