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‘Survivor’s Remorse’ recap: Here comes the trauma

For M-Chuck, Cam and Reggie, a release valve of sorts

Season 4, Episode 2 | “Repercussions” | Aug. 27

Well, now everyone’s wounds are good and open.

This week’s episode of Survivor’s Remorse is almost all set up for what’s to come: Pookie and M-Chuck finally make it from Boston to the Long Island, New York, cemetery where Cassie’s rapists are buried. Cam finally gets a hold of those letters Rodney (Isaiah Washington) wrote him from prison. And Reggie and Trent will once again be living under the same roof, at least temporarily.

Much of the episode hinges on Erica Ash’s performance as she’s taking M-Chuck through the process of mourning her dead father(s) and fully grasping the trauma of what happened to her mother. It’s also a realization of just how little resolution visiting the graves actually brought her. M-Chuck hasn’t known anything about her father for 28 years. Now that she’s narrowed down the possibilities to three individuals, she’s a bit bereft.

“I mean think about it, without the rape, there’s no me,” M-Chuck tells Pookie (Sir Brodie). “I thought it would feel better.”

Ash has drawn praise for the angry comedic force of her Susie Essman-like rants, but as Survivor’s Remorse has continued to fill in her story, she’s had to stretch more and more. In episode two, she’s playing against Brodie’s sober stoicism. It’s perfectly acceptable, but not nearly as compelling as when she and Cassie (Tichina Arnold) are trading barbs. Her greetings to Cassie’s rapists, however, are filled with tragicomic pathos.

“Hello, Rape Father No. 1,” she says to one gravestone before moving to the next.

“Greetings, Rape Daddy No. 2 … if you’re going to rape a girl, why not wear a rubber?” she asks.

By the time she gets to the third, he’s simply “Rape Dad No. 3.”

At the same time, Cam has gone back to the Boston apartment where he and his family were evicted — the house where Cassie left the letters his father wrote him from prison. He meets his friend Paul (Na’im Lynn) — you may remember him from the wedding Cam and Reggie attended last season, where Cam completely upstaged Paul’s best-man toast — and together they meet the new owner. In a twist of luck, the new owner, who has fixed up the apartment, found and saved Rodney’s letters to his son. It turns out, the new owner’s father was part of an Irish gang and went to prison himself, where he wrote his son letters. So the new owner had a unique perspective on how important they were.

Meanwhile, Paul, whose nickname is actually Dirty Paul, is bent on persuading Cam to finance his new house-flipping venture. For Chrissake, Cam, if ever there was someone NOT to hand your money over to, it’s a guy named Dirty Paul.

In Atlanta, there’s not much calm yet, either. Reggie (RonReaco Lee) can be utterly frustrating. He’s slow to forgive, but he also provides a genuine example of a man who struggles to process his emotions in a way that’s healthy. His way of dealing with trauma is to shut out Missy (Teyonah Parris) and retreat into anger. And so, even though he’s got a head wound and blood on his shirt, his first response to seeing his wife in the emergency room is fury. Missy’s like a lion tamer who throws well-crafted lies (“The hospital called me!”) instead of steaks.

The more we get to know Reggie, the more we learn something else about him too. It’s ironic that he’s so tightfisted when it comes to managing Cam’s wealth, because when it comes to his personal life, Reggie solves problems by throwing money at them — that’s what landed him in the hospital in the first place. Money clearly allows Reggie to feel a sense of control. As much as taking your father in and paying his hospital bills after he’s broken his hand defending you might seem like the right thing to do, for Reggie, it also means retaining the moral high ground in the relationship. That’s why he sneers when Trent (Marlon Young) explains that he can’t take any opioid pain relievers now that he’s five years sober. He’s simply not ready to forgive his father for years of his alcoholism and abuse. Reggie may be cold, but it’s not difficult to understand why. But maybe he’s thawing a bit.

For M-Chuck, Cam and Reggie, the bandages of past wounds are off, but what comes next is just as painful.

Also worth noting:

  • Ash’s car trip karaoke routine to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” is delightful in an episode freighted with heavy moments, and a great example of why she’s so much fun to watch.
  • The episode ends with Trent and Reggie sitting in the car driving home, both staring forward. You can see their reflections together in one of the side mirrors. When the depth of field changes, you see the words “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” All of this takes place as we hear the voice-over of Cam reading his father’s letters from prison aloud to Allison. Nice touch.
  • This past week, BET aired its annual Black Girls Rock! celebration. The theme was dedicated to black love. I never tire of seeing the way Chen lavishes Cassie with affection and sensitivity and admiration. It’s a bit of black-girl wish fulfillment to see Cassie enjoying her life and being elevated to Queen of the Realm.

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.