It’s starting to feel like Californication doesn’t know what to do about Charlie. He was always part-sidekick to Hank and never less than perverted and immature. But he also had Marcy, and we had Charlie and Marcy. Now we have Stu and Marcy, sometimes. And other times, we wince through Charlie’s assorted, increasingly broad sexual humiliations. His masturbatory shaming at the hands of Vanessa Angel was in good fun, his miscalculation with Lizzie was awkward but oddly sweet, and his Medieval romp with virginal Mary was the season’s funniest escapade yet. The almost requisite, predictable tranny blowjob in the back of a stolen police car (well, the cop car part was hard to anticipate) during "The Ride-Along"? One X-rated farce too many. As for Charlie’s subsequent gay panic, that actually felt a bit out of character for such an undiscriminating deviant.
In general, season five has a lot of—forgive the pun—balls in the air. Except for Richard’s, which were tucked in between his thighs during an encore performance of the “man-gina” at a local sushi joint. It’s hard to say if a series like Calfiornication really needs so many floating scenarios when the drama surrounding a handful of appealing characters has generally sufficed, or if it’s really even that out of step with how the show has operated. But the volatility does seem to be leaving a great comedic asset like Runkle out in the cold, his medium-sized wiener exposed for any passerby to stumble or suck on.
Fortunately, Samurai Apocalypse (nee RZA) is back, and leading Hank and Charlie on a police ride-along (as preparation for Santa Monica Cop, naturally) gone awry, adorned in full combat gear and in hot pursuit of whoever’s sleeping with Kali. Right from the get-go this week, Samurai and Hank were in classic form. The episode opens at a shooting range, with Samurai blasting rounds at what he envisions in his mind eye as the unfortunate soul having an affair with his woman (Kali has actually dumped him by this point, but he’s a possessive sort). Hank observes that, to him, the target silhouette “looks kind of like Ryan Seacrest,” to which Samurai deadpans, “What the fuck you got against Ryan Seacrest, man?” The lesson? Everyone loves Ryan Seacrest, even hardened “raptors” (Hank-speak for rappers-turned-actors) like Samurai. The other lesson: Duchovny and RZA are comedy gold, golder than the teeth plating RZA’s front teeth.
There are a lot of very funny hijinks throughout “The Ride-Along”: Bryan Callen’s cameo as a stroked-out, carb-loading, completely negligent patrol officer (although he could have had more primo lines); Charlie’s childish desire to turn on the siren and be in the front seat; and, most of all, Hank and Samurai’s Keystone Kops antics behind the wheel. Samurai is finally coming around to Hank’s corny, unfiltered cynicism, and Hank is genuinely starting to enjoy Samurai’s company and not simply fear him. The only problem is that Samurai beat the shit out of Becca’s boyfriend Tyler, and it’s only a matter of time till Samurai stops viewing Hank as an eccentric middle-aged white dude long enough to surmise that he may have fucked Kali.
The former chicken comes home to roost by episode’s end, which is kind of a bummer. What Tyler did to Richard was mean, watching Karen be mortified in public was sad, seeing Hank endorse Tyler’s behavior was disappointing (who doesn’t love a little Bates-Moody solidarity, even if Hank feels for Karen the way Samurai pines after Kali?) and the inevitability of Becca figuring out that her dad was indirectly involved in Tyler’s beating was uncomfortable to watch and a bit been-there-done-that for the father-daughter duo.
“Ride-Along” was a strong, sharp, guilty pleasure of an episode, and it was actually kind of a relief to sit back and watch Californication’s version of a Bored to Death-style misadventure. Until the buzzkill at the end. The best thing about this season has been its emergent regulars (Samurai, Bates et al) and Hank’s chemistry with them all, but it’s also hard not to long for his weekly interactions with what used to be his nuclear family. Tom Kapinos and co. are clearly trying to keep the latter in the mix while giving new blood a chance to work its way into the show’s DNA, which will make for some truly awesome television when all of it functions as one storytelling organism.
- Hank and Sam’s synchronized mockery/miming of Runkle jerking off was much funnier than it should have been.
- Ditto for the spastic hooker outside doughnut shop.
- I love that Charlie held the cop’s hand the whole time.
- Hank prefers being labeled as a “raper,” not a “rapist.” (Not as heinous as it sounds if you're new to the show.)
- Bates “spilt a lot of boy milk” to Elly May Clampett. Ewwwww.