Sunday, September 17, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Cam's First Charity Fundraiser Has a Memorable VR Experience in 'The Gala'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.05 "The Gala"

Cam gets passionate with his vision for the Calloway Philanthropic Trust's first fundraiser.

Cam has always been a sympathetic and caring person. He cares about people and wants to help them. On the surface, it's a very endearing quality. He doesn't just ignore the abuses of the world. He now has the influence to make a difference. He wants to help as much as he can. But the follow-through on those endeavors is often very lacking. He agrees to a lot because it's who he is. But it's frequently up to Reggie to reign him in or carry out the realistic actions that Cam can afford to take. It's simply a part of being Cam's manager. Reggie has had to put up with a lot. It feels selfish and destructive to have to say that. But it is. Cam has a certain amount of celebrity status where people are always asking him for things and he always wants to deliver. He cares about the world. But he is still incredibly naive about how the world really works. He has grown a significant amount over the course of the series. He's no longer running around telling people he's a "grown ass man." He knows he should run things through Reggie first before committing to them. He knows that he has a platform to address the issues of the world. He knows that people are always watching him and criticizing every decision he makes. But he's still completely shocked that people don't care as much as he does. He's not as cynical as the family is. That's very endearing. That should never change. But it still creates problems. And now, Missy is the one dealing with those problems because she's the one in charge of this gala event.

It's nice to see the show bring the focus to Cam's charity foundation. He formed it in a previous season after getting into trouble. It felt like a seemingly empty gesture to prove that he did regret his actions and will be doing something to help the people who suffer from frozen nostril syndrome. But now, he's actually putting in the work to make this a sustainable and profitable charity. He actually wants to make a difference in this world. It's smart for him to ask Missy to plan this gala. This is the world that she knows and understands. She can excel in this position of power. She can make him proud and deliver a truly memorable event. He needs this to go well in order to show that this is a serious charity that is making a difference in the world. He wants all of this to happen. But again, he's not the one actually doing the planning. His actions have consequences to them. Everyone knows that and needs to keep him in check. But they also see the passion he has for these causes - which now includes prison reform and providing clean drinking water throughout the world. They trust that he will do the right thing in order to help as many people as possible. And yes, that does produce a successful gala. But things are only compelling and funny to watch if things go horribly awry in this story. That seemed inevitable but the execution is quite effective and extremely funny to watch.

Cam is largely just focused on the money. He isn't interested in interacting with people and conducting small talk. He needs to be having a conversation about one of these issues at all times. Everyone who has shown up to this event has done so because they support him and are willing to donate. They just aren't as passionate about it as him. Of course, it's funny that they see that as an act he is putting on in order to get them to donate. It's very effective as that. But to Cam, it's so much more than that. His indulgence proves to be a major complication though. He added a donut table to the event at the last possible second. Missy had to adjust to that. It became this epic display. But it also sidelined the auctioneer, who is diabetic but ate six donuts. That creates a situation where M-Chuck is the one auctioning off items. That's a precarious sequence. She's not the worst person in the family to do the job. In fact, it's surprising that Missy turns to Cassie to do it first. But there's still the worry that M-Chuck will say the wrong or offensive thing and really turn this event into chaos. And yet, that doesn't happen. It's an effective sequence because that fear is still present for Cam and Missy. But it succeeds because it shows that M-Chuck can still be counted on when the situation calls for it. She is able to get a donation for $10,000 for selling a dog from Pitbull. Her strategy along the way just included references to Michael Vick and bestiality. They are made in good fun but have the potential to be destructive as well. Because she still succeeds, it's a major victory for this event.

When things are light and funny, the gala is going well. Missy has thought of everything and it's all going smoothly. However, she trusted Cam to do the virtual reality presentation. He was very passionate about making it a video that would truly hit people and make them care about these issues just as much as he does. It is his major contribution to this event. He has the freedom to create this along with Chen. Missy doesn't experience it until the goggles go on everyone in the room. That was a mistake of epic proportions. It leads to the most hilarious sequence of the season to date. The last third of this episode is incredible to watch. Like with M-Chuck being the auctioneer, there's the fear that it's going to go awry somehow and ruin the evening. But it's so fascinating to watch this entire roomful of people reacting to this video. The audience doesn't get to experience it alongside them. It's just a journey of sounds and people reacting with those goggles on. And yet, it's phenomenal to behold. Cam is beaming with pride over the work he has done. The presentation starts simply enough with the videos of babies with frozen nostril syndrome. But it's a traumatizing experience for the senses. First, it's just the torture of sounds coming from such a child. Then, they are thrown into a prison thriller that highlights just how abusive and destructive that environment can be. It's especially fun to watch Cassie and M-Chuck hanging on for dear life as they try to find each other.

But the true highlight of the episode comes when the virtual reality presentation gets to the diseased and unsafe water. Cam is making this crowd of supporters fully experience that sight. It was a night of heavy drinking and eating donuts. And now, they are being hit with visuals of disgusting water. It's a strategy that Missy can see ending in disaster right away. Cam didn't think of how everyone would react to this. It inevitably builds to a montage of people passing out or throwing up on each other. It's so nasty and disgusting to watch. People are tripping over the vomit. It's a brutal display that could turn these rich citizens against this foundation. It's destructive to their senses and is disrespectful of what they could contribute. Cam and Missy have that fight in the hallway. Cam is yelling at himself through Missy. He's blaming her for allowing him to have complete control over this portion of the evening when she knew everything needed to be perfect. It's such a complicated fight. One that shows how controlled and protective Cam has been over the entire series. He believes people should know better than to trust him with this kind of responsibility even when they believe he's grown enough to have earned that freedom. It puts things into perspective for Missy. Reggie didn't want her to do this because of how controlling and destructive the Calloway family can be. She appreciates that only after things spiral into chaos. And yet, this doesn't put a definitive end to the gala that also destroys the charity. In fact, it motivates people to donate even more. So, it's even more of a success. And that's the best punchline to this entire story. It's brutal and disgusting to watch but it's all going to pay off in the end as well. That's just brilliant to behold.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Gala" was written by Lauren Houseman & Allen Maldonado and directed by Ali LeRoi.
  • Cassie is finding religion again. She's installing a bunch of statues in the garden behind the house. It's annoying to M-Chuck because she was hoping to build a pool out there sometime soon. And now, there are all of these religious statues. And yet, it helps the two of them come together and take about the miracle of conception. It's M-Chuck who inspired Cassie to reconnect with her roots.
  • Of course, it's also amusing and keeping in character that Cassie would connect her story and journey to that of the Virgin Mary's. She believes that neither one of them had any choice in getting pregnant but gave birth to people who would come to save and define their entire lives. It's an apt but semi-conceited comparison as well.
  • Chen has proven to be a good influence on the entire family. He's a strong and supportive boyfriend for Cassie. And now, he's able to help Cam with this virtual reality presentation. His team is able to put it together. He's the only one who is seemingly enjoying watching everyone experience it as well. That's amusing too.
  • Of course, should the audience be worried about Chen's businesses and investments? He makes a reference to having to fire 5,000 workers before the gala. He makes a twisted joke about them being child workers anyway. And then at the gala, a former partner doesn't have kind things to say to him because of a Florida rental property.
  • All of this time Chen has had two properties in Atlanta as well. He could be living at either of them but chooses to spend so much time with the Calloway family because he likes being surrounded by people. He says it's because he grew up as an only child. So now, he wants to be around as many people as possible at all times.
  • Reggie doesn't always know the right way to express his concerns about Missy being in charge of the gala. And yet, his speech about the power of the word "Sure" is pretty remarkable. It infers affirmative action. It's Cam's go-to response to any kind of proposition. But it's also not a yes or a no. As such, it's Reggie's responsibility to figure what it means in every situation.