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'Californication': Journey to the end of the night

December 7, 2008 | 11:43 pm

Californication The inevitable arrived too soon on Sunday night's “Californication,” as Lew Ashby walked up his final flight of stairs. The clues, of course, had been there all along: the big house, the fancy parties, the guest of honor who never showed. He was Jay Gatsby wrapped in a rock-'n'-roll world. He was outwardly bold while inwardly broken. He was.

Yes, Ashby is now gone, his particular exit coming by way of a drug overdose. Or so we think.

This week, the phone-call postmortems that sometimes occur among my friends began like this: “Wait, so did he really die?” asked the first caller, referring to the tease of a Hank-Ashby conversation in the scenes-from-the-next-episode segment at the end of the show. I hadn't actually seen this when he called, though, as A) my early screener DVD thankfully didn't include this, and B) I tend to avoid scenes-from-the-next-episode segments anyway. I prefer to be surprised. But the ending of this one seemed pretty clear and definite, and let us remember that Hank is a man who imagines and dreams, and we the audience are often allowed into this sliver of his mind. That's my guess here as well. I don't anticipate a true resurrection.

The second postmortem call went like so: “Man, I'm actually kinda broken up about Lew.”

In a weird way, me too.

Even though I've had my issues with the Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie) character and storyline this season, I'd finally begun to dig the guy a little bit, right there at the end. His puppy-dog love for his new buddy Hank (David Duchovny) -– once we wafted our way past the haze of hookers and blow –- had actually grown into something both endearing and funny.

Then on Sunday, he put a Band-Aid to Becca's scarred heart with that sweet speech to her in the bathroom. He went a step further a little later, becoming the fall guy for the Rolling Stone reporter who sniffed Hank as the older man in Mia's-but-really-Hank's new memoir. Never mind that the whole stolen-book storyline has been a big swing-and-miss this season (every time it comes up, I get an uncomfortable “oh yeah, that happened” kind of reflex); Ashby taking that bullet for Hank was one heck of a gesture.

Even Karen (Natascha McElhone) warmed to Lew by party's end, and delivered these prophetic words, which pretty much sum up my view of the Ashby character:

“Lew, it was a truly disastrous party. But you know what? I underestimated you. In the heat of battle, you've shown through, your true colors.”

“Wow, true praise,” he grinned. “I better leave on that note.”

And so he did, going up his stairway to heaven or hell. Downstairs, though, Janie Jones had arrived. Finally. She tried to convince Hank that she'd come for him, but he quickly and excitedly bolted upstairs to tell Lew that she'd come to his house. 

And in a tremendous scene between Duchovny and Rennie, Hank clapped his hands excitedly, calmed Ashby's nerves, fixed his hair and provided the ultimate pep talk.

“I'm only going to say this once, so I want you to listen, alright? No matter what you did, don't give up. Do. Not. Give. Up.”
“Why?”
“Because if she loves you, she'll forgive you.”
“You really believe that?”
“I have to. Otherwise there's no point. There is no life without love. Not one worth having anyway.”

Lew was ready. Only, he needed one last hit to calm his nerves. Instead, it stopped his heart.

Even though Ashby's character was so clearly modeled after Gatsby -- thus giving me a hunch that an early death was a real and probable possibility –- I'd long suspected that if it came, it would have been in next week's season finale. But alas, it arrived now and perhaps a moment too soon. You see, I wanted so badly to witness that scene -– Lew and Janie, facing each other again. But then he fell, while his lovely lady waited downstairs. Sort of David Chase-lite? Perhaps.

“There's always a next time,” Ashby said at one point during the party. Until there wasn't.

-- Josh Gajewski

Bonus Tracks:

~ Mia's big book review came in, as she recited it from the newspaper to the man who actually wrote the book: “A strangely poignant coming-of-age story written with the self assurance of a much older writer. In the end, the book's true subject isn't sex, but loneliness.” Sounds familiar.

~ Speaking of the literary, I appreciated Hank's gentle stab at publishing today. When the the Rolling Stone writer said that Mia's older man character had obviously been based on truth, given the "memoir" tag of the book, Hank said, "I see no reason to assume something like that nowadays. How about all of these people passing off their novels as true stories just because nobody gives a **** about fiction anymore?” Touché.

~ Not surprisingly, some of the funniest lines came from the Hank-Charlie chats. When Charlie (Evan Handler) tried to list Daisy's virtues, Hank noted: “Integrity. That's a fine quality in a mistress.” A moment later...

Hank: "You don't abandon a woman who's stood by you thick and thin 20 years, the minute she gets out of rehab."
Charlie: "Nope, you wait 90 days. I looked that [stuff] up. That's the decent thing to do.”

Artistic references: It was mentioned that Roger Daltrey might show to Lew's party, referring to the founder and lead singer of The Who. At the end of the episode, when Lew met his sad fate, Sheryl Crow's poignant cover of The Who's “Behind Blue Eyes” played over the scene and credits. ... When Hank broke up the ruckus at the party by firing Ashby's shotgun, he proclaimed, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” referencing the famous line from “Cool Hand Luke.”

(Photo courtesy AP)

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