Well what do we have here? Rabble-rouser Richie off drugs and firmly back on the wagon? Now there’s a turn up for the books. Not since a certain Ray Liotta got into bed with Martin Scorsese have we seen a story so redemptive. But if you didn’t quite buy Goodfellas‘ sort-of happy ending we doubt you’ll swallow Vinyl‘s ‘too-good-to-be-true’ moment either. And you’d be right not to. After all, what happens in Vegas, er, never ends well for anyone?
Friends to the end
Praise be to the gods of rock and roll. In Vinyl‘s newest episode of bad haircuts and childish behavior we’re given a special treat. Slightly dumpy “record man” Zac Yankovich (aka Ray Romano) moves front and centre of proceedings. He is, of course, joined by company ‘co-partner’ Richie Finestra – who’s now abstaining from all things narcotic in an effort to tempt back wife Devon after her spectacular exit last week. Who knows how long that’ll last…
After a quick board meeting it’s decided that something must be done about the humongous cash leak in the hull of HMS American Century. The plan of action? Flog the company plane. So off go Finestra and Yankovich on a lads holiday to LA to meet the smarmy prospective buyer. Now, as is the way in Vinyl, the boys get distracted by a much bigger prize. Elvis. Yup, the king himself is the next bizarre cameo on Scorsese’s hit list. Somehow ending up in Vegas via a spurious plot line, Richie and Zac find themselves knee deep in poker chips and prostitutes when they should be minding the firm’s bank balance. Typical.
On the plus side, Yankovich’s meatier chunk of screen time is great news for the show. His unparalleled ability for stealing all the best lines (“I come so fast, why disappoint two women?’) is only equalled by his tendency to balls up even the simplest of negotiations. Last week it was Bowie. This week it’s his and Richie’s tête-à-tête with the cantankerous Colonel Tom Parker of Sun Records. It goes equally badly.
Back on the east coast things aren’t running too smoothly either. Fiery A&R girl Jaimie (Atonement’s Juno Temple) has finally met her match in her mother and the two are definitely not on the same page. Jaimie’s upward trajectory in the debauched world of record-making isn’t to mum’s taste at all. She thinks her daughter has “no idea what you’re doing” and tries to stage an intervention. “I guess we’ll see,” fires back Jaimie defiantly. Here’s hoping, because with Devon Finestra completely absent from ‘The King and I’, Vinyl could really use an extra woman’s touch.
Elsewhere in ‘non-Vegas world’ creepy Clark (Jack Quaid) is back. His previous demotion for being useless (zero sympathy here) has him serving as office lackey in the post room. A fitting role you might think, but one ribbing too many pushes him over the edge and a nighttime consolation session with Jaimie is his reward. Is this foreshadowing the series’ great romance? We’d rather hoped The Nasty Bits might turn up and dish out the kicking Clark so desperately needs. Oh well, back to Sin City.
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Barring some gangster stuff that isn’t really explained, the rest of the episode follows our two hairy-knuckled mop tops right to the end. It’s the least varied episode so far, true. But it also strangely works. Richie and Zac’s long history is only sparsely hinted at previously, so it’s interesting to flesh out their friendship and hear a little about what went down in their heyday. It surely can’t be more dramatic than current proceedings though, as Richie’s showdown with Presley is as starry as they come.
Having left Yankovich preoccupied (if you know what I mean) Finestra slips out in order to try and steal a surprisingly well-acted Elvis away from the Colonel and into the American Century fold. He even makes a good fist of it, convincing the King to drop Sun Records and start making good ol’ timey rock ‘n’ roll again. That is until Tom turns up and puts his boot in the deal. ‘Show’s over folks,’ says Parker and in a scarily sinister confrontation Richie is shown the door, without Elvis’ company-saving signature.
To make matters worse, it seems the prostitutes from before have had one over on poor pathetic Zac. Leaving him zonked out in the suite, they’ve made off with the plane cash earmarked for bailing out the label. Woops.
How low can you go?
Still, as Richie reminds Zac, it’s not as if he lost ten million. But then again, the company doesn’t have ten million to lose. Instead, they’ve got a roster full of unprofitable acts and no jet. As a result, this week’s final scene sees the two crammed into a pair of cheap airline seats making their sorry way back to NYC, bawling baby in the background.
There’s still time for one absolute clanger of a bombshell though. It turns out it was actually Richie who lost the money, gambling it all on a ridiculous hunch after striking out with Elvis. He’s only gone and framed Zac, his oldest friend and confidante. You’re a rotten swine Finestra, but we love you for it.
And so ends surely the most-bizarre serving of Vinyl so far. Oddly unpredictable, considering we know Elvis would die a few years later (set in 1973, Vinyl precedes Elvis’ demise by three years), ‘The King and I’ has no glaring flaws, unlike every other episode so far. We’re well and truly in the groove now, and even a slightly tamer soundtrack than usual (The Beach Boys, Dr John, Tom Jones) can’t make the record skip. Seven episodes down, three to go.
“I’d trust my wife naked in bed with Burt Reynolds before I’d trust you with 100 grand in cash.” – Zac Yankovich lays out his true feelings about Richie’s going to LA solo.
“Fuck me in the fuck-hole.” – Charming, once more, from a clearly very shocked Zac.
“Do you realise Jim Morrison had his last three-way on this plane?” – Richie always places his pride carefully.
“We’re about to turn a corner? That’s what the Nazi’s told my cousin Isaac. ‘Look, showers! Right around the corner!'” – Not the most politically correct line from head of legal at American Century, Scott Leavitt