Survivor's Remorse is a TV series created and written by Mike O'Malley. The show is about a star basketball player named Cam Calloway, his family, and his friends—who are attempting to adjust to their new lifestyle. Growing up underprivileged in Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, the group now has what can only be described as, and hence the title of the show—Survivor's Remorse. With that said, in this blog post, our goal is not to provide an overview of the series, but rather to document the parts that relate to the meaning of life; and it just so happens that season 3 is all about finding purpose after the loss of a loved one. Please be advised, that since we quote the show, there will be language in this post that is not appropriate for all audiences.
At the end of season 2, Cam's Uncle Julius dies in a car accident. It just so happens that Julius was driving the car Cam had just bought for his girlfriend, Allison. The accident occurred when Julius dropped weed in the car and attempted to pick it up. He ran a red light, and a truck ran into him. Confused, the family searches for answers and sometimes they fill the void through sex, money, drugs, and other miscellaneous outlets.
Season 3 from a philosophical standpoint is quite good. The reason for this is that each character approaches the search for meaning differently—just as real people would in real life. Although this sounds obviously simple, it is quite surprising how many shows serve audiences stereotypes in a silver platter. That is, the writers of Survivor's Remorse don't take a cookie-cutter approach to meaning, and they don't attempt to answer the meaning of life in a single show, as is done in many other series e.g., Roseanne, Cheers, and more (Cheers took a similar approach where each character examines the question of meaning in different ways, but does it in a single episode in the finale of the series).
The season trailer, unfortunately, doesn't capture any of season's real essence or even purpose. Found below are outlines of each episode and various quotations from characters discussing meaning and purpose. Characters explore meaning through love, religion, anger, origins, money, etc.
Episode 1 - The Night of the Crash
Jimmy, the team owner, and consequently Cam's boss sums of the situation of the Julius' death as follows:
Fucking life, huh? Everything's great, until it ain't.
Shortly later, while everyone is sitting at the table Chen is asked about religion in China:
Chen: No religion to speak of. But more out of a lack of exposure to it, than a dismissal of its usefulness in humanity's search for meaning.
Cassie: The last thing Julius said was that he wished he believed in God. And now I'm worried he is just wondering around the afterlife locked out of the gates of heaven because he didn't believe it. At the moment of death he realized, that God really does exist. And he was like shit, I fucked up. And God was like, yup.
Episode 2 - The Ritual
Chen continues with more wisdom, adding a Chinese proverb:
Chen: All of life is a dream walking, all of death is a going home.
Later in the episode, Cam gives a passionate speech at the Julius' funeral, asking how can one really some up a person's life? He also talks about Julius being everything he wanted in an Uncle. Right before the ending of the episode and after the funeral, Reggie says the following to Cam who is reflecting on his Uncle's death:
Reggie: Life is for the living, you got to still live.
Episode 3 - The Thank-You Note
While around the table eating pheasants, which they had just killed on a hunt, the group briefly debate the value of animal life. Shortly after Allison remarks:
Part of our job in the 70 or 80 years that we're given is to nudge the boulder of human evolution a few inches up the hill. We do this by making ethical choices. We're kind to strangers. We're fair in our minds. We say please and thank you. We don't kill things that aren't trying to kill us.
Episode 4 - The Age of Umbrage
On discussing Julius' death, Ricky an old college associate interviews Cam for his radio show:
Cam: It's messed up, but it's also kind of stupid. Like you're here and then you're not here.
Ricky: If you were to make a list of stupid things, death would be tops?
Cam: Yes, sir. Some of us killed stupidly. Wrong place, wrong time or just randomly, you know, without reason. And my Uncle J, you know--look, cars are great. We get to drive places. We don't go to walk or--or take a--a horse.
Ricky: Horses terrify me. You know, people get upset when horses get sent away and made into glue. I myself am excited that one less horse is on the street. Time is saved, distances are shrunk with automobiles.
Cam: But mechanical things driven at high speeds kill people. Lives end, other lives get altered. It's stupid. But you can't just be, like, despairing as you're walking through life saying the experience is stupid.
Ricky: People do. That's not a good look.
Cam: We all die. And the price of existence is that existence must end. But knowing this all ends, how do you not get swamped in anguish?
Ricky: How has his death changed you?
Cam: It's messed me up. It woke me up, you know? Death makes you think about life. Death makes you examine the point of your life.
Ricky: Is the point to be the best basketball player you can be?
Cam: It's a great gig, but I think the bigger point is, and the--and the point of my life and everybody's life should be can you be the best human you can be? Grappling with death means grappling with how you live your life. How do you care and make your life matter even if you're never let in on where we'd go if we go anywhere after we die? Life, so many of us are--are asleep to other people's hopelessness and--and pain and shit until the shit hits our own shit. But all of life is a test. Can you do right, be good, foster kindness, fight for justice?
Episode 5 - The Photoshoot
Jimmy to M-Chuck on discussing anger and how Jimmy was able to initially find purpose through anger. This may be the first case that I've come across which explores purpose through anger.
Jimmy: Anger is a powerful emotion. It makes you feel purposeful. I see a lot of me in you. Anger did a lot for me, in a good way. Or so I thought for too long. When you use it to fuel you, you end up doing something unrewindable, it changes the course of your life in a bad way. You go to take anger and shrink it down into little bite-sized nibbles of manageable usefulness.
Episode 6 - No Child Left Behind
In this episode, Cassie seeks answers through her Nigerian ancestry after getting results from a DNA test. Unfortunately for her, she ends up being left with more questions than she started with. As Cassie will find out, and although this theme comes up again later in the series with M-Chuck yearning to know who her father is, Cassie realizes that origins do not necessarily correlate to an individual's life purpose. This is something that is also debated in Julian Baggini's book on meaning.
Eka who is from Nigeria is holding a "bath" for her child. This primitive and horrific ritual she attempts to justify through the importance of traditions as outlined below.
Eka: I am proud to be who I am and to take my place in a thousand-year continuum. We do what we do not for the simpleminded, bourgeois reasons you offer, but precisely because it is what we do, what we have always done. It is what makes us, us.
Here Cassie must make a choice to be a part of what Eka declares is part of her Nigerian heritage, or have the ritual at the house. Missy questions Cassie.
Missy: Who are you Cassie? Who are you?
Cassie: I don't know
The group decides they want no part in the ritual and as noted above, Cassie realizes that sometimes where you come from does not determine who you become in life.
Episode 7 - The Guests
Early in the episode before flying to a friend's wedding Ricky says the following to Cam:
Reggie: It's not how you start your life, it's how you live along the way.
At the wedding Cam gives the following speech:
Cam: Being here tonight has--has really made me realize that the things in life that are worthy are lasting--love and companionship, family--those things don't come easy to everyone. But when you meet the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, you get filled with meaning and purpose. Life just makes more sense. You know, life means more. So being in--in--in the midst of that kind of love, it's only right that you bow your heads in thanks. God, I mean, I know a lot of people don't believe in you, but if you meet Tenesha and Joe and see their love, you'd know that it's proof of your existence.
Episode 8 - Mystery Team
Reggie who is negotiating a team deal on behalf of Cam tells him the following:
Reggie: I just realize what you should realize and that is everything dies, everything is bullshit except money. Money goes on. Money protects you. It bends the world to your will. It's a bodyguard. It is a weapon. It is the only thing that matters. And the best thing, cousin, like, the--the best thing, is that money never, ever breaks your heart.
Reggie interestingly declares that everything is "bullshit" except for money. Money is the only thing that matters.
Episode 9 - Second Thoughts
Cam has the following conversation with M-Chuck who is upset because she doesn't know her father. Here again, we see M-Chuck searching for answers in her origins, through her family lineage.
Cam: Chuck, I'm not saying that at your age you shouldn't know the answer. I am saying that the answer won't make you you. And you're an amazing person. Sister, not--not half-sister. Full-on. You are my sister. Who I love. The past is the past. You know, whatever the past is, it's just--its prologue. It's not the full story of you, just where the story started.
M-Chuck: But the prologue is part of the story and that is why they put it at the beginning. And not knowing the beginning of a story is like walking into the movies late. You're just sitting there going "What the fuck is going on?" That's me. I feel like I am walking in late to the movie of my own life. I got no idea how my story starts. And it's fucking me up.
Later in the episode, Cam smokes some weed and unknowingly takes LSD. During his "trip" he talks with his unborn son who he and his girlfriend aborted in high school. The unborn son brings up the question of whether he has a soul or not. This is a question that is well debated in modern times as abortion is a controversial topic. Later Cam discusses with his ex-girlfriend from high school that he is thinking about life, the choices he made, and more.
More on when an individual gains a soul can be found on Wikipedia—Ensoulment.
Episode 10 - Father's Day
In the last episode M-Chuck discusses with Jimmy further about not knowing her father and of learning that her mother also doesn't know who her dad is. Jimmy tells M-Chuck the following:
Jimmy: It may not matter for your future at this point who you came from. It may just matter that you now feel fueled to go into your future with purpose, which you do.
Near the end of the episode Cassie discusses the following with Chen, who she is dating, showing us what really matters in life.
Cassie: There ain't nothing that you can't get over and nothing that you can't get through. You just count your blessings and keep on walking. Eventually, you will find yourself walking in the light. And then you see glory.
Chen: What is glory?
Cassie: This is glory. (holding hands with Chen)
If you saw the season, what did you think? What did we miss?
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