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Ballers - Seeds of Expansion - Review



You know that expression, "the grass is always greener on the other side"? I wonder if Spencer Strasmore does. My guess is that he doesn't, based on his actions in "Seeds of Expansion", the season 3 premiere of "Ballers" on HBO.

That probably sounds critical, but after he fought so hard in season 2 to gain a larger share of Anderson Sports Management, it seems strange to me that he'd so swiftly shift focus to something as daunting as founding a new NFL team. On top of which, he's suddenly interested in ensuring that he's virile enough to found his own family...someday...even though it's never something he's shown any signs of desiring in the last few years.

But the other characters this season seem true to form so far. Let's dig in a little bit.

RECAP

Vernon's engaging in some weed-related endeavor with Reggie as a somewhat questionable advisor. It wasn't totally clear to me what this endeavor was (a clothing line? a catchphrase? a grow house?), but it included some un-subtle hoodies with a big ol' pot leaf and the phrase "High Powered" on it. Despite Vernon's reservations, the hoodie does catch the eye of a young fan at a sneaker signing, and Vernon passes it along to the kid. It's a cute moment. Vernon's getting some validation for his time on the field, and he's trying to give back. Let's hope it doesn't go awry.

Charles, who switched over to coaching for the Dolphins last season, has to bid farewell to a fellow coach and deal with the perception of instability within the Dolphin leadership ranks. Siefert asks Charles to lead a press conference, and he even gives Charles some talking points...which Charles clearly does not review before stepping into the spotlight. Luckily, another coach comes along to save the day.

And Ricky, who's been working since season 1 to rein in his "bad boy" image, has a pregnancy scare with his current squeeze, a woman named Amber who Ricky seems to like, but doesn't think is good mom material. Based on how she went about revealing whether or not she was pregnant, I'm thinking that Ricky's right. I'll reserve the pregnancy result spoiler for the "Discussion" section; if you don't want to know, I suggest you stop reading right now.

And as I alluded to in the introduction, Spencer has been a busy boy already! Last season, he finally took care of some medical procedures he'd been putting off, and we find out that everything's been going great; he's even easing up on the Vicodin and maintaining his flexibility. However, the question of Ricky's paternity, and the fact that he's never had a pregnancy scare of his own, has him questioning his virility. He even makes the brave decision to consult a doctor about it, but then his work gets in the way.

See, Spencer's also still in debt to Vernon and Ricky for their contributions to his buy-in at ASM. He's looking to make good on the loan, and gets the chance to repay it, via Anderson himself, if he can get his newfound friend and associate Steph Curry to a fancy dinner party at Anderson's home. The boss has been trying to negotiate a huge deal with Wayne Hastings (played by Steve Guttenberg, yay!), a prominent casino guru from Las Vegas. Anderson thinks a sports celebrity could clench the deal with Hastings and bring in the big bucks for ASM.

Spencer's got reservations about branching into the gaming industry, as he's trying to break into the basketball field on behalf of the company. But when Hastings takes a liking to Spencer, he makes a bold move: he proposes bringing an NFL team to Las Vegas. Hastings loves it. End of episode.

DISCUSSION

So yeah, I've got a little whiplash about Spencer's direction. He seemed ready to branch into the basketball industry, he seemed secure in who he was, he seemed happy to have a slice of ASM...is all that just gone now? He's gonna go a whole new direction? Is he still going to be a financial manager, or defer that side of the business to Joe while he tries his hand at a very risky new table? Ok I'll stop with the gambling metaphors, but damn - I thought I had my head wrapped around this show, and now I've got a bunch of questions.

Like, what is going on with Vernon? That was such an odd opening, with Reggie calling his shots and him giving the shirt off his back to some kid. Can't he get into trouble for being affiliated with weed?

And Charles is just kinda disappointing. He's never been my favorite character, but when a boss gives you new responsibilities, and hands you the script of what to say, why wouldn't you at least read the piece of paper before you go up to a microphone in front of the press? Wasn't he a pro baller? He acted like he had never been in a press room before. Let's hope he wises up, because it looks like the Dolphins leadership is gonna get rocky in the coming episodes.

But you know who really surprised me this episode? Ricky. Since season 1, he's been trying to rein in his temper since the show started, and when a manipulative lady friend goes messing with his head ("I'm not pregnant...no I lied, I'm pregnant"), we see just the briefest flash of frustration with her before he embraces her. Yeah, he looks f'n PISSED behind her back, but I'm still gonna count that as growth. Do you think his calm will come to an end?

Readers, I know I posed a lot of questions for you. Be sure to react in the comments section! I just picked up "Ballers" this season, and I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts.



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