The episode’s title and its main story line is taken from Martin Scorsese’s New York comedy, After Hours, which came out the same year as Red Oaks takes place. Amy Heckerling, who directed the previous installment, the bonkers “Body Swap,” is behind the camera again, but this time the plot’s standard-operating procedures don’t offer her as much of an opportunity to play outside the margins.
But the pre-title scene is one of the season’s best, as an after-tennis conversation between David and Getty illustrates the rarely expressed paternal side of Getty’s nature.
Getty: You’re a good coach.
Getty: See, Nash spent half his time kissing my ass. You don’t. I respect that.
David: Well, I figure you have enough people kissing your ass.
Getty: It’s good management style. Don’t go handing out compliments like gold stars. Withhold your approval so people have to try a little harder to earn it.
Getty mentions that he’s a high-yield bond trader in “the city” (New Jersey vernacular for Manhattan) and suggests that David should change majors from accounting to finance and, if so, Getty will arrange for an internship at his firm. (And with that one exchange, you can catch a glimpse of what a possible second season of Red Oaks might be about, should Amazon order one up.)
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The city is where David and Getty’s daughter, Skye, end up in this episode, after David asks her out and she proposes an impromptu trip via bus. The inexplicability of David going out with Skye while he’s still dating his girlfriend, Karen, is one of the script’s slipperiest errors. And even as it’s happening, you can sense that it’s not so much organic as a mechanical means of setting up the inevitable confrontation between David and Karen after she finds out.
NEXT: Off to the city
But into the city Skye and David go — for a screening of Eric Rohmer’s 1970s French classic, Claire’s Knee. The Manhattan movie theater, which looks like a loading dock that the production doctored up with a mini marquee, is also adorned with a poster for Jim Jarmusch’s era-appropriate Stranger Than Paradise. And the episode makes references to Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff and Back to the Future, that summer’s blockbuster, which Wheeler, momentarily rich from coke sales, and his lifeguard quasi-girlfriend, Misty, go to see.
But it’s the Scorsese film that Heckerling is jamming to. No doubt once again mandated by the very able hand of executive producer Steven Soderbergh, who described After Hours on his blog as “ f—ing masterful, an absolute clinic in implication and inference,” the episode follows David and Skye as they descend into the dark fantasia of the New York night. First they mingle at an warehouse art party, where Skye gabs with two men, who turn their predatory gaze toward David when she steps away. A clever edit shows a giant phallic statue and then cuts to a soft ice cream cone back in New Jersey, where Wheeler and Misty are eating dessert.
David and Skye continue on, flirting and dancing and checking out a sex show on Broadway, until they both realize their wallets have been stolen, a major rug pull in the Scorsese movie, as well. An NYPD cop flips David a quarter to call someone for a ride, and he rings up Nash. As they’re driving home in the early morning light, Skye falls asleep with her head on David’s shoulder, which gives Nash a chance to say, “You know, when I told you my rule about schtupping female club members, I meant daughters, as well as wives.”
On a technical acting note, Welsh actor Craig Roberts’ American accent has been excellent all season long. But when he’s forced to raise his voice to a higher octave, as he does during the New York club scenes here, you can hear the Brit slip in. At one point he shouts to Skye, “I’m not most guys,” and he sounds like Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day. For keeping the Britishness fenced it, speaking slower and softer is his forte. And there are two more episodes, far from the hustle and bustle of the noisy city, for him to do just that.
Bronski Beat, “Smalltown Boy”
Capitol T, “Ladies Man”
The English Beat, “Save It for Later”