A week without Lennie James on Hung is like a week without sunshine…or, at least, that’s how it occasionally felt when watching tonight’s episode.
With Charlie the Pimp skulking away from Tanya’s place at the end of last week’s episode, it was only inevitable that this week’s episode would be devoted at least partially to his departure, if not necessarily his continued absence. Yes, call me a cockeyed optimist, but I had my fingers crossed that he might actually make it back before the closing credits rolled. So, it would seem, did Tanya, whose reaction to the gentleman at her front door would seem to indicate that she was still giving Charlie the benefit of the doubt that he really was planning to come back. (And why wouldn’t she? As she mentions elsewhere in the episode, he left all his stuff there!) It’s certainly a sign of her desperation that she goes in search of Missy, Charlie’s babies’ mama, to see if maybe she might have some idea where he’s gone, but despite her generous offer of two Hamiltons and a Washington for information on his whereabouts, all she gets out of the deal is an unexpected babysitting gig toward the end of the episode.
Whether by coincidence or design, the absence of Charlie coincided with the return of two characters who’d been MIA for the past several weeks. First of all, the episode kicked off with Ray reuniting with Logan while she was in the midst of trying on bridesmaid dresses, but it was an encounter seemingly inspired by lust on Ray’s part, as the first thing Logan announces in the afterglow is that she doesn’t have her checkbook on her. (“It’s on the house,” he assures her.) Later, Gregg Henry stopped by to reprise his role of Mike in a scene which seemed to exist solely to address viewers’ complaints that Henry’s name had been in the opening credits since the beginning of Season 3 without him uttering so much as a single line. I can only presume that there have been several Mike-centric scenes which were filmed and excised from previous episodes due to time constraints that we’ll eventually see on Hung: The Complete Third Season, because to suddenly bring Mike back into the story and have him trying on a tuxedo for his wedding…? Jesus, I actually had to hit Google to grab the name of his fiancée (it was Frances, just in case you forgot, too), so long has it been since he had the spotlight in an episode.
For the most part, though, the thrust of the proceedings – that’s right, I used “thrust” in conjunction with Hung – was Lenore’s typically bitchy maneuver of bringing Jessica into the wellness center and the various ways her presence wreaked havoc. For a season that’s felt fresh and reinvigorated up to this point, things really felt lazy in this episode. It was straight up slapstick to have Ray keep his cool as everyone else lost their minds over Lenore’s presence, saying, “Nobody’s hiding from anybody,” only to freak out and disappear in a cloud of dust at the sight of Jessica. Similarly, watching Ray, Jason, and Sandee slip out of the building while Tanya rambled through some ridiculously uninspiring creative visualization just seemed silly. That’s not to say that Tanya didn’t get some great lines, including her explosive reaction to the news of Lenore’s arrival (“I can’t deal with that fucking cunt today!”) and her snippy annoyance during her later encounter with Lenore (“The Wellness center is my idea, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, what do you want?”), but they were certainly surrounded by some less than stellar material.
The conversation between Ray and Tanya about how Jessica was embracing the material being discussed in the meeting was similarly dodgy, as it was a given that Ray would get defensive at the suggestion that his size “didn’t always do the trick.” I know we’re supposed to be rooting for Ray to regain his confidence and once again become the manly man we’ve seen him be in the past, but, frankly, I’m much more interested in seeing what develops with Sandee’s suggestion that Jason deliver a knockout blow to Ray’s psyche by sleeping with Jessica. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing Ray punch Jason out, but, again, it was a moment you could see coming a mile away.
Less predictable, however, was the fact that Jessica proved to be a shining star of the episode. First, there was the painful scene in Dr. Matt’s office, where she and everyone else in the joint could hear Matt’s wife, Mindy, cursing a blue streak about Matt’s refusal to fire Jessica. The expression on Anne Heche’s face throughout the scene was hilarious. Later, we had the very sweet scene with Tanya and Jessica, which, like Tanya’s comments to Ray earlier in the episode, served to remind us that Jessica is at heart a very sweet woman who just needs to work on her self-confidence a bit more.
After last week’s episode, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be anything less than thrilled about the way Season 3 was going to wrap up. Now I’m not quite so sure. Charlie, where are you? Come back! You’ve only been gone for one episode, and the place is already falling to pieces without you!
Random quotes and observations:
- “Until you give me what I want, Tanya, I’m going to keep coming back to your little lectures with Jessica like it’s my fucking job, and I’m going to be your own personal tapeworm, living up your ass, and you won’t be able to shake me ‘til you self-destruct and die.”
- “Jason, did you see how scared he was? If you screw his wife, it’ll be like a psychological nuclear kamikaze knockout. Pow!”
- “Jessica, alone with my pimp in a classroom with a giant vagina lamp in it. It wasn’t if something would go wrong. It was just what and when.”
- Of course Jessica did the reading. What else has she got to do?
- “I’m great at fucking, Tanya. Just ask all those women!”
- “Sometimes you’ve just got to fuck things up royally and not even care. Sometimes that’s all you got.”