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'Californication': Lew, let us go

October 26, 2008 | 10:31 pm

Tonight's episode of “Californication” started by getting back to the basics: a dream sequence, that brief window into Hank's subconscious, before his eyes blinked open to his morning reality. It was a throwback of sorts to Season 1, when many episodes began just that way. The trouble for us here was that the reality in which Hank awoke was someone else's couch, someone else's home and what's beginning to feel like someone else's show.

Hank heard it himself, actually, once he arose from that couch and walked into the kitchen. “You're in Ashby's world now,” said Lew Ashby, the music producer who's supposed to be Hank's new writing subject. But Ashby's world is too hollow, an all-flash, no-substance world in which screwdrivers and cigarettes get served up for breakfast and women arrive for lunch and dinner.

Before, it was just the hookers. They serviced Lew at a bar in one episode, then at his home in another. Then on Sunday it was Chloe Metz, the host of a TV cooking show who ultimately proved to be even more off-putting than the hookers ... but apparently just as easily available.

Hank noticed her on TV when he walked into Lew's kitchen, and then -– presto! -- there she was later, in Lew's kitchen, served up for Hank on another sex platter. “Chloe's assistant is pals with Kenny's cousin,” Lew explained, illustrating once again that in his world, women are easy and life is a bowl of cherries.

She propositions Hank, they copulate, yada yada yada ...

And here I am, thinking, what's the point of this? To simply amuse? To show that Lew can get a woman from TV as easily as takeout? And maybe it would have been one thing if there was something -– anything -– likable about the character, but what we ultimately learned of Chloe is that she's got a husband and a baby at home, she cheats often and she really, really talks too much.

“You're married?” Hank eventually discovered.

“Yeah, but it doesn't mean I can't still party.”

“Oh yes it does,” he said.

Lew might stand for Chloe's brand of behavior but Hank does not. Unfortunately for Chloe, it was her incessant yapping that got her kicked out of Lew's car, but fortunately for Chloe, it was Hank that came to her rescue, even though he clearly didn't want to have anything to do with her anymore.

Hank: “Stop the car. I'm gonna go back for her.”

Lew: “Why?”

Hank: “Because despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm a gentleman. You just don't do that ----. This is not 'Motley Crue: Behind the Music.' "

Lew: “Whatever, dude. Look, I got places to be...”

And finally, 20 minutes into the episode, Hank had wrestled the show back from Lew's slimy grip. He got out of the car, waited with Chloe until her husband arrived, and everything thankfully quieted down. He even managed to have somewhat of a conversation with the lady. 

“It scares the ---- out of me that she might end up like you,” Hank told her when the subject of his daughter arrived. “I mean, no offense. But letting some guy order you off the TV like you're Chinese takeout? Is that really what it's come to mean to be a member of the fairer sex in the City of Angels, circa 2008?”

In this show, and within Lew's reality, yes.

Chloe drove away and I hope to never see her again. She felt like an intruder, a filler, and worst of all, she arrived at the precise moment when this season was looking up; last week's episode was one of the series' best, and what I'd hoped for was a building of momentum.

But instead, we got "Cooking with Chloe" and an episode that seemed to stand by itself rather than as part of a continuing narrative. Not even the baby bombshell –- Sonja telling everyone that Hank is the father of her child –- was referenced tonight, and speaking of lost story lines, have we entirely forgotten the major thread of Mia moving forward with publishing Hank's book under her own name?

The only bright spots were the bookends, the show beginning and ending with its very simple and sweet foundation: father, mother and daughter. At the start, Hank's dream sequence involved Karen, Becca and himself, happily together. And at the end, Hank phoned home (or what used to be home), hoping to speak with his daughter. But Karen told him that Becca was out on a date (“Kick a guy while he's down.”) and the on-again, off-again couple went on to share a very sweet post-breakup conversation.

I also loved the reveal of Karen's little lie.

“What are you up to?” Hank asks.

“Nothing. Just, um, reading,” she told him, when in fact she was painting a portrait of her, him and their daughter, happily together. We faded out there, a nice little open-ended scene that left me wondering and smiling.

Maybe there's still hope. For them. And for the season.

-- Josh Gajewski

Artistic references:

Hank's mentioning of Motley Crue, as stated above, obviously referred to the heavy-metal band's offstage antics, specifically their booze-, alcohol- and sex-laden lifestyles.

But the real artistic focus tonight was John Cassavetes, the late actor-director long considered to be one of the truly great pioneers of independent film. He was mentioned several times throughout the Charlie-Daisy storyline, even though some of his work may have better reflected the Hank-Chloe thread. Case in point: When Charlie follows the adult-film director to the Beverly Cinema, Cassavetes' “Shadows” and “A Woman Under The Influence” are listed on the marquee. The latter, as accurately described by Wikipedia, is Cassavetes' Oscar-nominated film that “tells the story of a young wife and mother's uninhibited, erratic, psychotic behavior...” -- Chloe, anyone? -- “... which leads her violent, confused husband to commit her for psychiatric treatment, leaving the family even more dysfunctional than before.” Then again, flipped around, this could be where Hank's storyline is headed.

As for Cassavetes, his films on the whole “offered a formula that differed greatly from that of the Hollywood studio system, both in method and final product,” according to Wikipedia. “His films were not easy to watch; filled with awkward and gut-wrenching moments and complex characters that were unpredictable, uncontrollable, and for the most part, unreadable; they usually did not even offer the audience a concrete narrative story line to follow.”

In a word, hmm.