Back again for another installment of The Ballers Report, our recap of the HBO Original Series Ballers starring University of Miami alum Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. We’ve been at this for a month, and you can get the other recaps here: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.
Away we go.
As per usual, I’m going to spoil everything that happened in this week’s episode of Ballers. So, if you haven’t watched it and don’t want these spoilers, this is your last warning. But, while you decide, check out Spencer Strasmore leaving the gym. And, as always, all pictures are courtesy of HBO.
Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson) is back at the doctor’s office after running out of Vicodin pills. The doctor gives Spencer some bad news: he has no cartilage in his hip, and has been effectively grinding it to shreds for years. At age 41, Strasmore has osteoarthritis, the effects giving him the hip of an 80 year old, and due to his refusal to get physicals for seemingly years, he’s looking at needing a hip replacement, sooner than later. So, that’s good. . .
On top of that hip issue, Strasmore’s doctor refuses to refill his prescription for Vicodin. Strasmore says that he’d like to go with "pain management" — aka pill popping — as opposed to surgery or replacement for the hip, but that isn’t going to be an option. So, with his supply of meds cut off, Spencer looks to other means for dealing with his pain. He’s seen drinking hard liquor early in the morning in the next scene, and later, uses a fake name to go to a questionable clinic to obtain a new prescription. None of this seems good for Strasmore, and continues the season-long theme of him battling a very apparent addiction to painkillers. I’ve spoken about this before (episode 2), but the NFL can’t be pleased with a high profile character who is repeatedly mentioned as a "former NFL linebacker" dealing with these issues in such a way. This storyline still seems to be building to something big....and I think it’s going to be bad for Spencer.
After meeting with his doctor, Spencer goes back to the office and presses 2 issues: First, he tells agent Jason (Troy Garity) he wants to meet LB prospect Travis Mach. Jason is non-committal at this because Anderson Sports Management isn’t cleared by the NFLPA yet, and a meeting between a financial manager and prospective player could turn catastrophic for the company if the NFLPA finds out. But, of course, Spencer doesn’t care about that. He wants what he wants. Okay then.
Second, he rips his right-hand man Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) a new one, wondering why the NFLPA hasn’t cleared their registration yet. Joe, being the good lackey, says he’ll contact the NFLPA to try and get the company registration process ironed out, but he’s not happy with how Spencer is treating him. Fully understandable; Spencer is being an asshole.
As for Travis Mach (Adam Aalderks), he meets Spencer at the gym and proceeds to be humbled physically and mentally. Spencer cuts through Mach’s bullshit and gets to the core of the issue with the "eccentric" linebacker: he’s scared of being "just a guy", an average player in a league of superheroes. Mach, frustrated his bravado can’t be backed up with substance, storms out of the gym, cutting his workout with Spencer short after only a few minutes. He waits by Spencer’s car and begs for help. Maybe Spencer and Mach, a Hurricane and a Seminole (puke), will become the next great duo pairing on the show. But, since a financial manager and NFL draft prospect meeting and working together before the draft, even on the basis of physical fitness, is something the NFLPA frowns upon strongly, I can’t see this ending well either. Lot’s of bad on the horizon, methinks.
In the course of the episode, however, Joe does his job: he gets the NFLPA to move forward with the registration process. It comes out that one of Spencer’s former colleagues from his playing days works for the NFLPA now, and will help finalize the process for Anderson Sports Management. Like most things, that storyline takes a turn, as a different NFLPA agent comes to meet with Spencer, not to finish the company’s registration, but to question Spencer about what happened to his money from his playing days. And, of course, that leads to something that’s been hinted at previously: the real estate deal that caused Spencer to disassociate himself from Andre Allen. The NFLPA agent says he can’t certify ASM until he digs deeper into the circumstances of this investment gone wrong, hinting that there may be some malfeasance afoot. Much like the doctor storyline, this doesn’t bode well for Spencer moving forward.
Two of the main comic relief characters, Joe and Reggie (London Brown), get together in multiple scenes this week. Reggie, feeling bad about injuring Vernon (Donovan W. Carter) and wanting to cheer him up, wants to buy the star Cowboys DT an exotic pet. Joe knows a guy who can help, and they go to the wildlife preserve to get a gift. Upon finding out that most of the highly desired pets are already sold, Reggie and Joe settle on getting Vernon an Alpaca which they lovingly (kind of) name Rihanna, due to the animal’s hairstyle. Reggie and the Alpaca don’t really get along, and the gift goes unnoticed by Vernon because Nate buys him a pitbull puppy. Reggie still can’t win. Oh well. Hatin’ ass....
Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) now has another free agency contract offer to consider: 3y/$33M from the Buffalo Bills. Jerret, who is still looking to "feel the love", is nowhere near making a decision between the Bills and Saints, the only teams to offer him a contract. Jerret attends a fashion show with friends TT and Charles Greane (Omar Miller) and runs into his ex-girlfriend Anabella (Annabelle Acosta) at the event. The two have a heartfelt conversation about Ricky’s future, and Anabella seems like the only person who can get through to Ricky. Her advice: go somewhere he’s loved. But, with 2 contract offers topping $30M, love might not be the deciding factor for the young playmaking WR.
Charles Greane is still trying to find his way in "retirement" after being cut by the Dolphins. He is in a battle with a young kid in the neighborhood who insists on driving too fast in their neighborhood. This is art imitating life, as there was a similar beef between Keyshawn Johnson and Justin Bieber on this issue a few years back.
Other than being the old man in the neighborhood, Greane barges into Dolphins GM Larry Sifert’s (Dulé Hill) office to tell him why the Dolphins OL and run game sucks. Greane isn’t looking for a job, on the field or off, but he’s offered one: Siefert values Greane’s opinions and thinks a front office job (consultant? assistant gm?) would fit the former All-Pro LT well. Greane is stunned by this, but I think that could be a good fit for him moving forward.
Ricky Jerret's house (with Jason and Spencer) is my favorite place of this season.
Spencer and Jason in the office with a classic University of Miami helmet beautifully adorning the shot.
Joe and Reggie with "smelly exotic animal guy" searching for a gift for Vernon
Vernon Littlefield. Still injured. But now has a puppy!
When you need a Vicodin prescription and your real doctor won't give you one
Ricky and Anabella having a nice chat during a Miami fashion show.
Travis Mach. Weeeeeeeeak.
Reggie and "Rihanna", the Alpaca.
Charles Greane whippin' his pimped out minivan.
Another week with very few on-camera cameos, but plenty of appearances by dialogue mentions! Here’s the list:
|Tyrod Taylor (by dialogue)||Buffalo Bills|
|Luke Kuechly (by dialogue)||Carolina Panthers|
|Andy Dalton (by dialogue)||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Marshawn Lynch (by dialogue)||Retired, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks|
|Dez Bryant (by dialogue)||Dallas Cowboys|
|Todd Gurley (by dialogue)||Los Angeles Rams|
|New Orleans Saints|
|New England Patriots|
My favorite part of the week: the Ballers Soundtrack recap. This show, like most HBO original series’, uses a wide range of great music, seamlessly integrating this other side of pop culture into the show.
Usually, I sit here and figure out the songs alone, but as the show is doing a better and better job integrating beats and background music into the show, I had to reach out for some help. So, a big thanks to Ballers music coordinator Rachelle Jean-Louis for the music list this week. Couldn’t have done this without you, Rach! You’re the best!!!!!!
Background instrumentals. This week, there were several songs used in the background of various scenes. They included Kwesi Darko - Project Pane (searching for the alpaca); and Fawks - Lights (the fashion show).
Grandma’s Hands by Bill Withers. A nice, soulful start to the episode. Easy tempo join, with fairly sparse intrumentation, which lets Withers’ voice paint the soundscape. This is also the foundational sample for "No Diggity" by Blackstreet.
Kronic ft. Raven Felix - Feel That Aqua - Juno. A nice instrumental, with some pop and almost EDM styles to it. Driving beat and synthesized drum machine sounds, and other miscellaneous rhythmic sounds, drive this song’s energy. It’s very, VERY repetitive.
Tunji Ige - Bring Yo Friends. This song starts kind of slow, but builds once the beat drops. The opening has a "Zelda" 8-bit kind of feel to it, but gets updated quickly when the beat drops. The "deep voice" overlay feels like a Rick Ross joint at times, but with Ballers being a Miami-based show, that’s not the worst thing ever.
ASAP Ferg ft. Future - New Level. Future is one of the hottest rappers in the game, and this feature on Ferg’s "New Level" is one reason why. This song doesn’t have a slow build, it hits hard for 3 minutes and is done. Solid, but fairly uninteresting, instrumental is the foundation for Ferg and Future’s braggadocious lyrics. This is "empty calorie" rap, to me. Not going to stand the test of time as a classic, but it’s fun as hell. And that’s alright with me.
Jazz Cartier - 100 Roses. THIS was one of my favorite songs this week. The synth horns in the instrumental got my attention, as did the descending theme. The verses have good energy, and I just found myself getting hype when I heard this joint.
Future - Thought It Was a Drought. This song was a hip-hop heavy hitter from the moment it dropped, and helped Gucci sell a BUNCH of flip flops. I don’t know why that would be, but that’s what I heard on the streets.
The Lost Generation - This Is the Lost Generation. This week’s credits song is a throwback joint that leaves us wondering what the future may be for Spencer Strasmore. Because, it seems like he may be floundering. He’s the lost generation.
That’s it for the Ballers Report, kids.
See you next week.