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'Californication': Growing up is hard to do

November 9, 2009 |  7:05 am

On the Venice boardwalk, hope appeared, jogging toward us. Yes, jogging. Hank Moody. Jogging.

You see, to begin with, Hank Moody wouldn’t seem to be a jogger. Joggers wake up early, wear Lycra, that kind of thing. Joggers jog to challenge or better themselves, or maybe just look better than the rest of us.

Hank Moody? Well, he writes and he drinks and he sleeps. Late.

But here he was at the start of Sunday night’s “Californication,” beneath the palm trees and beside the bums, maybe smelling the incense and then finally making sense. “It’s time for me to grow up, do the right thing,” he told his buddy as they stopped on the boardwalk to catch their breath. These were the most welcomed words from a refreshing scene; Hank (David Duchovny) was caring again. 

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the outfit yet. 

Ladies and gentlemen, behold: small fedora, cutoff shorts, high socks, Pumas. No jogger has ever looked so cool. (here is a video clip) And props to the costume department for playing around with the Moody look – a few weeks ago we saw him in a Snuggie, and now this. When he’s in something other than the usual all-black, there is usually a hearty laugh. Here, instead of a feather in the fedora there was a cigarette, which he lighted as his friend eased to the ground, panting. 

“Look at us, Runkle. L.A. has made us soft,” Hank said to Charlie (Evan Handler). “We used to be able to run from the Lexington Avenue Express with the best of ‘em.” 

“We’re out here because of Karen, aren’t we?” 

“That’s right,” Moody answered. “The gods have seen fit to give me another shot with the soulmate. She’s in New York feathering the nest, and I’ve got to be ready for her. …” 

“Maybe it’s time you stopped banging the entire college campus.” 

“Right you are. Right as rain.” 

Moody’s pledge to grow up meant breaking it off with his three admirers: Jackie (Eva Amurri), Jill (Diane Farr) and Felicia (Embeth Davidtz). “So here’s the thing…” it went with all three. In each breakup scene, Duchovny was at his comedic best. 

First, when the dean walked in on Jackie’s desperate attempt to keep things alive and pointed out the obvious – “Good God, your fly is open” – Hank snapped back, “Thank you for embarrassing me in front of my student.” Then there was the hilarious Duchovny triple-snap that punctuated the scene with Jill’s ex, and then finally, the verbal sparring with the snob writer at Felicia’s. 

That last breakup didn’t exactly go as planned, with Hank ultimately bedding Felicia after having nixed the idea, but I give him a pass here because it was simply a formality, was it not? She was going to use her “marital hall pass” -- a revenge card on the dean for having cheated on her -- on someone, no matter what, and Hank just couldn’t allow her to use it on a writer who dared to use the phrase “word tea.” And so he swooped in. “Fine, I’ll do it,” he said, scooping her away. “You want to throw your life away? Use me.” 

The only caveat here is if that move eventually complicates anything to do with The Plan, which is to move back to New York to reunite with Karen. But if it didn’t seem to matter much to Karen that he was sleeping with others before, why should it now? On her L.A. visit, nothing seemed to definitively change in their always gray relationship and its seeming “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of policy. So hopefully this One Last Time decision doesn’t ruin the whole thing. But then again, maybe Jackie’s words will prove prophetic: “He thinks it’s over,” she said, “but I know it’s just begun.” 

The only thing that at times hijacked this episode was, again, the Sue Collini story line. I realize there are some people out there getting a kick out of seeing Kathleen Turner mutter vulgarities over and over again this season, but I just can’t seem to get interested. And here, Peter Fonda was suddenly joining the fray – first Rick Springfield, and now Fonda – but again it seemed like more of a ploy just to get another name actor on the show, never mind giving that name actor a role or story line with much substance. 

Thankfully, though, we ended where the substance has always been. Hank returned home to his daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin), only to find that she'd lent her room out to her friend and another boy. Naturally, Dad was livid.  

“You think this house is a bordello?” he asked. 

“Actually Dad, yes, because that’s how it’s run by you,” she said, the words cutting. She stormed out, and he followed, and that’s where we’re left: Hank on the right road now, but still very far from where he needs to be. 

-- Josh Gajewski


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Photo: Hank (David Duchovny) tries to break things off with his student, Jackie (Eva Amurri) on "Californication." Credit: Showtime