Is the pressure getting to be too much for Cam? The dark side of being a superstar athlete starts to rear its ugly head.
Thank heaven the money’s so good, because if I were Reggie Vaughn right now, I’d be looking for another job — and another cousin.
In between all of the inappropriate obesity jokes — one of the two “oh, yes, they went there” topics in this episode — the role of the Calloway family’s resident saint was confirmed upon Reggie this week (with added props to RonReaco Lee for his stellar performance). He repeatedly demonstrated incredible grace under pressure when dealing with Cam’s increasingly difficult needs, and did a fantastic job of showcasing how being a sports manager is 100 percent thankless. That and he rattled off no less than seven cracks about the increased girth of Cam’s former high school basketball coach in the span of a single scene. He’s a man of multiple talents, most of which he shouldn’t have to use.
This is a guy who spends most of “Homebound” running around Boston in a desperate attempt to appease every one of Cam’s fears, superstitions, and unreasonable demands. Call it love, call it loyalty, or call it a straight-up desire to maintain a multimillion-dollar lifestyle (can’t blame him). Whatever it is, this saint-like persona can’t last forever, and to everyone’s relief, Reggie finally unleashes his frustrations on the still-immature Cam (“Grown-Ass Man”? Hardly) this episode. And what’s probably the scariest outcome of all after “Homebound” is that we’ve been given no sign that Cam even understands how his childlike behavior isn’t going to fly in the long run. Reggie doesn’t care that he has to acquiesce to all of Cam’s petty requests — what worries him is that the basketball star keeps asking him to do these ludicrous things, like arrange for his morbidly overweight former coach to be forklifted to his game in Boston. As long as Cam makes these demands, it means he’s not growing up — and that’s what’s so devastating to Reggie, who views Cam as more of a brother than a cousin. “All this drama that you create,” Reggie tells Cam, “you don’t even realize that it is beneath you.”
But, as we well know with Survivor’s Remorse by now, it’s never a “this guy is right, and this guy is wrong” situation. Cam’s behavior this episode is outrageous, but it’s also justifiable. Ironically, it’s Reggie who reminds the audience of why we should maintain our sympathy for Cam. He may be a superstar athlete making a ton of money, but those millions come at a heavy price: monumental, nonstop stress. “This is about you not needing to fold under pressure,” says Reggie to his cousin, “because this pressure is the job. So nut up and deal with it, because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”
This is why, at the end of the episode, instead of arranging for the high school coach’s weight-loss surgery, maybe Reggie should’ve insisted that Cam invest his money a little more wisely — like in regular therapy sessions instead.
NEXT: The goon show
So Cam and Reggie are back in their Massachusetts hometown for an Atlanta vs. Boston game this episode, and all it takes is one awkward visit to the local sports radio show Dennis and Callahan for the basketball star to spiral out of control. John Dennis and Gerry Callahan (appearing as themselves) offer zero mercy as they rib Cam for his on-the-court slump and make a tongue-in-cheek reference to the absurd domestic violence PSA he did two episodes ago. Callahan: “You know, I was going to cold-c—k my loved one in the face, but then I saw Cam Calloway cry, so maybe I won’t.”
Desperate for a lucky charm to break his losing streak, Cam decides the answer to all of his problems lies with his onetime high school basketball coach. He gets it into his head that if Coach Healey is at the game, he’ll be slam-dunking his way to glory in no time. Except that when he and Reggie arrive at Healey’s house, they discover that the coach is now an obese shut-in who can’t even move off of his bed without assistance — “Homebound,” get it? (Coach Healey is played by Boston actor-comedian Lenny Clarke, under a lot of prosthetics.) All of a sudden, Healey’s pathetic existence — his wife left him and he’s no longer coaching — compounded with Cam’s rapidly snowballing insecurity, sends the athlete’s survivor’s remorse into overdrive. He becomes obsessed with getting Healey to his game, refusing to take no for an answer, from Healey or Reggie. Reggie’s voice of reason might as well have laryngitis for all the good it did in convincing Cam that he is not responsible for Healey’s weight gain.
But, hey, if Cam is going to make his cousin-manager go on a wild goose chase around town to find a contractor who will remove a wall from Healey’s house, and a forklift driver willing to work overtime, we might as well get an entertaining montage out of it, right? That and a great scene where Survivor’s Remorse creator and New Englander Mike O’Malley gets to rip into the Irish-American stereotype with one punch line after another. Getting the contractor and the forklift driver? That was the easy part. The real challenge for Reggie was going up against the emerald-blazer-and-tie-wearing “Arena Goons” (I’m not kidding — that’s how all of them, with the exception of their boss, were billed in the credits) to get courtside seating for Healey. Reggie goes head-to-head with the Goon-in-Charge named Joe Connelly, who doesn’t hesitate to school his new Dorchester friend about “the Troubles.” (Reggie accidentally delivered the ultimate insult by attempting to bribe Connelly with a bottle of Northern Ireland-produced Bushmills whiskey.) Connelly also doesn’t seem too keen on giving special handicapped seating to “those who fluffernuttered themselves into oblivion.”
NEXT: Closer to fine
By the time we’ve stopped laughing over the fluffernutter line (and berated ourselves for it), Connelly and Reggie have sorted out their differences, and it appears Operation Coach Healey Forklift is a go. Until Healey (rightfully) balks at Cam’s plan to tear his house apart over one measly game, and sets his protégé straight before flat-out refusing to be by Cam’s side that night: “You’re depressed,” is his armchair (or rather, bed) diagnosis. It’s a sad day when a dangerously unhealthy man, whose life revolves around “great DSL service,” Netflix, “great social-network friends” and “online courses from the University of Phoenix” has a more cheerful outlook on life than someone like Cam, who has everything. But, again, bravo to Survivor’s Remorse for daring to point out this kind of paradox. Because Cam is depressed — and he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t. The pressure he’s under is positively crippling, and it manifests that night when he bombs at the game.
Cam does take a baby step the next morning by agreeing to toss his lucky high school gym shorts in the garbage after Reggie’s stern upbraiding. But he’s still got a long way to go on his road to becoming a grown-ass man unburdened by superstition. Maybe he could start by throwing away his own shorts instead of saddling Reggie with the deed.