Back in the Game: Episode 6 Review and Recap

Last week, I mocked Dick and The Cannon for treating Terry like she had the emotions of a twelve year old. I was wrong. In all of their terribleness, I missed something in these characters that this week’s episode of Back in the Game makes entirely clear. Not only are their own concerns about Terry’s emotional state, entirely valid, but it accurately reflects them as well. Everyone on this show, including Terry’s son, acts like an idiot child. Only one of them has a valid excuse for that.

In this week’s episode, Terry plans to go trick or treating with Danny, over Danny’s objections, dressing her almost-pubescent son as Raggedy Andy to her Raggedy Anne in a selfish quest to preserve her family tradition that will get her son beat up. But, when a former high school rival rekindles their competition, Terry can’t wait to ditch her son so she can go to Dick the misogynist league president’s costume party in a hotter costume. It’s not entirely clear why people like Dick, given that he’s a massive douche, but there seems to be an endless supply of attractive people at his party, where he makes them compete in stupid games to stroke his ego.

The Cannon, meanwhile, is standing watch in the cemetery ostensibly to keep kids from knocking over his wife’s tombstone, but also to renew his feud with another septuagenarian, as they keep adding details to their wives’ tombstones in a game of one-upsmanship. They wind up bonding over their love of their wives’ asses.

Danny is actually pretty excited that his mom is letting him trick or treat with his friends, which includes his new teammate Vanessa.* While everyone is worried about bullies (whose leader is Vanessa’s boyfriend David), The Cannon helps them conceive of a bully-busting plan involving rotten eggs, a padlock, and an elaborate pulley system. Vanessa dumps David for being a jerk, kisses Danny on the cheek, and everyone rejoices. Danny then, instead of hanging out with the girl who just kissed him, bursts into Dick’s adults only Halloween party to tell Terry the whole story, and thereby teaches his mother an important lesson about the real meaning of Halloween and true victory over bullies, which is the love between a mother and her son. But even so, Terry “wins” her competition against her former rival, meaning we get the cop out of both the moral victory and the actual victory. We are all supposed to feel good about these everyone’s personal growth until next week, when they revert back to being awful and reveal they haven’t learned a damn thing.

*This, by the way, solves the continuity problem from last week. I suspect episode five was initially supposed to run before episode four.

Do with this what you will:

The Cannon’s Baseball Tips of the Week:

“Ok, there’s a little something you guys are going to have to learn to do in between the bases. It’s called RUNNING!”

I guess that counts as a tip.

References to real baseball:

I miss the heady days when we were talking about Ted Williams’ frozen head. At least this felt connected to something.

Age inappropriate things kids do and say:

Dudley, the fat kid: “Listen, I’d kill a man for a bucket of candy, but these guys scare me. They picked me up by my side-skin. I don’t want to get bullied anymore.”

Michael, the gay kid: “Look at all this candy. Remind me to call my trainer when I get home.”

Vanessa: “Come on, David. Don’t be a jerk. These are my teammates now. Don’t do this.”

David: “I don’t get why you’re always sticking up for these geeks. Be careful, babe, or I might have to cut you loose.”

Age inappropriate things adults do and say:

Dick: “Terry had to quit college when she got knocked up, and then she married a loser and got divorced, and then had to move back here to live with her dad. She also coaches and she works for me at the pizzeria.”

Keeley, the rival: “Terry Gannon, making poor life decisions since 1997.”

Life lessons learned through baseball:

Well, all the Angles comes together to egg some bullies with a well-executed caper. I guess there’s a lesson in there about teamwork.

Continuity problems:

How did Danny outrun the far more athletic David? How did Danny’s teammates, some of whom are not in shape,  get to the school faster than Danny, who was running to escape the bullies? And how did those teammates get onto the roof of the school? I would have loved to do that as a kid.

Who would let a kid Danny’s age into an adults-only Halloween party?

The Verdict:

We spent a lot of time with the ballclub off the field in this episode, which would have been a great opportunity to broaden the one-note nature of the ancillary characters. Alas, that doesn’t happen, with the exception of Parvu, whose mother doesn’t let him eat candy (not for religious reasons, but because “My mom just sucks.” Congratulations to Parvu for eliciting one of the two laughs I got watching this episode. Strong line reading. I’m not going to harp on the rest of the child actors like I normally do, except to say that they could all learn a lesson in comedy from Parvu.

Instead, I’m saving most of my ire for Dick and his costume party, which was held in some kind of bar, I think. Again, Dick says absolutely awful, withering things to Terry. This show wants them to be the new Sam and Diane, but Sam and Diane were invested in each other as people, had moments of real grace and connection with one another, and an insane amount of physical chemistry. Dick and Terry have none of those things. I’m hoping both of them end up alone with only matching cases of syphilis they spontaneously generated through an underwhelming drunk hookup with each other that they forever regret. I still don’t understand why anyone would choose to hang out with a character as obnoxious as Dick, but they flock to him. Moreover, these sycophants are incredibly invested in the rivalry between two women they don’t even know.

Let’s also talk about the “special games” that Dick has planned at his party. He bills them as team contests, but it’s hard to see how an entire team could play “eat a donut dangling on a string from suspiciously near Dick’s crotch.” Moreover, if the contest seemingly exists to get two attractive women to almost kiss each other while chasing dancing donuts in or around said crotch, isn’t the greater victory simply not to play? One would think so. Meanwhile, another character is shamed for his Native American costume not because it’s a racist caricature of an entire race of people, but because his feather headdress is hard to cover in a game of “wrap the mummy.” So, Terry’s cool with both the sexism and the racism that confront her at this party, but we’re supposed to be happy for her when her son reminds her that, in the game of life, she’s already won over the beautiful 30ish year old rival who doesn’t have a son because she’s a shallow catty person? At least the shallow, catty person isn’t modeling that behavior for a 10 year old, and creating another dysfunctional, borderline sociopathic man-child. Who’s morally superior now, Terry?

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Mike Bates used to have a stupid pseudonym. Now he doesn't because people want to pay him to write about baseball on the Internet and he's really a sell out that way. He is also a Designated Columnist at SBNation, co-founder of The Platoon Advantage, and is an American Carpetbagger on Getting Blanked, the finest in Canadian baseball-type sites. His favorite word is paradigm. Follow him on Twitter here:

4 Responses to “Back in the Game: Episode 6 Review and Recap”

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  1. punishment glutton says:

    Look, I’m all for this “I’m not in the demographic, but look, I’m watching anyway!” exploration, but for christsakes man, develop a drinking game that makes this palatable for the rest of us. Through 6 episodes, I’m sure you have a solid enough grasp of the show’s formula that you could create a fairly cromulent game.

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    • Mike Bates says:

      Friend, I’m with you in theory, but in practice I fear none of us would get out of a Back in the Drinking Game alive. On the bright side, the show has been officially cancelled as of tonight. Score one for human decency. The bad news is they’re going to burn off all seven episodes they have left before we’re well rid of it.

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  2. In 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne is sentenced to prison for murder. At the beginning of the movie, we are uncertain whether or not he committed this crime, but much of the first half of the film is devoted to the idea of what we should think of Dufresne regardless of whether or not he committed this heinous act.

    It wasn’t apparent initially, but Back in the Game is not a show about baseball but is slowly morphing into a show about prisoners and its unjust wardens. Danny and his friends aren’t the best people, but they are trapped in a prison of their parents’ construction. Terry is a clearly unfit mother, and the Cannon is a clearly unfit guardian and was a clearly unfit father. Yet the other adults in Danny’s world not only don’t recognize this fact but also are terrible role models/adults as well. Dick is a community leader, and Terry’s best friend’s solution to everything is alcohol and sluttiness. Within this backdrop, Danny and his friends cannot be blamed for their actions, particularly if there is no one from Child Services who will come and rescue them from their prison.

    When viewed through this lens, Back in The Game is no longer an exercise in venal behavior for the sake of venal behavior, but a show about a boy’s unanswered cries for freedom. To that end, it is refreshing to see Danny break out on his own and try to get away from Terry and the Cannon. Yes, he still takes some crappy advice from The Cannon, but the only way he is ever going to learn is by doing things on his own. He has been cast adrift in a world where the Me Generation has won the cultural wars, and where every generation is me first. The world that Danny and his friends create isn’t going to be a perfect one (think Lord of The Flies or the Star Trek episode where the kids are the only ones alive) but they ARE going to have to create this world, and soon. From a plot/character development standpoint, the sooner the writers of Back in The Game realize this, the better off they will be. Yes, the show is done after 13 episodes, but there is time to tie things up with a bow that empowers Danny to realize that freedom is in here (I’m pointing at my head).

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