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'Survivor's Remorse' recap: 'A Time to Punch'

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Richard A. DuCree/Starz

Survivor's Remorse

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
run date:
10/04/14
performer:
RonReaco Lee, Jessie Usher, Erica Ash
broadcaster:
STARZ
genre:
Drama

Domestic violence is no laughing matter.

Underneath all of the jokes about trigger warnings, “starting the conversation,” and cornball public-service announcements, Survivor’s Remorse knows this, and that’s the beauty of this series: Just when you think that they’ve gone too far and made a punch line out of a serious issue—and we feel our own sense of guilt for laughing at the show’s brazen humor—they pop out from behind the curtain to assure us they were in on it all along.

This week’s episode satirized both the media’s and lawmakers’ tendency to engage in a feeding frenzy around a celebrity’s misfortune. “A Time to Punch” took swipes at opportunistic, sanctimonious (Cam: “What’s ‘sanctimonious’ mean?”) district attorneys, smug journalists (NPR is skewered), and overblown PSAs that only seek to benefit the company sponsoring them and the famous figures in need of spin doctoring.

But it’s only at the very end of the episode that we learn despite all of the cringe-worthy humor, Survivor’s Remorse doesn’t find anything funny about domestic violence at all. After watching the embarrassing awareness-raising PSA about violence against men featuring Cam, M-Chuck and Jimmy Flaherty, it’s Missy who drops the mic on all of the brands and celebrities out there using serious subjects to further their exposure.

“When people use a false equivalency to make light of domestic violence against women, it makes me want to punch someone in their f—ing face.”

So how did Cam and M-Chuck end up spokespeople for domestic violence against men? Well, it all started over a pile of Coke…

M-Chuck discovers her brother is charging the Calloways 50 cents per can of soda out of the gratis Coca-Cola machine (Cam’s being courted by the soft-drink company), which he plans to donate to charity. Forgetting once again that she’s living in the lap of luxury through no hard work of her own, M-Chuck unleashes her fury by tossing Coke cans at Cam’s head. One of their hardcore brother-sister fights ensues, and M-Chuck, also forgetting that her brother is a public figure now, pops Cam a new one right in his eye, neglecting to remove her humongous, blinged-out ring before throwing her punch.

I could go into an entire paragraph as to why M-Chuck’s actions were really stupid, but I’ll just let Cassie do the talking here, because she breaks the situation down into four words: “You punched the money!”

The team doctor makes a house call, benching Cam for six games. But that’s the least of the family’s problems. Team owner Jimmy Flaherty is already onto Cam’s sketchy story about how he just “slipped and fell onto my eye in a pile of Coke” (Flaherty: “Let’s keep the phrase ‘a pile of coke’ out of this”), and the basketball star doesn’t even make it halfway through his news conference before the truth spills out. Just as it looks like the press is buying Cam’s story about slipping on a Coke-splattered marble floor, incriminating footage of M-Chuck decking her brother appears on a TV screen above Cam’s head.

Immediately, Cam becomes an assault victim, thanks to a security-camera tape presumably leaked by Todd, the new butler who kicked off the episode feeding Reggie a bogus-sounding story about his injured mother and requesting an advance of $11,000. RonReaco Lee’s solid delivery of Todd’s over-the-phone firing is so funny it bears re-watching. And re-watching. And re-watching again. Because the only thing wrong with this episode is we don’t get to see Reggie’s fantasy of Todd’s mother motor-scooting off a cliff.

Next on the Calloways’ agenda is to meet with the district attorney, who wants to make an example of M-Chuck. The D.A. is played by Tamara Tunie, who doubles the hilarity just by being in the room when Flaherty berates Cassie, Cam, and M-Chuck for not shutting their traps during the mediations: “You ever see Law & Order? This is the order part.” (Tunie portrayed medical examiner Melinda Warner on Law & Order: SVU.) Tunie’s D.A. is a self-righteous lawyer who spews exhortations like, “This is a time to sit still and to steep in regret and shame.” She also drives the phrase “start the conversation” into the ground with her unbending, empty-sounding insistence that Cam and M-Chuck raise awareness over the “in-the-shadows” issue of violence against men.

NEXT: Men Bruise Too[pagebreak]

As part of their agreement to “start the conversation,” M-Chuck and Cam go on “Georgia Public Radio” to discuss the incident. This is hands-down the best scene in the episode, with all three actors, Erica Ash, Jessie T. Usher, and Kerry O’Malley, as GPR host Savannah Couronis, nailing their performances. After Savannah amusingly introduces the siblings as “basketball star and domestic-violence victim Cam Calloway, and his sister and assailant, Mary Charles,” she also slips in a dig at the ongoing debate over “trigger warnings,” informing her listeners, “Some of the language in this segment may be a bit graphic.”

The three characters then launch into a brilliantly constructed satire of both overly media-trained public figures and arrogant, pushy journalists. Cam and M-Chuck have been coached to the letter, but to a fault, because now they aren’t making an ounce of sense. Cam responds to a scathing comment from Charles Barkley that he’s a, in Savannah’s words, “a P-word that rhymes with ‘wussy,'” with “I thank God for Charles Barkley. I don’t know where we’d be as a society if we didn’t have great minds like Charles helping us figure stuff out.”

But Cam and M-Chuck also slickly turn the tables on their host, by calling out journalists on their tendency to turn private family matters into “news.” M-Chuck talks about how grateful she is to the media for not “turning our lives into scandal porn, which would feed some sick, national hunger for other people’s dirt.” Boom!

This prompts Savannah to bluntly ask M-Chuck if she’s a monster, and the two get into a back and forth when M-Chuck gives her scripted lines about how “God is in charge.” Savannah: “So God told you to punch your brother?” M-Chuck gets flustered and talks about “moving forward,” but Savannah keeps baiting her by asking what she means when she calls herself a “work in progress.”

Once the disastrous interview is over, we only have a split second to process the fact that Savannah referred to the next GPR guest as “homosexual David Sedaris” before M-Chuck lunges at her. Sadly, M-Chuck only gets to rip off Savannah’s headset before she’s physically restrained by Cam and Reggie and dragged out of the studio.

Their respective images still in shambles, help comes to Cam and M-Chuck in the unexpected form of an angry Da Chen Bao (Robert Wu), the Chinese owner of the athletic brand with whom Cam has an endorsement deal. And if you thought the stereotypical nature of Bao’s character made you uncomfortable, just wait until you hear what he has to say on the matter: “You cannot tell the world you were beaten by a woman! There are no high heels on my sneakers.”

It’s only when Cassie smacks Bao and he is creepily turned on (“You generate such leverage, like a much more attractive Manny Pacquiao”), that Reggie figures out how they can spin their situation into a positive one: Get Bao to fund a PSA that sheds light on violence against men.

The PSA airs, and it’s as mortifying as it is funny, with Cam, M-Chuck, and others tossing off made-up buzzwords like “womansplaining,” pleas to “stop demonizing men,” and ludicrously phrased warnings (“just because they beat way more women than we do men, don’t mean that the men we beat don’t hurt”).

But Survivor’s Remorse also gets the last—for lack of a better term—­laugh on the subject in a more subtle way: At the end of the PSA, the website www.MenBruiseToo.org flashes on the screen. It may be comical at first glance, but Survivor’s Remorse knows what it’s doing here. If you go to the site, the message “Human Beings Should Not Hurt Other Human Beings” will direct you to five real organizations dedicated to helping people in need of “kindness.” And just to prove that, despite the false equivalency, violence against men isn’t a joke, the fifth site, for the Mayo Clinic, is captioned, “Women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence. Understand the signs of domestic violence against men, and know how to get help.”  

Quick thoughts:

  • Who else wished Cam was in that last scene between Missy and Reggie, just so he could go, “What’s ‘false equivalency’ mean?”
  • We’ll miss you, Todd the butler. Yeah, you totally tried to gouge Reggie out of $11,000 and leaked the security-camera footage to the press out of spite (and perhaps for some money), but you were the only character on the show who said things like “To wit” and “chiropraction.”
  • I really hope we’ll see more of Savannah Couronis this season, and the odds are in our favor: Not only is this Savannah’s second appearance (she was the red-carpet reporter who encouraged Cassie to keep talking about beating a young Cam with Hot Wheels tracks last season), the actress, Kerry O’Malley, is the sister of Survivor’s Remorse creator Mike O’Malley.
  • It was sweet to see Cam and M-Chuck sharing Cokes at the end of the episode, but what professional athlete in his right mind drinks regular, sugary soda?  

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