On ''Entourage,'' Eric gets to star in his own fantasy with his suddenly returned girlfriend, Sloan; meanwhile, Vince blows a big deal
Kevin Connolly, Entourage
Credit: Kevin Connolly: Claudette Barius

”Entourage”: Eric stars in his own fantasy

Um, could someone pass a cold towel? This was a seriously pulse-quickening episode of Entourage, and I’m not just talking about the much anticipated return of Sloan (with her friend Tori). A feeling of frenzy infused the entire half hour, as the characters seemed near collapse as they negotiated both in the boardroom and in the bedroom. Eric was flustered and fidgety about his big night with Sloan and Tori; Drama freaked out about his B-list (maybe even C-list) career; and Ari’s Naomi Campbell-esque phone tossing, rage-typing fits, race-baiting of Lloyd, and obscene miming reached new apoplectic heights. Jeremy Piven latched onto his character’s jacked-up energy like a pit bull and didn’t let go for the entire episode. Go back and check out the jumpy handheld shot as Ari races throughout the agency — it’s some of the most physical, kinetic acting you’ll ever see on TV.

But enough about Ari — I know what you Neanderthals want! Sex! Eric! Sloan! And her blond friend Tori! (That’s enough exclamation abuse for now.) The episode was called ”Three’s Company,” which pretty much says what you need to know. This being an all-ages atmosphere, I’m not gonna get too specific, but let’s just say that this much sex talk (not to mention sex toys) is usually only seen on late-night HBO standbys like Real Sex. It was all crude, hilarious, and, to my ears, pretty accurate in its depiction of the boorish way that men talk about sex when they’re among friends.

But it also seemed to serve another purpose. Namely, to bring some romantic-relationship tension to this season, which has been very heavily focused on the biz side of showbiz. Entourage has been particularly remiss in developing its female characters — though we’ve seen some growth in Mrs. Ari’s role — so it was nice to have Sloan return. At first, I groaned when the threesome came up — just another typical testosterone-fueled fantasy turned into a plot point. But to the show’s credit, the threesome is being played for more than just cheap titillation. The awkward lunch during which Sloan and Eric hashed out their feelings about it was surprisingly sweet, with awkward laughs, shy, embarrassed looks, and ”I’d do it…if you were okay with it,” repeated like a mantra. The dinner for three was just the right mix of anxious and romantic, and then the post-dinner scene?I’ll just stop there. It’s clear from the morning-after shot — and the clips of next week’s show — that the emotional entanglements of this night are going to be hard for Eric to escape.

As for the boardroom side of things, it was almost as hot and steamy, at least for people like me who find reading the Hollywood Reporter and Variety to be a hot and steamy experience. The unveiling of the true nature of Warner Bros.’ Alan Gray (a last name, at last!) showed him to be an even oilier, nastier snake than I thought was possible. As a TV villain, he’s ranking up there with Montgomery Burns, Omarosa, and Twin Peaks‘ Leland Palmer. Big props to Paul Ben-Victor for bringing the pain this week with that nasty, unctuous rasp of his.

I’ve been an unabashed fan of season 3, but to be honest, I was getting kind of tired of the back-and-forth about whether Vince will or won’t do Medellín or Aquaman. It felt like the writers were spinning their wheels. It all got resolved tonight, though not in the way that Vince or Ari wanted, dousing one fire but sparking another. The plotline raised new questions about Vince’s character. Specifically, is he principled or just naive? Kudos to Vince for playing hardball with Warner Bros. and squeezing out some extra millions in payback. But when Vince refused to meet Alan Gray for breakfast? That was just pure, ugly hubris. And a dumb-ass career move too. If Vince were a true professional — and a good actor — he would smile over egg-white omelets with Alan on the Warner lot and then talk smack about him from Malibu to West Hollywood.

(On a side note: For anyone who doesn’t read Variety every day, the line about Jake Gyllenhaal taking the Aquaman role away from Vince was a clever nod to a real-life bit of Hollywood scuttlebutt from a couple of years ago.)

From a big-picture perspective, I understand why the writers want to keep Vince a good guy — just a blue-collar dude from PS 154 who stays true to his friends and doesn’t go back on his word. But as Ari says, ”I’m sorry he lied to you. This is the world we live in.” In other words, ”This is Hollywood, not a high-school play, you schmuck!” If Vince doesn’t start to learn how to play politics and operate like a real Hollywood star, he’s gonna be back in Queens before the end of the season.

A few questions to ponder before next time: Has Vince lost the Aquaman role for good? Is Eric over Sloan and moving in on Tori? And will Drama get the role as the ”older brother” in Ed Burns’ show?

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