Monday, August 8, 2011

The Televangelist: 'Entourage' Season 8, Ep. 3

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 9:05 AM

No no, really, REALLY, Im sober!
  • No no, really, REALLY, I'm sober!

TV shows are either dramas or comedies, based on long-standing structural conventions, even though most contain elements of both (not always well, but the best shows have a balance). "Entourage" has always leaned heavily upon comedy - even its darker moments are tinged with quips or physical humor that take the edge off. Take for instance the meeting in last night's episode with Phil where he spells out, quite plainly, why Drama should be thanking God every night for his good fortune to have the "Johnny's Bananas" pilot. It could be a humiliating moment as Drama listens in, unbeknownst to Phil, on speaker. But Drama and Scott's interjections and Phil's correct reading of the situation ("Is that what you guys do over there? Cover your mouths so no one can hear you breathing on the phone?" which is exactly what Drama was doing) added a lightness to the scene. Even later in the unfortunate situation that has become Andrew Dice Clay's life, his obnoxious behavior and physical excesses temper any feelings of sympathy viewers may begin to feel for him.

Then there's Carl Ertz, who last night piloted one of the most shocking and dramatic moments on the show.

I've never missed an episode of "Entourage," and I could not for the life of me remember Ertz's place in the story. The show hints at Ertz's involvement with a film called Danger Beach, but the specifics are lost (besides him being, as E puts it, "a low-life scumbag producer." "Entourage" has so many of those, it's hard to keep up!) I should disclose at this point that because of "Sons of Anarchy," I am very much a Kim Coates fan. I think he's a fantastically underrated actor, and I'm hoping his turn as Ertz will remind anyone in the industry who has discounted him in the past of that fact. I went back and watched Coates' original performance on the season five opener "Fantasy Island," where it is at Ertz's instance that Vince, who was hiding out in Mexico after the stink-bomb of Medellin, returns to L.A. to discuss a role in his upcoming movie. Ari and company fly to Mexico to do anything they can to bring Vince back to the land of the living, to which he begrudgingly consents. Coates is on screen for potentially a minute total in two brief scenes that aren't particularly memorable. We find out just after Vince's meeting with him that it was all a setup - Ertz was using the threat of Vince taking the role to get Emile Hirsch to sign on for less money. Yet for all of his buddies' protestations, without Carl's machinations, Vince may still be on that Mexican beach.

Which brings us to "One Last Shot." I'm wondering if the writers did a coin flip to determine whether this week or last would get this episode title or the previous one "Out With a Bang." Either one works literally and thematically with both episodes. "One Last Shot" reintroduced us to Carl who is in Vince's group therapy. Though everyone seems to be in on the fact that Ertz is a "notorious" cokehead, there was no sense of that before this episode. I was considering how I might have reacted if Ertz's role, and demise, had happened instead to, say, Johnny's long-time friend and sometimes producer Phil, who we know better than Ertz. I came away with the impression that I might still be more affected by Ertz's death than I would have been with Phil purely because of the tour de force that was Kim Coates' performance. You get a sense that yes, this is a guy who has been through tough times and is looking to come back … but he's stil a sleazy guy. His desperation comes through a few cracks before his final meltdown, including that fantastic rant before Ertz locks himself in the bathroom. Anyone who has dealt with someone who is angry, desperate, frustrated or humiliated and under the influence of drugs or heavy alcohol could feel the truth in that scene. Ertz broke down completely in front of us, losing all control of his emotions, but is unable to clean up his mess because his mind is too altered. Once E is on the phone telling Vince out Ertz had already sold him out to Les Moonves (on top of the "surprise" script ploy), we become aware at how Vince truly appears to be Carl's last shot at a career. With that gone, and under the influence of a mountain of cocaine, Ertz kills himself rather than face the darkness before him.

It was a shocking ending to a darkly-tinged already episode filled with careers falling apart and uncertain second chances. Andrew Dice Clay was cut from "Johnny's Bananas," leaving the show (and Drama's future) all but destroyed. Turtle is given an early retirement and the news of a breakup, while Ari faces life without Mrs. Ari (and finds himself in bed with Dana. After nearly eight seasons of sexual tension, I wanted more from that scene. The two have always had great chemistry, and I'm actually rooting for them). The boys have all been put in precarious positions (no more so than Vince, left alone with a dead Ertz, a gun and a great deal of coke) to sort through before the end of the season. Yes, unbelievably we are nearly at the halfway mark. Throughout it all I still have to believe Billy's words … "we shall prevail!"

Musings and Miscellanea

- Where does Scott get his shirts tailored? The man is well-fitted in his clothes.

- Rewatching an episode from Season 5 reminded me how subdued Ari has been this season. I miss the old Ari.

- I want Dana's condo so badly.

- "You must be confusing me with someone else. I'm not gay, Lloyd." "Don't worry, we would never have you, Ari."

- Turtle's business idea isn't a bad one, but the restaurant industry is one of the toughest in which to be successful. I hope Turtle finds his calling.

- "Everybody get out, this kind of tension upsets my cat!" - Andrew Dice Clay

- This Week's Scene-Stealing moment is brought to you as Billy the Wizard (come on, that hoodie totally looked like a wizard cap): "I hate everyone!"

- Do we think Jaime Kennedy is playing himself or a character? Either way he did a fantastically terrible Andrew Dice Clay impression.

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