Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Californication: “Boys & Girls”

Illustration for article titled Californication: “Boys & Girls”

“Boys & Girls” (a reference to the Bryan Ferry album of the same, perhaps?) gives it all way in the title. Season five’s best episode yet juggles three very simple, age-old stories of courtship, chemistry and romantic turmoil—and uniformly focuses on older men getting intimate with younger women. In Becca’s case, arrogant philanderer Tyler is only a handful years her senior. He’s broken her heart, she can’t stop loving him, and Hank is the well-intentioned father who’s already gotten too involved. It’s all real and painful, but compared to what Hank and Charlie have gotten mixed up in, it’s also kid’s stuff.

Charlie, who was at his most concurrently mensch-y and repugnant this week, has chronically sublimated his loneliness over losing Marcy with hardcore adult porn, and emotionally regressed. He tries to make a genuine connection with his son Stuart’s new pixie nanny, only to mount her like a caveman in Quest for Fire while moaning, “Tell me you want Charlie’s dirty fingers in your pudding.” It’s hilarious, but sad. And maybe Lizzie should have stormed right off and never spoken to him again, but it worked for the scene when she stuck around and scolded him, then listened to his therapeutic breakthrough about how XXX ass-to-mouth videos have ruined his sensitivity.

Aside from being gorgeous and unpretentious (the whole beaten-down-car shtick is a bit much), it’s easy to see what Charlie sees in Lizzie just from the following exchange: “It’s as if going ATM is de rigueur.” “That’s not good.” “I know.” “No, I mean you can get an infection.” But it’s not so difficult to understand her interest either. She’s clearly impressed by his comfortable living, just like all the “strippers and barmaids,” but intuits that he’s just a sweet—albeit sick—puppy, a rarity in Hollywoodland.

Hank, meanwhile, has bigger issues than escaping into a fantasy world where women in leather risk a plethora of sexually transmitted diseases. He’s getting closer to Kali, and the two are sparking a believable chemistry. Their escalating, flirtatious tête-à-tête at the club was an episode highlight, and to Californication's credit, their eventual hookup was gradual and almost tender. It was also, tellingly, very teenager-y, right down to the burgers and makeout session in a convertible overlooking the Hollywood hills. Becca may be ahead of herself emotionally and caught up in the ninth cloud of Tyler being “a great lover” (we share Hank’s nauseated sentiment), but Hank and Charlie’s sexual experience has only served to alienate them from any introspective growth. Somewhere, they all meet in the middle.

Granted, Samurai Apocalypse might just sheathe off Hank’s growth and ensure he’s never a man inside and out. Their rapport is hilarious, and stands out as one of the better unlikely comic pairings on TV right now. RZA, as both an MC and actor, takes a bit of adjusting to. There’s nothing conventional about his delivery, whether rapped or spoken. But he’s already an essential foil for Hank, particularly when he gets incensed at Moody’s abuse of urban slang. And when Samurai reminds Hank about Tyler’s beating and says, “That’s what brothers do for each other, they feel each other. You feel me?” it’s funny because it’s RZA, but it’s also just plain ridiculous in its vaguely homoerotic redundancy.

Of course, Californication is nothing if not homoerotic. References to Charlie’s “shame boner” and Richard’s “man-gina” abound because, as ever, it’s a show that operates under a shared, assumed perspective with its audience that L.A. is a place where races, genders, cultures, sexual identities and talents co-exist with only one thing in common: satisfaction. Any good comedy would exploit that for all its seemingly implausible, uncomfortably inappropriate, thoroughly watchable possibilities. “Boys and & Girls” serves those ends, and promises good things for the season to come.


Stray Observations

  • Not sure it was necessary or fair for Hank’s suggestion to Tyler that he fess up create a looming source of conflict for he and Becca. Was I alone in being surprised and a bit dismayed at that angle?
  • Stuart is kind of amazing, and oh-so Jerry Maguire. Wouldn’t mind a bit more of his mom and stepdad next week though.
  • Things looked iffy when Hank opened up with the crack about getting his “brown eye on the red eye,” but thankfully, the punchline-quality ascended from there.
  • Was it just me, or was this overall a very, very funny (in a laugh-out-loud sense) episode?
  • The more Hank is humbled, the better these episodes tend to be, and the easier his triumphs are to swallow (no sexual innuendo intended).
  • “I’m trying to re-discover the pleasures of a masturbating teenager.”
  • Hank, at gunpoint: “Santa Monica Cop cannot be my last credit.”
  • My favorite moment: Samurai releasing the gun from Hank’s neck, laughing it off and admitting, “I’m a character.” And Samurai might be my favorite character on TV.