Sunday, September 4, 2016

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Reggie and Jimmy are Locked in a Tense Negotiation in 'Mystery Team'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 3.08 "Mystery Team"

Reggie and Flaherty battle over a contract extension for Cam.

After three seasons, the Calloways have gotten very close to Jimmy Flaherty. At first, he was just the owner of the basketball team Cam played for. But his role in all of their lives has become so much more than that. He has proven himself to be very invested in their lives. He has been there for them in times of sorrow and in moments of pure joy. He was at the hospital when Uncle Julius died and he has helped M-Chuck get into college. He supports this family and wants to build a strong and lasting future with all of them. It's been a pretty wonderful role for Chris Bauer. The show is primarily about the family. And yet, the work Bauer does as Jimmy has been so exceptional that he was promoted to series regular this season. It's because of the work that a story like the one in "Mystery Team" is allowed to happen. Jimmy is a nuanced character on the show. He has a role to fill but is so much more than that as well. He can always chirp in with an opinion on any given subject. But he's also Cam's boss and has no problem laying into him about being more professional. It's just a fantastic character.

Because Jimmy is such a good friend, it's much more difficult when it comes time to re-negotiate Cam's contract with the team. It's something audiences have been expecting this season. Way back in the premiere, Reggie noted that Cam had an opt-out option in his current contract after one year with the team. He could leave and play basketball for some other professional team. It seemed unlikely given the show is set in Atlanta. A massive move would seriously change all of the roots the entire family has laid down in this city. But it's enough to create a suspenseful plot. It's something that this season wanted to do. It's a time to reflect on the year that Cam has had. This entire series so far has just been one year of his professional career. It's surprising but understandable given the lack of time jumps in between seasons. Cam has grown a lot during this year. He has matured. He's in a serious relationship now. Sure, he's never actually seen playing basketball. But many characters note that this has been a strong season for him. Not great. The team still needs improvement. But it's enough to suggest a bright career ahead for Cam.

That's a future that Jimmy is building towards. He wants a championship ring just as much as the actual team does. He wants to give Cam the support he needs on the court so that's possible. He needs Cam to stay in order for those dreams to come true. Reggie knows that. So, he's operating from a position of strength when it comes to negotiating a new contract for Cam. Reggie has made business mistakes in the past. He's also made some smart decisions. He too has grown a lot in this year. He has proven that he can handle himself in the big leagues. He knows what he's doing. But here, the process of negotiating is very alienating to the rest of the family. They all want to stay in Atlanta. They love it here. They love the new lives they have made for themselves. M-Chuck just got into a local state college. Cam is happy in his relationship with Allison. And yet, Reggie needs all of them to keep their distance from Jimmy in order for this negotiation to be a success. He is playing a game and manipulating the situation to his benefit. It's what he's being paid to do. But again, it's cold and harsh to the rest of the family. This isn't who they are. They wear their emotions and feelings on their sleeves. Reggie knows how to be a smart businessman. However, he's jeopardizing the family's entire future just to prove that he knows exactly what he is doing.

The situational humor with this story is particularly on point as well. The back-and-forth between Reggie and Jimmy is pretty hilarious to watch. They both know how to play this game. They aren't afraid to use their relationships with the rest of the family to get what they want. They bring sports reporter Isa into the mix as well. Reggie trusts her solely because of her history with Cam. Their hookup and subsequent sexual disease wasn't the best episode last year. But it was effective in showing how Cam was maturing. In this episode, she returns and is essentially trapped between the two sides. She's doing her job and reporting on the details of this negotiation. And yet, the show thinks it's amusing to escalate the outrageousness and randomness of the places where Reggie and Jimmy meet her. It's fairly funny when they just have normal meetings outside of her office. Both of those meetings show just how Reggie and Jimmy are like when dealing with business. Things take a strange turn though when Reggie meets her in a weird strip club and Jimmy hosts the final meeting in a Korean sauna. They are jokes the show loves and has utilized frequently in the past. They are just perhaps too silly to be all that effective here amongst the serious issue of the family's future in Atlanta.

There's a pretty dramatic moment in "Mystery Team" as well. Reggie refuses to accept Jimmy's deal when he offers it twenty seconds after the deadline. He views the tardiness as a way to get the final thing he wants out of this deal. It's a move that is not appreciated by the family. They are willing to welcome Jimmy back into family and act like this tense situation didn't happen at all. Reggie is the sole holdout. He doesn't want his personal emotions clouding his judgment and preventing him from getting Cam the best deal possible. It's important to see the situation from both perspectives. Reggie wants to make sure that the family isn't cheated out of what they deserve just because they are close friends with Jimmy. But Cam is right to be angry with Reggie for withholding crucial information and forcing everyone to live in uncertainty for way too long. This isn't a simple process. It takes weeks of back-and-forth for the situation to resolve itself. It finally does. And Reggie reveals that the mystery team was actually Jimmy all along. That shows just how skilled a negotiator Reggie is. He gets absolutely everything he wants. He risked it all but it paid off. This has been a tough year for the family. It would have been unbearable if they had to suddenly find a new place to live. And now, Cam has an even more lucrative contract. That means he can do even more in Atlanta. That's a good thing. Reggie got that for him. The family may not have appreciated his tactics but they certainly love the rewards that come afterwards.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mystery Team" was directed by Millicent Shelton with story by Lamar Woods & Allen Maldonado and teleplay by Lauren Houseman & Rachelle R. Williams.
  • The M-Chuck/Jimmy friendship has been a surprising but absolutely delightful development of this season. She laments losing the only straight white male friendship she has ever had. And yet, that final kiss seemed a bit too ridiculous.
  • However, that final sight of Jimmy with lipstick all over his face looking at the crazy Calloway family celebrating the big news with a big smile was just a phenomenal moment to end on. Again, Chris Bauer is so fantastic on this show.
  • Cam's relationship with Allison hasn't been all that important to the overall season. That was likely because of Meagan Tandy's scheduling commitments to Lifetime's UnREAL. But here, she's basically just a background player. She's in group scenes but doesn't really offer a whole lot to the overall plot.
  • The Calloways aren't a family who would ever censor themselves. And yet, they do so very efficiently and effectively when they go to church for Easter services. It's actually pretty hilarious when they get into an argument about not swearing in front of Jesus.
  • It's also great when Jimmy and Reggie try using different parts of Jesus' story during this momentous week to make a point about their negotiating strategies. Reggie's style may be more pessimistic but it still wins out in the end.
  • Jimmy notes that there is definitely a history between Cam and Isa the moment they are in the same room. And yet, he doesn't press the issue because he has other things to worry about. I wonder if he'll ever hear that particular story?
  • There are so many jokes and insults flown at Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Most of them are pretty funny. Of course, I'm also interested in how they play to people actually from those cities?