Sunday, August 20, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Cam, M-Chuck and Reggie Struggle with Father Issues in 'Fallout'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.01 "Fallout"

Cam, Reggie and M-Chuck's attempts to reconcile their paternal relationships see varying results. Cassie and Chen attempt to enjoy their time in Shanghai.

Over the years, not only has Survivor's Remorse become one of the smartest and edgiest comedies out there but it's also a really nuanced and complicated family drama. It needed to pivot to more dramatic material after Uncle Julius' death. And that only revealed the true depths of these characters. They've obtained all of this new success. And yet, they still feel pain and betrayal just like everyone else. Cam is lifted up as this incredible celebrity. He's the basketball player who will completely revitalize the Atlanta team. However, his first attempt at the playoffs was short lived. He's dealing with that disappointment and the crushing thoughts reigning down on him from everywhere in his public life. He was expected to lead the team to victory and failed to do so. So now, he's reflecting on the life he has lived up to this point. His entire world has radically changed in not a lot of time. This is the fourth season of the show but not even a year has gone by in the show's timeline. It's been a whirlwind adventure for the entire family. Cam has matured quickly. He's really grown up over the course of the series. And yet, there's still so much further for him to go. He's still just a 20-something kid trying to make sense of what the world actually is. He's realizing that the adults in the world are just as complicated and human as he is. Everyone fails and those failures have come to define his story. He rose up and built something of his life. But he's still figuring out what's the right thing to do moving forward and which actions are just because he feels guilty.

The show revealed that Cam's father was in prison at the end of the third season. It was a cliffhanger ending. The show hadn't cast the role yet but it was clear it was going to be a big presence in the upcoming fourth season. And now, the show actually produces that sit-down between the two for the first time in years. In fact, it's revealed that Rodney hasn't seen his son since he was a baby. He's been in prison since he was 17 years old. He chose to be away from Cassie and their family because of a stupid action that has led to a lengthy prison sentence. The show doesn't actually come out and say what Rodney did to get into prison for such a long time. It has to be something serious to justify the amount of time spent there. But the show doesn't want the audience's understanding of the character to be shaded by such a dramatic action. He did something bad. It was probably associated with gang violence. And now, he is paying for it. He has changed because of the time spent in prison. But he still has a really blunt personality and just wants to know why Cam chose now to actually come and visit him in the hopes of forging a relationship.

And Cam really doesn't have an honest answer to that question. He's never been curious about his father before because Cassie always had an answer for him. He always knew that Rodney was a deadbeat who is spending his life in prison. He never grew up not knowing the same way that M-Chuck did. M-Chuck questioning her parentage forced Cam to reflect on his as well. It was enough to inspire both of them to head to Boston for answers without telling anyone. Both of them plus Reggie are dealing with father issues right now. They want to keep them private as well. They are spinning out and causing stress for the people they love. They are choosing to focus on the past and the reality of what people did and how that in turn affected them. Cam had to grow up without a father because Rodney did something stupid. Rodney has made peace that his son made something of his life. He feels no need to ask him for anything either. He knows what his future is. It's a life in jail. He's grown accustomed to this life. He has no time for uncertainty like Cam does. Cam needs clarity. He needs his mother to tell him whether or not she kept letters from Rodney from him. She did because she loved him. She didn't want him to spin out worrying about the guy who is technically his father but not his true parent. This is a terrific episode for Cassie as she tries to get everyone to stop worrying about the trauma and pain of the past and focus on the happiness of the present. And yet, that doesn't appear to be working. She found peace but she can't force that on her children. So, Cam ends the premiere still looking for those old letters.

Meanwhile, M-Chuck is determined to learn the identities of the men who raped Cassie which led to her conception. It's such a horrifying story. One that Cassie understandably doesn't want to share and relive every single detail. She has moved on with her life. Things are finally good for her. Sure, she's stuck in a bathroom trying to clean up a mess. But she's in love with a billionaire. She doesn't want her children to bring her down again. She escaped that life already and doesn't want to go back there. But M-Chuck is still determined for answers. Cassie isn't being malicious in her desire to keep the truth from M-Chuck. She is just content with what she remembers about that night and doesn't care to learn anything new that may have happened. She doesn't see the point in that. And so, she doesn't want to talk about it for personal reasons. But it's a night that still provides answers for M-Chuck. So, she demands that Pookie tell her everything that he knows. He's the only person still alive who knows what happened that night. He can tell M-Chuck about the way Julius found Cassie the next morning. But he can also tell M-Chuck where to find the three men who did this to her mother. She wants that in order to beat them up for what they did to her. She needs that peace and understanding in her life. And yet, it tragically seems like she won't get that because Pookie reveals that they are all dead already. M-Chuck will need to see it to believe it. But it seems very unlikely that that will be enough to satisfy her which is just so tragic. She deserves happiness and peace in her life. She needs this. But the world is just too harsh to give it to her.

And finally, Reggie's visit with his father, Trent, actually leads to a hospital visit. It's a very traumatizing experience. Reggie wants nothing to do with his father after a lifetime of disappointment due to him being an alcoholic. Even hearing that he's five years sober isn't enough to change Reggie's opinion of the man. And yet, he still needs to rely on his assistance when he gets into a fight in the parking lot outside the restaurant. Reggie is so mad about Trent's intrusion into his life that he slams his car door into another vehicle. That leads to three guys and a woman cornering him to make him pay for the minor damage. It's an altercation that does get violent. Reggie is outnumbered. The only support he can rely on is his father's. He's so conflicted about that as well. He appreciates not having to take on the big one by himself. But he's still mad at Trent once it's all over. None of this changes the way he feels about him. He still wants Trent out of his life for good. He doesn't want Trent to contact him or Missy ever again. But Trent does offer one moment of genuine parenting in saying that Reggie shouldn't drive and that he should go to a hospital. Reggie actually listens because he knows it's the right thing to do. But Trent being there throughout this whole experience - and then calling Missy to tell her about it - is bound to stir up even more complications for this part of the family.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fallout" was written by Mike O'Malley and directed by Mike Mariano.
  • Unlike the other main characters, Missy has a good relationship with her parents. They are seen for the first time here as well. They are played by Vanessa Bell Calloway and Isiah Whitlock Jr. - which is excellent casting. Of course, Missy's mom is also preparing her for divorce because of the fight she had with Reggie regarding his father. That seems unlikely but is still possible of happening.
  • Isaiah Washington is an interesting casting choice as Rodney, Cam's father. Washington has done well when he plays roles with a personal connection but whom you can't really trust all that well. The reformed gang member angle is a little more complicated. But that has also been worn down after years in prison. In fact, that may have made him more perceptive of the world.
  • The cold-open does a solid job in mocking the constant criticism of professional athletes speaking publicly about controversial issues while also pressing them to take a stand on such subject matter. The mass incarceration of black Americans is a huge issue. I trust that the show will tackle it honestly but with laughs as well.
  • Cam knows that M-Chuck is in Boston as well because that's what Cassie blurts out once he calls her to talk about his father. Both of her children are doing this to her and she just doesn't have time for it. But are Cam and M-Chuck bound to meet up in Boston? Or will they both return home when they are ready? Plus, Reggie is completely in the dark about what the two of them are doing.
  • This really is a terrific episode for Tichina Arnold. Earlier this year, I was worried that she wouldn't have enough time to be present on both this show and VH1's Daytime Divas. And yet, this is a solid start to the season. Of course, it still may change at some point. She and Chen could be in China for awhile. But as long as the show still produces hilarious scenes like the bathroom one, it will still be solid.