Sunday, October 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Reggie and M-Chuck Pull Chen Into Some Uncomfortable Situations in 'Optics'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.07 "Optics"

Cam and Allison take a road trip. M-Chuck has a bone to pick with a museum donor. Reggie tries to get in on a deal with Chen.

"Optics" is a more silly episode of Survivor's Remorse. As such, it's not as effective as the show has been over the last few seasons. The show can be wickedly funny without delving into silly territory. But this episode is just too weird and asking the audience to believe in something that couldn't possibly be true. Of course, I'm referencing the story with Cam and Allison believing that their hotel is haunted. That's just such a weird and silly storyline. It's building to this very significant and moving conclusion with Cam wanting to take Allison shopping for rings. The two of them taking that next step in their relationship does feel real and genuine. This season has focused more on their relationship. It makes sense that they are ready to take this step after everything that has happened with Cam reconnecting with his father and choosing to step up as a vocal activist. But it's an odd conclusion for this episodic story. The sentiment is lost a little bit because it's not a grand, sweeping display of emotion. Engagement stories on television are often these big, over-the-top things where the audience can easily get swept up into the love and emotion involved. Here, it's just a simple conversation where Cam realizes just how much he truly loves Allison and how much she understands him. That's perfectly normal as well. Not every engagement story needs to be this elaborate production. This just feels like an awkward way to execute this twist. It's making sure to surprise the audience because their story isn't this serious thing. Instead, it's this incredibly goofy thing that may or may not include ghosts. If you bought into the story, then the twist probably worked for you. But it delved into a world the show has never portrayed before, so it seemed incredibly obvious as to what was going to happen.

Of course, the timing of all of this seems a little weird as well. Just last week, it seemed like Cam was gearing up for another season of basketball. He was working out of the stadium once again and interacting with Jimmy again. The series was returning him to this familiar environment with a new outlook on life. And now, he and Allison are taking this vacation. It would have been a little more believable if it was still the offseason for him. Instead, he's trying to get his mind off of basketball and everything else going on in the world. That's perfectly fine as well. It's just a little awkward. Plus, it's clear right away that something is off with this hotel they are staying at. The guy at the front desk just wants to tell them his entire life story but doesn't seem like he knows who Cam is at all. He's just talking about trying to get his degree for hotel management but struggling because of life obstacles. He warns Cam and Allison not to trip on the stairs because it's a brutal noise to hear someone falling. It's a little alarming. It raises our guards up because it establishes a creepy vibe. That continues when Cam and Allison are interacting with the guy who brings up the room service. It just feels like a ridiculous setup. The audience doesn't have to know the guy's story to know that he looks ridiculous for a reason. The show tries playing it as a ghost from the 1970s. Instead, it's just a way to distract Cam because Allison knows he needs it. So, she got her cousin to do this for her. It's such the expected twist though that was telegraphed very early on. Still, the ending is significant but the structuring just seems very lazy and predictable.

Meanwhile, things are largely just continuing to be established in Reggie and Missy's corner of the world. Last week they fought about money. She was upset that he lost a ton in his poker game while also being annoyed that she has nothing that she can financially claim as her own. And now, Reggie's poker game is actually seen once more. It was odd for the show to bring up this plot point again since it hasn't been relevant since it was first introduced back in the second season. Because it was mentioned again, it signaled that it was about to have new significance in the story. But now, it seems like its purpose is in getting Reggie, Missy and Chen to go into business together. That's a promising tease of a story. Chen has a point in being wary about doing business deals with friends and family. He's willing to take those kinds of risks with people he likes but isn't all that close with - like the other guys at the poker night. Everyone talking about how successful Chen has been lately and how good this deal seems on paper probably signals that it's going to be very disastrous for everyone involved in the long run. It seems to be bringing Reggie and Missy together again. He gives her all the information about it. She wants to be the one to invest the money into the property. She has her trust open and is ready to invest. She wants to be an active part of her family's financial future. That's intriguing. But it's still just mostly setup in this episode. It's humor is pretty silly as well with Reggie hosting the poker game in a very childish basement.

And finally, M-Chuck's story is probably the most successful one of the episode but it still has a number of weird and random moments as well. She's the character who has grown the most over the course of the show. It's all pertaining to her anger issues. She's put in the work to address her bad behavior and do something about it. But her anger and inability to understand other people still has a habit of coming out from time to time. In this case, it presents itself when she confronts a white Jewish man who wants to put his name on a museum for African-American culture. She's perfectly fine with his ideals and wanting to accept one another's oppression over the years. But it's also offensive and she needs to point it out to him. The two of them have their epic confrontation. M-Chuck doesn't get physical with her anger. She just uses her words. But it's enough to send her spiraling back to a therapy session and needing to take Chen along with her. That's a pretty hilarious moment because Chen doesn't want to be there at all. The two of them make such a great comedic pairing. This story ultimately gets resolved though because M-Chuck and Leonard do their own soul-searching after the fact. It's in talking with his wife that Leonard sees M-Chuck's point-of-view and is willing to change the name of the museum. It's in talking with her therapist that M-Chuck understands the root of her anger. Things are able to end happily with M-Chuck feeling respected and also being very appreciative for everything Leonard has done for this museum. It's a happy ending that also fosters a compelling conversation. Those are frequently the stories this show excels at doing. It has a nice focus that is missing somewhat from the other two storylines.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Optics" was written by Victor Levin and directed by Victor Levin.
  • No Cassie at all this week. That's not completely surprising since Tichina Arnold is splitting her time between this show and VH1's Daytime Divas. But it was definitely more noticeable here because her perspective could have been very amusing to see throughout any of this stories. She'll probably have lots to say about the plots that will be ongoing as well.
  • It's also a tad disappointing that LeBron James doesn't appear to be a part of Reggie's poker game anymore. Tom Werner shows up again as himself while the rest of the guys are actors. But James is an executive producer on this show. There could have been the opportunity for him to appear once more. Though I also understand that he's busy as well.
  • Reggie loses at poker once more. He's the one hosting the game this time. And his luck still hasn't turned around. He doesn't lose as much as Jimmy does. But it still feels like an embarrassing time for Reggie. He's being mocked for his basement while Missy has expressed concerns about their finances as it pertains to this poker game.
  • Was it all that necessary to show that Leonard's wife happens to be a journalist whom M-Chuck offended a couple of seasons ago when her anger problems were out of control? It was completely pointless. The only reason the audience would remember her is if she was included in the "Previously on..." segment - which she is. It just didn't seem all that necessary for the actual scene.
  • The Chen-Reggie-Missy business deal going awry seems like the expected twist. Chen is forced into doing business with the two of them. Reggie essentially corners him after the poker game. Chen believes it's a bad idea to go into business with them because he sees them as family. But if it goes south, Reggie and Missy are more than likely to blame him for not stopping them when he knew better.