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‘Ballers’ is still flying high, no lie

Wild parties and bad investments — the new episode could have been called ‘The Reset’

Season 2, Episode 1 | “Face of the Franchise” | July 17

 

Ballers is back.

The first episode did what a first episode is supposed to do: leave the viewer wanting to know answers to several questions. But — I’m not sure if they’re the right questions.

Before the episode started, I was reminded of my second favorite mystery from season one. Why is there a random shot of pugs running on a treadmill in the show’s opening? I wonder if the visual non sequitur is meant to be a high-minded symbol for how athletes are viewed and treated: They’re loved and doted over, but not respected. Or maybe the reason for the random shot of dogs on a treadmill is the same reason why the show has so many sexy women: ’cause the producers know we like it.

The first scene of the episode features Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh driving a speedboat to meet Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson) and Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) at the grand opening of Suh’s perfectly named restaurant, Suh Casa. This reminded me of my No. 1 unsolved Ballers mystery: Why the hell would anybody hire Spencer to be his or her financial adviser? He blew all his money on ill-advised investments and starts this season by helping a client make an ill-advised investment.

I would turn to a dentist who is missing teeth before I hand my money over to Spencer. However, my barber is bald, so I guess I can’t talk.

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While Spencer is giving a thank you speech to the restaurant’s guests, in strolls this season’s villain, Andre Allen (Andy Garcia). Looking so Miami in white pants, Andre arrives with my former teammate and Strasmore nemesis, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell “T-Sizzle” Suggs. During Spencer’s playing days, Andre, Spencer’s former financial adviser, guided Spencer to some real-estate deals that failed. Spencer blames Andre for his own financial hardship and is infuriated by his presence.

We are reintroduced to a seemingly more mature Ricky Jarret (John David Washington), who is chilling in a cryotank and hanging out with his father and homeboy/flunky. My favorite evolution is that of Ricky’s father’s wardrobe. He went from season one, during which he was dressed like the best spades player at any black cookout, to the attire of an undercover mall security guard. Sadly, Ricky is the most mature person in his small crew. That point is driven home when he demanded that his flunky respect women, after called them “hoes.” I wonder if the writers are aware of the irony considering that there are fewer speaking female characters than perfect-framed butts in this episode. Maybe they are, maybe this episode is meant to be a comment on the objectification of women in sports, or maybe they just know we love donks.

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The lovable left tackle, Charles Green (Omar Miller), is at the car dealership where he used to work, signing autographs alongside some Miami Dolphins legends. Charles cements himself as the “good-guy” athlete by bringing his daughter with him to the event. He even warns some young female fans to stay away from athletes. As they are finishing up at the dealership, Charles receives a cryptic message from his coach. It seems as if Green will not be back with the Dolphins.

I wonder if the writers are aware of the irony considering that there are fewer speaking female characters than perfect-framed butts in this episode.

Spencer and Joe appear on Jay Glazer’s talk show to promote their financial advisory practice. Jay wasted little time before bringing out the secret guest, T-Sizzle. Spencer and T-Sizzle have a long-standing Twitter beef that they attempt to solve through trash talk that escalates to a bit of a wrestling match. There was a lot of T-Sizzle in this episode, but for me, there is no such thing as too much T-Sizzle. The only unfortunate part of this scene was that somebody else wrote T-Sizzle’s trash talk for him. He is so much funnier in the locker room, where he writes his own jokes.

Jason Antolotti (Troy Garity), Ricky’s agent, is attempting to hammer out a new contract with Miami Dolphins general manager Larry Seifert (Dulé Hill), the smoothest general manager in NFL history. Somehow, despite low-balling Jason and being yelled at, Larry still sounds like he is doing the talking portion of a 1990s Boyz II Men song.

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Mr. Anderson (Richard Schiff) is waiting in Spencer’s office to break stuff and yell at Spencer about being more poised and showing leadership. I guess he is more of a “do as I say not as I do”-type of boss.

The agent, Jason, doubles as Spencer’s psychologist. He explains to Spencer that his anger at Suggs is really meant for Andre.

Back at Ricky’s house, last-minute directions are being given to the party planner. Ricky is going to have a small, classy 30th birthday party. Then he sees that his rival from last season, Alonzo (Antoine Harris), signs a contract with the Dolphins. Ricky knows this means that he won’t be back with the Dolphins. With a little nudging from his father, Ricky decides to scrap the planned party and his new “adult” persona, and head to the “fun house” and have a wild stripper party.

At the party, there was some foreshadowing of a conflict between Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter) and Reggie (London Brown). Reggie is beginning to realize that he is not being properly compensated for his work. Suggs is at the party. Spencer approaches him and extends an olive branch. He and Suggs bury the hatchet, but Spencer has an ulterior motive. He plans to make Suggs a client, first stealing him from Andre, then taking the rest of Andre’s clients.

This episode should have been called “The Reset,” because all the characters are back where they started. Ricky is still a wild man unwanted by his current team. Charles is unclear about his professional future. Reggie and Vernon appear not to be good for each other. And Spencer and Joe are determined to build a legitimate practice.

Domonique Foxworth is a writer at The Undefeated. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.