I wondered in this very blog last week what would become of our Entourage pals after an episode that seemed to essentially reset every character to zero: Vince as the on-the-rise movie star, Ari as the asshole agent, Eric as the semi-hapless (but well meaning manager), etc. I didn't have high hopes heading into tonight's episode, which should begin the arc that winds this season to a close (presumably). But you know what? Setting everybody back to the beginning may have done a world of good. I'm not saying tonight's episode, "Pie," was on par with the greats, but it got back to some of the things that the show has lost. And it gave Ari and the boys completely separate stories to work in, each with some solid footing.
So we've flash-forwarded who knows how long to the first day of shooting on Smoke Jumpers. It's apparently far enough in the future that Dana Gordon is happily ensconced as the studio head, as least deeply enough to get Vince on the movie. He's a little nervous, having not shot anything for a year, and that's a funny little thing that you don't really think about with Hollywood actors–some of them don't work for a long, long time between jobs. Do they get out of shape? Do they get nervous? Apparently Vince is at the very least nervous, and he's never really been in great acting "shape" to begin with.
So here we are in some alternate universe where Jason Patric gets to play the lead in a movie that Edward Norton wanted and that has a huge budget, as evidenced by all the explosions. (Not to knock Jason Patric, but, umm, Speed 2.) Patric gets to play the "real-life" movie star that's generally pretty fun on Entourage, the character that gets to send up Hollywood weirdos and blowhards by pretending to be them. In this case, Patric is a line-stealing, Method-acting primadonna who has a trainer with him at all times and who keeps his trailer super hot so he can get into the role of a firefighter.
Things get a little rougher for Vince when Patric starts stealing all of his good lines, but when he tries to confront Patric, he wusses out. Then it's on to the director, Werner–played by the generally awesome Stellan Skarsgard–who tells him that Patric just does that. But when Patric steals a piece of pie that Turtle has snagged for Vince, things come to a head: Patric tells Vinny that the director gave him the lines. Clearly we're being set up for some Hollywood politicking in which the studio forced Vince on the movie and the director didn't want him. Which is cool with me: More Stellan Skarsgard could be funny.
So could more Gary Cole, best known around here as Lumbergh from Office Space. Cole appeared as Andrew Klein, Ari's old mentor and partner from way, way back in the day. After dodging him for months (that's our Ari), Ari decides to have a drink with him at Lloyd's behest. (Lloyd's insistence that Ari wear a cheaper watch was pretty funny, as was Ari's reaction, handing him a credit card and telling him to go fetch a stainless steel Rolex.) Turns out that Klein is after a loan, which at first Ari balks at–then he takes a look at the books. Klein's company–even though it's on the "loser" side of the business, repping TV writers–is in great shape. And Ari the asshole decides that he wants to go ahead and buy out his old friend, to save him. Sweet, sweet Ari says, "You really wanna die a loser lit agent in the valley?"
And this is good Entourage stuff, in my mind–the inside baseball about the hierarchy of Hollywood bums. Sure, Klein probably makes the kind of living most of us could only dream about–and Ari makes 10 times as much, presumably–but in both of their minds (eventually, anyway), Klein is a loser. It's funny and telling that it takes Ari hours to convince Klein to let him "save" him, to bring him back into a game that he's obviously very happy on the periphery of. It's the kind of thing that's going to blow up in Ari's face by the end of this season–especially since Barbara, at the end of the episode, forbade Ari from buying Klein's company.
On the whole, I liked both stories tonight and I like where they might be going: Vince's career isn't going to skyrocket to Aquaman levels right away–he's going to have to earn it. Or really, hopefully not. The best place Entourage could go, since we know it's got at least one more season, is into the other side of Vince's career curve. TV movies. Straight-to-DVD action flicks. More personal appearances. Even though he's the hero, we want to see him end up there, at least for a while. Or at least until he hangs it up and moves back to Queens, happy that he gave it a shot.
-- Best line of the episode, maybe one of the best of the series: "Remind him that he got molested in Sleepers!"
-- It's funny to realize that big movie sets are like small cities, with people traveling around by golf cart.
-- How much does a guy like Ari make in real life? Anybody know?