Vinyl recap: Cyclone
Richie Finestra reaches new highs (and lows) in one wild, messed-up bender of an episode
All was not well the last time we checked in with Richie Finestra: In episode 5 alone, he lost one of his biggest clients (the funkadelic soul alien Hannibal), his privacy (the NYPD is bugging his office, unbeknownst to him), and possibly his marriage (that tends to happen when you pull the C U Next Tuesday card on your wife). So episode 6 opening on poolside “Tequila” and sunshine feels surprisingly upbeat. But Richie’s not splashing around in water wings, enjoying a beautiful day with his children. He’s inside with the blinds drawn, drowning in beer and blow and self-pity. (Can we talk for a second about what a weirdly exaggerated snorter Richie is? He sucks up every line like a crazed Dyson and then makes the same “I just inhaled a Bengal tiger!” face every time. It’s kind of a lot to deal with.)
At least he’s not alone: His Brian Jones-y looking friend Ernst (played by Carrington Vilmont, which is an amazing name for a soap-opera bad guy who is also secretly a count) is back and riding shotgun on this bender, while also encouraging him to at least take a shower. “This is why Warhol told her not to marry you,” he says, referring to the AWOL Dev in his Deiter-from-Sprockets monotone. “He knew it would come to this.” But then he’s calling Dev a “spoiled leetle bitch,” so it’s not exactly clear whose team he’s on. And when he drops the n-word, we learn that Richie’s mom was half black. Who knew? Then the nanny brings the kids in, and Richie takes a minute to hug them and maniacally scream his love at them, even though he probably smells like hot Tijuana garbage.
The “leetle bitch” meanwhile, is at the Chelsea Hotel with her old friend Ingrid (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), immersing herself in the downtown world again. You can see the pain and determination to get past this Richie mess on Olivia Wilde’s face — though sadly, the scene will probably mostly live on as a freeze frame on celebrity nude sites since she goes full frontal (era-appropriate pubic hair and/or merkin, we salute you!) to have her body cast in plaster by Ingrid’s perfectly pretentious artist lover.
At the American Century offices, Ernst is apparently Richie’s new consigliere. And lest we forget, PR-queen-turned-partner Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) works here now, too; she and Zak (Ray Romano) are so cute and happy to see each other that I’m about to start shipping them already. In fact, everybody loves Andrea: The conference room is like a welcome-home party that Richie immediately crashes, bulldozing everybody with his obnoxiously coke-y energy. He wants her to give the staff her mission statement, which is basically that the place needs to be modernized and the label’s logo looks like a toilet. She’s also got a lead on David Bowie and a Biafra benefit.
This place clearly needs her like crazy, especially since Richie’s left the meeting to bang the brunette receptionist in the executive bathroom. (Too bad he can’t follow through, though. Maybe it’s the three-plus days of nonstop stimulants?) He’s actually getting ready to take a nap after his failed over-the-sink coitus, but his presence is required at auditions for the Nasty Bits’ new guitarist. It turns out only hippies showed up, and frontman Kip is not having this kind of “bland toast” in his band. So Richie screams at him to choose someone before he rips his head off his neck, and weirdly that doesn’t work. Jamie Vine rightly points out: “The whole act is about raw emotion. If there’s no chemistry, it isn’t gonna work.” But Ernst is already back from his Dev recon mission and telling Richie that she’s high and probably having sex with a nation of dudes, which is almost certainly untrue. Also though, he says, he overheard that they’ll be at Max’s Kansas City later that night and that they can retrieve her. First, though, they need more drugs, which Richie roughly paws out himself from inside Jamie’s halter top. It seems we may have reached peak Richie assholery for this episode, and we’re not even halfway through.
NEXT: Richie manhandles Warhol
Meanwhile, Andrea and Zak are paying their respects to Bowie (Noah Bean, who may be a good actor but is kind of a poor stand-in for the Starman physically. Then again, who wouldn’t be?) Zak tries his best to ingratiate himself, but Bowie really just wants to talk to Andrea. And I was wrong about Richie peaking in the jerk department; he confronts Andy Warhol outside Max’s and demands to know where Dev is, manhandling him and throwing him to the ground before he can even answer. “You’re an animal!” Warhol cries while the crowd looks on aghast. Well, not Ernst, who can’t stop laughing at it all. Are you starting to think maybe this guy is Paul Bettany in A Beautiful Mind and (spoiler!) doesn’t actually exist? He’s just there in Richie’s head to give him permission to follow his most terrible impulses.
Well, anyway, now they’ve hotwired a T-bird and peeled out into the night — and meanwhile Dev’s not even at Max’s at all; she’s back home with Ingrid talking about Ernst. “He could be merciless,” Ingrid says of her former boyfriend. “Richie softened him. We were all better when we were together.” “That’s probably true,” Dev says. (Is it?) It’s not necessarily that Dev doesn’t love Richie anymore; it’s that she could picture literally hanging herself in the awful emptiness of the Connecticut house: “I’m so lonely, it’s pathetic. I’m not myself anymore.” Ingrid says she can be an artist again, take the kids and move into the Chelsea. (Hey, that’s how Gaby Hoffman grew up!)
Fatefully, Kip finds his new right-hand guy at a guitar store: They both like to play sick riffs and steal stuff, so they must be soulmates. Dev returns home to a sunny but empty house, and Richie is six hours late to Zak’s daughter’s bat mitzvah and eager to bond with his old buddy. “I wish I had a family like this,” he says mournfully, turning his hound-dog eyes to the Yankovich kids’ table. “You do,” Zak replies. He also gives him the hard sell on his plan to bring American Century back to glory — except the plan obviously doesn’t have any real place in it for Zak, and the poor guy finally boils over. “What am I, the party planner?” he demands. “You’re the visionary, and I’m the bag man. You ruined my life. And my family’s life… I’m not your brother. I’m not a salesman. I’m a record man!”
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And then it gets physical, finally, which is sort of a release — though not for Mrs. Yankovich, who furiously shuts their wrestling match down and boots Richie from the building, which of course puts a smirk on Ernst’s face. In the car on the way back to Connecticut, Richie finally sags and admits that Zak is right; he’s got nothing left. “You try too hard; you care too much,” Ernst drawls. “Disengage.” And it’s Richie’s turn to do his own booting; goodbye to Ernst.
Richie finds Dev inside and pledges his undying love, telling her he wants to quit the drugs. Which lasts maybe 14 seconds before his mood turns again and he says a bunch of terrible stuff about her “having a rod shoved up her ass downtown with the glitter queens” instead of taking care of her children and how patient he’s been with her “little breakdown” until now. He slams off to the bathroom, and she gathers her stash of cash and documents and the kids as fast as she can and escapes while Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” plays, with the especially apropos lyrics about the saddening bore that she’s lived through ten times or more. (Is she finally ready to be done with this Groundhog Day marriage?)
The song is a cover, actually, by a young pompadoured guy in a powder-blue tux at the now-decimated bat mitvah, and Zak is looking at him like he might have just fallen in A&R love. Now we’re back with Richie when he realizes Dev and the kids are gone and — holy crap! I was wrong about the Beautiful Mind thing; it’s actually The Sixth Sense. Of course Ernst has been a ghost all along; he’s got a gaping head wound.
So now we know why Richie hates Buddy Holly and why Ernst has been asking for a Nathan’s hot dog all episode. That’s how he died, with Richie and Dev and Ingrid and Ernst all high and giddy in a convertible, Richie distracted and Ernst leaning too far out of his seat for Nathan’s when another car smashes straight into them. Ernst is ejected, Ingrid is unconscious, Dev is moaning and may be miscarrying her baby, and there’s Buddy singing “Rave On” in front of the Coney Island Cyclone. No wonder Dev lost it when Richie told her he’d been with Ernst the last three days; she thought it was either a terrible lie or a cocaine-induced delusion. Poor Ernst, even deader than Buck Rogers — and poor Richie, who might finally be realizing just how deep this mess he’s made has taken him down.