Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Cam Has Problems with New Business Deals in 'Family Ties' & 'Answers and Questions'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.09 "Family Ties" and "Answers and Questions"

Cassie catches up with an old friend. Cam and Reggie visit a school. Missy and Allison each receive some unsolicited advice. Missy pressures Reggie to make a play for their independence. M-Chuck's satisfaction comes at the cost of Cassie's. Cam rebuffs Flaherty.

"Family Ties" and "Answers and Questions" obviously weren't written to be the final episodes of Survivor's Remorse. And yet, that's the sad reality of what they have become. Starz has decided to end the show after four seasons. That's not particularly surprising given the ratings for this season - especially for the episodes that didn't have Power as a lead-in. But it still feels like the show deserved a final season announcement to pay off everything that it has established over the years. The creative team probably would have enjoyed that as well. But that's not what has occurred. So, the show ultimately ends on a cliffhanger. It's somewhat fitting because it highlights how this family is going to always have anxiety about the decisions they make and how it will affect not only themselves but their family and people they care about. Each action they take has the potential to send them to a better future full of self-improvement or send them spiraling into self-doubt and destruction. It was so wonderful to get to spend four seasons with the Calloway family. They've grown so much across the years. This season got off to such a strong and dramatic start. Since then, the quality has dipped a little because of the need for more serialization. I'm not sure these final two episodes do enough to resolve the various plot threads from this specific season. But they do keep things funny and amusing in the character interactions. And that's just fantastic. This is one of the best shows out there for dialogue. That continues here as everyone gets into small fights about the decisions they have all made this season.

And so, Reggie finally has a conversation with Cam about the real estate deal he and Missy want to do with Chen. He shows him the property they are interesting in buying and selling to be developed. When Reggie and Missy looked over the place in a previous episode, the focus was on the two of them and what this deal could mean for their respective futures. And now, the focus shifts to the land itself. That's all that Cam can see when he visits this place. He sees a school that has been shut down. He wants to know why this school failed. He can't focus on what Reggie wants to be talking about. He doesn't care about what could be built on this piece of land. He doesn't care about what could be sold in this community. He doesn't care about the financial benefits of this plan. He has always respected and understood Reggie's business judgment. He has always deferred to him on how to be smart while spending his money. This season has seen him challenge that a little bit. Cam's ideals are soaring ever higher. He's always had a bleeding heart. He's always wanted to help people. And now, he's focusing on issues on a macro level. He wants to do something to address the systemic issues of the world. That means thinking about this school, how it failed and how it has affected this community. He sees the value in education. He sees the value in creating a school for this community that can actually succeed. That's what he sees on this land. And that stands in stark contrast to what everyone else wants to do.

As such, it's not surprising that Cam doesn't want to be a part of this deal. He encourages Reggie to back out of it as well. These two have always been incredibly close. They are family and business partners. Cam and Reggie like to run things by each other before making big decisions. Of course, they can both be incredibly rash as well. Cam can promise the world to everyone and Reggie has to figure out how to make it happen. This season has quietly highlighted the divisions in this business arrangement. Cam has been off doing his own thing and trying to be a better person. He's trying to improve the world by getting people to care about issues just as much as he does. Meanwhile, Reggie and Missy have been dealing with financial stress in their marriage. They believe they have the maturity to enter deals like the one Chen is presenting and come out on top. It carries a risk. Missy's father wants her to be aware of that before he hands the money over to her. Reggie and Missy are united on this front. But it serves to alienate Cam as well. Reggie hates doing that. He believes Cam does have a say in the decisions they make publicly. He values Cam's opinion and doesn't want to do anything to tarnish the brand they've created for him. But it's not ultimately surprising that Reggie goes through with the deal anyway. There's no indication at all whether or not it will be successful. But Cam does get into Reggie's head and makes him doubt the future of this project. That's a precarious tease that will ultimately go unanswered.

Meanwhile, it's fascinating to see Cam and Cassie return to Boston in order to talk with Rodney. That was a strong focus at the start of the season. And now, it comes full circle with Cassie reaching out as well. It's such a strong scene. She does this in order to feel better about getting confirmed in the Catholic church. It's a little lame how that specific story doesn't reach much resolution. Of course, it's hard to argue that this is a vastly more important scene to show. These characters have a history. They were in love for a short period of time. That has to mean something. Their memories of that time are important even though they have moved on in different ways. He's in prison and she's put the past behind her while dating Chen. But it's just great to see them reminisce while he pushes for a "family" visit. It's funny and charming. The connection is present between them. There is no animosity despite how long it has been. And then, things quickly take the turn to serious when Cam arrives for his own conversation with Rodney. He's curious about how to manage his personal happiness. He's so excited to get married to Allison. He's hear to share that news with his father. But he also wants to know how to balance that feeling of happiness with his desire to do more to help the world. He understands that he needs to use his celebrity and role model status to make a difference. It's a somewhat redundant scene. But it does fuel his desire to hold even more steadfast to his beliefs especially as they are challenged once he returns to Atlanta.

Of course, it's a little weird that the season ends with tension in Cam and Allison's relationship. The show hasn't told a story about her job in a long time. She has made her intentions known that she plans on keeping her job despite the lifestyle her boyfriend can afford. She put in all the work to get this position. She doesn't want to lose it to just be a housewife and mother to their future children. She wants more out of life than that. That's to be respected. And yet, her job doesn't respect her. They all make the decisions for her in regards to her desire to keep this job. Her boss doesn't believe she can be effective as the head of a department because she won't be able to be kept in her place in the hierarchy of this business. That's absolutely horrifying to see. Allison has a right to be upset. And yet, Cam is choosing to spend his time fighting a battle with Jimmy Flaherty than being there for the woman he loves. It's so devastating. Sure, it's vastly more interesting to spend time with Cam, Reggie and Jimmy. It's great to hear their arguments about this corporate sponsorship. Cam has a problem with the new sponsor because of his crusade against private prisons. Meanwhile, Jimmy notes that every single company out there is corrupt in some way. It's just the cost of doing business. It's very cynical but it's how he sees the world. It's this huge story that is blown up into something only to have a quick and easy resolution. Cam spends all of his time worrying about this instead of being there for Allison. That's weird especially after he got clarity over how to balance his life from Rodney. He ends the series calling her. The expectation is fully there that the two of them will be able to work things out. But it's an awkward and anti-climatic way to close the series as well. I just wish the show got more time to tell more stories while remaining grateful that it got to produce four seasons at all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Family Ties" was written by Ali Leroi and directed by Ali Leroi.
  • "Answers and Questions" was written by Victor Levin and directed by Victor Levin.
  • DJ Khaled appears as Allison's co-worker, Mikey C, who gets the promotion instead of her. It's such an odd cameo. He appears in both of these episodes to highlight the dynamic Allison has at work. She's perfectly fine interacting with him but immediately has to question why he gets promoted instead of her. She believes she deserves to know even though the answer is absolutely horrible.
  • M-Chuck got all the clarity she needed from learning about her parentage. And yet, that reveal is still causing problems between her and Cassie. In the finale, Cassie discovers the essay that she wrote about that experience. She immediately questions it and how the information could be out there for anyone to sell to the world to break a huge scandal. Cassie didn't want that and M-Chuck understands even though she's surprised by how little she wants to make of this story now.
  • Reggie has Cam's back when he wants to sit out the game in protest of the new partnership Jimmy has made for the team. Reggie is still Cam's supportive manager who stands by everything that he does. And yet, that sequence also highlights how Reggie and Jimmy are actually partners now with the Chen deal while Reggie is growing more distant with Cam.
  • It's a little surprising how Reggie and Missy wiring one million dollars to Chen for this deal is enough to basically bankrupt them. The show hasn't dealt with the specific state of finances with these characters. But this is a huge risk for the two of them. It's in actually seeing that amount of money leaving their account that it becomes real for them. That was very clearly stated. As such, the show didn't need the later fantasy of Reggie picturing a future begging for money on the side of the road.
  • Out of this terrific cast, I'm most excited to see what RonReaco Lee and Erica Ash do next. The show slowly learned what the two of them do well as actors and wrote towards that. These last few seasons have been a terrific showcase for why the two of them deserve to be huge stars. And so, I need them to find starring roles somewhere else real soon. In fact, I want that for this entire cast. They were all really terrific.