The Following Review Contains Spoilers for Winning Time. For a Review of Last Week’s Episode Click Here.
Every now and then, we get thrown into situations on a whim. The circumstances are usually not good, and we have to find a way through them. Last week on Winning Time, coach Jack McKinney (Tracey Letts) had a terrible accident. That accident throws Paul Westhead (Jason Segel) into a very strange position. We get to see how one manages so many emotional situations. There’s a certain way that those spontaneous situations somehow make you a better person.
We start this episode of Winning Time almost immediately where we left off. Westhead is tries to meet McKinney at his office after thinking McKinney blew off their Tennis game. He soon finds out Jack is in the hospital. He meets Cassie Westhead (Susan Pourfar) and Cranny McKinney (Julianne Nicholson) at the hospital. Jack is in a coma and Westhead must coach the team. Westhead has to figure out how to coach his own way. As the episode progresses he talks to Jerry West (Jason Clarke) and Pat Riley (Adrien Brody), both men tell him the same thing; he must coach his way, not McKinney’s way.
Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah), who wants to go by Earvin finds out the hard way that everybody wants money from him. Whether it’s money he can produce for the Lakers or money out of his pocket. He goes to a type of sponsorship convention where he meets Phil Knight (Olli Haaskivi), yes THAT Phil Knight. Phil offers him a contract that would’ve been worth about $5,2 billion dollars in 2022 after interest accrued over time. He passes on that for Converse, and to this day he talks about how much he regrets it.
He also must deal with Cindy Day (Rachel Hilson) and her father Thomas Day (Steve Harris). Magic thinks she just wants him for his money. By all accounts, it seems like she does. There are multiple instances where it looks like she may be a gold digger. The way she acts and things she says like he isn’t in love with an entirely different woman are strange. He eventually tells her that he can’t continue with her, and has her father break the news to her.
Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) dealing with the loan that will be due soon. He’s done everything he can to move the Lakers to his wife JoAnn’s name. His mother, Jessie (Sally Field) is seeming to have dementia or Alzheimer’s as she keeps forgetting to do things and what things need to be done. This throws Buss into a situation he must get out of. Buss and Frank Mariani (Stephen Adly Guirgis) go through hell and high water to find their way around the situation. They take the Western Union folks out to eat and offer them women and drinks. It works as they get an extension to the end of the season. Where Buss guarantees a Championship.
The McKinney situation is the main plot of the episode. In a way it kind of bonds the team. Haywood (Wood Harris) lets Cooper (Delante Desouza) know that he’s talented and deserves to be on the team. Westhead ends up benching Haywood for Cooper as they play Thompson and the Nuggets. Magic also doesn’t show up to the hospital but instead has Cindy bring flowers. Which rubbed his team the wrong way. He eventually apologizes and starts to understand he has a bigger role on this team.
McKinney wakes up from his coma thinking it’s been one day when in reality it’s been two weeks. He had swelling on his brain, but surgery was done to cool the swelling and keep him alive. Dr. Day brings Cookie some tickets to the Pistons V. Lakers game after telling his daughter Magic didn’t want her. The episode ends on a high note after so much drama happening within these crazy subplots.
Benjamin Klein delivers a teleplay that focuses more on the people than basketball. While the episode is good, Winning Time thrives more when basketball is the focus. The focus on the people kind of takes it down a notch. Fortunately, they deliver things like Phil Knight, Mike Epps as Richard Pryor, and a great conversation about black athletes. A comparison between black athletes and slavery is often made. I disagree with that sentiment because they are paid millions, BUT I do think they are seen more like cattle than people. Klein and Tanya Hamilton who’s back-directing do a great job at highlighting this.
The discussion of race relations in major sports has been going on for years. This episode didn’t dig deep into the conversation but it got to the surface. The 70s was a time when while we had new freedoms, there was still a fight to be had. It’s an interesting thing to read about, but from this viewpoint is a tad bit different. Things like Magic wanting to go by Earvin and that being ignored. The conversations Buss had with the bank concerning Earvin. This was a good episode to focus on the people, but it just lacked what makes this show great… Basketball – Rascal F. Kennedy
Rating – 7/10
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers’ Dynasty premieres Sundays on HBO and HBO Max at 9pm/8 central.