This Is Us Season 6 Episode 2 Recap: Awkward Dinners

This Is Us Season 6 Episode 2

To the writers on This Is Us, you did it again. I call it “the swerve.” You set us up thinking Nicky will end up with one woman, only to hit us with the swerve and introduce us to a new character. I’m tipping my hat right now.

This Is Us Season 6 Episode 2 Recap: “One Giant Leap”

Deja Heads To Harvard

On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again. Sing it!

Deja is off to visit a friend, but it’s not the friend she discussed with Randall and Beth. Instead, Deja heads to Cambridge to visit Malik at Harvard. As someone who once visited his significant other at college via bus, it’s a commitment. You’re lucky if the Wifi works. Good luck going to the bathroom because it smells bad. The things we do when we’re young…

After arriving at the bus station, Deja unexpectedly meets Jennifer, Malik’s ex and mother of his child. After the awkward encounter, Deja quickly learns that Malik is tired and stressed from balancing his studies along with fatherhood. In a typical Pearson move, Deja lets Malik finish his paper on Russian literature before heading out to a party.

Their time at the party doesn’t last long because Deja tells Malik she’s ready to have sex. The young lovers eventually go back to Malik’s apartment to have sex. Although nervous at first, Deja and Malik lovingly embrace and do the deed. Afterward, a glowing Deja tells Malik that she wants to feel this way forever with him.

Will this love story have a happy ending? More importantly, will Malik be the father of Deja’s child in the future?

The Awkward Dinner

After last week’s demand from Rebecca, she, Nicky, and Miguel go on a road trip to visit Sally, Nicky’s love from the 60s. After stopping at a vintage shop to purchase an old camera for Sally, Nicky starts to get cold feet, and in the process, reveals he never connected with his long-lost love and has no idea if this is “his” Sally. Showing up unannounced at the doorstep of a woman you haven’t seen in over 50 years is bold!

Nicky arrives at Sally’s house, and it turns out that it’s really her! Although she barely remembers the 60s, the camera triggers Sally’s memory, and she embraces Nicky. However, the happy reunion comes to an abrupt end when Sally’s husband, Eric, enters the living room. Nicky panics and asks to leave, but Miguel and Rebecca agree to stay for dinner.

If you thought Malik’s encounter with Jennifer was awkward, then this dinner scene puts that meeting to shame. Where to even begin? Nicky’s clearly upset about Sally’s marriage and he tries to insult Eric by saying Sally deflowered (LOL) him. When Sally forgets a detail from a story, she makes a remark about early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Yikes.

To make things even more awkward, Rebecca tells Sally and Eric about her Alzheimer’s, stating that memory loss makes you care more about the small stuff. Everyone goes around the table with trivial confessions about things they care too much about. Nicky tells Sally about how he’s thought about her for decades, and Sally responds by discussing her marital problems.

Big Yikes!

Things blow over (eventually), and Sally and Rebecca have a sweet moment about how they shouldn’t care about what people think. These insecurities made Sally give up posing for pictures while Rebecca stopped salsa dancing with Miguel. As the night comes to a close, Nicky finds a picture of himself on Sally’s wall, which reassures him that the trip was a success. The love of his life still cared about him despite her memory lapses.

Finally, Rebecca, Miguel, and Nicky leave (thank god!), but not before Nicky kisses Sally on the cheek and Rebecca agrees to salsa dance again with her husband. The happy ending we were all looking for!

Flash-Forward

For the first time in Season 6, we got a flash-forward! In the clip, Randall and Deja greet the person in the white car at the cabin. A woman named Edie steps out and consoles both Randall and Deja. Edie then walks up to Nicky and kisses him, but not before flashing a wedding ring on her finger.

Back to the present day, Nicky is on a flight and playfully chats up the flight attendant. The flight attendant is, you guessed it, Frank Stallone!

Or Edie.

Edie, not Sally, is Nicky’s future wife. The swerve got us again!

Tune in next week for an episode about fatherhood. Hopefully, it’s not as awkward as the dinner table!

Did you enjoy this week’s episode of This Is Us? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

New York Giants Fire Joe Judge

Joe Judge of the New York Giants

Joe Judge is no longer the coach of the New York Giants. Judge was relieved of his duties as head coach late Tuesday afternoon.

As someone who has criticized Judge on this website ad nauseam, I can honestly say I’m shocked with this decision because for the first time in a while, the Giants did the right thing. The Giants did not take a half measure. Somewhere, the ghost of Mike Ehrmantraut is smiling.

Judge compiled a 10-23 record over two seasons as head coach. After making strides with the team last season and building something that resembled a culture, Judge took seven steps back in year two. The Giants ranked 31st in the NFL in both points and yards per game. For those who are not good at math, there are only 32 teams in the league. On the defensive side of the ball, which was the team’s strength in 2020, the Giants dropped from 9th in team defense all the way to 23rd according to Pro Football Reference.

It’s not what you want to see out of your second-year coach.

I drank the kool-aid last season. I wanted to run through a brick wall after Judge’s press conference. He said all the right things, which won me over instantly. Perhaps the disciplinarian was exactly who the Giants needed to run the ship.

I learned this year, Week 2 against the WFT to be exact, that the “hardo schtick” only works when you win games. The loss to the WFT on the final play of the game was my heel turn. For a recent reference, it was my red pill moment.

Much to my dismay, Adam Schefter reported the Giants were bringing back Judge and Daniel Jones in 2022 in late December.

After defeating the Eagles on Nov. 28, the Giants had six games remaining on their schedule. It’s unfair to grade this team strictly on wins and losses because of the injuries and talent disparity. However, that’s no excuse to get embarrassed.

Make no mistake, the Giants were embarrassed in six straight games to end the season.

This is solely my opinion, but if Judge just took his lumps and made no excuses, the team would have brought him back for the third year. The press conference after the Chicago loss sealed his fate.

Excuse after excuse after excuse. Who wants to play for the Giants that’s not here? Seriously. Even if that is true, and I don’t believe it to be, it’s so outlandish that it should be kept to oneself.

If the press conference didn’t do him in, then this play was the icing on the cake.

This wasn’t all Judge’s fault. It starts at the top with John Mara, who hired Dave Gettleman to build a winning team. Under Gettleman’s regime, the team went 19–46 which was good enough for the worst record in the NFL. Gettleman also put the team in cap hell for 2022.

Thank you, Dave.

But, the Giants did the right thing. They forced Gettleman to retire, fired Judge, and requested to interview some really smart guys outside of the organization. This is the right way to build a team. Get the GM and coach on the same page. Then, get your QB and build the rest of the team.

Brian Flores, Jim Harbaugh, and Doug Pederson would be my top 3 candidates. If the Giants land one of those coaches, I’ll be a happy fan for the first time in years.

The Giants have a long way to go, but today was finally a step in the right direction.

Do you agree with firing Joe Judge? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

This Is Us Season 6 Episode 1 Recap: Can’t Save Everyone

This Is Us Season 6

This Is Us is going to build us up, break us down, and then try to build us up back again. Between Rebecca’s devasting diagnosis to the downfall of Kate and Toby’s marriage, there are going to be a lot of heartbreaking moments this season. Here’s to the good times!

This Is Us Season 6 Episode 1 Recap: “The Challenger”

Rebecca’s Devastating News

Rebecca’s health is the overarching storyline of Season 6. Kevin, Kate, and Randall’s decisions from here on out will all consider their mother’s health.

In the past, Jack and Rebecca confront the Big Three about the Challenger explosion after the children watch it on television. Kate tries to find the silver lining, saying the astronauts are now closer to heaven. Randall takes the sympathetic route, wondering who will feed the children of the teacher on board. Kevin chooses to hide his pain and pretend it wasn’t real.

Later that night, Rebecca and Jack rationalize their children’s decisions. Jack believes Kevin is protecting himself from getting hurt while Rebecca compares Randall to Holden Caulfield and how he’ll eventually realize that he can’t save everyone.

Did they nail those comparisons or what?

In the present day, Rebecca, Nicky, and Miguel take Kevin’s kids to the park and ride a kiddie train. Rebecca starts to reminisce about how she loved going on trains with her father, but she struggles to remember her favorite cart. At Kate and Kevin’s party, Rebecca reveals her PET scan revealed plaque building in her brain. In other words, early-onset Alzheimer’s. At the end of the episode, Rebecca tearfully remembers the word, “caboose.”

The Downfall Of Marriage

That headline may be harsh, but it’s true. Kate and Toby are heading towards a divorce whether you like it or not. Kate is going to marry Phillip at age 45, but her marriage to Toby has to crumble first and foremost.

Damn. Have a soul, Dan.

Toby video chats with Kate to wish her a happy birthday, but ends the call abruptly to get back to work, much to Kate’s dismay. After a birthday massage, Phillip texts Kate to come to the school due to an emergency. Before entering the office, Kate eavesdrops on Phillip’s brutal breakup with his partner. I’m not a romantic expert like Mystery, but calling someone “boring” is grounds for a nice slap across the face. After the awkward breakup, Phillip surprises Kate with a performance of “Time After Time” from her students.

Later that night, Kate views pictures of the day when she stops to text Toby, who ends up surprising her in person for her birthday.

Calling my shot: One of the pictures will be of Phillip admiring Kate.

The Manny Reboot?

If I were left at the altar, I would move out the next day. Kevin, on the other hand, decides his best course of action is to move into the garage to be closer to the babies. Good idea? Hold that thought.

It’s easy to forget that Kevin is an actor considering how many projects he’s left. Kevin heads to the studio to meet with Casey, the former producer of The Manny, who offers him a role as the father in the reboot of the same show he walked off of in Season 1. Due to Kevin’s outbursts and sporadic behavior, Hollywood isn’t exactly clamoring to cast Kevin as the lead in a movie. Although Kevin would rather die than go back to The Manny, he decides to take the job so he can stay in Los Angeles to be closer to his kids and mother.

Also, Madison connects with Elijah, a friend from the book club. Jealousy gets the best of Kevin and leads to him leaving the garage in favor of Kate’s couch.

Randall Can’t Save Everyone

Spider-Man learned that he can’t save everyone, which is a lesson Randall tackles head-on. Randall receives news that the burglar who broke into his house has been caught and arraigned that day. Instead of spending the birthday with the beautiful, awesome, and charismatic wife, Beth, Randall opts for a day in court.

When Randall confronts the burglar, he soon notices the burglar’s mental health problems along with drug addiction. Randall decides to bail the burglar out and offer him a bed at a local homeless shelter. When the burglar never shows up, Randall reveals to Beth that he must help out more people in the city.

Randall can’t save everyone, but he’s going to try.

That’s it for now. Tune in next week when we get to see Nicky stalk Sally in real life!

What are your thoughts on the last night’s This Is Us? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me, @danny_giro.

This Is Us Season 6 Preview And Predictions: The End Is Near

This Is Us / NBC

To quote Phoebe Bridgers, “The end is near” for the Pearson family. Tonight marks the beginning of the sixth and final season of NBC’s This Is Us.

It’s hard to believe that this show has been in our lives since 2016. My dad deserves all the credit for my fandom as it was him who suggested that I would like the show after a few episodes into Season 1. The old man knows what I like so golf clap to him.

Speaking of family, we last saw the Pearsons sitting down in Adirondack chairs after Madison called off her wedding with Kevin. For one of the worst moments in someone’s life, Kevin handled it quite well and even smiled which leads me to believe it was for the best.

With Season 6 upon us, the journey to Kevin’s house begins tonight. Like the previous four seasons, I will be recapping every episode on Wednesdays. Before that, here’s a quick season preview with some predictions of what lies ahead on This Is Us.

*Optional: Listen to “I Know the End” while reading the preview and predictions. Be prepared to scream at the top of your lungs by the end of the article. Playing the air-sax is also optional.

Season 6 Preview

“Sometimes you’ve got to go back, to move forward.” – Matthew McConaughey

Let’s follow Matthew’s advice and briefly recap the Season 5 finale.

  • Madison and Kevin agree to call off the wedding.
  • Rebecca asks Kevin to build her the house she always wanted.
  • Kate agrees to try a long-distance relationship after Toby receives a job offer in San Francisco.
  • Rebecca aplogizes to Randall for witholding knowldge about William for upwards of 30 years.

Flash-forward from Season 5 finale:

  • Kevin is at a wedding in the future. He’s practicing a speech in the mirror, but it’s not for him.
  • Big Three Construction is a real thing.
  • Kevin has a girlfriend (women’s clothes in his room), but who?
  • Randall has a “Rising Star” profile in a magazine.
  • Uncle Nicky is alive and married.
  • Beth and Madison are still alive.
  • Kevin is 45 so this flash-forward is about five years into the future.
  • Madison and Kevin seem to be on good terms. I did not spot wedding rings on their fingers, but both seem to be cordial and happy.
  • The location is Kate’s second wedding.
  • Kate is marrying… PHILLIP FROM MUSIC SCHOOL.
  • Kate and Toby are divorced.

The stage is set for Season 6. We’ve seen five years into the future when the Big Three are 45. We’ve seen 10 (?) or so years into the future at Kevin’s house. Now, it’s time for Season 6 to fill in all the details of how the characters reach those two checkpoints.

I encourage every fan to read Dan Fogelman’s interview with Entertainment Weekly about how Season 6 will be the show’s “most ambitious” season to date. Fogelman mentioned family, time, and memory as the show’s core themes. Using those themes, there are four major storylines to address before the series ends.

  1. Rebecca’s battle with Alzheimer’s 
  2. The dissolution of Kate and Toby’s marriage as well as the journey to Kate’s remarriage to Phillip
  3. Kevin’s career and love life
  4. Randall’s political rise and how it affects his family

If there’s a fifth bullet point, it would revolve around Miguel and his relationship with Rebecca especially in the early days of their courtship.

Safe to say there’s a lot of ground to cover for Fogelman and the writers. It’s very ambitious to resolve all of these storylines that will leave fans satisfied so I’m expecting some discourse, especially around Kate and Phillip. I highly doubt infidelity will lead to the dissolution of their marriage. Imagine Kate stayed after class one day and Phillip went in for a kiss after they sang a Fleetwood Mac song. I’ll save that for the soap opera spinoff.

Hopefully, you’ve reached the third verse of “I Know the End” so it’s time to make predictions as the song speeds up. I’d like to think I have a good track record of predictions on This Is Us. I correctly predicted the brotherly feud would end around the birth of Kevin’s twins, and I’m very confident that Rebecca will die in the series finale. However, it might be time to take the L on my “Kate will die” theory.

Season 6 Predictions

Miguel Dies: Chrissy Metz teased that this season will mark the end for “two very important characters.” One of these characters has to be Rebecca. I’m predicting that the other character will be Miguel. It would be fitting for Miguel to finally get his episode in the spotlight, only for it to be revealed in a flash-forward that he died.

Kevin Meets His Eventual Wife During The Construction Of Rebecca’s House: Kevin is going to be the leading force behind “Big Three Construction.” He’s also going to find love. Rekindling with Sophie or Madison are the easy choices so I’m predicting that we haven’t met his wife just yet. Perhaps Kevin meets her while building the house and asks her to eventually move in.

Predictions I previously made that could come true:

Nicky Pretends To Be Married To Rebecca: This is my outrageous prediction. In the flash-forward, Nicky is wearing a wedding ring while sitting next to a dying Rebecca. There’s no chance in hell that Nicky marries Rebecca. However, since Rebecca’s memory is shot, Nicky pretends to be Jack on the surface since most of her memories are gone and she only remembers Jack. Nicky wears the wedding ring and acts like Jack even though he’s serving as Rebecca’s caretaker. It’s an odd prediction, but a spicy take.

Rebecca Will Die In The Series Finale: Rebecca will die in the bed surrounded by her loved ones in the series finale. Rebecca’s death will complete the circle of life.

Here’s to one last season with the Pearson family. To quote Bridgers for the last time, “Yeah, I guess the end is here.”

What are your predictions for the final season of This Is Us? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Favorite TV And Movie Performances Of 2021

We did it, everyone. We made it to the end of 2021. Movie theaters aren’t dead, television continues to thrive, and the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. It wasn’t such a bad year, all things considered.

Optimism, baby!

For movies and television, 2021 was far superior to 2020. A lot of the 2020 movie releases that were pushed to 2021 because of the pandemic finally hit theaters (yes, theaters). Prestige television is still rocking thanks to hits like Succession and Mare of Easttown.

Below is a list of my favorite performances of 2021. It’s a mix of Oscar buzz with underrated performances. Enjoy!

Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza

As one of the most prolific filmmakers of his generation, Paul Thomas Anderson can work with anyone he wants. In 2021, PTA chose two first-time actors, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, to headline his movie, Licorice Pizza. Haim, known for her work in the band, HAIM, and Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, were stunning revelations. Whenever the two interacted, I couldn’t look away. Their chemistry was magnetic, and these were two movie-star performances.

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Jeremy Strong gives the best performance on Succession. However, the MVP of Season 3 was Kieran Culkin. I’m sure most of his one-liners are in the script, but Culkin’s comedic delivery and improvisation are superb. Throughout the season, Roman went from an immature suckup to one of Logan’s most trustworthy allies. It’s why Roman’s revelation that Logan will do anything to win even if it means fucking over his children was so heartbreaking to watch. Also, his face after sending the dick pic to Logan is a first-ballot meme hall of fame.

Frank Grillo, Boss Level

I want to give a shoutout to my favorite “B” action movie of the year, Boss Level. The film is a fun, thrilling addition to the time-loop genre. I found it on Hulu on a random Sunday night in the Spring and loved it. I didn’t know Frank Grillo could be this witty and charming. I hope to see him in more of these half-asshole/half-good guy roles aka the Ryan Reynolds.

Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, And Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

West Side Story / 20th Century Studios

We, as a society, look silly for every doubting Steven Spielberg. The legendary director loves musicals, and yet most people had doubts about his reimagined West Side Story. The egg is on our face because Spielberg crafted one of the five best movies of 2021. For a story set in the 1950s, Spielberg made it feel modern and injected a new energy and fresh reinterpretation of a classic. The three standout performances come from Rachel Zegler as Maria, Mike Faist as Riff, and Ariana DeBose as Anita. These three actors jump off the screen thanks to their charisma and confidence. I can’t wait to watch this again.

CT, The Challenge

CT is pulling a Tom Brady, winning challenges in the latter part of his career. Bananas is still the GOAT with 7 season wins, but things are starting to get very interesting has won 3 of the last 5 challenges, bringing his total to 5 season wins. Does Bananas come out of retirement to put an end to CT’s dominance? MTV, pay CT and Bananas whatever they want because the fans need to see this epic showdown.

Jason Momoa, Dune

Jason Momoa in Dune / Warner Bros.

To quote the kids, Jason Momoa “knew the assignment.” Momoa is having so much fun in Dune. While most of the characters are doom and gloom, Momoa’s Duncan Idaho will put a smile on your face.

Rapid Fire

  • Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino in Loki
  • Florence Pugh in Black Widow and Hawkeye
  • Ana de Armas in No Time to Die
  • Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera in In The Heights
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in Don’t Look Up
  • Evan Peters in Mare of Easttown
  • William Zabka in Cobra Kai
  • Tom Thibodeau on the sidelines at Knicks games

What were your favorite performances this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me, @Danny_giro.

Giants Fans, We Have Hit Rock Bottom

New York Giants / NFL

When determining the state of the New York Giants franchise, I keep returning to a quote from Netflix’s hit teen show, Outer Banks. The show’s protagonist, John B, recalled an old saying that his father told him as a kid.

John B said, “My old man used to tell me it’s best to never say you’ve hit rock bottom. Trust me, he said, ‘you can always go lower.'”

After Sunday’s 34-10 loss to the Eagles, the Giants have hit rock bottom. The loss perfectly outlined the Giants’ problems since 2017. Inconsistency at quarterback, below-average offensive line play, unoriginal offensive gameplans, a nonexistent pass rush, and an uninspiring coaching staff top the list of deficiencies for Big Blue. These are some of the many reasons why the Giants are tied with the Jets (go figure) for the worst record since 2017 (22-57).

Before diving into Daniel Jones’s tenure, let’s talk about Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon. Fromm gave one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in the NFL, finishing the day 6/17 for 25 yards with 1 INT and a QBR of 19.5. Mike Glennon, who was benched last week, took over for Fromm in the second half and went 17/27 for 93 yards with 1 TD, 1 INT, and a QBR of 65.8.

Full disclosure, I wanted Fromm to start over Glennon to see if the former Georgia QB could be a future backup for this team. The answer is no.

It’s not that the Giants just lost to the Eagles. They were embarrassed. The offense scored 3 points for three and a half quarters and accumulated just 192 total yards. The stunning part is the Giants won the time of possession battle and ran more offensive plays. But when your offense is more basic than vanilla ice cream, it’s not hard for opposing defenses to prepare.

On the defensive side, the front-7 couldn’t sack the quarterback even if the offense used tackling dummies to block. The saving grace all year has been Patrick Graham and the secondary. At least Graham’s playcalling and the back four give the team a chance to compete on a weekly basis.

The once-proud organization that won two Super Bowls in four years now fosters a system of losing and dysfunction. The blame starts at the top with John Mara. The Giants’ owner is reportedly tired of losing and wants to get a team on the right path again, but he’s failed to recognize the mistake that put the team in this very situation.

The day Mara hired Dave Gettleman to be the general manager will go down as one of the top five worst decisions in franchise history.

For every good decision from Gettleman, and it’s only a few, five bad ones follow. It all started when the team drafted Saquon Barkley with the number two pick. I know not to draft a running back in the top 5. You know not to draft a running back in the top 5. Even my mother would never make this mistake and yet, the Giants took Barkley instead of choosing Eli’s successor. Now, Barkley looks like a shell of himself and remains the furthest thing from a team leader.

After signing and then trading Odell Beckham Jr., Gettleman drafted Daniel Jones to take Manning’s place at quarterback.

There’s a popular video where a middle-aged man walks up to the camera and says, “You’re not that guy, pal. Trust me. You’re not that guy.” That’s the best way to describe Jones. At times, Jones will flash his athletic prowess and scramble for a 50-yard run. He’ll typically then follow it up with an overthrow on a check down. That’s the DJ experience. He’s average at best with a low ceiling and severe limitations on what he can do in terms of throwing the ball. Jones also smears his hands with popcorn butter before every possession as he leads the NFL in fumbles since 2019 with 36 (!).

Do you know who else isn’t “the guy?” Joe Judge. After every Giants game, I ask myself one question. What is Joe Judge good at? Judge was a former special teams coach, and yet that unit only ranks 14th in the NFL. The Giants are ATROCIOUS (deserved an all-caps) in the last two minutes before the half, having been outscored 68-0. I joke that Judge is the biggest “undisciplined disciplinarian” because the team continues to falter in big spots especially in close games. I spoke more about my problems with Judge, who owns a 10-21 record, after a Week 2 loss against the WFT.

I can go on and on about Gettleman’s acquisitions. For every Blake Martinez and James Bradberry, there’s a Golden Tate, Nate Solder, and Will Hernandez. Despite all of these mistakes, Mara still deserves the most blame because he empowered Gettleman.

Losing organizations build teams the wrong way. Yesterday’s report that Judge and Jones will be returning for 2022 appears in the first couple chapters in the book on how to build a losing team.

I’m upset, but I’m not furious that the Giants decided to run it back with Judge and Jones. I don’t agree, but there are arguments to be made to keep both. However, all signs point towards Gettleman being fired at the end of the season. The right move would be to bring in a new GM first to discuss the future of the coach and QB with ownership, two of the most important aspects of a winning team. If you take away that decision from the GM, what is the point of hiring an outside voice? No GM wants these decisions made for them, which leads me to believe the Giants may promote an executive within the organization to GM. Why get a new voice to build a team the right way when you can promote someone who has been a part of the losing culture? In other words, it’s the worst-case scenario.

John B was right. Giants fans, we might go lower than rock bottom.

Do you agree that this is rock bottom for the Giants? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

NBA Christmas Wish Lists For All 30 Teams

Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns

Christmas Day is the unofficial start to the NBA season. It’s great exposure for the league as each game features a popular team or superstar player. That’s been the case in years past, but 2021 is different.

Many star players are in health and safety protocols due to COVID, jeopardizing their availability for Christmas games. These stars include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young. As appetizing as a Cam Thomas versus Isaiah Thomas matchup might be, I, along with the rest of the world, wanted to see LeBron James square off against Kevin Durant.

Regardless, the season will (hopefully) go on, and every team needs something for Christmas – good health, more shooting, stars to play, etc. Luckily for these organizations, I’m here to write their wish lists.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics: 1) The “Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can’t play together” narrative to end. 2) A point guard that can shoot.

Brooklyn Nets: 1) Kevin Durant stays healthy. 2) Kyrie Irving plays basketball.

New York Knicks: 1) Trade for another ballhandler with Derrick Rose out for 6-8 weeks. 2) Trade for a true playmaker that can create his own shot. 3) Evan Fournier to play defense. 4) Pray that a star wants to come to the Knicks via trade or free agency at some point. 5) Play defense like the team did last year. I have a lot more wishes, but I’ll spare you the time.

Philadelphia 76ers: 1) Figure out the Ben Simmons saga. Either trade him or play him.

Toronto Raptors: 1) Realize that Scottie Barnes, not Pascal Siakam, is the player to build around. 2) Trade or buy out Goran Dragic.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls: 1) Continue their hot start. 2) Trade for another big. Maybe Jerami Grant?

Cleveland Cavaliers: 1) Make the playoffs. 2) Protect Evan Mobley at all costs.

Detroit Pistons: 1) Compete on a nightly basis, but lose (a lot of) games. 2) Win the Draft Lottery.

Indiana Pacers: 1) Trade Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis. (Or trade both?)

Milwaukee Bucks: 1) Protect Giannis at all costs.

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks: 1) To remember that they made the Eastern Conference Finals last year. 2) Start playing like they made the Eastern Conference Finals last year. 3) They have too many rotation guys so trade someone like Cam Reddish.

Charlotte Hornets: 1) Try to pry Myles turner away from the Pacers. 2) Let LaMelo cook.

Miami Heat: 1) Load manage Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. 2) Get a healthy Bam Adebayo. 3) Explore the trade or buyout market for another big man.

Orlando Magic: 1) Keep playing the young guys. 2) See if a contender is interested in Robin Lopez.

Washington Wizards: 1) Face the reality that Bradley Beal needs to be traded.

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets: 1) Get the Joker some help. 2) Talk themselves off the ledge after signing Michael Porter Jr. to a max extension.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 1) Give Anthony Edwards the keys to the offense. 2) Leak to Woj or Shams that Karl-Anthony Towns or D’Angelo Russell could want out of Minnesota just to see what their market could be.

Oklahoma City Thunder: 1) Reassure Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that the team will explore trading for an all-star in the offseason. (Ex. The Paul George trade in 2017.) 2) Try your very hardest to move Derrick Favors.

Portland Trail Blazers: 1) Do whatever Damian Lillard wants. 2) Hit up the NBA Trade Machine every day to see potential returns in a trade for Lillard.

Utah Jazz: 1) Identify postseason problems (ex. how to defend a small-ball lineup without Rudy Gobert) now and try to implement solutions during the regular season.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors: 1) Get Klay Thompson back. 2) Evaluate James Wiseman. 3) Consider packaging Wiseman and some other players or picks for an all-star caliber player. Looking at you, Sabonis.

Los Angeles Clippers: 1) Talk to Kawhi Leonard. That’s it. I’m not convinced that the Clippers talk to Kawhi daily (look no further than last year’s playoffs after Kawhi’s injury), and that’s very concerning.

Los Angeles Lakers: 1) Figure out what kind of team you are now before it’s too late. Is this a big team? Do they need to be a team of LeBron and shooters? 2) Somehow, bring in a wing that can defend. (Groundbreaking stuff.) 3) Remind Anthony Davis that he’s an All-NBA First Team member and needs to start playing like it when he returns from injury. 4) Stay around .500 until AD comes back. Then, accept the reality that the Play-In game could be their fate once again.

Phoenix Suns: 1) Keep Chris Paul healthy. 2) Explore the trade/buy-out market for another “3 and D” wing.

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks: 1) Work with Luka Doncic on getting into better shape. 2) Get another ballhandler like Goran Dragic or Kemba Walker.

Houston Rockets: 1) Keep losing. 2) See if a team wants Christian Wood.

Memphis Grizzlies: 1) Go out and get more shooting. (15th in 3-point %)

New Orleans Pelicans: 1) Have a long and hard talk with Zion Williamson about the importance of staying healthy.

San Antonio Spurs: 1) Continue to run everything through Dejounte Murray.

Every Single Team: 1) Avoid COVID.

Have a great holiday!

Do you agree or disagree with my wish lists? Leave your answers in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Spoiler-Packed Discussion

Spider-Man: No Way Home

If you’re reading this, then it’s too late. There’s no turning back now. The biggest movie of the year is Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I’m ready to talk about it. Spoilers are on the way. You have been warned.

Seriously, turn around if you haven’t seen the film yet.

I’m running out of videos so this is your final warning.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Thoughts And Reactions

– Wow.

– Where do I even begin? Let’s start with the most obvious talking point. We got the meme.

I knew this moment was coming and it still surprised me. When Ned opened a portal and Spider-Man ran closer to it, you knew it was Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire. Once Garfield removed his mask, my theater exploded like it was a buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. People were screaming with joy, jumping out of their seats with huge smiles on their faces. As Ned tried to open the second portal, the same murmur began as the entire theater waited for Tobey Maguire to enter. Tobey enters the screen, and the theater once again broke the sound barrier. These reactions are exactly why Sony and Marvel choose not to reveal these former heroes in the trailer.

– One of the first swerves of the film occurred when Doctor Strange agreed to cast the spell for Peter, which would make the entire world forget about his identity. However, Strange decided to stop the spell when Peter asked for multiple exceptions as to who would remember him.

Here’s my issue. Doctor Strange is supposed to be one of the smartest and most powerful sorcerers in the world. This is the same guy who went forward in time to view alternate futures to see all the possible outcomes of the battle with Thanos. I’m supposed to believe that Peter’s requests would distract Doctor Strange from completing the spell? Peter asked for MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy to remember his identity as well as anyone else who previously knew his identity. It’s not like he named his entire high school by name. There’s no way Doctor Strange messes this spell up. I refuse to believe it.

– The best part of this trilogy is the relationship between Peter, MJ, and Ned. No Way Home went out of their way to emphasize this three-way friendship. From the college decisions to their final goodbye, you could argue that Ned is just as important to Peter as MJ. These three young stars have such good chemistry that I would love to explore these characters in another film. Perhaps they go to MIT and Peter tries to be Spider-Man in Boston.

– The villains. For me, superhero films are only as strong as their villains. The Dark Knight went from great to iconic because of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. In No Way Home. The film had five supervillains from previous iterations of Spider-Man including Electro, Lizard, and Sandman. But, the two that deserve the most praise are Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. In my opinion, these two performances are on the Mount Rushmore of Supervillains in the 21st century. When highly-trained actors like Dafoe and Molina get to play in the comic book sandbox, great things will happen.

Dafoe’s over-the-top and downright evil performance as Green Goblin is so effective that it works as the main antagonist of the film. Another swerve I enjoyed involved Molina’s Doctor Octopus. The trailer sets up Doc Ock as a true villain, but once Peter cures the harness, he becomes an ally of the Spider-Men. (Can we call them the “Spider-Men?”)

– Everything about the Spider-Men team-up worked. The inside jokes, the speeches about grief, the interactions during the fight, etc. It was all executed to perfection. Jokes about Tobey’s back and Peter 1’s inclusion in the Avengers were crowdpleasers. I couldn’t stop smiling when the three Peters’ were onscreen.

– Garfield’s dive to save MJ as a callback to when Gwen died absolutely wrecked me.

– Speaking of Garfield, he probably channels the essence of Peter Parker the best out of the three actors. Peter is supposed to be this witty and charming persona and Garfield’s the best when it comes to these characteristics. Tobey had the tough job of going first while Holland played teenage Parker admirably, but Garfield is the best actor to play the role. He stole the show out of the three Spideys. I just wish he had better superhero movies to showcase his talents. As it turns out, he may get the chance!

– Tom Holland is a really good Spider-Man. I’m excited to see where he goes from here since he’s now an A-list actor.

– I liked the ending of this film. I’m a fan of conclusions, and this felt like the ending of a successful trilogy. However, it does leave the door open to see how Peter has moved on in a world post-spell. Did he make new friendships? Did he make new enemies? Can he win back MJ and Ned? I’d be interested in a fourth film.

Overall, No Way Home lived up to the hype. It’s a theater experience that I will never forget.

My official rankings:

What are your thoughts on No Way Home? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

Succession Finale: Thoughts From Someone Who Watched S3 In Two Days

Succession / HBO

Hand up, I was late to Succession.

Super late, actually.

I watched the first four episodes of Season 1 almost two years ago and walked away thinking it was just OK. The story of the show intrigued me, but I didn’t get a “must-watch” feeling like I immediately felt with Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.

This past Fall, I decided to give the show another chance. I found that it drastically improved in the back half of Season 1, finding its stride in the final two episodes of the season. I completed Season 2 one week ago, and it blew me out of the water. A tremendous season headlined by an all-time performance from Jeremy Strong as Kendall. He brought so much nuance to a smug character that should be so unlikeable, but Strong had me rooting for Ken by the end of the season.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon when I finished the first episode of Season 3. I had an important life-or-death decision to make. Do I complete seven more episodes to watch the finale on time or go at my own pace and risk spoilers?

A weaker man might have gone at their own pace, but I’m a (mentally) tough specimen. I binged the rest of the season over the next two days and made it in time for the finale.

Who better to give immediate thoughts about the finale than someone with every detail of Season 3 still fresh in his mind?

SPOILER ALERT. STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FINALE.

– It was only a matter of time before the Roy siblings teamed up to face their father. Up until now, Kendall was the only child who went against his father and failed. Shiv made small moves against Logan when he refused to publicly name her CEO (suggesting Logan steps down in “Argestes”) while Roman never went against his father. But once Roman and Shiv showed compassion towards Kendall, the wheels for a team-up were in motion.

– Speaking of Kendall, that entire scene on the dirt road where Kendall confessed to the murder was an acting clinic from Jeremy Strong. The actor has been in the news all week because of the profile in the New Yorker. Frankly, I walked away from the piece thinking that Strong was a genius, not difficult to work with. Episodes like tonight prove that there’s a method to the madness.

– In that same piece, Strong stated how he treats the life and death stakes of Kendall as seriously as he takes his own life. Kendall’s confession to Roman and Shiv perfectly illustrates the debate over Succession‘s genre. Is it a tragedy or is it a comedy? Kendall is pouring his heart out, looking for forgiveness and sympathy for anyone who will listen. He’s hit rock bottom, and desperately needs a life preserver (or pool float) to save him from drowning. And yet all Roman can do is brush it off with humor, saying things like “we’ve all killed a kid, no big deal!” Shiv even supports Roman’s dark humor, saying that they’ve all killed before, too. At this moment, Shiv and Roman are incapable of human decency and compassion because they’ve never felt what it’s like to feel powerless like Kendall. The Roy family name is a suit of armor so there are no life and death stakes like Kendall has faced time and time again.

– Brian fucking Cox!

– The final scene. Holy shit was that terrific to watch. This was the Shakespearean tragedy playing out in real-time. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman were left out of the GoJo negotiations so they decide to finally join forces to take down Logan. They spend the car ride getting their affairs in order, confirming the legality of the clause they prepare to invoke on their father. Logan and Caroline’s divorce agreement granted the children a vote over any change in company control so if Logan sold Waystar RoyCo and gave control to Lukas Matsson, Logan would need a supermajority vote to make it official. The children can invoke the clause to form an opposing majority to stop the deal.

Once again, Logan was three steps ahead of his children. Logan tried to explain why selling the company to GoJo would be good for the children because they can go out and earn their own worth, but they insist on invoking the clause. It turns out he renegotiated the divorce settlement with Caroline to remove the clause, making the Roy children powerless.

Everything about this scene was perfect. Logan always wins (which I’ll talk about later as well) and he will stop at nothing to make sure he comes out victorious even if it means going against his kids. The entire season was one long explanation as to why the Roy children are not ready to become the new face of WayStar. As Logan repeatedly says, he needs a killer. Shiv embarrassed her father time and time again with her words, highlighted by the deal with Sandy and Stewie where she compromised much more than Logan would ever consider. Roman made some key introductions especially with GoJo, but sending the dick pic to Gerri proved he was too immature to be CEO. Kendall is the only one to ever get a semi-nod of approval from Logan thanks to his powerplay at the end of Season 2, but his addictions and mental health make him an unreliable successor to the throne. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the children that Logan made his own deal. He only trusts himself so the kids were naive to think he would ever consider their opinion.

Roman and Shiv finally experienced what it’s like to get the shitty end of the stick. Roman confessed his love to his Dad and Logan returned the favor by calling him a moron. A moron! A desperate Roman tried to plead to Gerri, but she knows that Logan holds the keys to her future and therefore can’t help her friend. The puppy dog eyes broke me if we’re being honest.

For Kendall, he already knows what it feels like to have nothing so, therefore, why beg for anything? He can’t beat his dad alone and now, he learned it’s tough to beat him with numbers on your side. All Kendall could do was console his siblings since Roman and Shiv can finally empathize with their older brother after the shared experiences of being fucked over by their father.

– Then there’s Shiv, who was a villain lurking in the shadows but stepped into the evil spotlight last week with her threat to Gerri. Shiv thought she could have it all. CEO of Waystar, an obedient husband, power, money, etc. It turns out she’s just as naive and inexperienced as her brothers. Her own husband knew this, too, so it’s time to talk about the man, the myth, the midwest legend himself, Tom Wambsgans.

THE HEEL TURN FROM TOM!

Jesse Armstrong you sneaky bastard! Tom FINALLY took a stand and did something for himself. Shiv deserves all the hate in the world for how she treats Tom. From requesting an open marriage on their wedding night to the meanest dirty talk ever recorded, it’s clear that Shiv married Tom so she could feel like the man of the family, the one who holds all of the power. Shiv doesn’t care about Tom. She proved that many times this season. Tom was most likely going to prison and she couldn’t give two shits.

Tom may look like a doofus, but he understands the one thing the Roy children refuse to accept; Logan always wins. If you side with Logan, he’ll be your best ally. If you go against Logan, he’ll gut you like a pig. Tom literally told this to Kendall at the diner. It’s why Tom offered himself up as the one to fall on the sword for the company. Tom understands that Logan appreciates loyalty so when the company learned no one would go to prison, Logan went out of his way to tell Tom that he’d always remember his sacrifice.

Tom was done riding Shiv’s coattails. It was time to get in the game and cash in his ticket. He alerted Logan of the coup, and Logan will return the favor in the form of power and positing within the company. Neuro and Sporus. Chef’s kiss on the payoff.

I could talk forever about this finale so I’ll try to wrap it up. Tom, Greg, Gerri, and Logan all realize that actions have consequences. They’ve all come from small beginnings. Nothing was handed to them. They can’t afford to take a loss because if they lose, it’s over. It’s why they naturally will side with the winning side aka Logan, and they’ll do whatever it takes to stay in the game.

Kendall, Roman, and Shiv never had to take huge risks because they could always fall back on their inheritance and family name. Kendall learned the hard way about what it’s like to go against the family and now Roman and Shiv got their slices of humble pie. Do you know what happens when Logan leaves you behind? You become Connor Roy, and the blowout from Connor at the beginning of the episode was another example of beautiful foreshadowing. Connor knows to stay on his Dad’s good side because once you cross him, it’s over. Connor knows what it feels like to be passed over for new blood, and if Logan’s maca root and almond butter smoothies work, the remaining Roy siblings will be passed over, too.

Remember, betrayals are always sealed with a kiss.

I can’t wait for Season 4. Jesse Armstrong has now crafted three perfect season finales. He pushed all his chips into the center in each finale, and the payouts were huge. Here’s to King Greg!

What are your thoughts on the Succession finale? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

New York Knicks Report Card: Little Magic, Tons Of Frustration

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are 25 games into the 2021-2022 NBA season, which is a little less than one-third of the NBA season. With a record of 12-13, it’s a large enough sample size to evaluate the team’s performance and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the roster.

There are a lot of weaknesses. Spoiler alert!

Time to break out my red pen because it might get messy.

Julius Randle – C+

The Most Improved Player from 2020-2021 put up career highs in almost every statistical category during last year’s magical season. Regression was bound to happen, but some of the numbers are alarming. Randle still leads the team in points/rebounds/assists with averages of 19.8/9.8/5.2. Those numbers would be stellar if Randle were the second option on the team. However, he remains the team’s best player, and anything less than 22 and 10 is unacceptable. What’s alarming is the dip in three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Last year, Randle shot 41% from 3 and 81% at the line. This season, it’s 33% and 75%, respectively. Randle will be the first to tell you that he needs to elevate his game because if his play doesn’t improve, the Knicks will miss the Play-In game.

Kemba Walker – D+

This hurts, man. I wholeheartedly agreed with signing Kemba Walker after he took a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2 years, 18m was a good flyer for a player that averaged 19 points a game since 2016. Besides a few scoring outbursts in the first quarters of multiple games, Kemba’s tenure with the Knicks has been a disaster. All of the defensive metrics with Kemba on the court are atrocious. Now, Kemba is out of the rotation, and will probably be traded or bought out at some point aka “The Austin Rivers.” I wish Kemba nothing but the best.

Evan Fournier – C-

Let’s get this one out of the way. I stand by my “Fournier is a solid player” take. His play will never live up to the contract, but I believed he could be the second-best player on this team. As of Dec. 10, I’m wrong. Fournier is Murphy’s Law. For every 20-point performance, there has to be a <10-point performance where he sits on the bench during the fourth quarter. Plus, Fournier is a liability on defense. If Fournier can’t make shots, he’s unplayable at the end of games.

RJ Barrett – C+

It’s been a roller-coaster season for RJ Barrett. He started the season with a bang, averaging 19 points per game with the highlight being a 35-point performance in New Orleans. Then, he forgot how to shoot especially from behind the arc. It’s actually painful to watch at times. I’m convinced he’s the best guy in the NBA at hitting the front end of the rim. However, Barrett has been more aggressive over his last two games including a 32-point performance in San Antonio. I like RJ a lot, but he’s been way too inconsistent for a guy that many believe should be the second-best player on the team.

Alec Burks and Derrick Rose – A-

The two most consistent players on the Knicks are Alec Burks and Derrick Rose. That is a real sentence I just typed. Both of these guys can create their own shot on the offensive side of the ball, which can’t be said about 80% of the roster. I hate to bring up “manalytics,” but as someone that’s watched every game, Burks and Rose never hide from the moment. They continuously want the ball in their hands at the end of games. Without these two, the Knicks would have less than 10 wins.

Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin – B

Bench mob, stand TF up! Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin have been godsends off the bench all season long. The duo are plus/minus standouts with IQ at +97 and Obi at +88 (second and third on the team). These young guys are both gym rats, and both improved on both ends of the floor especially Obi, who doubled his points per game from 4 to 8. Thibs has to consider giving more minutes to both IQ and Obi going forward.

Tom Thibodeau – B-

It’s unfair to put the team’s disappointing start solely on Thibs. This is a severely limited roster with no true closers at the end of games. However, the rotations to start the season did the team no favors. The defense is nowhere to be found at times. After ranking third in defensive efficacy last season, the Knicks are 23rd. The Knicks still play hard on a nightly basis, but the team has gotten exposed in the third quarter and at the end of games especially in close losses. That’s on Thibs.

Team Grade – C

Did I expect the Knicks to be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference again? No. Did I expect the record to be over .500 at the one-third mark of the season? Absolutely. It’s been a disappointing start to the season so 12 wins feels like a blessing with how poorly they’ve played at times. The Knicks will need to make a few trades to compete for a playoff spot. I still think this is a Play-In team, but the idea of returning to the playoffs will evoparate quickly if this doesn’t change over the next month. I believe in the Knicks, but I’m worried.

What are your grades for the Knicks? Leave them in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.