Erica Ash, Mike Epps, Jessie T. Usher

Survivor’s Remorse is a fairly consistent show in that in a typical episode, at least one story is working well. It’s not often that an entire episode falls apart, but “Guts” just never comes together. “Guts” is not an incredibly funny episode, and when a comedy is written in a stylized, writerly way, but isn’t funny, it comes off as overly precious and self-indulgent. Most of “Guts” comes across that way. Worse yet, the episode dredges up the HPV plot that forces the characters to talk like their reading from a Planned Parenthood brochure. It spends its time on the budding relationship between Cam and Allison in one story, Reggie’s effort to ascend to the top 1 percent in another, and Missy’s attempts to tutor Jupitor in the third, which sidelines Cassie and M-Chuck almost entirely. For an episode called “Guts,” this one was pretty hollow on the inside.

The Cam and Allison story feels like a case of “be careful for you wish for.” Since the show began, it seemed odd that Cam didn’t have a prominent love interest, or at least some indication that he has a sex life befitting a single, high-profile professional basketball player. Pairing Cam with Allison seemed the wisest choice for the story, and the relationship is progressing at a nice pace. So why am I having so much trouble investing in it? Part of it is the lack of chemistry between Jessie Usher and Meagan Tandy, who are both gorgeous and have appealing moments in their scenes together, but the relationship never seems to jell. It’s disconcerting to watch a scene in which you know intellectually that the sparks are supposed to be flying between these characters, but it doesn’t register emotionally.

I felt the same emotional indifference about Reggie’s invitation to play guts with Flaherty and his high-rolling buddies. Despite Chen’s insistence that this is potentially the most important night of Reggie’s life, it never feels all that important. It’s a bunch of rich guys sitting around playing cards and being douchebags, reciting rhythmic banter that never resembles actual people talking. Among the players are executive producers LeBron James and Tom Werner, which isn’t meta as much as it is masturbatory. When you consider that “The Date” featured an abrupt appearance one of James’ buddies, Julieanna “YesJulz” Goddard, as M-Chuck’s previously unmentioned girlfriend, putting two of the show’s executive producers into “Guts” as themselves is egregiously indulgent. James’ performance even feels a bit off of what he’s capable of, since he was recently seen playing himself more effectively in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck.

The tutoring and testing sessions with Missy, Julius, and Jupitor worked a bit better because it’s a funny idea to have Missy, who prides herself on her intelligence, be stumped by the standardized test Jupitor has to take as part of his NFL onboarding. Jupitor is still a bit of a cipher as a character, but he made an interesting foil for Missy, who is disappointed to learn her intelligence level best suits her to a life of janitorial work. Plus, the C-story provides for a good amount of Uncle Julius, and that’s a character I never want less of. The same goes for Missy, but I was hoping for something a little more substantive when she finally got a plot mostly to herself.

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“Guts” doesn’t do everything wrong. Cam’s speech about Allison’s significance to him is a nice touch because there’s been so little evidence of Cam’s anxiety about his future. He was definitely upset in “The Injury,” but it seemed to have dissipated by the next episode. It’s a thoughtful choice to have Cam regard Allison as more than a conquest or even as girlfriend, but as the bedrock for the family life he’ll focus on when the inevitable end to his professional basketball career ends. I also really dug Reggie’s bout of projectile vomiting outside Flaherty’s place. First of all, that was some pretty realistic looking vomiting, so kudos on that. And it made for a cute ending to Reggie’s tale of triumph at high-stakes cards and hobnobbing with the haves. But there was too little here to like, and no mention of M-Chuck’s therapy delinquencies, which felt odd after revealing that detail last week as if it was an important development. Cam hasn’t had a perfect season, and neither has his show.

Stray observations:

  • I didn’t like the open at all. All the scatological humor rang really false. I just don’t believe these people would have that conversation.
  • But I am totally ‘shipping Chen and Cassie.
  • There was a lot of really broad humor this week and a lot of it didn’t work. I positively hated the ending sex scene between Reggie and Missy. It just wasn’t funny.

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