Episodes is already winding to a close with episode five (there's two more after this one), and we're now basically at the point that we glimpsed in the pilot, which was apparently a scene shoehorned in from a later episode, so I'm sure we'll see it again. I haven't seen the next two episodes, but it feels kind of clear where the show will go from here—Sean and Beverly's relationship will get rocky, the show will become more Pucks! and less Lyman's Boys, and, I assume, it'll get a pickup, otherwise what would the second season of this show be?
Sean and Beverly get split up again this week, but while hints have been dropped before, this time we're really focusing on the tensions the whole experience is opening up in their marriage, from the superficial attraction of Morning Randolph and her "bazooms" ("You can look it up in the big book of tits," Beverly explains) to the underlying problem that Sean, for all the problems with Pucks!, is enjoying himself, while Beverly can't wait to go home. Their skill as writers is clearly linked to their symbiotic coupledom, so as Matt and Morning and all the pleasures of L.A. begin to break that up, the whole house of cards goes with it.
I enjoyed this episode quite a lot before its dramatic denouement; every cast member got some fun stuff to do, and both plots were pretty sprightly, even if one was set around a table and the other had Carol and Beverly sitting on beds. This is never going to be a show with whip-smart dialogue or one that thrives on its gags, but the cast have settled into a nice, easygoing, bantering chemistry. After the opening scene that sets up the temptation of Morning's breasts/vagina and everyone's awareness of them, Sean goes with Matt & Morning to a benefit for rape prevention and Beverly gets baked on the set with Carol after hours.
The rape benefit gag was a little eyebrow-raising, and I was worried Crane & Klarik were just including it as one of those "Hey, we're on premium cable, we can be outrageous!" jokes, but after a couple digs at the whole Hollywood benefit scene, they let the thing lie before it got too tasteless. Instead it was just tasteless enough, and just in the right way —like Matt saying the speaker was a bad actress who does voiceovers now, and insisting on opening the wine because "it really should breathe!" His opening the wine was kinda funny, but it worked even better for me in retrospect. Matt gets some looks for behaving so rudely, but that's all he gets, because he's enough of a star that no one's going to tell him to behave otherwise.
Obviously I'm not someone who goes to do-gooder benefits in L.A., but I'm sure Crane and Klarik are, and it definitely felt like they were writing with a little bit of acid for the blasé, "It's a party!" attitude that pervades. They're not the first to skewer the whole scene, and I definitely winced when Merc showed up to make some shitty outrageous jokes, but I liked Matt's complete disinterest. He worked very well as a sarcastic supporting character in this episode, which was probably the first where the plot didn't center around him screwing things up. And he delivers lines like "Or you can both suck my balls," and "Fuck you, get out of my country!" with a dryness I didn't expect of Joey Tribbiani.
OK, well, maybe he's screwing things up a little considering he's basically throwing Morning and Sean at each other, and, even worse, drawing Sean's attention to Morning's sex tape. I like to think that most Hollywood stars are watching everyone else's sex tapes just like us normal peons. Sean, still somewhat resistant to the whole Hollywood luster, turns her down and goes home to Beverly triumphant, although she quickly bursts his balloon on that account quite rightly.
Beverly's scenes with Carol were a little lifeless but were saved by the two actresses, especially Kathleen Rose Perkins, who is doing great work with a limited character here. The little speech about Merc's wife going blind and how "it was like I was being punished!" would not have worked with most actresses, but she kept it from getting too obviously jokey. Carol walks a fine line of caricature, but while Merc totally veers off where he's just unbelievable, Perkins has kept Carol just human enough for us to believe she's someone warped by years of L.A. insanity, rather than just a cartoon.
The denouement worked very, very well because Sean and Beverly's scene before, with her eating the Chinese food and him mocking the celebs, showed them at their most symbiotic and cute, before she started sniffing around about Morning and he got all dodgy at her questions. The final sight of him masturbating to the tape is obviously not the betrayal him sleeping with Morning would be, but Beverly's pain at the sight is pretty understandable. It feels like something that would happen within a month and a half. The whole marriage being dashed to pieces and Sean burying his face in the first breasts he sees wouldn't, but him whacking off to a sex tape? Of course. But it doesn't make Beverly's tears (well done by Greig, who is a pro) less sympathetic.
- "It's not pro-rape, it's to prevent it or take care of women after... I don't know, rape is involved."
- Tamsin Greig is talking through gritted teeth a LOT. She needs a new way to convey frustration.
- "It's going to be alright. We'll find a skirt."
- "What'd I miss?" "She was raped."
- The groundwork for Beverly's fears are well-laid by that backstory about their meeting while he was still married, a nice way to give the couple a bit of a grittier story and make their London life sound maybe less than perfect.
- "I could eat a whole pig right now."
- Sharon Stone was "annoying even from the back."