The high point of tonight’s two-hour The L.A. Complex penultimate pre-season finale event is Connor’s discovery of Scientology, I mean, “Scienetics.” (Way to go all out in throwing the lawyers off your trail, L.A. Complex.) The poor kid has just reconnected with his sister, and she tells him that the “church” has done wonders for her, and what does he have to lose? (It’s only later in the episode that he learns about the 10-percent finder’s fee she gets to collect from the four-figure donations he’s getting hit up for almost as soon as he walks in the door.) It all happens very naturally. Sister takes Connor to visit Scienetics headquarters, and he’s offered the chance to sit in a room in a nice comfy chair and kill some time filling out a questionnaire designed to help evaluate his “personality;” it’s like a crossword puzzle for narcissists. At first, there are questions along the lines of, “Do you feel you eat too quickly?” and “Do you pick at scabs or chew pen caps?” This is amusing, and he relaxes and gets a little giggly. Then, the questions start to gnaw a little closer to the bone: “Do you frequently contemplate your own inferiority?” “Do your peers often seem to think higher of your talents and skills than you do?” By the time he gets to, “Do you ever wonder if anyone actually cares about you,” the hook is in.
Soon, he’s thinking there may be something here for him, though it’s still very low pressure, and nobody’s said anything wacko to him. It’s only when he goes back to the Lux and interrupts Eddie’s close study of Internet porn that it’s suggested to him that he might want to do a little Googling. Soon he’s reading about spaceships and aliens, and he’s angry. He feels he’s been played for a sucker. But when he goes back to the building to air his grievances—of course he’d do that, instead of just chalking the whole thing up to experience—he says that he read some crazy stuff about the church on the Internet, and the smooth recruiter parrots that back to him in a way that very subtly suggests that he’d be silly to put any stock in what he reads on the Internet. It may seem unlikely that Connor could be so blessedly ignorant of the organization and its reputation, but then, seriously, how engaged with the outside world has Tom Cruise ever struck you?
There are other goodies here, such as the long-delayed return of Tariq. Actually, he doesn’t return; Kal and Abby track him down in Canada, and the brief, closure-seeking reunion scene is satisfyingly tart. Kal expresses concern for Tariq, flashing the pouty cow eyes that don’t work as effectively after the fists that come with the package have done their worst. “Don’t worry about me,” says Tariq. “Worry about the next guy who’s unlucky enough to fall in love with you.” There’s also a hilarious demonstration of no-budget filmmaking technique, with Raquel and Kevin-and-Cam invading a bank long enough to get what looks like it ought to be a killer traveling shot. This dose of slapstick is a welcome reprieve from what’s going down at Raquel’s day job, where she’s gotten involved with a credit-card rip-off/identity theft scam. I get it that, trying to finance her dream after having torched her own credit rating by declaring bankruptcy, she’s desperate. But it’s gotten to the point where I’d almost prefer that Raquel make it through a couple of episodes with nothing to do before seeing how she’s going to top her latest act of brazen stupidity.
The prize for lamest storyline of the week is a draw between Beth and Simon on the one hand, and Nick and Sabrina on the other. Beth and Simon are visited by their wayward father, who first demonstrates his parental unfitness by taking the excited Simon to an amusement park and taking him on rides and feeding him junk food until he barfs. He then throws the kid over his shoulder and is apparently determined to walk back to the Yukon, until good sense prevails. As for the crazy comedy kids, they are visited by Sabrina’s parents, who don’t know she’s working as a comic; it turns out that she’s been taking their money while allowing them to think she’s studying pre-med, a situation nakedly lifted, in its general outlines, from a thousand sitcoms and, in its specific details, from the very bad 1988 movie Punchline. Nick, thinking he has looked into Sabrina’s father’s soul, urges her to tell him the truth, assuring her that he’ll be happy to know she’s pursuing her dreams, and, well, you can tell where this is heading. It’s surprising to see this show resort to something so tired just to force the two young lovers to move in together. (Sabrina can’t afford her own place after her dad cuts her off.) I’d say that maybe the show needs a break, but the final two episodes airing next Monday might be all the show we’re going to get before it goes away forever. Fingers crossed.
- In case you, too, have been wondering what the hell Kevin-and-Cam’s brilliant indie movie is about, Raquel finally spills the beans to Connor: It’s “a beautiful, sad magic realism kind of thing” in which she plays “a slowly dying girl” and Connor plays “the man I can never have.” Sounds like shit, doesn’t it?
- Kevin grouses to Simon about Cam being sweet on Beth, saying that romance and indie filmmaking don’t go together: “You don’t make movies like Blood Simple with love on the brain.” Simon decides not to point out that Joel Coen fell in love with his leading lady while making Blood Simple, and they were married by the time the movie opened, making him a better man than me.