Sunday, August 28, 2016

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Cam & Reggie Return to Boston While M-Chuck Struggles with Intimacy in 'The Guests'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 3.07 "The Guests"

Cam and Reggie go back to Boston for a wedding. M-Chuck pursues a new relationship - with many different women.

Love and relationships have been important stories that Survivor's Remorse has tackled before. The core dynamic of the show is about the Calloway family. But the individual stories for each character have frequently included their love lives. Reggie and Missy have a really healthy marriage. They are the strongest couple on the show. It's a realistic portrayal of marriage as well. Filled with ups and downs as well as fights and love. Meanwhile, Cam and Cassie have found meaningful dynamics with Allison and Chen. Those relationships are strong at this point in time. Sure, it's been a little while since Allison has appeared. But the audience is still suppose to believe Cam is happy with her. These types of stories have helped define who these characters are. Who they are with the people they love the most is the true definer of their character. It really has been fantastic to watch. "The Guests" presents a different story angle about love. Cam and Reggie go back to Boston for the wedding of their old drug dealer. It creates a whole host of issues that Reggie has to deal with. But at the end of the day, it's still a story about love. And love is something that Cam cherishes so much.

Cam and Reggie dealing with people who they grew up with in Boston is a story that the show has done on a number of occasions. Because of that familiarity, the concept and structure of "The Guests" doesn't feel as special. This isn't the first time Cam has returned to Boston. He still views it as his home even though he's found so much success in Atlanta. Cam is just a giving person. He wants to help all of the people who helped him get to where he is. He was able to make something of his life. He was able to help the people he loved most in this world. He was able to pull his entire family out of poverty. That's such a rewarding achievement. He's been very gracious about it as well. He doesn't believe he got there by himself. He's the one with all of the talent. But he's very appreciative of all the hard work others did to help him along the way. Apparently, that includes the local weed dealer, Dealer Joe - who eventually moved onto harder drugs. It is one of the sillier setups for a "Cam tries to help a person from his past" story. But it does create a pretty engaging story about public perception about celebrity and how it can ruin or enhance an experience.

Cam has gotten used to his celebrity lifestyle a little bit. He's no longer shocked by being able to fly in private jets and being offered champagne on those short rides. That's just become a part of his life. He's able to return to Boston because Chen has a plane he can just loan to Cam and Reggie for the weekend. But he always wants to feel closely connected to his roots. He never wants his ego to get too big. That's a very aspirational character detail. It's what we want all of our celebrities to be like in real life. Cam has no problem going to Dealer Joe's wedding. He just wants to celebrate love for an old friend. Reggie is much more concerned about the optics. Cam has had numerous scandals since going pro but Reggie still maintains a wholesome brand for him. Those product deals are helping pay the bills and afford this luxurious lifestyle. Without it, Cam couldn't help anyone. He would just be another wedding guest. But he's not. He's a famous basketball player. Joe is able to use that celebrity stature to get an upgrade for the entire wedding at the hotel. He makes that deal without Cam's consent. It's up to Reggie to deal with all of the specifics.

Reggie's job has always been to cover up Cam's messes so that Cam can continue being Cam without everything blowing up in his face. Reggie is much more as a character than just that basic understanding. And yet, the show does like to revert back to it a lot. Cam and Reggie's friendship is so strong. Despite their disagreement about going to this wedding, Cam is still more than willing to talk about the great best man toast he gave at Reggie and Missy's wedding. He still has so much love for them. Reggie feels the same way. He just has to be concerned about Cam's image. Cam isn't. Cam can get caught up in the moment. He can make a spontaneous wedding toast just because he's asked. He doesn't have to think about it. He doesn't have to prepare any remarks. He can just be pointed out amongst the guests and brought up to deliver a speech. He does so flawlessly. But that only further creates conflict with the real best man. This weekend was all about doing something good for an old friend. Cam did right by Joe. But he basically pushed the best man aside by giving a far superior toast. Cam can't please everyone. He wants to but he can't. That hasn't broken his spirit though. Reggie is much more of a realist. And yet, he still encourages Cam to be who he is. Cam is a generous person. Reggie just makes sure all of the optics are right so that Cam can be generous without hurting his overall image and career.

Elsewhere, the show finally revisits that therapy session that M-Chuck and Cassie attended together. That was a huge moment between mother and daughter. And yet, the next few episodes didn't address it all. It didn't seem like much had changed between them. But without the proper context, it was impossible to know for certain. They could have had a major breakthrough. It just wasn't apparent onscreen. But unsurprisingly, that did not happen. Cassie had to be pushed by Cam into going to the session in the first place. She spent it completely in silence just listening to everything M-Chuck and the therapist had to say. She doesn't believe in therapy or talking about your problems. So, this action was basically the least amount she could possibly do while still actually appeasing M-Chuck. Cassie doesn't appear at all in this episode beyond that flashback to the therapy session. Instead, the focus is tightly on M-Chuck and the emotional fallout she is dealing with right now. She is really struggling with the feeling that her mother doesn't really love her. That's crippling to her development right now. She doesn't know how to move forward because she feels like she's destined to fail with whatever she does. She feels that way because of her mother. And yet, she hits her rock bottom all by herself.

Sex has always been a fantastic thing for M-Chuck. She's enjoyed it so much. She likes being able to have something casual. A quick hookup with no emotional feelings to deal with afterwards. But now, she's realizing that may be an even greater problem with her own psyche. It seems the therapy is actually doing some good. Now, she's no longer getting the satisfaction or the rush that she once did from casual sex. It's still very alluring to her. She can still be enticed by it so easily. But she's doing her best to avoid it. Of course, she caves in to these cravings. She hooks up with a random girl in the bathroom of a bar. And then, it's revealed the woman is a hooker who demands to be paid. It's a humiliating experience for M-Chuck. She didn't know and she's not well-informed enough to have a legal reason to refuse payment. This woman did take advantage of her but there's nothing M-Chuck can do. Her therapist told her to take a break from casual sex to deal with her own emotions about intimacy and love. But M-Chuck needed to go through this horrible experience to really get the message. She essentially breaks down with Missy. She needs comforting and Missy is the only one who can provide it right now. It's a really beautiful moment. It's dramatic because M-Chuck realizes that Cassie's way of loving her children has really messed them up in adulthood. But it also represents M-Chuck reaching this emotional breakthrough by herself. Now, it should be interesting to see how she comes back from all of this to make her life better.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Guests" was directed by Ali LeRoi with story by Patrick Bierut & Ali LeRoi and teleplay by Owen H.M. Smith.
  • Most of M-Chuck's therapy sessions have focused on her talking and complaining about her life. It's nice to see that her therapist is capable of providing help as well. She suggests taking a break from casual sex which really could be great for M-Chuck. Plus, it's nice that the therapist gets a personality as well by saying she's been on a break but is looking to get back into things.
  • M-Chuck's relationships have never been all that important for episodic stories before. She's had plenty of hookups. But they rarely are the things that define any of the main stories. Here, they took the focus for the B-story and provided Erica Ash a lot of strong material to work with.
  • Cam and Reggie's story is never really about their own relationships. It's about love in general and how important it is to celebrate marriage and happiness. But Allison and Missy are never a really crucial element.
  • Dealer Joe's bride is never all that important either. The wedding is all about celebrating their love. But everything about the story is how it connects the characters to Dealer Joe and whether or not that's a good thing.
  • It really is a great skill set that Reggie is able to negotiate Cam needing to write five tweets about the hotel down to appearing in a video that will get posted after he's already gone. It's because of that that the wedding goes off without a hitch.