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'Californication': Free Bird

October 19, 2008 | 10:31 pm

Californication Hank is alone and miserable again, and I think I speak for us all when I say, it's about time.

If the first three episodes of this season proved anything, it's that "Californication" just isn't the same when Hank is more or less content with his world. We need his misery just as much as his writing needs it. And let's face it: We all wondered how this would work –- Hank and Karen together again, ever since she jumped in the car with him at the end of season one. Even David Duchovny. I was watching the optional commentary on the season one DVD the other day and noted Duchovny's words. "You got us back together and now you're in that box," he told show runner Tom Kapinos. "Good luck with that."

Indeed, it didn't work. Season one's happy ending led to a slow start to season two. For three episodes the show seemed to be stuck, and too many situations and gags fell short of finding much laughter or substance.

Sunday night, though, we broke free from the muck, and the mojo returned. Hilarity and emotion came together again as Hank was backed into a corner and then, ultimately, kicked to the curb.

The proposal came first, Hank on one knee. "I was hoping you'd finally make an honest woman of me," he said to the mother of his child. "I love you, Karen. And I want to spend the rest of my life annoying the ---- out of you." I laughed along with Karen, but was equally suspicious when he went on to say "Seriously, I love L.A., I can't get enough of it." It had to be an omen. No man changes so much, so soon.

Then again, a friend of mine was quicker on the draw. A musician and writer, he's grown to love the literary and artistic references sprinkled into so many episodes. He even spotted a poignant artistic homage -– and an ominous one, too –- at the very end of last week's episode. The final camera shot looked straight down at Hank and Karen, lying in bed, him shirtless and wrapped around her. The embrace was nearly identical to the famous Rolling Stone cover photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono -– him naked and her wearing a black top and jeans, just like Karen. That photo was taken on the last day of Lennon's life; he was shot in front of his apartment later that day.

My friend also called me at the end of this episode. "When Hank was playing Guitar Hero at the beginning I was like, 'Why is he playing 'Free Bird'?' I went right to my laptop and Googled the lyrics. I thought, 'Yeah, they're going to break up.'" 

But something needed to crack, and the ripple came at the dinner party: Sonja the Scientologist was pregnant, and she said the father was Hank. I say "said" because I'm leery right from the start. Why? Perhaps this is the writer in me being much too picky over the details, but if you recall Hank and Sonja's rendezvous last season, they'd barely begun the deed when Hank fell backward and got sick, just as Karen and crew walked in on them. Party over.

So unless they resumed immediately thereafter or rendezvoused at another time -– both of which I doubt –- it just doesn't seem physically possible. Again, this could just be me really over-thinking the details of a TV show, but that's my job. If I'm ultimately right, well, I apologize for the spoiler.

And now we move on to Karen moving on. The baby news, coupled with her catching Hank trying to sneak a hit of blow in the bathroom, was just too much, sending her over the edge. She finally came to the conclusion that one of our Show Tracker readers arrived at last week: "It's been easier to blame Hank (who is, admittedly, not blameless) than to deal with the consequences of her own decisions. Hank isn't going to be able to win in that situation because the real issue for Karen isn't Hank -– it's Karen." Very true. And Karen essentially said it herself when she broke it off with him at the end of the episode. "I'm not mad at you. This isn't about anything you did while we were apart," she said. She still loved him, but as a couple they just didn't work.

Cue Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Free Bird" again blanketing the scene as Hank left home and drove away into the dark night. ...

Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you cannot change ...

And so, it's over. But as the credits began to roll, I thought to myself, well, the season now finally begins.

And if misery loves company, Hank, here we are.

-- Josh Gajewski

One final note, dear readers. The artistic references mentioned above led me to think of some others. Last year's music anthem, you might recall, was the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and obviously for good reason. Karen also once called Hank a "dirty old man," a reference to Charles Bukowski, and she was once seen reading a book of his poetry. There were other nods to the late Los Angeles author, who did in fact lead a very similar lifestyle to Duchovny's Hank in "Californication," but series creator Tom Kapinos insisted to us that Bukowski wasn't actually his inspiration for Hank, contrary to popular theory.

Other literary references have included Charlie calling Hank's book a potential "heartbreaking work of staggering genius," a nod to Dave Eggers' popular memoir, and then this season, all we needed to know about Lew Ashby's character was the title of the season's second episode, "The Great Ashby." Indeed, Lew seems to be of the same mold as Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's great American novel "The Great Gatsby" -- lots of money and flash masking a hurting heart.

I only mention these examples as a sort of experiment. Since these references are often direct clues to the unfolding story line, I'd like to urge any readers of this blog to contribute their own catches both here and in future posts. I've probably missed more than I've caught, and thought it'd be interesting to track them as they come. -- JG

(Photo courtesy Showtime)