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

How To Make It In America: “Money, Power, Private School”

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Those tricky devils behind How to Make It in America. Last week, only slightly to the episode’s detriment, they gave us little in the way of major developments. What a difference seven days and a presumed narrative week makes. Ben and Julie finally conclude their non-relationship, Cam at last sublets his own apartment, he and Ben score a real order with Nancy Frankenburg (Gina Gershon, who appears here to stay for the season) and Rachel and Domingo hastily consummate. Oh, and you see Lake Bell’s boobs. And yes, invocations of Teri Hatcher via Seinfeld apply.

The only real consistent issue for both “In or Out” and “Money, Power, Private School” is that neither has been especially laugh-out-loud funny. Then again, the premiere was exceptional in that regard, and any season opener tends to set the bar unusually high. In a character-driven low-key comedy like this, it’s inevitable that they’ll only sporadically re-approach it.

For all tonight’s satisfying steps forward, the time spent lingering on Ben and Rachel’s status post-Julie breakup felt primarily like a justification for what we already knew Rachel was bound to do with Domingo. We’ve all seen this scene before—girl wants guy back, guy’s finally ready for it to be plutonic, girl awkwardly agrees that it’s for the best, one introverts while the other acts out—and while Bryan Greenberg and Bell share a terrific insecure chemistry and are both fun to watch flounder, nothing about what was said felt unique to them. Besides, one of the show’s great choices up to this point had been avoiding the “will they or won’t they reconnect?” melodrama between its leads, allowing them to grow on their own and support HTMIIA’s ensemble feel.

It’s also hard not to feel like some great additional footage of Ben and Cam haggling with Nancy’s prep-school kid over middle-school shirt designs was deserted in a DVD-extras graveyard. After all, that story did inspire one-third of the episode’s title. Although after watching the guys get dressed down by a pint-sized socialite, the absence of “Respect” from said title seems fitting enough.

On the subject of fittings, it’s painful to watch Cam seek upwardly mobile acceptance in his flirtations with Lulu, who’s quickly become this season’s most unlikeable regular presence. Granted, he’s also seeking ass, but it’s not as if this particular aloof waif seems to offer much in the booty department. Surprisingly, we’re introduced to more of Lulu’s world, and thankfully, none other than Joe “Don’t Call Me Ralphie” Pantoliano was up to the task, and tackles the role of an ageless downtown artiste to faux-proletariat perfection. Like Rachel and Domingo, or Ben and Julie, this is a match of convenience—Cam’s a charismatic networker with a weakness for what he can’t and has never had, and if Lulu’s dad is any indication, she’s probably turned on by and secretly admiring of this true-blue Brooklyn hustler.

Who knows how it will all shake out, but I loved the way this specific episode ended. The common denominator between the guys is they’re all sweet and kind of fragile. How could you not wanna bust out a “Rudy” chant for Cam while he rolled that fancy new stove out the bargain store? Or be happy Ben got creative validation and a flattering come-on from Nancy? And hell yah, Rachel deserved to go get her some, though she couldn’t help but second-guess and worry afterward. Far as Rene, even after his pre-fabricated, “viral” Rasta Monsta ad got sabotaged (though something tells me Eddie’s rogue video will be what sets the business off) and it seemed he'd never be able to go legit, at least he got to earn his girlfriend’s respect the best way he know how: by blackmailing her promiscuous teenage daughter. Ah, New York.


Stray Observations

  • Not sure if I love Rachel’s haircut.
  • Love that Eddie’s still recovering from his self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • I have a feeling this week’s threads might devolve into Lake Bell boob-a-thon. But hey, they gotta get viewers, I gotta get engaged readers…. Am I right?
  • Wilfredo was amazing. He needs to just pop up and do crazy shit every so often.
  • Overall though, I’m kind of tiring on the Rasta Monsta angle. Gotta be a matter of time before Cam’s weed-delivery racket gets Rene and Cam back in the same frame.
  • Oh, Andy. Loved watching Ben get the power back. (Cue Kanye?)
  • I kind of love that these seasons are episodes long? It’s surprisingly dense nonetheless, but it’s nice to know the end game’s not needlessly far off. What do you guys think?