So it's in this, the penultimate episode of Episodes, that the little blowup we witnessed in the pilot actually happens, which is really good, because it leaves the finale open for something a little more interesting to happen that we don't know is coming (although this show is hardly the most unpredictable on TV). As usual, after the opening minutes, we're basically stuck with pair A (in this case, Matt and Beverly) and pair B (Sean and Merc) and we shuttle between them as things build to an obvious conclusion, but the episode hummed along pretty smoothly, building to a plot-twisty climax that will have shit hitting the fan, et al., next week.
Matt and Beverly's sexy dalliance at his house is obviously both something Klarik & Crane have been building to and something they've tried to keep from getting too obvious. How well do you think they did? There was plenty of foreshadowing, like Beverly ogling Matt's trousersnake and their general bickering, mixed in with some more heartfelt stuff. In terms of LeBlanc's giant penis, I'm glad that turned out to be a (vague) plot element rather than just a weird gag, because as a gag alone, it really didn't work. But the twist still feels a little bit like something Crane tried out on Friends many, many times. In need of a season-ending twist? Take one character, have 'em have sex with another! Boom! The audience immediately wants to tune in next year.
LeBlanc does have good chemistry with Greig, though, and they were fun to watch together for the whole episode, especially the scene after the car accident where he tenderly makes sure she's not injured, and once he does, he immediately (rightfully!) unloads the scorn. "You weren't even a little over the line!" he cries about her British driving. After a slightly humiliating star-tour bus encounter, Matt takes Beverly to his lavishly minimal house and is further appalled when she informs him that she hates the show they're making. The show, once again, is striking a nice balance of humanizing LeBlanc somewhat, in terms of showing us that he'll never escape from the shadow of Joey and will always hear "How YOU doin'!" from star tour buses. But it doesn't go too far, since Matt is still a pretty douchey guy who wails at Beverly about how it's her fault all the changes in the show happened and accepts none of the blame. He really wanted to do something good, but he's too set in his own ways, and Hollywood's ways, to really try and aim high for quality.
Remember though, there's still an episode left to go, and how bad Pucks! really is remains to be seen. Beverly is utterly dismissive, but Sean less so, and we've been given almost no glimpse of the show, a decision I'm sure is intentional. I think it's very possible that the show will turn out to test well, or get big laughs, or something. Beverly's mind might not be changed, but Merc's will, or else we don't get a second season, right? Episodes could proceed very much like Ricky Gervais' show Extras, where Sean and Beverly achieve success at far too high a price.
Sean and Beverly's marriage is obviously going to be one of those prices, although I doubt it's totally ruined. The trope of Beverly seeing Sean hug Morning without knowing the full story and making the big decision to leave him based on that is very sitcom-y and silly, but it works because the previous episode did a lot more to justify her fears, and we felt her pain as she saw him whacking off in front of the laptop. Sure, Sean's done nothing outrageously wrong, but considering the reasons people would break up for on Friends, I'm glad to see Crane and Klarik laid a little more groundwork than normal this time around.
Sean's lunch with Merc on the B-plot seemed a sure-fire loser to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the writers tried a subtler take, for once, to undercut Merc, rather than just have him walk around being outrageous. OK, sure, he still mewls "Please sir, I want some more!" and hugs waiters and behaves like Ari Gold a little bit, but his little speech to Sean about how they're the only two good guys in Hollywood was a wonderfully horrible piece of self-unawareness. Even if Sean didn't already know that Merc constantly cheats on his wife with Carol, the scene would have worked, just by how obviously pathetic Merc is (the cut to him reading the BlackBerry while having sex with Carol shows how unexciting even his affairs are), and how lamely his "good guy" schtick comes off.
So, what happens next week? Probably a bunch of stuff we saw coming. But with this show it's all about the execution, which has gotten better and better week to week.
- Morning tells Matt Beverly hates her. "Nah, she really hates me. You're just getting the overflow." His next line to her was even better: "You're a fucking lunatic. How many diet pills you take today?"
- "Is it because I went surfing today? Okay obviously, it wasn't because I went surfing."
- "Loving the grey hair, very distinguished!"
- "There is nothing between me and Morning, apart from... the WANKING. But apart from some garden-variety masturbation..."
- I like that the con-man pilot gets mentioned again, with Matt derisive about its quality.
- "Fucking feta cheese. It's everywhere, enough with the feta!"
- "But you don't want to go over and say hello." "Nah, I'll see her at home."
- "My marriage counselor says I just have a need to sabotage my happiness, but I like your dick thing better."