“Help Wanted” S2 / E9
- B Community Grade
Stupid is breaking out all over tonight on The L. A. Complex. Part of the charm of this show is that even the smartest characters have their blind spots, and part of the point of the show is that keeping a career in the entertainment business alive is such a juggling act that anybody can screw up at any point. Still, there are moments in this episode when the only way these people could seem any dumber would be if they gave the green light to a $200 million movie based on the board game Battleship or canceled Firefly after 11 episodes.
Tonight’s installment begins where last week’s left off, with Connor meeting a beautiful blonde who tells him that she’s his sister, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Connor hasn’t actually seen anyone in his family in so long that he needs extensive filling in. His mom, it seems, died two years ago, news that he takes pretty hard for a guy whose mom managed to die without his knowing it. After a happy day of bonding—part of which, I’m very happy to report, is spent at the nearest DNA testing lab, proving that Connor does have some sense—Sis gulps hard and tells Connor that she has something to tell him: “Mom didn’t die. She killed herself.” Instead of replying, “Actually, if I understand the science at all, I’m pretty sure that when you kill yourself, you do die,” Connor says, “Because of me?” That probably would be the number one answer if Family Feud had a category called, “Things Connor Would Say If You Told Him His Mother Killed Herself.” It might be the first thing he’d say if you told him that the Earth is about to crash into the sun. The best part of this storyline, aside from a pretty good punchline to be further explored next week, is the crowning proof that Connor and the girl are related: They have matching neurotic self-mutilations. (The cutting scars on her arm set off the bandages he’s wearing over his burns.)
Not even Connor can distinguish himself in this area the way Nick can. Tonight, the workplace scenes at The Paul F. Tompkins Show are blessed with a major event, in the person of an appearance by the actual Paul F. Tompkins. Tompkins barges into the writers’ room to deliver a virtuoso rant about the cocaine that the head writer douchebag left in the bathroom. (“This is not the ‘70s. It’s not the mid-‘80s. It’s not various portions of the ‘90s. You are not day traders. This is not a high school or a discotheque in Monaco. You are pale, miserable, uncool writers who should not be able to afford this much cocaine. You’re lucky you get a writers’ bathroom!”) Thompson wants to know whom the coke belongs to, pronto.
The head writer douchebag begs Nick to take the heat off him by telling Tompkins that it’s his, and damned if the little mouth-breather doesn’t do just that. Tompkins, naturally, fires Nick, and Nick goes back to the writers’ room to tell the head writer douchebag what happened, and to tell him to rectify the situation and rehire him, which just makes you wonder whether actual cocaine use could possibly make Nick any stupider. He does get to punch the head writer douchebag after he says something inappropriate about Sabrina. Then he almost spoils that by going home and whining to Sabrina about what happened. When she tells him that things could be worse, he actually has the unmitigated gall to say he doesn’t see how, instead of falling to his knees and thanking God that he does still have his painfully hot, funny girlfriend to come home to. Happily, Sabrina seems to be in a forgiving mood. It’s one of those rare occurrences, like the passing of the Comet Kohoutek.
Raquel, seeking protection from her various former employers, files for personal bankruptcy tonight. The value of the breathing room that gets her must be weighed against the fact that she is now literally unemployable in the industry, since no insurance company will sign off on her. The good news is that this turns out to be the kick in the pants she needs to propose to Cam and Kevin that they shoot their indie script anyway (even though Ellen Page has backed out and they have no funding), guerrilla-style. This ought to be good for some laughs, but in the meantime, it’s exciting mainly because it brings Beth and Simon into Raquel’s orbit, albeit through a side door: Cam has finally made his move, and he and Beth are sharing a bed when Raquel makes her pitch. Beth and Simon have yet to pull their weight on this show, and Cam and Kevin barely have one thumb on the scale between them, but by yoking their fortunes to Raquel’s maybe they can yet justify having their names in the credits.
- Abby, when introduced to Connor’s sister, betrays a hint of doubt that her story is on the level. “I have my father’s features,” says the sister, pointing that, at least, she and Connor have the same eyes. “They’re… the same shape,” says Abby.
- The scene in which the head writer douchebag tries to appeal to Nick’s sympathies is pretty choice. He tells Nick that he deserves a break on the cocaine use because he’s been in rehab for months. Sounding genuinely concerned, Nick says, “Maybe you should get your money back.” Reaching for his trump card, the douchebag points out that he has a wife and child to support. Sounding even more genuinely concerned, Nick blurts out, “You’re someone’s father!? That’s messed up.”
- In the most touching act of stupidity of the night, Kaldrick seeks Abby out and wastes a day of studio time pretending to record her background vocals for a track that’s not designed to include background vocals, as his way of slowly leading up to asking for her help in finding Tariq. (The investigator he’s put on the case has thrown up his hands, saying, “Do you know how many Muhammads there are in Montreal?” That’s a trick question if ever I heard one.) This sequence is notable mainly for how many times Andra Fuller gets to use his “How did I get myself into this?” expression of apologetic sheepishness. He’s turning into the most emotionally exposed professional hard guy in the music business.