EDITOR'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers from last night's episode. Proceed at your own risk.
Drew: This episode starts by showing us some actual repercussions of Vince's drug use. He's in an AA meeting, and not to spoil anything yet, but by the end of the episode the guys might have actually experienced the darkest moment on the series so far. But my first question is: what is the history between the boys and that producer who comes up to Vince after the meeting and tries to make amends?
Matt: The producer who shoots himself at the end of the episode, and who was in that rehab group with Vince, is Carl Ertz. He's played by Kim Coates, an amazing Canadian actor who's on "Sons of Anarchy" and has had a long career as a character actor. Ertz was first introduced in the 2008 episode "Fantasy Island," when Vince was hiding out down in Mexico following the failure of his dream project "Medellin." Ertz contacted him and offered him a comeback project, a tropical crime thriller that had been turned down be Emile Hirsch. (Remember when Emile Hirsch was the next big thing as a leading man?) Anyway, it turned out that Ertz was only courting Vince to drive down Hirsch's asking price. When the boys discovered this, they trashed Ertz's car as revenge. But this being Hollywood, where the deal is more important than personal animosity, Vince didn't bear any ill will over that. Plus there was the rehab bond, which counts for a lot.
I thought the moment where Vince talks Turtle down from his outrage and says he has to stay at the house to counsel Ertz, who has relapsed and is high as a kite, was one of Adrian Grenier's better acting moments. At his best, Grenier reminds me a little bit of the young John Travolta. He seems like a street-wise kid, but with a core of decency. Maybe Coates brought that out of him; he's a magnificent actor.
Drew: That's so funny that you read it that way, because I read it as Grenier just kind of sleepwalking through that scene. The writers had the scene right. Vince never would have left Carl alone if they were both in the program. But let's say that in actuality, you were in AA and someone was locked in the bathroom relapsing. Someone as new to the program as Vince would be a little less blase, a little more freaked out. But that's splitting hairs over acting styles, I guess. The real question might be "Why did Carl relapse immediately after dealing with Vince again?"
Matt: I've bitched a lot about this show being relentlessly trivial and making a lot of dumb choices out of convenience, but I thought the big scene at the end between Ertz and Vince was well-written, directed and acted. And it showed that "Entourage" does have a good grasp of the dramatic/comedic core of what it's doing. Because Carl Ertz is a fellow addict -- there is a very pointed reveal of him sitting in the audience in the opening scene when Vince is speaking to the rehab group -- that means Vince considers him a friend. And "Entourage" has always been adamant about the idea that if you're a guy, and you're truly friends with another guy, then you have his back in a tough situation no matter what. So all of that stuff at the end rang true. It also rang true in terms of the personal code of recovering addicts. When an addict you know has relapsed, you're supposed to do everything you can to help him through it, to be a rock for him or her until the storm passes, right?
As for your other question, I don't think Carl Ertz relapsed just as a byproduct of being around Vince. I think he was just an addict, and sometimes addicts lose their willpower and succumb. Vince just happened to come by Ertz's house when he had a weak moment.
Drew: The whole idea that Ertz was fucking Vince over a second time though, setting up a deal behind his back, alludes to the fact that he a) was still using the entire time or b) was a dick even without the drugs.
Drew: And for the record, going into business deals with fellow AA program-members is generally frowned upon, as is starting a relationship. Though I suppose it's different in Hollywood? In the beginning of the episode, Vince is talking about his script during the meeting, and makes a joke about "if anyone out there knows a guy I can send this to." That was a funny bit, probably a bit satirical, but I don't doubt that this has actually happened at AA meetings in Hollywood.
Matt: No, it has happened. In fact, in the Robert Altman-Michael Tolkin movie "The Player" -- still the definitive inside-showbiz satire, along with HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" -- makes a joke about that kind of behavior. The Peter Gallagher character, a studio executive, casually tells his colleague, Tim Robbins, that he'll be somewhere "right after my AA meeting." Robbins says, "I didn't realize you had a drinking problem," and Gallagher replies, "Well, I don't, really -- but that's where all the deals are being made these days."
Drew: Yes, that's at least how Hollywood portrays its own AA meetings, and that makes me wonder again about Vince's intentions. I got the impression that dealing (and fucking) with Vince again led to Carl's downfall -- that while VInce might be innocent, his carefree life might be leaving a trail of broken bodies in its wake.
Matt: That's an interesting take, but I fear it gives "Entourage" too much credit. Throughout the run of the show we're constantly aware that the other three have hitched their wagon to Vince's rising star, thus the title of the series. The downside of that is to greater or lesser degrees, E, Drama and Turtle are all living in his shadow, living in his house, eating his food. There have been times where Vince not-so-subtly reminded them of that. But again, the show doesn't dwell on any of this too much because it would puncture the fantasy aspect of "Entourage," a show that's much more about awesome bachelor pads, swank hotels, easy access to hotties, etc.
Drew: I remember the one season with Martin Landau though -- with the iconic "Is that something you'd be interested in?" -- where a situation gets close to a resolution, but because of a misinterpretation (or because Ari is a dick) they inadvertently fuck someone over. But just like in Carl's case, you feel as though the boys walk away with clean hands despite having ruined people's lives and/or careers.
Matt: In what sense?
Drew: Well, I'm thinking of Andrew "Dice" Clay in this episode. The boys didn't mean to fuck him over. But he ends up getting replaced on the show, and sort of getting betrayed by Drama.
Matt: Well, actually, they sort of did screw him over. Drama realized it was not in his best interest to sign on to the game of brinksmanship that Dice was pushing, and that it was dumb to be demanding more money before a show had even gone on the air. So he made a self-interested decision. In previous instances where "Entourage" characters have done this, the show has pretty much encouraged us to empathize with the guys and think, "They're the main characters. so I'm in their corner no matter what" -- which is sort of like the bro code extended to include the audience.
But in this case I think Dice really was being unreasonable. This isn't 1990 anymore. He's not selling out arenas. He didn't have the clout to be issuing ultimatums about how much he should get paid to be a voice on an animated series. He hasn't accepted the fact that his peak is behind him and that he's probably never going to create another one. That's something that Drama understands. He's spent much of his life living in his brother's shadow, and having a career that is successful if you look at is a job that pays real money, but not if you look at it in terms of multimillion-dollar paydays, critical respect, etc. The show would have us believe that Vince has the capacity to be another Johnny Depp, maybe, if he's smart about it an applies himself, but it makes no such claims for Drama, and in his more sober moments, Drama seems to understand this and accept it. If Drama had the sort of career that somebody like Bruce Campbell or Michael Ironsides have had, he would probably consider himself a success, and go to his grave pretty happy.
I like Drama's reactions in the scene where he fesses up to not being on board with Dice's plan. They indicate that Drama understands himself, and is making both a right and self-interested decision.
Drew: He's smarter than Vince is, maybe. Or at least learning more quickly.
Matt: I don't know if Drama is actually smarter. It may be that there's an upside of not having a posse of yes men who are constantly soft-pedaling bad news and telling you that you're brilliant. You have to rely on yourself and be tough about your career.
Drew: Which brings me to another question: Who is that screenwriter that they're hanging out with? He's involved with Drama's cartoon series, Vince gives him the screenplay; he seems awfully intense for their social circle.
Matt: That's Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro), who directed two Vincent Chase films, "Queens Boulevard" and "Medellin." He also memorably signed a deal to direct a series of 25 pornos under the pseudonym Wally Balls. I love that character, and that actor. Corio makes me believe that Billy Walsh is a bit unhinged and full of himself, but also that he's brilliant. He's my favorite actor on the show. He was born in the wrong decade. I think if he had started out in the 1970s he might have won an Oscar by now.
Drew: My last question: Do you think that the end of this episode is a game-changer? Is everything going to get very dark as the series ends?
Matt: Who knows? Given that it's "Entourage," I doubt it. That was a shocking -- or maybe I should say, in air quotes, "shocking" -- ending, with that gunshot and the closeup of Vince's horrified face. Of course the big question now is, what if anything will "Entourage" do with this development? Is the remainder of the last season going to be devoted to a celebrity scandal and trial involving Vince? Or will the show just promptly forget all about it, as it tends to do in situations involving really intense, ugly emotions?
Drew: I mean, let's not forget that the guys are technically also homeless right now, and Turtle lost his job. Drama's show just gained Jaime Kennedy, and Ari slept with, I don't know, some old friend from college or something. If this wasn't "Entourage," you'd have to consider this a very, very bad time in these people's lives.
Matt: It would be wonderfully ironic if Vincent Chase finally attained the megastardom he was always being groomed for, not through his acting, but by being involved in the kind of sordid celebrity scandal that inspires hours of cable news coverage and a quickie movie on E!
Drew: Yes, well -- he might have already gotten that by going into rehab and having his house burn down. Vince is the Lindsay Lohan of dudes.