‘Ballers’ recap: sex, lies and pseudo-honor
Freak injuries, big money, marital lovin’ in a pimped-out ride — just another day with Spencer and crew
Season 2, Episode 3 | “Elidee” |July 31
I guess I have to stop talking about the random dogs on a treadmill in the show open, since that mystery was solved in last week’s recap. But, I’m still baffled by the mystery at the core of this show: Why would anyone trust Spencer Strasmore to manage their money? We are 12 episodes in and I’m no closer to solving that mystery than I was after the first episode. Does episode 13, Elidee, have the answer?
Like last week’s episode, this episode starts in Spencer’s bedroom. The clock reads 5:04 a.m. — which could be a bit of foreshadowing, maybe next season will be set in New Orleans. Spencer is awakened by a ringing phone. Can somebody teach Spencer how to put his phone on “do not disturb”? Considering Ricky’s philandering past, I am sure he can help. It’s Reggie — in a tank. You did pushups before that scene didn’t you, London? No shame in it. Being on a show with The Rock and pro football players every week could be tough on a brotha’s body image. Keep holdin’ it down for the thin dudes.
Reggie is standing near Vernon (Donovan W. Carter), who sits in bed with a bag of frozen french fries on his ankle. Reggie tells Spence that Vernon messed up his foot during a workout. Reggie believes that Vernon’s injury will cause the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates, putting the value of Vernon’s bonds in jeopardy. Right? Otherwise, why else would he call his financial adviser? I love my accountant, but she found out about my torn ACL from ESPN. But Spencer comes through with invaluable advice. He tells them to meet him at the doctor’s office.
Ricky (John David Washington) flies into New Orleans on the Saints’ private jet. He is greeted by Raheem (Raheem Babalola) from the Saints, who takes him to get beignets.
Spencer is waiting outside of the doctor’s office when Reggie pulls up in a lime green Audi R8, which could be leased, but its sticker price is $150,000-plus. Vernon’s riding shotgun. While Reggie parks, Vernon tells Spencer that he got hurt playing paintball — not working out. The doctor walks up and test Vernon’s Achilles tendon while Vernon says a special prayer. Bad news. His Achilles is torn. Note to self: Apparently, using an obscenity in a prayer does not improve the chance that God will answer.
Though this is the first episode of season two without the NFL’s finest thespian, Terrell “T-Sizzle” Suggs, he’s certainly here in spirit. In 2012, Siz tore his Achilles in the offseason while playing basketball. Anyone who accuses Ballers of sensationalizing either isn’t watching the show or does not keep up with NFL offseason news. The writers could have chosen a much more sensational nonfootball injury than they did. One word: fireworks. Fearing that the Dallas Cowboys will void Vernon’s contract because he sustained a nonfootball injury, Spencer and Reggie persuade Vernon and his agent, Jason (Troy Garity), to lie about how the injury occurred.
At Charles Greane’s (Omar Benson Miller) home, for the first time this season, we see my favorite character, Julie Green (Tamron Hall — oops! I mean Jazmyn Simon). With their daughter in his lap, Charles complains to Julie about being forced to play right tackle rather than left tackle. Julie heads out to work, leaving the baby with Charles, who is high. Well, to be fair, they don’t show him smoking, his eyes aren’t red, there is nothing in the scene that suggests that he had been smoking. But, he said, “Why do babies like keys so much … It’s not like they have someplace to go.” I rest my case. To have that thought and actually say it out loud, he ‘s either smoked-up or a really bad Seinfeld wannabe. “I mean, what’s the deal with babies … ”
Decked out in Under Armour from head to toe, (I wonder how much Under Armour paid) Spence signs an autograph and takes a selfie with a fan. Then his phone rings. Hey, Ricky, after you teach Spence about the “do not disturb” setting on his phone, show him how to put his phone on vibrate. Seriously, does anybody under 70 use the ringer? Think about it. Everywhere you go everyone has a cellphone — when is the last time you heard one ring? I bet it was your grandma’s.
It’s Joe (Rob Corddry) on the phone telling Spence that Andre (Andy Garcia), their rival, has been trying to poach all of their clients. Joe, hoping to please the clients wooed by Andre, approves their risky investments. One player wants to start a record label. Has a foray in the music industry ever been a good idea for an athlete?
However, NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant are better rappers than Joe and Spence are financial advisers. Knowingly giving bad guidance in order to keep clients is much worse than unknowingly spitting lame rhymes. I know Andre is supposed to be the villain this season, but given what we know, we should be rooting for him. Spencer and Joe are steering players’ money toward cash bonfires such as restaurants, record labels, and fashion lines. Spencer fights players on TV. Spence poached a client from Andre. Andre has built a big successful practice. The only strike against Andre is that Spencer claims Andre guided him to a bad real estate deal. As of now, those are unproven allegations. As far as I can tell, Andre’s only offense is looking like a dapper Santa who is always asking if you want him to get you some coke. I am tempted to text Victor Cruz #TeamAndre.
Standing in the driveway with Julie, Charles yells at a motorist, “slow yo a– down.” Julie looks concerned about Charles. But, for some reason no one is concerned about the baby, who is alone in the house. Charles seems to have forgotten her in the house while seeing Julie off to work. Told y’all he was high.
Spencer lets himself into Vernon’s house because Vernon is hiding from his coach, who was knocking on the door looking for Vernon earlier. Vernon is upstairs lying in the hallway on a mattress that’s on the floor. Unless he thought the coach was going to Spider-Man up the wall and look in the window, I think staying in his bedroom was fine. But, Vernon has never come across as a great thinker. So, he lies in the hallway as if there are snipers trained on the windows.
Guess you don’t have to be great thinker to tell the truth: Vernon tells Spencer that he doesn’t want to lie about how he tore his Achilles. So, Spencer encourages Vernon to stop hiding from the coach and the team owner. Turns out Spencer is much more qualified for the role of big brother or mentor. With Spencer’s support, Vernon calls the owner of the Cowboys and tells him that he injured himself playing paintball. The owner hangs up on Vernon.
Meanwhile, the Saints write a contract offer on a notepad and slide it over to Ricky. Where is Jason, Ricky’s agent? Apparently, he has better things to do than his job. They offer three years, $30 million. Ricky responds by writing “Where’s the love?” on the notepad. The Saints sent a private jet to pick you up and offered you three times what Steve Smith got, the player they compare you to. Ricky, you’d better shut your mouth, go stand by the printer and sign that contract before it gets all the way out of the printer. Better yet, sign the notepad they wrote the offer on before they come to their senses. I get it, Ballers. Ricky’s dad abandoned him and he feels unloved, so he wants that love from a football team. Why can’t he just sign that contract and look for that love in the pants of random women, as he did in season one?
Joe and Spencer have lunch with one of their clients, retired player Anthony “Spice” Adams, to discuss Spice’s plans to invest $4 million in a hotel. He wants to name the hotel after his mother, Elidee; it means “honorable.” Joe and Spence pretend this is a sound financial decision, until Spice excuses himself to go to the restroom. Spence wants to tell Spice that the hotel is a bad idea, but Joe persuades him to at least visit the land where the hotel is to be built.
Charles is home playing a football video game — as the right tackle. That has to be the most boring thing in the world, unless he is on a mind-altering substance. The Charles-Greane-is-high theory started as a joke, but evidence is mounting. Frustrated by more than just the video game, his wife tries to cheer him up with sex. That dynamic was the basis for their relationship for all of season one. Charles would be sad and she would try to cheer him up with sex. This time Charles is not interested.
At a bar drunk on Red Stripes, Spencer is honest with Spice about the Elidee, the hotel investment. It seems this episode does try to answer the Ballers mystery of why anyone would trust Spencer with their money. It is because he is honorable as the title of the episode suggests. I would like some experience, training, and certifications to come along with the integrity of my financial adviser. But, I guess trust and reliability is what’s most important. I can see why players would want someone who will answer their call and have their back in their time of need, even if it is at 5:04 a.m. Mystery solv … WAIT, Spencer’s phone rings. It’s Ndamukong Suh, a client who is likely calling because the restaurant Spencer advised him to open is failing. Spencer looks at his phone and hits ignore. I guess the mystery of why anybody would hire Spencer will remain unsolved for at least another week.
Since sex didn’t cheer up Charles, Julie returns home with a surprise for him. She fatigued-out the family’s minivan. The exterior and interior are all camo. It looks awful, but I guess Julie knows her man, because he is more than pleased. I expected Xzibit to jump out, pop Charles’ collar and say “you’ve been pimped.”
But, it wasn’t all bad, Julie was bumpin’ British rapper Skepta’s It Ain’t Safe. If you don’t know him, you should listen to his Numbers, which features Pharrell Williams. Charles shows his gratitude by pulling Julie in the van for some sex. Of course they have sex. They always have sex.
Dejected and feeling unloved, Ricky walks back to the Saints’ private jet to fly home. Between him and the jet is all the love he was looking for. There’s a band, dancers, cheerleaders, and a choir all performing for Ricky in front of a 20-foot-tall inflatable Ricky Jerret. And then the head coach of the Saints, the real Sean Payton, shows up to seal the deal. Though actual NFL players have been on the show, no coaches or executives have had cameos. Probably because the league does not like that the show uses league and team logos without permission.
So, why would Payton appear on Ballers? Perhaps because he wanted to tweak Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, who suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season for the Bountygate scandal. Using a popular TV show to subtweet the commissioner, bravo, Sean Payton. Shots fired. Again, real NFL drama is so much more compelling than fake NFL drama. I do make fun of this show a lot, but the truth is I like it. This show is like your aunt’s potato salad. It is not as good as she thinks it is, but you’d be disappointed if she decided not to bring it to the cookout. Fortunately, HBO has decided that we will get a third season.