'Entourage' recap: With friends like these
Because this is Hollywood, that mean Promises -- the pricey rehab of the stars on the shores of Malibu where many a starlet thinks 90 days of pampering will prepare them for the real world sans booze and blow.
Fortunately for Vince, there hasn't been much real in his world for years. He does his three months, grabs his chip, and is out the door.
Unfortunately for Vince, his idea of a seamless return to civilian life is interrupted by his, uh, entourage. The gang -- particularly older brother Johnny Drama -- are worried about temptation leading to relapse. So Johnny and Turtle go about purging the house of all drugs and alcohol. Even Advil isn't safe.
"All means all," Johnny barks at Turtle while doing his impression of "The Brady Bunch's" Alice. "I don't even want a throat lozenge in this house." Turtle does his part by trying to smoke up all the weed in the mansion.
While Johnny and Turtle are playing maid, Eric, Vince's best friend and manager, is upset that Vince seems to have called everyone but him to announce he's getting out and needs a ride. Even Scott, Eric's partner in their new management agency is part of the caravan to pick up Vince as is super agent Ari, who himself is struggling to deal with being separated from his wife.
It turns out that trying to keep Vince from a drink or a drug is only half of the headache his pals face. While he was locked away in rehab, Vince came up with a lame screenplay about trapped miners in Romania and an American who, with his dog in tow, decides to try to rescue them.
"He’s pitching a Lifetime movie, starring the dog from 'Marley and Me,' " Ari cracks.
Alas, none of them have the guts to tell their meal ticket to his face that the idea is not very good. They fear that any disappointment will send a fragile Vince over the edge.
None of this is helping Vince, who just wants to resume being a movie star and enjoy the perks that come with it -- namely bimbos. Not wanting to take Vince out clubbing where danger lurks inside every men's room stall, a plan is hatched to host a welcome home party and director Billy Walsh cruises 12-step meetings for broads. Apparently someone at Promises forgot to tell Vince that underneath every skirt is a slip.
Tired of being treated with kid gloves, Vince has one of the floozies pretend he has had a coke-induced heart attack, which causes the requisite panic until Vince explains he's fine and begs everyone to stop tiptoeing around him, especially regarding his movie idea.
"It was actually disgusting," Ari says of his client's script.
Vince's release from rehab and attempt to get his career back on track is only one part of what will be the last season of HBO's "Entourage." Johnny Drama, who blew his chance at TV stardom a few seasons ago, is also attempting a comeback with an animated show called "Johnny Bananas," co-starring Andrew Dice Clay, who will make his debut in next week's episode. Drama has consistently been the most entertaining character of the show. His efforts to break out of his brother's shadow always fall short because he gets in his own way.
Also still struggling to make his own mark is Eric. His personal and professional relationship with Vince is on the rocks and he doesn't really trust his partner, Scott, with whom he staged a coup to take over the management firm and boot out their old boss, Murray. Eric continues to question a little whether he's a legitimate Hollywood player or still riding on Vince's coattails. His personal life is in tatters as welll. His fiancee Sloan left him and mailed back his $30,000 engagement ring in an envelope that wasn't even padded.
Eric is not the only one with relationship drama. Always-in-control Ari is at a crossroads too. Last season he was tossed out by his wife -- still known only as Mrs. Ari -- and it is tearing him apart.
Ari's relationship with his wife has always been one of the more intriguing aspects of this lightweight comedy. A shark in a suit, Ari has no morals or ethics in business and yet at the end of the day comes home to be a loving husband and father.
But work is Ari's life, and Mrs. Ari wants more than the big house and fancy cars. However, her character has never quite come across as very sympathetic. She has no qualms spending his money and living the good life, but gets upset at how hard he has to work to keep her in the luxury she so enjoys.
Ever the smart agent, Ari knows when a negotiation isn't going well. When he pleads for another chance with his wife, she finally reveals that she is in fact dating someone else. Ari walks out of his own house and starts to work on Plan B.
For years, "Entourage" cruised on as a breezy diversion that required little heavy lifting. Creator Doug Ellin was selling fantasy. See Vince with a hot car. See Vince with a hot babe. See a big star make a cameo. See Drama do or say something stupid. Try to figure out the inside jokes about industry players. Rinse, repeat. It was a simple formula, but it worked.
That changed last season. Perhaps wanting to give the show a little more edge and depth, it got darker. Vince started dating a porn star, dabbling in drugs and threatening to torpedo his career. At times, the show seemed more like an After School Special attempt at a cautionary tale than a comic take on the Hollywood star machine.
As riveting as it might be to portray a star on top of the world on the verge of losing it all, that sort of drama is not this show's strong suit. "Entourage" is leaving at the right time. Let's hope it goes out the way it came in.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Drama (Kevin Dillon) plan a party for Vince. Credit: HBO