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‘Survivor’s Remorse’ recap: When virtual reality meets your alcohol-laden stomach

A reminder that graphic suffering and cocktails don’t mix

Season 4, Episode 5 | “The Gala” | SepT. 17

The writers of Survivor’s Remorse are fearless when it comes to using comedy to tackle tough social issues. But sometimes you just need a big belly laugh, and this week’s episode delivers.

Oh, dear. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said “belly.”

Let’s explain: Cam (Jessie T. Usher) is holding a gala to raise money for his charity, the Calloway Philanthropic Trust, or CPT. And because it’s Cam, the road to money for fighting frozen nostril syndrome, mass incarceration and contaminated water supplies is paved with blue cocktails, doughnuts and vomit. Lots and lots of vomit.

Cam is a bleeding heart. And because he wants those around him to feel people’s pain just the way he does, he collaborates on a virtual reality experience for his gala guests.

There’s just one problem: Cam subjects his guests, who are gathered at his Buckhead, Atlanta, mansion in their swankiest black-tie ’fits, to a variety of way-too-real horrors. And so the gala attendees, wearing the virtual reality headsets developed by Chen’s (Robert Wu) company, experience life in prison, the world as experienced by a baby with “frozen nostrils” and the life of a child whose fingers get gnawed on by rats. By the time they get to maggot-infested water, everyone, full of too much sugar and alcohol, starts vomiting. And because they’ve neglected to take off their virtual reality headsets, they’re bumping into each other and slipping. Things got a little too real. Uncanny valley, indeed.

Written by Lauren Houseman and Allen Maldonado, The Gala combines a healthy dose of Survivor’s Remorse’s rapid-fire wit with some disgustingly funny slapstick. And it allows Erica Ash a spotlight to show off as M-Chuck.

When their diabetic professional auctioneer goes down, thanks to an inability to say no and an appetite for doughnuts, M-Chuck is forced to step in as auctioneer. Fortunately, this takes place before everyone’s emptied their stomachs onto the floor and tables and bathrooms of the Calloway residence.

M-Chuck is half shame artist, half insult comic and 100 percent talented at separating people from their money, as we see with her raunchy routine auctioning a pit bull puppy from one of rapper Pitbull’s own dogs. Once she finishes college, it’s not hard to envision M-Chuck as a director of development for a very, hmm, distinctive nonprofit.

Her brother, on the other hand, continues to inadvertently make the case for a life in politics once his basketball career is over. For one, it’s clear that Cam is driven by a need to help others, almost to a fault. But he’s also settled into a life of relying on others to think for him, which tends to get him into trouble. Although he put Missy in charge of organizing the gala, he took it upon himself to include the virtual reality project and instructed Missy not to watch it beforehand. And when his house was being blanketed in upchuck, Cam decided to yell at himself by yelling at Missy.

Cam: “How did you f— this up?”

Missy: “How did I f— this up?”

Cam: “I’m a professional athlete! A product of the culture of American idolatry, which means I am no longer capable of sound judgment. When I’m right, I’m right. When I’m wrong, I’m right and my people are wrong!”

I told you this guy could run for public office.

So, Cam is clearly good-hearted. But he lacks focus and he hates saying no. Which is how he ends up with a gala raising money for three unrelated causes. I keep wondering whether he’s headed for a major financial crisis from giving away so much of his money and committing to bad investments, but it’s Reggie’s (RonReaco Lee) job to protect him from himself.

As for the gala, it was miraculously successful because folks pulled out their phones and started giving money via the “Cam Calloway Get Woke” app as soon as their stomachs settled. You have to wonder what sort of saints Cam managed to assemble, as most folks in that situation would be demanding a refund and a pledge from Cam to cover their dry-cleaning costs. But maybe that’s just bad form.

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.