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‘Ballers’ Season 5, Episode 1 synopsis/review: Have no fear, season premiere dives right into the water with big, bold moves

Ballers HBO

Just like NFL fans can get set for the start of the regular season around the end of August each year, football fans can count on “Ballers” to be back in action around the same time. 2019 is no different, as season five, the final season of “Ballers,” got underway in a nonstop way on Sunday, August 25.

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The show has built up a wide audience over its first four years on HBO, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson leading a stellar cast as he portrays Spencer Strasmore, a former NFL great looking to help current players with both their finances and their lives on and off the field.

This season doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint as Johnson and the HBO crew look to get back to what got them onto viewers’ televisions in the first place: not extreme sports, but football.

If you missed the season premiere for the fifth year of ‘Ballers’ and want to know what you’re getting into before you tune in, you’re in luck. As has been the case with Hard Knocks this year. here’s a full episode recap and review for those who couldn’t tune in.


After a recap of the action from the fourth season of the show, this season of “Ballers'” started in a unique way, with Spencer Strasmore on the receiving end of an interview. We don’t know who’s asking the questions, and we don’t know what the interview is for, but Spencer is talking about his college days and how he never considered himself to be “great” or “good,” but rather “average.”

He said that averageness turned into one of his greatest strengths, teaching him valuable lessons for his career and entire life.

Taught me how to grind, how to embrace details, how to embrace things that were uncomfortable,” Spencer said. “I didn’t choose football, football chose me.”

The episode then transitions to a beach, where Spencer is sitting by himself in a chair in the sand with a book in his hand. “Ballers” fans’ favorite reporter Tracy Legette makes her return to the show as she asks Spencer to head into the water. Spencer avoids the full-court press from the reporter as she says how the former football star has never gone into the water with her, and Spencer answers a call from “Bossman” down in Dallas.

“When football calls, I have to answer it,” Spencer said.

The Cowboys owner talks about the expiring collective bargaining agreement, and how a strike would create issues for the league as Spencer trashes on the idea of an 18-game regular season. A quick reference to the Tyreek Hill drama then leads to Bossman asking Spencer to consider becoming the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs in an offer that Spencer initially brushes aside.

“The day you retire is the day you march towards your death,” Bossman warns before Spencer is left looking into the water pensively at the beach.

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The scene transitions to Joe Krutel making his season five debut, motoring along in a nice sports car with a view similar to Spencer’s in the background. Joe meets Russell Brand’s character Lance on a hill and, after some references from Lance about Spencer and Joe parting ways, Joe tells Lance their business is getting evicted.

The eviction is called a “blessing” for Joe, as he brings up the idea of buying some land for a new training facility/campus for the company and wealthy football players to enjoy. Lance isn’t keen to the idea, but the ever-bold Joe mentions how he already made an offer.

Meanwhile, Rams general manager Charles Greane is getting praised in his office as he and his assistant talk about the deals in place and their need to lock down quarterback Jared Goff after the team made it to the Super Bowl. The team’s owner adds in a pat on the back of his own, before mentioning that Ricky Jerret, who outperformed his deal in 2018, had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Charles acts surprised, but the Rams owner can smell a liar when he senses one.

At Jerret’s house, TTD opens a letter from the NFL, informing the wide receiver about his suspension, and TTD initially tries to hide it. After Ricky gets a call from Charles, which the receiver believes is about re-upping his contract, TTD spills the beans, shocking Ricky in the process.

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The nonstop action in the episode heads back to Joe and Vernon Littelfield’s friend Reggie in the company’s offices, with Reggie upset about not being involved in the big decision-making processes. While Joe tells him to focus on Vernon’s new deal (which somehow seems to always be a topic for discussion), Reggie insists he’s not just Vernon’s boy. Joe then replies with a challenge: Prove it.

The episode goes back to Spencer’s interview, this time talking about the pressure from his dad to learn how to play football. He talks about the aggressive style in which his dad coached, saying how his brother and Spencer each responded differently to the tough love.

Thought you should play a certain way, his way,” Spencer said. “If you didn’t, you weren’t gonna play at all.”

Spencer and Tracy are back on the beach, discussing the big life decision weighing on Spencer’s mind. While Tracy brings up how great the vacation is, she mentions how only one of them is on vacation, while the other is retired.

“I’m smart enough to tell you not to stay still,” Tracy says.

Tracy then suggests Spencer get an opinion from Joe, despite the two not talking for quite some time.

“Joe’s good, he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine,” Spencer said, not wanting to weigh himself down.

Back at the office, Joe starts to get aggressive with his employees, with the tough love not registering for some who have been raised on a different style of teaching and management.

When one of the employees discusses a protocol as the reasoning for not pursuing an issue further, Joe replies with the episode’s title: “Protocol is for f—ing losers.”

“Maybe my leadership style isn’t for everyone,” Joe said, before a new employee replies, “Try no one.”

Ricky then is shown giving his agent, Jason, a call to inform him about the suspension, who then informs Ricky to not panic (despite jumping out of the table at dinner when he hears the news).

While Jason says he’ll handle the situation with Charles and not to fret, Ricky begins to stress about one big potential concern: Charles may cut him from the Rams.

In a random transition, the episode moves to an esports tournament, with Reggie and Vernon discussing Vernon potentially looking to join the gaming scene and step away from football. While Reggie shoots down the idea, Vernon talks about wanting to do something new, potentially foiling Reggie’s hopes for a new deal to prove himself with.

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Charles then gets a call from Jason, who slyly talks down the positive drug test and says how Ricky will not be appealing his four-game suspension.

Compromised me, but also compromised himself,” Charles says of Ricky’s drug test.

But, Jason has other ideas as Charles gets upset about the wide receiver’s failed test. Rather than cutting Ricky, Jason says Charles should re-sign him, calling it “a personal favor” after Charles had just finished saying he’s done doing favors for people. Could Jason be using Charles’ knowledge of Ricky’s PED use as blackmail for a new deal?

Meanwhile, in a different struggle with an offer, Joe finds out back at the company’s offices that there won’t be any deal on the lots of land he was hoping to buy, as the seller wants to sell them both as a whole, rather than separately. Joe isn’t happy about the decision, but tells the middle-woman to tell the seller to “shove both lots up” an unfortunate body part.

Transitioning back to “positive” news, Ricky gets a call from Jason to inform him about his new deal and how Charles came through with a personal favor. While Ricky celebrates and TTD tells him how lucky he is, Ricky’s confidence gets the better of him (again) and he walks into the road before getting hit by a car and cracking its windshield in the process.

Speaking of “cracking,” we get one final flashback (and potential flash-forward) as we look at Spencer’s childhood once more with audio from his big interview that started the episode. He talks about the constant need to impress his brother, which included jumping 50 feet off a cliff into deep water, breaking his arm and ribs in the process.

“One of the hardest hits I’ve ever took,” Spencer states, as he describes his brother saving him in the water and Spencer’s fear of water ever since.

Back on the island (what is this, Lost?), Spencer gets a visit from Candace, the NFL  league representative, who comes to discuss the Chiefs offer further.

Candace tells Spencer to say yes to the offer, calling it the “opportunity of a lifetime” as he could become the first black majority owner in league history. She brings up his father’s upbringing and his brother’s untimely death, bringing in personal elements to motivate him to really consider the potential deal.

This is for every guy who couldn’t beat the system: the league,” Candace said. “This is your destiny.” 

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Joe finally gives Spencer a call as the former NFL star goes through the options with Candace, and Spencer interrupts Joe’s pitch about expanding to say how he needs to call him back, saying how he’s going to buy the Chiefs.

The news inspires Joe to make a bold move of his own, telling those at the company that they’ll be buying both lots for their new campus/training facility.

The episode ends with Candace and Spencer clanking their glasses with a cheers, and Spencer saying he’ll “run the motherf—er my way,” if he buys the team.

For the final touch, after deciding to metaphorically dive into the deep end with his Chiefs purchase, Spencer makes another big leap: he walks into the water of the beach, overcoming his fear of water in the process.

“Some people think I’m fearless, reckless even,” Spencer said. “That’s the way I played the game, that’s the way I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been driven by fear like so many others. The fear of losing far outweighs the hope of winning. Everyone has fear. The difference is what you do with it.”

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This was an action-packed start to the show’s final season, beginning right where the action left off in season four’s finale.

We get our sense of time for when these events are occurring after season four, but we don’t exactly get answers into where things are really at. Spencer and Joe are somehow still on speaking terms, and good enough terms that Joe can call him out of the blue (no pun intended) as Spencer sits by the ocean.

There are some other massive plot holes to digest in this episode, between Spencer somehow having the money to buy the Kansas City Chiefs now, the Bossman deciding that Spencer would somehow be a good fit for the role despite his past with the NCAA and his financial shortcomings at times, and the lawsuit with the NCAA just not being a factor anymore.

Also, why are Joe and the company randomly getting evicted? Why is it that Vernon’s deal is somehow already close to being up, even though this was already a major talking point a few seasons back? Where did Spencer’s reporter friend come from?

I’m sure we’ll get more clarity as the season goes along, but they’ll have to pile in a lot in a short span, and really dive into everything much deeper to leave fans satisfied as the show nears its end.

The preview signals that we’ll get a lot in this season, and I’m excited to see where everything lands. The tension between Charles and Ricky is interesting, the random Spencer interview intrigues me, and Joe’s craziness escalating could make for some great TV. Will it live up to the hype, though? We’ll find out.

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