In the world of Ballers, a world that doesn’t pretend to care about showing you a single snap of football, things are coming to a head. Vernon is hounding Spencer to return to his service, especially now that some problematic pictures from the yacht party has surfaced. Ricky, resolved to be the bigger man after a pep talk with Annabella, decides to take Alonzo out for a night on the town where they can solve their problems. Charles, who refuses to delete a particular sext on his phone, gets caught by Julie and storms out with his tail between his legs. Joe, who has successfully courted Victor Cruz, must now move on from that success in order to scramble to get Vernon’s account in Anderson Management’s portfolio, lest the whole enterprise gets axed. This is Ballers, and shit is getting dramatic.

Everyone in the fifth episode, “Machete Charge,” is getting squeezed. Ricky, whose private night on the town turns out to be a trip to the strip club with Alonzo’s entire entourage — thus screening him from talking to Alonzo — isn’t getting an apology or anything he wants. Spencer, who is now resolved to fix Vernon’s situation, finds himself with a worthy adversary — a lawyer who is savvier than he seems at first glance, and one that is demanding $500k for the purchase of pictures featuring Vernon’s illicit activities. Charles takes the coward’s way out, choosing chaos over stability.

In the end, only Ricky finds validation — a parking tryst between Alonzo and a stripper is broken up by a cop before Ricky intervenes to save the day. As for the others, it’s a different story. When the lawyer in the moss-covered mansion shows Spencer a picture of his client, Spencer’s eyes flash with recognition, suggesting that maybe his challenge is something that is achievable.

In the last few episodes, Spencer has come alive, which gives Ballers a certain energy. Compared to the show that precedes it — the listless second season of True Detective — it’s appointment television. As these parallel dramas spin toward their conclusions, we’re all just witnesses.