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‘Ballers’ Review: Is The Rock Baller When He’s Vulnerable?

The decision to be honest led to a rough week for The Rock's baller status.

Dwayne Johnson in "Ballers."

Dwayne Johnson in “Ballers.”

Jeff Daly/HBO

LAST WEEK: ‘Ballers’ Season 2 Episode 2: How Hard Did ‘Enter the Temple’ Ball?

For the ballers of “Ballers,” this week featured some minor triumphs — Charles (Omar Benson Miller) had a pleasant interlude with his lady even as he tried to process his recent change in positions and Ricky (John David Washington) got the love from New Orleans. But elsewhere, Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) was struggling. What happened? Or, put it another way…

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This episode, not going to lie, was hard for Spencer. Starting at 5 a.m. with a deeply unpleasant wake-up call from Vernon (Donovan W. Carter) about his injured leg, the lack of fun continued as he had to deal with not just his many clients, but the encroaching threat of rival Andre.

The basic trappings of Spencer’s inherent baller-dom remained intact: He does, of course, take the time for important things like selfies with fans, and isn’t afraid to get physical when confronted by Andre’s belittling moves. When seeing that Andre’s flowers for Vernon are much bigger than his own arrangement, a lesser man would swap the cards. But because The Rock balls, he just tosses Andre’s flowers aside.

At the end of the day, the big question poised by “Elidee” is this: Is it baller to admit to one’s past failings? For, on the one hand, it does create a sense of vulnerability, which might be considered the least baller emotion. On the other hand, being baller doesn’t just happen. It’s our past experiences which forge that baller spirit. So Spencer being real with Ricky — “Instead of riding off into the sunset, I drove right into a fucking brick wall” — not only helps Ricky with the decision he needs to make about New Orleans, but shows that his past mistakes have made him the baller he is today.

Spencer was also able to get Spice Adams (playing himself) to back off a bad business deal, just by being honest and direct with him. But the direct approach didn’t have a 100 percent success rate, unfortunately. In the episode’s most humbling moment, Vernon has gotten the necessary surgery for his injury from last week’s episode, but doesn’t want to lie about how he got hurt, even if it could cost him his deal with Dallas. Spencer chooses to support Vernon’s choice, but the call goes badly — and Spencer is forced to confront the fact that he might have blown the biggest deal of his client’s life. It’s a decidedly unballer moment for the both of them, one that brings down the whole episode as a result.

We’re left with the following realization: The hardest part of being baller is the pressure to use your baller powers to help others. Because when you operate at that level of baller-dom, an unballer moment for another ends up affecting your own status. So…

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But here’s the thing about ballers — ballers can bounce back.

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