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‘Survivor’s Remorse’ recap: Doomed as a power couple? Hardly

Missy and Reggie can take over the world, so long as Reggie listens to his wife

Season 3, Episode 3 | “The Thank You Note” | July 31

 

Even in black America, there are two Americas, and one of them requires handwritten, perfectly executed thank you notes. This is the America in which rich philanthropists you’ve never met invite you to shoot pheasants as you’re grieving for your dead uncle. This is the America in which it’s customary to have a piano in your living room regardless of whether you can play it. It is the America of Jack and Jill and summers on Martha’s Vineyard and black cotillons. And it is judgy.

The latest episode of Survivor’s Remorse is a study in Missy Vaughn’s (Teyonah Parris) irritating indispensability. As much as we may want to mock or discount the knowledge that Missy carries around as being dated and irrelevant, she’s vindicated. Missy comes from a solidly upper middle-class black family who’s clearly known nothing but upper middle-class life for several generations, and when the Freeman family — one of the most well-known philanthropic families of Atlanta’s black aristocracy — take an interest in the Calloways, it’s Missy who understands what it means.

Missy seems like she was born to be first lady of Atlanta.

“People like the Freemans — they built an elaborate array of social sets through symbols and messages,” she tells Reggie (RonReaco Lee) as she’s needling him to write a thank you note with the custom stationery she’s purchased for her husband.

Episode 3-03 offers one of the deepest looks we’ve had into the inner workings of the Vaughn marriage when Missy and Reggie clash over a thank you note that etiquette dictates Reggie write. Reggie thinks it’s pointless. Missy can’t understand why Reggie doesn’t know he’s being gauche. Reggie finally relents if only to stop Missy’s nagging, but then spells Dihane Freeman’s name incorrectly, leading to a mission to chase down the offending note and replace it with a correct one. This is a mission Missy treats with the seriousness of a woman who has been tasked with stopping nuclear proliferation.

Both Reggie and Missy are ambitious, but that ambition shows up in different ways. They both want to grow their wealth and influence, but Missy lives in a world where women are judged on details, and high society is run by women. And while Missy may understand the inner workings of snobs, I don’t think she is one. If she was, she never would have married Reggie. She does however, possess the attributes of a traditionally valuable candidate’s wife. She’s well-educated, charming, and she understands how to schmooze with rich people. It would not surprise me if, in the future, Reggie ran for political office. Missy seems like she was born to be first lady of Atlanta.

After the emotional ride of Julius’ death and funeral, The Thank You Note feels like we’re getting back to the Survivor’s Remorse we know: a quick dip into a slice of life, stitched together with wit, and in this case, the screwball humor of Missy and Reggie’s inability to see eye to eye over a thank you note that will flit to something else with the next episode.

Odds and ends

It’s easy to miss because the camera focused on Reggie when it happens, but the look of unironic horror that crosses Missy’s face when Reggie casually explains over a dinner of pheasant why he hasn’t written a thank you note to the Freemans is priceless.

Susie Essman used to be the greatest angry lady on television when she was doing Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don’t know that Erica Ash has quite reached Susie Essman levels of ranterifficness, but with the screed she delivered in Sunday night’s episode, she’s well on her way, and the Dorchester accent only helps her.

“I gotta wear diapers to bed,” M-Chuck yells as she voices frustration over her period. “I’m not even 40!”

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the culture critic for The Undefeated. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts, and literature. She's based in Brooklyn.