Therapy takes the band to dysfunction junction.

Credit: Eric Liebowitz/FX
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As promised at the end of last week’s sojourn to Belgium, Johnny Rock’s musical family spent this week trying to work out some of their deep-seated issues with one another with the aid of a therapist. The whole half-hour amounted to an extended homage to the 2004 stranger-than-fiction documentary Some Kind of Monster, which observed the members of Metallica as they were attempting to record their album St. Anger.

For those who haven’t seen it (and anybody who hasn’t should really check it out immediately), Some Kind of Monster is one of the weirdest rock docs ever made. Bassist Jason Newsted left the band in a huff in 2001, which triggered something in founding band members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and unearthed a new level of animosity between them. In order to work out the issues between them and successfully create a long-awaited album (what ended up being their first new full batch of original songs in six years), they brought in a dude named Phil Towle, a “performance-enhancement coach” who was charged with ironing out the group’s relationships and helping them get back on track. What follows is a pretty incredible story: Hetfield abruptly bails out to go to rehab, Ulrich fumes about how “stock” many of the new songs sound to him, guitarist Kirk Hammett just looks like he wants his parents to stop fighting, and new bassist Robert Trujillo wonders what he got himself into. There’s even a legendary scene that finds Ulrich confronting Megadeth frontman and original Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine about firing him two decades prior. It’s harrowing.

Of course, the whole therapy experiment falls apart because Towle is a Cosby sweater-wearing fraud who completely oversteps his boundaries (at one point, he suggests some lyrics to a song), and the band manages to come together mostly because Towle provides a common enemy for them. “Doctor Doctor” shakes out much the same way. In the beginning, Johnny is the only one who genuinely resists the idea of talking things out (he even invokes Metallica and notes how therapy nearly broke up their band), but he goes anyway because he is fundamentally committed to Gigi. (Rehab is initially on Johnny’s side until he finds out their therapist is able to prescribe both prescription medications and “medicinal herbs.”)

What follows is an act of TV that works a lot like Veep’s “Testimony” episode from last season, as the band breaks up for a lot of one-on-one bits with the doc. Most of them are played for laughs (Rehab talks about his hidden depth, Bam Bam reveals his various food hang-ups, Johnny can’t get comfortable on the couch), but Gigi reveals that she is in a perpetual state of panic pretty much all the time. For the sake of the band, her dreams, and her own sanity, she has to bottle that up and put on a strong front (like the one we saw at the end of “What You Like Is In The Limo”), but that level of insecurity is what helps her craft songs like “New York 2015.”

As they do in Some Kind of Monster, things begin to fall apart the more left-field the therapy becomes. The doc wants the band to play a game that forces them to protect eggs with each members’ name on them (after seeing his discolored representation, Rehab asks angrily, “Why’s my egg weird?”), but that only puts yolk on the floor. Things escalate when the “Hear My Voice” portion of the therapy arrives, which allows Bam Bam to play his “drumsong” (one word), Rehab to atonally bow a stand-up bass, and Ava to do some sort of ukulele-fueled roller derby nightmare.

Eventually, Johnny makes a breakthrough and formally apologizes to Flash for sleeping with his wife all those years ago. That growth quickly gets completely destroyed when it turns out not only did Rehab also sleep with her, but she got around quite a bit. As Ava puts it, “She was a giant flaming whore!”

Then comes the shouting, and the therapist can take no more. “You guys are like 10 times worse than Metallica, Kings of Leon, and Aerosmith combined!” he yells as he storms out. It shows how little he understands his subjects, as this group takes that as one of the highest compliments they could possibly receive. Their vision of legendary status is rock and roll excess, and they are as addicted to dysfunction as they are fame, booze, and drugs.

Or, as Johnny Rock puts it to his daughter at the end of the episode, “Great bands are full of talented people, and most talented people are vain, egomaniacal, insecure assholes. The key is to be the biggest asshole with the loudest microphone.”

Liner Notes

  • Ava doesn’t take therapy all that seriously: When it comes time for her one-on-one session, all she’s interested in is the doc’s other clients. “What’s Steven Tyler really like? Those lips! It’s like he’s wearing a vagina on his face,” she says.
  • Bam Bam has had three fathers. His birth dad and first stepdad were both alcoholics. The second stepdad? “A cop. He actually busted the other two dads.”
  • When Johnny and Gigi play “The Fame Game,” Johnny notes that Gigi “thought Paul Newman was a chef.” That’s based on a real story—Denis Leary’s son thought Newman only made salad dressing and was surprised to find out he was an actor.
  • I love that Ava’s pitch to get a ukulele in the band was just a rope-a-dope to prove how terrible the therapy sessions were making the group. She really is the mother figure, watching out for the rest of the dudes and seeing two and three steps ahead.
  • Gigi and I have the same opinion of the ukulele. “I hate that goddamn midget Game of Thrones guitar.”

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