"This is America or Fifty Bucks" S1 / E9
- B+ Community Grade
Ah, temptation. Stalking us at every turn. And now, it’s after the characters on Hung, who didn’t get into this sex-as-salvation business for anything approaching altruistic reasons. Ray and Tanya want theirs, and the fact that they haven’t gotten it yet is continuing to irk them. Ray’s good at what he does, apparently to the point where he inspires addiction in his clients, but he has yet to find a lot of repeat customers simply because Tanya is having trouble finding customers, period. Everybody in this episode is chasing the siren song of one temptation or another, and that’s leaving them more frustrated than usual, both sexually and otherwise.
The whole meeting with Horny Patty last week went well, as it turns out, but she’s uneasy of going a second time because she fears it would be easy to lose herself in his magic penis and the ecstasy it inspires. She compares him to cocaine, which she apparently has some experience with, and she wants him to be more like crack, at least on the expense scale. If he were cheaper, she’d be more likely to come back for more. But Tanya takes offense at that, and after word gets out that Patty’s tried cocaine (or something along those lines), she confronts Tanya in the bathroom, throwing her against the wall (which was kind of awesome). Through that, though, wallflower Linda hears about Ray and Tanya’s service and offers to pay $50 for it, which is, again, not what Tanya is looking for.
But the kernel is planted in Tanya’s mind, and she’s started thinking about creating a situation where she can hook a bunch of women at a low price point and then gradually increase the prices until they’re making the kind of money they want. It’s a risky strategy, especially as it relies entirely on Ray always being able to perform for these women, but it could, potentially, pay off. Re-enter, in the middle of this, Lenore, who’s quite certain that lowering prices is not the answer to any of Ray and Tanya’s problems. I’ve found the portrayal of Lenore – a powerful, sexually voracious woman – a bit problematic as the show goes along, but here, she was utilized well as a figure of temptation for Ray.
Lenore, see, is certain that she could make Ray a much bigger success than he’s been with Tanya, no matter how much he insists that Tanya is his friend and he’s going to stick with her. And it’s not hard to see where Lenore might be right. For all of her good qualities, Tanya’s a pushover with the clients, with Lenore, with Ray and even with Pierce (who just tells her he’s in Cuba and doesn’t bother explaining anything, though, to be fair, she doesn’t have time to ask). For as understandable as Hung has made Tanya’s inability to confront people, it still makes her a terribly ineffective pimp and even more ineffective at getting people to sign up for her service.
Will Ray take up with Lenore? I assume so, since the season finale is coming up, and that would make a pretty good cliffhanger in the show’s universe. But the show has also done a poor job of portraying how Tanya might evolve into the kind of pimp she needs to be if Happiness Consultants is ever to get off the ground, and having Lenore steal Ray away might just corner Tanya enough that she would evolve somewhat. And it’s not like Lenore has the wrong ideas. The suit she picks out for Ray to try on is pretty snazzy, and her insistence that Ray should be raising prices, not lowering them, is a good one, too. The biggest problem Tanya encounters when going around to the women in her office and soliciting their thoughts (and potential for becoming customers) is that the women in her office find the thought of paying for sex just a bit skeezy. Lenore understands that by setting the price point higher, the service won’t lose all of its skeeziness but will lose just enough that women might be more tempted to sign up. On the other hand, doing that would write off a lot of the women Tanya seems to think this service might be able to reach. Tanya may want to make money doing this, but she does have this vision of Ray’s sexual abilities as some vaguely altruistic thing he can bring to the sexually disadvantaged women of the greater Detroit area. Lenore operates under no such delusions.
What makes Ray uniquely susceptible to a battle like this between Lenore and Tanya is the fact that he’s such a straightforward guy. He’s not going to ditch Tanya because she IS a friend, but he’s not going to reject Lenore out of hand because he can see that she’s got some good ideas, some of which could probably help him make the kind of money Tanya was promising him. Ray walks away at the end of the episode while ignoring Lenore’s phone call, but he probably can’t ignore that call forever, especially if he’s going to fix up his house any time soon.
But it wasn’t just Ray and Tanya tempted by the lure of money in two different ways in this episode. Jessica continues to be tempted both by the lure of who her husband was (a very rich man), the love she now seems to grudgingly feel for him and the way Lenore thinks she could be if she were just more aggressive about things. I thought early in the season that the relationship between Ronnie and Jessica and the character of Jessica herself were the two most problematic elements on the show. There are still flashes of that, but I’m more and more intrigued by how the show is portraying their relationship as perched on a precipice between an act and real love. Jessica probably was pretending to love Ronnie at the start, but that’s crossed over into a real love since then, and now she’s unsure of how to proceed. Meanwhile, Ronnie can feel that she might slip away from him and goes against his eminently practical nature to have her go shopping for something she likes.
But despite all of this, it may be impossible for anyone to work this out. The world these characters have built is crashing down around their ears, almost in spite of anything they do to keep it from doing so. Ray’s confident that his job at the school is safe, even as the music department gets completely axed, but knowing that one of his friends has just lost everything makes that final phone call from Lenore seem more forceful in its demands. All anyone on Hung wants is for everything to be all right for just a few moments, but as time passes, they’re realizing how hollow those promises ultimately are.
- I am well aware that all anyone will want to talk about is Damon’s sexuality, since that seems to be what is lighting up other comments boards. And I think it’s an interesting enough turn to take with his character. That said, even Damon faced temptation, as he’s clearly running with a guy who’s not right for him and pretty bad news.
- This was kind of a scattered episode, I thought, but I liked all of the individual pieces well enough to enjoy it overall. It very much felt like an episode designed to put pieces in place for the finale.
- Arrested Development fans, rejoice! “Who do I have to fuck around here to get my kids back?”
- See you in two weeks for the finale. Predictions?