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‘Survivor’s Remorse’ recap: Can you really compartmentalize business and friendship?

Maybe. If you have a manager like Reggie

Season 3, Episode 8 | “Mystery Team” | Sept. 4


Who says capitalism and friendship don’t mix?

Cam’s business and personal lives have become so incestuously intertwined that reconciling those competing interests was inevitable. This finally plays out with contract negotiations between Jimmy Flaherty (Chris Bauer) and Cam (Jessie T. Usher) in this episode. Who doesn’t love an opt-out clause that doubles as a friendship time bomb?

Let’s rehash: Cam, the star player around whom his team is built, has an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent and shop himself around to the highest bidder. But he just bought an enormous mansion in the Buckhead district in Atlanta, his family is happy, and his two most realistic options are Milwaukee (ugh) and Indianapolis (double ugh). So, Reggie (RonReaco Lee) is playing chicken, not just with Jimmy, but with a family friend who is mentoring M-Chuck (Erica Ash) and helped her get into college, and who was there for the family when Julius (Mike Epps) died. Oh, and before, say, talking to Jimmy one on one about Cam’s contract, Reggie leaks the possibility of Cam leaving to a journalist Cam used to shtup.

Because playoffs. And the apocalypse.


As usual, there are a couple of layers at work in this episode.

“Success in business is like success in the bedroom,” Chen says. “Nothing gets the job done like leverage.”

The exclusion of Cam’s teammates as characters, but the inclusion of Flaherty (his boss) and Chen (his other boss) suggests that Cam is looking at these men as contemporaries, certainly more so than the other invisible men whose paychecks Flaherty also signs. That’s a result of Cam being a singular, unmatchable talent, but it’s also human nature. The more people climb up the financial ladder, the more they compare themselves to those making more money than they do, which is why, as Catherine Rampell explained for the New York Times, so many rich people don’t feel particularly rich.

But this level of wealth is still relatively new for Cam and his family, especially Reggie. Those who become suddenly wealthy don’t just automatically find themselves given the gift of a handbook of behavioral expectations for the very rich, which is why we see Jimmy exploding at Cam and Reggie at M-Chuck’s college acceptance party.

“This isn’t just business, this is business between friends, god damn it, and it plays by a completely different set of rules,” Flaherty thunders. “Rules that you, still new to business, are obviously not sophisticated enough to understand. … Friends don’t hold friends’ feet to the fire. And if they do, they don’t do it in the press!”

Wrapped up in Flaherty’s admonishing Reggie and Cam about “business” is a lot of indignation at their refusal to observe long-established class dictates. I was actually quite surprised that in a situation like this, Reggie didn’t bother to consult Missy (Teyonah Parris). Navigating these sorts of social briar patches without sustaining a scratch is her bailiwick, but, as Reggie tells Chen (Robert Wu) after a family meeting to disclose the Flaherty strategy, he wants to do this himself. Doing it himself apparently meant leaking a story to sports reporter Isa Catalano (Felisha Terrell) before ever having a conversation with Flaherty.

Why on earth did Reggie go to the media first? Usually, taking contract disputes to the media is a nuclear option, not the opening pitch. Even though he and Cam reached a desirable outcome, that seems like a rookie mistake.

What the show has been arguing all season is that it’s Reggie’s willingness to be feared that allows Cam to continue being liked.

Reggie’s devotion to Cam and “hoovering up every dollar” is admirable, even if it is a little scary. But Reggie’s smart, and somehow able to compartmentalize relationships in a way that I would imagine very few people are. Reggie understands the ways that rich people, like own-a-basketball-team rich people, can be jerks, even when they’re your friends with whom you share uneasy Easter dinners. Cam likes to be liked. Reggie (who I am almost willing to bet money at this point, is a Republican) wants to be feared. What the show has been arguing all season is that it’s Reggie’s willingness to be feared that allows Cam to continue being liked.

Given how much the contract game is wrapped up in a game of chicken with big egos and bigger paychecks, I do wonder what this episode would be like if Jimmy, Cam, and Reggie were all women.

All the spaces that have allowed Reggie to become the effective manager that he is – like the high-stakes poker game he joined or his sit-down with Ira Irvin (Richard Kind) – are completely male. Again, we see that Survivor’s Remorse is a commentary on wealth and class, but because of the way things are, it’s a de facto commentary on masculinist constructions of wealth. This exchange seems particularly illustrative:

“So all of this is just a river of bulls—?” M-Chuck asks.

“What do you think a negotiation is?” Reggie responds.

Surely, there’s a better alternative.

Sunday night’s episode was so uncomfortable it left us hoping Cassie and Chen live happily ever after because, good God, who wants to repeat that round of unpleasant negotiation again? Reggie. Ice cold, steel-running-through-his-veins, mercenary Reggie. Can we give Lee a round of applause for that Machiavellian soliloquy about money? Jeez.

So, now that he’s got even more money and another opt-out clause, what’s Cam going to do with all of it?

Odds and ends

“Success in business is like success in the bedroom,” Chen says. “Nothing gets the job done like leverage.” Well, that’s not something you hear every day.

Cam puts an enormous, almost unbelievable amount of trust in Reggie, certainly more than he does in his agent, who seems like more of a percentage-sucking formality than anything else at this point. If Reggie is negotiating with Flaherty directly, what purpose does Cam’s agent serve, exactly?

How do we feel about Isa profiting from her, er, previously X-rated relationship with Cam? She gets the exclusive about Reggie shopping Cam to other teams because of “trust,” Reggie tells her. That trust presumably stems from Isa keeping her mouth shut about sleeping with Cam, even though Isa has her own professional incentives for remaining discreet. Namely, she could have lost her job had anyone found out. There’s an outsize, utterly ridiculous sexual panic that female reporters (especially TV reporters) will use their feminine wiles to advance their careers. I wish it didn’t crop up in seemingly every storyline involving a female sports journalist.

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.