“The Age of Umbrage”
We live in a world that is very easily manipulated by whatever the media has to say, and in Cam Calloway’s case this harsh reality (almost) came back to bite him in the rear. In an attempt to promote a foundation in Julius’s memory – and help a “close friend” make waves with his new radio talk show – Cam says a few things that are technically taken out of context in a one-on-one interview and finds himself on the sharp edge of the typically misconstrued media backlash. He faces a bit of a fall from grace, where a world-renowned sports outlet labels him the “Scumbag of the Week” (then, later on, “Scumbag of the Month” and a frontrunner for the annual SportsScummy Award), and a particular mother of a child who was diagnosed with the “fucked up nose syndrome” creates a strong enough case to guide the anger and disgust towards him.
“The Age of Umbrage”, however, doesn’t simply resort to a trial of denial and an eventual apology; Cam’s not even sorry for what he said or the manner in which he said it. As the episode rolls along, we are awoken to the alarming degree of media exploitation that actually occurs far more often in real life than we realize – all the while Cam bands together with both his family and his under-qualified “fixer” to craft a verbal solution that could save his image while clearing up his initial spewing of words.
For the most part, everything plays out like a sensible tug-of-war, with both sides struggling to reach an amenable center surrounded by an audience none too keen to the intricacies of the affliction Cam was discussing in his interview. That latter half is where most of the episode’s satire molds from, and I’m very impressed with how bluntly and aggressively it exposes the underlining negligence of pop culture figures. Cam’s big podium speech at the conclusion, for example, exercises the sum of the parts that got us to the episode’s big finish in hilarious fashion – but does one better by making us question those six-figure personalities and the causes they truly stand/care for. It’s an incredibly risky moment for Cam: by taking the initiative and formulating a proper apology for the whole world to acknowledge, he’s burning potentially crucial bridges with popular individuals by backing them into a corner and making them take a financial endeavor they never planned on pursuing in the first place. However, it correlates with his line of thinking from the beginning of the episode and the level of maturity he’s reached as a multi-million dollar basketball superstar; I cannot imagine a similar scenario where he wouldn’t use his current population and reputation to further a cause he truly believed in.
Not to speak ill of the fascinating line of work that the show has presented up until this point, but I just don’t see Survivor’s Remorse topping itself anytime soon after watching “The Photoshoot”. Clearly my personal favorite/highlight of the season, this episode rides along a wave of social commentary with a fierceness and confidence that the series has never expunged, and elsewhere it’s naturally tying these very real concerns to the characters in play without the disadvantage of feeling one-off or outside the realm of their respective arcs.
There are three sides to this rather linear storyline: Missy, Cam’s latest PR consultant after her all-too important guidance with the media fiasco in the previous episode, has arranged a photoshoot in the interest of marketing Cam, with Reggie quietly lingering in the background and holding everything together. With that comes varying perspectives that manifest throughout the course of said photoshoot. We discover that Missy’s search for a dark-skinned model to complement Cam and his photos is her way of using her newfound power to promote a sort of influx of other dark-skinned talents; a much-too-real problem that has plagued most of the entertainment business throughout history. Cam, on the other hand, simply wants to innocently indulge in a couple hours in front of the camera, hoping that he won’t have to beg for the respect of his auxiliaries in regards to such things as decision-making or any sudden change of plans. Reggie’s role in all of this is the enabler: by quietly lingering in Missy’s shadow (which is primarily meant to allot her full control of the photoshoot), he indirectly forfeits any and all respect he normally has for Cam in regards to such things as decision-making or any sudden change of plans.
Since anything Missy says goes, the entire evening is ruined: the photoshoot is abruptly delayed, the model, who was replacing the darker-skinned female Missy originally demanded, is replaced with another darker-skinned female, and the photgrapher, Family Matters icon Jaleel White (who does splendid work here, might I add), has to scramble in a search for someone who fits Missy’s description. The snowball effect here is cerebral, primarily because she altered an already-occurring event after making a rather tardy arrival to said proceedings (root canal or no root canal), but mostly because she did a good thing far too late. And what I love the most about this is that the episode shows us exactly where, how badly, and why Missy was in the wrong. Her initial planning could’ve stuck had she just been at the studio set in time, but instead her presence exceeds itself while she overlooks the consideration she should’ve had for the original model out of a lifelong frustration against light-skinned women “winning”. The message her photoshoot aims to convey is plausible – the perception that athletes only date light-skinned women is very true – but under this light it becomes counter-intuitive because what’s done is done and since the matter was pushed too far a poor mother simply striving to make ends meet was denied the opportunity over an unfair labeling. All of this is also why I think having her be confronted by the original model was an important way to drive home the problem at the core.
Like I said before, Reggie’s handling of the photoshoot does Cam no favors, but worse yet is how inconsiderate it makes him out to be after the fact. Yes, he eventually faces Missy’s wrath in the wake of sitting idly by – but like Cam alluded to, Missy’s actions bear much greater consequences on his reputation. Perhaps Reggie failed to acknowledge that for himself on account of giving his wife a chance to demonstrate her skills in a field she’s always dreamed of conquering. Unfortunately, this is a three-way work engagement, and Cam’s going to have to answer to most of what transpired here. Hearing it from Cam doesn’t over-perpetuate that, either, because he has every right to express his disappointment; he feels that his saying power means nothing in these sort of executive decisions, and going forward that only stems to disrupt the relationship these two gentlemen share.
Even the B and C storylines in “The Photoshoot” shined, particularly M-Chuck’s college arrangement and Jimmy’s assistance in the matter. Not only are we treated to a delightfully down-to-earth dynamic that’s spurned from humble beginnings (learning the reasoning behind Jimmy’s particular tastes in food was particularly compelling), but, like with the differing perspectives in the photoshoot, are reminded of the character growth both individuals have experienced throughout the series. It would have been enough to watch them converse about school and homemade cuisine, but realizing Jimmy’ genuine warmth and M-Chuck’s yearning for a self-preserved future let us connect with them on a similar – albeit less tangible – way. Very few installments at this point in the series have ever been as enthralling on a personal level.
Here are a few extra things I’d like to point out about these couple of episodes:
- M-Chuck and Jimmy bear-hugging each other just might be the highlight of this entire season.
- Cassie and Da Chen Bao’s relationship took its next big step in “The Photoshoot”, and I thought having those sex dolls represent the different mindsets they’ve had over their long-distance troubles was a weirdly effective way to table their problems.
- Bao is as lovestruck and confused as they come; of course his initial solution would be to compensate sexually with a robot via webcam.
- Squeeze has never seen Seinfeld before, and after Reggie explains the show to him he winds up thinking the Soup Nazi made noodles out of Jews. Squeeze has: 1) licked too many envelopes, and 2) needs to reset his priorities and familiarize himself with Seinfeld.
- “There are ten bathrooms in this house. Don’t spit in my sink.”
Cassie speaks for no-nonsense mothers across the world.
- Cam and Reggie’s dynamic in both episodes is very intriguing. in “The Age of Umbrage”, Cam doesn’t mind considering certain people he knew back in school or in Boston as close friends, even if his association with them was only vague. Meanwhile, Reggie’s just trying to steer the ship from money or attention-hungry fiends who use their prior association with Cam as a way in. As a result, Reggie rejects an interview from an old college friend that Cam quietly accepts. In “The Photoshoot”, however, Cam understands the parameters of his situation and is at peace with it, whereas Reggie goes behind his cousin’s back and flips the script for the advancement of his wife’s wishes. Bottom line is there appears to be a silver lining between them where any thread of trust is closed off, yet considering their pasts and their separate personalities it’s hard not to be surprised by this kind of repeated disagreement.
- “The ignorant are the last people you want to upset.”
There’s definitely a college student out there somewhere who’s seen this episode all the way through and will be using this quote as a thesis statement for a given essay.
- “People will not pay to watch an asshole play basketball.”
“People watched Kobe play for years.”
Well said, Cam.