It’s an overcast and trash-strewn day in Manhattan, but oh look — here comes the sun: The Beatles’ classic anthem is our opening-scene soundtrack for episode 8 as Richie, Zak, and Skip stroll slow-motion into Chemical Bank with guano-eating grins, ready and eager to make a deal. The loan officer is an old high-school buddy of Zak’s, but even he can’t help them. (“The loan-to-value ratio,” he explains with a few sad, sorry hand gestures, “it skews negatively. You have no meaningful collateral and minimal revenue coming in.” Which is a pretty fair summation of where American Century is at right now.)
Outside, Skip is ready to rip into Zak — “You lost 90 grand of our money up some broad’s snatch?!”— which, of course, we know Zak didn’t do; while he was sleeping off his threesome in Vegas, Richie gambled it all away on the craps tables because of some misguided mystical belief in what he thought was his magic number, 18, but all he got was $90K multiplied by dumb decisions and the number zero.
So Skip’s actually not too far off when he turns it to Richie and asks, “And how do you feel? Do you even give a s— anymore?” Richie’s solutions is (surprise!) to get some cocaine in his system because he “needs to focus.” And why not? “I built this company using drugs. When I got sober, that’s when everything got f—ed up.” Besides, he says, it worked for Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmes… All hail amphetamine logic. (Even if, as Zak points out, Holmes was not a real person. Details.)
Back at the American Century offices, Andrea is checking out the new logos and not liking what she sees; they all look like penises or maps of Italy. “They do sound, we do picture,” she spits, referring to the A&R team. “And the picture has got to be like nothing anyone has ever seen before. Fashion models. Drag queens. Midgets!” Hal, the design guy, isn’t playing ball and adds a few nasty insults on top — so she fires him on the spot like a stone-cold assassin, not even bothering to look back over her shoulder when she offers two weeks severance.
Now we’re in the studio with the Nasty Bits, and did you almost forget about them? Because they’ve basically been stuck in neutral since signing. Frontman Kip insists the song they’re working on is messy, not sloppy, but Richie looks like he just smelled a bad barnacle: “It’s a sea shanty. Makes me wanna eat a can of spinach.” And P.S., he can barely afford the studio time they’re burning through. Still, the Bits are booked for the New York Dolls opening gig in less than a month, and the bossman needs to deliver a pep talk. He tells them how the Stooges cranked out some of their best songs in a single day and how badly the Bits need to pull it together. He sees something raw and great and yeah, nasty in them: “Like it or not you’re the face of the new label. And if you don’t deliver there won’t be a new label.” Kip makes his own stinky-barnacle face to that, which is sort of his default mode anyway.
Meanwhile, Zak is at a restaurant with the young dude who covered Bowie at his daughter’s bat mitzvah, and the kid (played by Big Love’s Douglas Smith) kind of seems like a dream, if he can back up his woo-woo personality and the spontaneous a cappella performance he gives over cottage cheese and melon by delivering real songs in the studio. The warm applause the whole lunch crowd breaks into after he wraps seems like a good omen, at least.
Less positive vibes are waiting back at the office though, in the form of a very sweaty Joe Corso. The cops came to see him about Buck Rogers; he’s lawyered up, he says, and Richie should, too. He also says Richie smashed Buck’s head in, which is technically not true… I seem to recall Joe doing most of the major damage. Regardless, he lets Richie know that he won’t go down alone, dad alibi or no. They’re interrupted by Clark, who has apparently never once in his life learned to read the room and proceeds to tell Richie he’s still keeping his ear out for bands; Richie is too busy powdering his nose over Joe’s bad news, so we are treated once again to the patented Richie Finestra Coke Face, which still makes him look like an angry bull with pollen allergies.
NEXT: Richie’s hoping for a Mafia bailout
At least the Nasty Bits might be getting things done, thanks to fed-up manager Lester, who grabs a guitar and shows the kids a few new (old) tricks. What Kip wants to know is, can they just steal one of Lester’s songs and make it their own? We’ll see. Coked-out Richie is accusing Skip of skimming when Zak and Scott burst in, still adorably giddy over new signee Gary. (“He’s a beautiful man. Amazing.”) Richie is dismissive but agrees to let them give him a chance basically because Zak says he’ll mortgage his own house to pay for the demo. Outside, there’s a crash and a scream, and guess who’s back: The recently dismissed Hal, who is hammered and understandably angry and also, it turns out, a secret Satanist who curses them with all the dark powers of Beelzebub before exiting stage left.
Richie turns on Andrea for firing Hal without his permission and calls her “Mussolini with tits” in front of the whole office. She snaps back, “More like a steward on the Titanic.” Really, what is she even sticking around for at this point? She’s better than this. And God bless Clark, who finally makes friends with the one remaining guy in the mailroom by sharing his Richie-grade cocaine. Midday dance party for two!
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Finally, we get to see what Dev’s been up to: She’s living in the Chelsea Hotel with her nanny and kids, and it’s not exactly Eloise at the Plaza. A furious drag queen wants to know why the children have thrown his poor cat down the stairwell, and the fed-up manager reminds her that her rent checks come from Greenwich, so she actually could be staying at the Plaza. It’s probably best that she doesn’t know Richie’s at his old mentor Maury’s office asking for cash and ready to go to the Mafia route if he has to; Maury vividly describes exactly how Galasso will separate his head from his body if he blows it, but Richie is undeterred.
Cut to Dev watching Bob Marley run through “Kinky Reggae” and “Stir It Up” at Max’s Kansas City while John Lennon and his mistress May Pang look on from a booth. Across town Richie and Zak are making their case to Galasso — which involves, among other things, Richie having to awkwardly vamp through Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” and agree to downgrade his office space. There’s probably no worse idea than getting into bed with Galasso at this point in the game. And yet, they’re still going to do it, aren’t they? Dev might be a better negotiator than either of them; she’s busy charming the Sgt. Pepper pants off Lennon by pretending not to know who he is and playing it so cool she even turns down May’s offer to sit and have Champagne (but not before getting the snapshot she came for).
For a moment after the meeting, it looks like Richie is going to reveal to a devastated Zak — who clearly knows what an awful thing they’re stepping into — that he blew the money in Vegas; he doesn’t, exactly, but he almost cops to some responsibility by saying they wouldn’t be in this thing if he had let the PolyGram sale go through in the first place. Instant karma is not a friend of his, though; the actual cops are waiting right outside to take him for a late-night ride. While Dev’s with her new British photographer friend, developing the pictures of John and surrendering to some spontaneous darkroom nooky, Richie’s being interrogated by his buddies in the NYPD. They drop the dime on the whole wiretap thing, and send him to a holding cell.
Then we’re with Clark and his new mailroom buddy at a late-night party; Clark is getting his mind blown by the underground, and possibly discovering some new talent that could save American Century, but otherwise this feels like a strangely anticlimactic ending for a season with only two episodes to go. If anything, my money’s on our boy Gary — or as Zak thoughtfully pens over his new unicorn’s headshot in the final moments, after adding a Bowie-like lightning bolt: Xavier.