BALLERS Review: “Enter the Temple”

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This week’s opens with Spencer licking his wounds from last week’s episode in his fight with Sizzle. Season one dealt with a lot of the scars that Spencer carried over from his NFL days, and I’m glad this is continuing to be explored. Some of the concussion stuff, though, felt a bit nebulous. For instance, the show eventually went with the route that Spencer was medically fine but most of his problems were mental. I’m not sure if I fully bought this. However, I do like the fact Spencer is sometimes his own worst enemy, and that he’s getting into trouble now because on some level he can’t get over what happened in the past. This definitely comes to a head in this week’s episode, “Enter the Temple.”

Spencer has a badly bruised hip and deals with this problem how he normally does—with a whole bunch of meds. He takes a trip down to his local pharmacy, where a pharmacist informs him that he can’t get more Vicodin unless it’s cleared by his doctor. He’s told to wait but he just ends up leaving instead.

Later, at work, Spencer calls a meeting with new ally Sizzle, who he hopes to sign and poach from Andre. Sizzle seems to be buying what Spencer is selling, but Joe is worried about making a deal without going through the proper channels.

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Tracy meets with her boss hoping to get a raise after years of paying her dues. Not only does her boss totally rebuff her, but he also hurls plenty of objectifying comments her way. I actually think Tracy has been underutilized in this show. Seeing the challenges of a female media professional in the male and macho world of the NFL has plenty of potential and is also very timely. I can’t really recall, though, seeing Tracy’s boss often, much less knowing that she was dealing with sexist abuse and unequal pay. As a result, this scene felt really out of left field for me and rather unearned.

The moment ends with Tracy quitting and later going home to drink where she vents to Spencer while Spencer tries to cheer her up. While I’m curious to see what Tracy does next, I still feel like this whole chain of events could have been better orchestrated. It doesn’t do enough justice to what really is a serious issue.

Other subplots involve Reggie and Vernon trying to agree on Reggie’s salary. They eventually take their negotiations to the rough and tumble world of paintball, where Vernon injures himself. Meanwhile, Jason prepares a presentation for Ricky to help find him a new team. This scene allows Ballers to pull back and explore the broader NFL world and help explain certain things. I’ve always felt that there wasn’t enough actual football talk and football playing on the show, but scenes like this one help build this world and create authenticity. Shockingly, Ricky has no love for the Patriots, seems kind of interested in playing in frigid Buffalo, NY, and is really keen on New Orleans.

Rob Corddry and Dwayne Johnson in "Ballers."

Spencer and Joe corner Andre at a tennis event where Tennis star Caroline Wozniacki makes a cameo. I’m not exactly sure what the backstory is between Spencer and Andre, but I’m curious to find out what’s going on there. As I said, a central theme of this show is that Spencer just can’t let the past be the past. Spencer makes it clear he’s going to take Andre’s clients one by one, while Andre also talks a big game and says he’s not even worried.

I should also mention one other subplot with Charles, who’s worried that Coach Berg is going to drop him. As it turns out, they’re just going to try him at another position. Besides Spencer, Charles is probably my favorite character on the show. Sure I’m not exactly an aging multimillion dollar athlete who wants to give it one more crack in the big leagues, but the fact that Charles only feels at home on the field is a nice idea. He tried living the “normal life” and it didn’t work. This might be Spencer’s fatal flaw, too.

TB-TV-Grade-B-
Season 2, Episode 2 (S02E02)
Ballers airs Sundays at 10PM on HBO

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Ade Adeniji writes about the philanthropy of billionaires and millionaires by day, and writes screenplays by night.
Twitter: @derekadeniji 

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Ade Adeniji | Contributor
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