The sixth episode of HBO’s “Vinyl” is a whirlwind of insanity from the opening notes of the Pee-Wee Herman anthem “Tequila” by The Champs. The camera pans past the poolside radio blaring the ode to the juice of the agave into a room that looks kind of like Pee-Wee’s playhouse – if Pee-Wee was a raging cocaine junkie and rapidly bottoming-out alcoholic.
Welcome to “Richie and Ernst’s Playhouse.” The secret word is: depravity.
As usual, “Vinyl” provides plenty of sex, drugs and rock and roll. This week the holy trinity takes the form of “Vinyl” co-star – cocaine, plus Devon posing nude for an old artist friend, Richie attempting to have sex and a soundtrack that includes choice cuts by David Bowie. The episode is dedicated to the late Ziggy Stardust, but Bowie isn’t the only ghost in the episode.
Here are five of the best lines from episode 6:
“Who gives a shit? Let’s party!” – Ernst
Richie and his German friend Ernst – and their best friend, cocaine – are in the midst of a sweaty, drug-fueled binge. The pair race around various locations in the city – snorting coke, sweating and pondering old rock lyrics – as Richie confides in Ernst, oscillating between rage and despair at Devon’s disappearance to The Chelsea Hotel. Strangely though, no one else seems to notice Ernst. Weird.
“The logo looks like a toilet” – Andrea
She’s right. The American Century logo looks like a toilet. Somehow, no one at the company has noticed that. It’s just one of the astute observations Andrea Zito makes during her first day at the American Century offices. She quickly becomes the most business-savvy and in-touch employee – even more than Richie, whose only real skill seems to be getting super coked-up and doing that weird half-dance half-walk as he bursts into meetings. It’s obvious that if anything is going to happen to bring American Century out of the symbolic toilet, it’s going to be because of Andrea. Later, Andrea brings Zak along to a David Bowie (played by Noah Bean) soundcheck to see about the possibility of performing at a benefit concert, and we get to hear some of “Suffragette City.” Zak awkwardly bumbles the meeting, solidifying American Century’s unhip appearance in Bowie’s brain.
“Don’t make me burn you with this perfectly good joint.” – Devon
Meanwhile, Devon is living in her own fantasy land at the Chelsea Hotel, finding comfort amid old artist friends. Devon and her friend Ingrid spend a night getting high, talking about old times and new struggles in Ingrid’s bedroom, where Devon sees an old photo of Ernst – Ingrid’s former lover. Ingrid tells Devon that Richie really is a good man, but Devon’s sense of isolation seems to be due to something far deeper than just Richie’s manic behavior. Devon tells Ingrid that day after day alone in her house, she hears a creaking noise and “It’s me hanging myself from the rafters.” Ingrid holds Devon and soon they begin to laugh. Conversely, Richie is dealing with his own issues by obliterating reality with cocaine and booze and attempting (too much coke to perform) to have sex with the office secretary.
“Do you wanna be in a band?” – Kip
Kip is still struggling to find a lead guitarist to replace his best friend, Duck. An afternoon of auditions proves fruitless as Lester explains to Richie that finding a new guitarist is more than just finding a guy with the right chops, it’s also about finding the guy with the right look and someone who complements Kip. Richie gets aggressively (although he does everything aggressively) close to Kip and says he loves him, but if he doesn’t choose a replacement soon he’s going to rip his head off. Then Richie spots Ernst in the background and disappears. Later, Kip is in a guitar store, jamming with another guy. When the store clerk goes into the back, the guitarist sees an opportunity to steal a new axe and dashes out of the store. Kip runs after him, and when he catches up with him in an alley, asks him to join the band.
“I wish I had a family like this.” – Richie
“You do.” – Zak
Richie is six hours late to Zak’s daughters bat mitzah. The bat mitzah that Zak really can’t afford. Because of Richie. (Ray Romano, as Zak Yankovich, provides the perfect calm, sensitive foil to Cannavale’s manic portrayal of Richie Finestra.) Finally, Zak has enough of Richie’s insane disregard for everyone else and he unleashes a tirade on Richie, blaming him for wrecking his life. Finally, Richie gets it and goes home. Devon has come home and, upon entering the empty house, hears that familiar, ominous creaking sound. Richie stumbles in and apologizes. For a moment it seems like we might get a tender reunion, until Richie admits to hanging out with Ernst. Devon freaks out (and in a sort of inversion of Sharon Stone’s crazy departure scene in “Casino”) grabs the kids, jumps in the car and leaves the house.
Richie goes outside to find an empty garage and suddenly Ernst reappears. “I thought I told you to leave,” says Richie. “You didn’t mean it,” says Ernst, and turns around to reveal a gaping wound on the back of his head.
Turns out Ernst was a ghost all along (surprise!). He’s just a manifestation of Richie’s paranoid cocaine addiction. The scene flashes back to Richie driving Devon, Ingrid and Ernst to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone (which is the name of the episode). Richie’s obviously drunk and high and driving erratically. He crashes the car, killing Ernst. We flash forward to the present and find Richie alone in front of the Cyclone as Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” plays.
“Cyclone” was one of the better episodes of “Vinyl.” Again, the writers are a little heavy-handed with the symbols, and Richie isn’t all that likable, but the story was enjoyable and faced-paced, Andrea Zito emerged as strong character and there was some great music. Check out the latest “Vinyl” Spotify playlist.