“Homebound” solves a nagging problem that has plagued Survivor’s Remorse from the outset. Actually, “nagging” might be too harsh a qualifier for said problem, which is the show’s lack of basketball-related content. The focus on the Calloways rather than Cam’s career is among the reasons Remorse is such a phenomenal and accessible show. The exploration of how Cam’s success has reshaped the family dynamics is Remorse’s richest material, and it makes the show approachable for those in the audience who, like your humble reviewer, could care less about basketball. But with so little attention paid to him, Cam is becoming a narrative figurehead while the rest of the characters spring to life around him. Cam is becoming Frank Sinatra in Gay Talese’s legendary Esquire profile “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold,” the marquee star of a story that gives the audience limited access to him.
The lack of Cam and the lack of basketball talk are both addressed in “Homebound,” which finds Cam and Reggie back in Boston for the first time since signing with Atlanta. Cam has been having a tough go of his first season in Atlanta, having missed six games due to M-Chuck’s haymaker, which created its own public-relations fustercluck, and being put in the untenable position as the highly compensated golden boy of a team with a 4 and 11 record. Cam is shaken after an interview with Dennis and Callahan, a Boston sports radio show, in which he’s needled for failing to live up to the hype. Cam maintains the smile on his face and remains so charming, Reggie doesn’t immediately pick up on the fact that Cam is quietly crumbling inside.
Cam’s inner turmoil bubbles up to the surface when he begins making increasingly exorbitant requests to get the things that make him feel most lucky and avoid those that don’t. He calls Cassie to check on the status of his lucky shorts, the ones he wore back when he was the star of his high school team. He refuses a haircut at his former shop because he caught a cold the last time he got his edge-up there. He wants to change hotel rooms so he can face away from the Charles River, just like he did the last time he made a successful showing in his hometown. When Reggie pushes back, Cam responds with nonsense talk: “You don’t know what things have to do with other things, how they may or may not be connected, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the potential effect those things can have on other things, and how they can influence the outcomes of other things.” Well that clears everything up.
Reggie handles the wheel-greasing as usual, but he reaches the limits of his patience when Cam insists on having the man who lead him back in high school, Coach Healy, in a courtside seat. But Healy is now morbidly obese—the kind of obesity that lands people reality shows—and has swelled so large, there would be no practical way to get him to the game even if he wanted to go. Cam continues to press the issue, which makes him seem like an asshole, but it’s also a situation in which it would be easy for him not to realize how selfish he’s being. In Cam’s mind, he’s giving a shut-in a night out on the town and potentially reigniting Coach Healy’s will to better his life by reminding him how much his leadership meant to Cam’s success. But really, Cam’s harassing an essentially immobile man so he’ll have as many lucky charms as possible influencing his game.
“Homebound” provides another amazing platform for RonReaco Lee, who’s giving a terrific performance. Lee most shines when Reggie is negotiating a deal or dressing down Cam, and “Homebound” allows him to do a lot of both. Jessie T. Usher is charming and likeable, but when he and Lee are in a thespian duet, his voice is drowned out almost instantly. Therein lies the danger in focusing on Cam’s career. Unlike shows such as Grey’s Anatomy or Orange Is The New Black, which are anchored by their least interesting characters, Remorse actually puts its focus on the superior supporting characters. So while in principle it shouldn’t be the case that the audience knows more about the condition of Cassie’s vaginal muscles than about Cam’s professional life, delving further into Cam’s life may require putting more on Usher’s slender shoulders than he’s able to carry.
In the B-story, Cassie, M-Chuck, and Missy tour an old plantation currently operating as a living museum complete with too-chipper black slaves singing work songs in the fields. Mike O’Malley’s humor can occasionally go too broad, and this story makes a good example. (Why the tour guide would lead a group of kids into the bedroom where M-Chuck is spooned up with a historical reenactor is anyone’s guess.) As its own story, the plantation tour is weak, but there’s a synergy with the A-story that continues Remorse’s track record for playing with provocative ideas that are almost never depicted on television.
This time, the idea is the quiet, years-long debate between the northern states and southern states about which part of the country is most racist. Remorse doesn’t seem prepared to choose sides. Atlanta has the slavery theme park, the Confederate stone carvings, and the Sambo lawn jockeys the Calloways have turned into a literally smashing game of Where’s Waldo. Even Dennis and Callahan take their digs at Atlanta, seemingly unaware of Boston’s racist reputation, which Reggie runs into while trying to negotiate a spot for Coach Healy at the same. The writers don’t seem to have a dog in the fight, but the debate is easy to settle. Racism doesn’t have borders.
- I keep thinking about the decision to withhold the name of Cam’s Atlanta team. I don’t blame O’Malley for declining to name the team, which would only serve to distract the audience and provide regular reminders that the show takes place in a fictional world. But not naming the team is kind of distracting in its own way. It’s a no-win situation.
- M-Chuck is an Indigo Girls fan.