BALLERS Review: “World of Hurt”

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Last night’s was one of the strongest of the series. For one, it actually delivered some pretty solid conflict. Spencer isn’t just some hulking figure who has the potential to do damage, but really gets after it. I also noted how it was odd that all of a sudden Ricky Jarrett and his estranged father were getting along, without there really being any sense of any past hurt or trauma. Well, that honeymoon is over in “World of Hurt.”

In one of the main storylines, city-slicker Jason goes out to the Everglades to sign Travis Mack, a young promising linebacker who did not attend his rookie combine. Mack’s got the talent, but is a bit of a risky signing because of his poor attitude. Anyway, it’s up to Jason to court him, though being out in the sticks is not Jason’s forte. The pair take a trip out on Mack’s airboat, passing over whatever critters lie below. Jason tries to relate to Mack, and when their boat apparently gets stalled, rolls up his sleeves and dives in to fix the problem. As it turns out, though, this is another one of Mack’s ploys, and as soon as Jason touches the water, Mack speeds off, leaving Jason to contend with the gators.

Spencer has lunch with Tracy, who reveals that she’s considering a in the Northeast at ESPN. Tracy hasn’t been getting much screentime in recent weeks, particularly since she took a big stand and quit her a few episodes ago. Before Spencer can perhaps show a bit of worry about the future of their relationship, he’s distracted by Andre and one of his clients. I like that the show is setting up Spencer’s increasing obsession over beating Andre at the expense of everything else, but the emotional stakes don’t feel fully capitalized on. For one, Spencer and Tracy have barely been together of late. As well, in this actual scene, Tracy doesn’t really get to express her excitement on the one hand, but perhaps also her fear about what that means for them.

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Spencer and Joe take a ride on Anderson’s yacht, where he lays into them for not building their client base. Anderson is also upset that a minnow like Spencer is trying to take on Andre, a big fish. This only makes Spencer more competitive and later he tells Joe to dig up whatever dirt he can find on Andre.

In terms of subplots, Charles has bad news this week. Seemingly not too long from playing his first professional football game again, he’s released by the team. He puts on a good face when his coach delivers the news, and later at home with his wife, but when he’s alone finally shows his disappointment.

As for Jarrett, there’s a fun barbershop scene with his dad that contrasts later when the two hit a local bar. His dad gets way too drunk and starts getting into it with a bar patron, who knocks his parenting skills. This sets his dad off and Jarrett comes to blows with him. This is the scene I’ve been waiting for since the start of the season.

This episode also seemingly wraps up Vernon’s paintball snafu, and executives announces that Vernon is very much still a valued member of the team. Here is a good example of where Ballers struggles, I think, because we never see Spencer do much of anything to right the ship. The issue just resolves itself, rather than Spencer or Vernon really being active to clean up the mess.

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Joe meets up with a disbarred lawyer (wonder why) in a quiet parking lot and receives an envelope with dirt on Andre. When Spencer and Joe wait for a meeting with Andre, Spencer tells Joe he’ll go it alone. This, despite the fact that Joe just did some of the heavy lifting. In an odd moment, Joe just accepts it with a joke, instead of rightfully feeling like he’s earned a seat at a table. Ultimately, these moments reveal that Spencer is happy to use others to get to Andre, but really wants to take him down himself. This is great, but again, the show doesn’t fully sell the conflict that ought to exist between Spencer and Joe here.

Anyway, the meeting with Andre goes totally awry. Andre calls Spencer’s bluff and basically says he has dirt on Spencer, too.

The fun Jason and Mack storyline ends with the former winding up back at Mack’s ranch sopping wet. Jason gives Mack and earful and Mack is happy that someone is finally standing up to him. Mack apologizes and says he wants to hop aboard and learn from Jason.

TB-TV-Grade-B+
Season 2, Episode 4 (S02E04)
Ballers airs Sundays at 10PM on HBO

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

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