”Entourage”: A scary friend moves in
After two weeks of slight nail biting over Aquaman‘s opening weekend, real tension arrived on Entourage this week in the form of Dom, a lumpy buddy from the old neighborhood who arrives in Los Angeles, breaks into the mansion, and then demands his slice of Vince’s movie-star pie. Also worth noting: He’s a manipulative, crass, misogynist thug, with a penchant for shoplifting candy, walking around in the nude, having loud sex at dawn, and swigging straight from the OJ bottle (not such a crime, but real unsanitary, dude). One more detail: He’s an ex-con.
In real life, Dom is actor Domenick Lombardozzi (showing Entourage‘s typical blunt approach to naming characters), who plays the similarly crass Detective Thomas ”Herc” Hauk on HBO’s cop drama The Wire. I’m all for HBO doing a bit of intra-network cross-promotion, but it’s clear from the first few minutes of Dom’s arrival on the West Coast that he doesn’t fit in among the starlets, power lunches, and publicity junkets of Entourage.
Eric, or ”E-bola,” as Dom calls him, realizes this within seconds. Soon enough, after Dom begins to muscle in on their territory, so do Turtle and Drama. So why does Vince put up with him? It’s a law of physics: leverage. We learn that Vince feels guilty about a minor drug bust from a few years before when Dom took the fall for him. (Though if Dom hadn’t punched the cop, he wouldn’t have gone to jail.) ”I owe him, I owe him,” Vince says to Eric in the episode’s final moments, just after he informs Eric that Dom will be his new head of security. Vinnie, what are you thinking?
After last weeks’ sugary, cartoonish escapades, this episode was a contemplative palate cleanser. Because beyond all the humor and breeziness, it became clear that Vince is a pushover, with worse judgment than Tara Reid. The final scene on the new Aquaman ride at Six Flags was masterful. The regular characters are scared to death of what lies beyond the first hill. Ari fears for his life. Eric, Drama, and Turtle are worried that their gravy train might be derailing. At the top of the initial climb, the camera homes in on Eric’s face, just as the cars pause before the stomach-turning descent. You can see it in Eric’s eyes; he’s finally realizing the severity of the situation: There are eight people — Eric, Drama, Turtle, Ari, Mrs. Ari, their daughter, and two publicists — who depend on this flaky, unreliable guy with the million-dollar looks for their livelihoods. And by siding with this goon from Queens, Vince is jeopardizing all of it. That’s scary.
But that’s Hollywood. It’s a place where the folks with the most money and the most power aren’t necessarily the smartest or the savviest. And with loose-cannon Dom around, the Entourage fellas’ Hollywood dreams could tumble faster than M:I-3‘s second-week gross.
On a more technical note: I’ve noticed a lot of posters complaining about Entourage‘s length. Until now, the brevity of season 3’s shows hasn’t bothered me. But the ”Dominated” episode clocked in at just over 24 minutes, way too short for a supposed half-hour series. At this length, it’s only a bit longer than a typical big network sitcom (roughly 22 minutes). And if we wanted a typical sitcom, we wouldn’t be watching HBO.
A few things to ponder before next week: How long will Dom actually stick around? How long until Dom actually hurts someone? Will Ari be able to protect his daughter from the smarmy teen star Max Ballard of Young 21 Jump Street? And what happened to Eric’s girlfriend Sloan?