One of the biggest barriers to entry for Survivor’s Remorse is the name Survivor’s Remorse itself. It’s unwieldy, overly serious and suggests a reality show based off Boston Rob rather than a light-hearted basketball comedy. It’s fitting then, that the weakest episode of this solid six-episode season takes the show title the most literally.
“Out of the Past” introduces Jay Holbrook, the only player better than Cam on Cam and Reggie’s high school team. Jay had all the potential in the world but also a passion for grand theft auto (and not the video game). Jay turns up in Atlanta at one of Cam’s signings and tries to guilt Reggie into getting him a try out with the Atlanta D-League team. Reggie, being the brains of the Reggie-Cam duo, offers an empty promise with no intention of following through. But once Jay goes directly to Reggie, Cam confronts his manager to get it done.
The idea of a survivor’s guilt* over succeeding where others in your community have failed makes a good deal of sense emotionally. It’s just that in practice Survivor’s Remorse can never quite make it seem worth the screen time.
*Why didn’t they just name the show survivor’s guilt? It’s not much better but at least it’s an actual psychological ailment.
Part of it is that Cam is the weak link of all the characters (a trait shared by many lead characters in comedies who don’t get to be as colorful as the supporting cast) and part of it is that the people from Cam’s past really don’t deserve to succeed. Survivor’s Remorse is far better when keeping things light and relatively inconsequential. Hell, the “hero’s journey” of this season has been the pursuit of a shoe deal. So what to do when a show’s title is no longer in step with its content? It should just ignore the discrepancy altogether but instead it indulges Jay Holbrook, the guy who predictably misses that tryout because he was “with friends/drinking beer/smoking weed/losing his charger/having sex with women.”
While Reggie and Cam are dealing with ghosts of recent past, Cassie, M-Chuck and Uncle Julius are dealing with the ghosts of distant past. Den mother Reggie has granted M-Chuck and Cassie a budget to go find a bigger Georgian house to settle down in. Unfortunately the house they want where M-Chuck can play with birds is out of their price range. Cassie and M-Chuck also can’t help but notice that this nice Southern homeowner shares the same last name as them and lives in what is unmistakably a former plantation. They think a dash of white guilt should do the trick to lower the price but the white Mrs. Calloway’s great-great-great grandfather looks a lot more like Chris Paul than Chris Columbus.
It’s assuring that Survivor’s Remorse continues to find a way to address race in a playful, non-interruptive way but it does “Out of the Past” no favors that it comes right off the heels of the far superior black country club/Ernie Johnson gag from last week’s episode. And when coupled with Reggie and Cam’s Jay Holbrook adventure, it’s just too out of touch tonally.
Even when Survivor’s Remorse is trying to be too serious for its own good, the sheer joyfulness of its premise tends to win out. Reggie and Cam’s meeting with Nike exec Anita Robles is equal parts bizarre and exciting. Robles walks and talks like Aaron Sorkin wish he could, tossing off baller moves and quips like it’s the last 30 minutes of Pulp Fiction. “We’re Nike,” she says, “the world is ours, everyone else is just the answer to trivia questions.” It’s yet another bit of good timing that Survivor’s Remorse has used the seeming omniscience and infallibility of Nike to comic effect the same week the real Nike released another commercial deifying the show’s producer, LeBron James. Or maybe that’s just a clever bit of synergy.
Either way it’s indicative of what makes Survivor’s Remorse truly enjoyable at it’s best: turning the pursuit of something as intangible as a brand into a legitimately fun bildungsroman. Hopefully, the show will learn to chase that and not the Jay Holbrook to Ireland.