Sunday, September 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - The Family Gets Into a Very Spirited Discussion on Cassie's Podcast in 'Feel Free to Comment'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.04 "Feel Free to Comment"

Cam and Allison have a run-in with some fans. Reggie advises Missy to think twice about taking on a job. Cassie's podcast lands on a hot topic.

Survivor's Remorse is hardly the first show to center an episode around the idea that internet trolls are simply people craving attention while hiding behind anonymity and are best to be ignored entirely. And yet, Survivor's Remorse has an interesting take on the subject matter as it applies to the black community. Plus, it really doesn't delve into the anonymity of it all either. That is one portion of this conversation. But the inciting incident happens face-to-face to show how judgmental people can be just to the people in the lives of celebrities. This episode has an interesting discussion about the struggle of feeling judged by the people one is suppose to identify with. This is a black family that was able to pull themselves out of poverty to a life of wealth and success in Atlanta. Cam worked hard to get where he is and provide a better life for everyone in his family. They are all incredibly grateful for that. Cassie wants to stay on that positive message as well. She sees no point in dwelling on the past or worrying about what others think. They have a great life that is worth celebrating. They are the ones with all of these new opportunities that are making people jealous. It's important to remember that. But it's also just so funny to watch as this conversation gets sidetracked and even Cassie has an epic outburst in the end.

"Feel Free to Comment" is also different than the three episodes that started this season. The show definitely could have done another episode up in Boston. It could have been fun seeing Cam, Reggie and M-Chuck get caught up in a story up there after everything that has happened to them lately regarding their fathers. But this is a nice episode too that features their lives moving forward in other ways. M-Chuck got closure with her tragic conception. And now, she's completely focusing on school despite her mother's micro-aggressions towards her about that. Reggie is back to not knowing what's going on with his father while also just being more loving to Missy overall. Cam is forging a new relationship with his father. And now, he's also planning a gala for his foundation. It's nice to see the show remembering that plot point it set up in a previous season. Cam did create a charitable foundation. It would be nice to see more of that especially considering he is in the offseason now. This season the stories don't have to be exclusively about basketball for Cam. He can take the time to explore other ventures while still preparing for the next season playing for Atlanta. So right now, that means more setup for his charity while also more focus on his relationship with Allison.

The plot of this story kicks off because several fans of Cam's harass Allison in public for being a basic bitch and not good enough for someone like Cam. It's cruel and rude. These women have their perception of what a black woman is suppose to be and do for a black man. They see Cam as this awesome celebrity who will grow bored with a woman if she doesn't do these extravagant things in bed. They don't view Cam or Allison as human beings. They lift Cam up as this guy who can do no wrong and any woman has to do everything he wants in order to please him. Meanwhile, they degrade Allison because she just seems boring and not worthy of someone of Cam's stature. She's not a proper black women. They judge her because she's not like them. She's well-educated and has a successful career. But to these women, that's a criticism because they see it as not something that any black man would want. It's a conversation that really makes Allison uncomfortable. Rightfully so as well. Cam can't relate because he's not actually there to hear these comments being made and can stand up for Allison. Even when he's saying that he loves Allison for exactly the person she is, she still has doubts that she should be doing something more because Cam is a celebrity and deserves it.

The show basically just takes its time to have a conversation in this episode as well. A long stretch of it is just a recording of Cassie's podcast. She has produced several of these already. And now, it's getting its own live stream. Of course, it's predictable that one of the comments is bound to be very offensive and point this conversation into a more conventional and familiar area. But the execution is still very remarkable. Things are already going awry for Cassie when she just wants to talk about blessings. She wants to control the things she's saying and putting out there in the word. She knows how dangerous her mouth can be because it's gotten her into trouble in the past. She wants to be more aware of that. She wants to plan things ahead of time. She knows she can get carried away. And yet, that's precisely what happens here just because the conversation pivots to this more meaningful topic that fosters a lot of different opinions. Is Squeeze less black because he is now eating traditionally white people food in order to lose weight? Is Allison more black because she had a "traditional" black upbringing where she eats and experienced the same things that are suppose to tie the community together? Is this community always finding a way to judge and tear people down? Can they even celebrate success stories? It's such a powerful discussion that is just able to happen in a very natural way. It goes off on several different tangents that are pretty fun - like the jokes about Squeeze's diet or M-Chuck wondering if Harriet Tubman was gay.

But it's still fundamentally a conversation about racism and prejudice. It's a conversation fueled by many different people of color. Not everyone in this room has had the same experience. Chen is confused by what the term "black community" entails. He doesn't naturally understand it because he's different even though he knows it exists because his company markets to the consumers. He is genuinely curious. He has experienced being lumped together as one big culture with people he doesn't agree with at all. He hates that all asian communities are associated together by white people. He has a pretty fun rant about the many sections of asians fighting wars with each other for as long as time has existed. That's the history he comes from and understands. No one else in the room can relate to it but they understand it. They don't judge him for highlighting these differences. But the internet does. It's a place where those mentalities can be very abusive. Chen is called out for not knowing every detail about what Harriet Tubman did for this country. It's a part of him being in America right now speaking to a specific audience. His response is eloquent as well. He is able to explain how his awareness is lacking just like it is for Americans regarding the Chinese history he knows so well. He calls the audience out for their own ignorance in a way that is very civilized. Of course, Cassie takes the opposite approach. The live stream gets out of hand. It all builds up to her screaming into the mic because of how hateful commenters can be on the internet. It's fun because everyone quickly wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

And yet, all of this still needs to be a relatable story. It still needs to come back to Cam and Allison's relationship. Again, it reaches a very familiar ending. Allison still has that thought in the back of her head about what Cam may like in the bedroom. That largely just fosters a discussion between them about interacting with the anonymity of the world. Cam points out that he gets so many mean messages online and that it's best to just ignore it. Confronting the other person isn't ultimately worth it. Allison sees that firsthand and is able to find a way to cope with it. It's a happy ending for that central relationship. It just ends in a very familiar way that doesn't really add anything new or necessary to the conversation. It basically just needed to happen in order for the show to produce the comedic greatness that occurs in the middle of the episode with Cassie. As such, it's probably the weakest episode of the new season so far. But this is still a strong and insightful show. So even a weaker episode is still great.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Feel Free to Comment" was written by Owen H.M. Smith & Rachelle R. Williams and directed by Ali LeRoi.
  • Reggie and Missy really aren't important to the main plot at all. This really isn't a busy episode for them. It's just introducing the story that will become more important for them in the immediate future. Of course, they have a really humorous moment when they walk into the Calloway house, hear Cassie screaming expletives and immediately decide to run to their car. That was great.
  • So, Cam has asked Missy to plan a big gala for his charity. He trusts that she can do this very important thing for him because he wants the charity to have more of a presence throughout the world. She accepts it even though Reggie believes it might be a bad idea. He just doesn't really have a good reason for why though. He just thinks Cassie and M-Chuck will be too opinionated and demanding.
  • There's a really weird moment where Missy asks Reggie if she should get breast implants. He gives the correct answer in saying that she looks beautiful and she's already the perfect woman to be married to. And yet, it largely seems like it exists to create confusion later on when Reggie doesn't know what decision Missy is thinking about.
  • It continues to feel good that M-Chuck is studying psychology in college. It's her pursuing something she had absolutely no interest in a little while ago but has then benefited greatly from. She's changed because of therapy and is now studying it in order to be even better. Of course, she's still just a freshman and time moves very slowly on this show.
  • This show has always been very upfront and blunt with language. And yet, there's so much power from the fact that no one actually says the mean message directed at Chen about not knowing more about Harriet Tubman. They don't dignify it enough to repeat it. Their visceral reactions are enough to inform the audience of what it said.