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'Californication': An evening with the Runkels

October 5, 2008 | 10:31 pm

Group_jmd16onc_300 If last week was the big night out, then this was the hangover. As it turns out, Hank can't get himself into too much trouble when locked in a jail cell, and not getting into too much trouble is just no fun for us.

Thankfully, there were the Runkels.

Charlie and Marcy saved this episode from falling flat, thanks mostly to a priceless scene in which the couple found themselves high and greasy -– the result of these two reverting back to an apparently old habit, evenings of cocaine and crustaceans.

And while we're here, I suppose it's high time to give real credit to Evan Handler and Pamela Adlon, the actors behind Mr. and Mrs. Runkel, who were frequent scene-stealers in the first season despite remaining more or less on the sidelines of the ongoing Hank-Karen story line.

Now it appears their characters are set to really dig in, and the timing couldn't be better.

With Karen giving Hank the silent treatment and a time-out of sorts to think about his actions (pretty harsh, I thought, considering Karen did her part in putting him there by way of mentioning the Vicodin to the cop last week), Charlie and Marcy arrived with the much-needed comic relief.

First, there was Charlie's firing. The self-servicing at the office. The caught-on-tape “O-faces.” I can't really add much here. If you saw it, I'm sure you felt about as embarrassed as I did for the poor bastard.

Then, the crustaceans. Chomping away at lobster meat while wearing nothing but boxers, a paper bib and a superb farmer's tan, the chemically-altered Charlie tried to tell his chemically-altered wife the bad news, he really did, but sure enough, those chemicals got in the way of any real communication.

Charlie: “YOU'RE NOT LISTENING TO ME! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!”

“I'm listening, baby. I'm right here,” she said before powdering her nose once more. Thinking back to last season's finale, when Adlon's Marcy hilariously caused trouble at the wedding while under the influence, and now this, it must be noted that both she and Handler are superbly funny when playing the imbalanced.

As for the oddly sober Hank, he eventually turned up, having gotten a get-out-of-jail-free card from Lew Ashby, the music producer. What he found was Charlie, pathetically looking up at him from his bathtub.

Hank: “What's with the bib, bub?”

Charlie: “I had some crustaceans.”

As for Lew Ashby, it appears we have a major new story line -– and a new job –- for Hank. (Though never specifically mentioned, I guess we can assume the blogging gig for Bill's magazine is now in the rear-view mirror, along with Bill, who also is apparently never, ever in town). Lew wants Hank to write his biography, and to be honest, I'm a bit wary. I don't care how much of himself Hank sees in Lew, or how good actor Callum Keith Rennie is at playing him; I'm just not sure I want to follow Lew around for a whole season. Thus far, he's very much like Hank Moody, but without the same wit or charm.

But he is rock 'n' roll, and I suppose that will fit in easily with the sex and the drugs, as it usually does.

All in all, this episode seemed much more like a bridge than a destination, setting up new job possibilities and thus, new story lines for Hank, Karen and Charlie. And by the time Hank finally made it home, crawling into bed beside his girl after a day in jail and an evening with Lew, I felt as if all parties involved –- including us, the audience -– were badly in need of a bath and a good night's rest.

-- Josh Gajewski

(Photo courtesy Kirk Edwards / Showtime)

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