The penultimate episode of the first season of HBO’s “Vinyl” opened with Richie waking up from his roughest weekend yet. No, he hasn’t been hoovering cocaine and sweating booze, in fact he’s sober. Mostly because he wasn’t able score any drugs from his holding cell.
Last week’s episode ended with Richie refusing to cooperate with the cops. This week Richie needs to make a decision. The cops are willing to let Richie’s self-defense killing of Buck Rogers slide if he cooperates in their investigation of mob boss Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo). Richie, being the tough guy that he is, (and realizing that Galasso is currently bankrolling the sinking ship that is American Century Records) refuses to rat. The cops outline, in pretty graphic terms, what happened to the last guy they sent upstate for manslaughter charges. Richie is back on the street but has some serious choices to make in order to keep his freedom.
Devon’s relationship with her new photographer friend is progressing. She’s behind the camera again, this time taking some nude shots of her new lover. She lets it slip that she has some photos of Jimi Hendrix wearing her underwear. When the photographer points out that pictures of Jimi wearing lingerie could bring in lots of cash, Devon quickly reminds him the photos were private. You have to respect Devon’s character (and also wonder about the all the risque ’60s celebrity photos that existed in the pre-TMZ days). The ghost of Jimi Hendrix hangs over this episode.
Meanwhile, Julie Silver advises Richie to go after Devon. Richie goes to look for her and finds her new boyfriend chasing a bat around the room. Richie grabs a tennis racket, joins in the fight and inadvertently smashes Devon’s boyfriend in the face. Richie kills the bat, and the two men celebrate their triumph over nature, before awkwardly realizing they are rivals for Devon’s love. The photographer silently backs out of the room and Richie and Devon get their first scene together in a while. For a moment it seems like there is a possibility of reconciliation, but then Devon lets Richie have it for blowing a date with the kids. Richie hugs the kids as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Blues Run the Game” plays over the scene, proving my theory that every moment captured on film is enhanced by adding some Simon & Garfunkel.
Jamie Vine’s home life is in turmoil too. Recently kicked out of her aunt’s posh brownstone home, Vine is shacking up with Kip of the Nasty Bits. The two share a tender moment over some breakfast toast, and then, later, share another
moment dude. Alex, the Bits new guitarist, Kip and Jamie are rocking out and partying to Mott the Hoople’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen,” (the name of the episode). Jamie is the queen of the Nasty Bits and the two guys treat her like one. Jamie Vine, played by Juno Temple, is by far one of the best characters on the show.
Clark and Jorge are back on the scene at the dance club. This time they bring the DJ some vinyl by Indigo – American Century’s latest band to hit the chopping block. (Indigo is not a real band. The music is made by guitarist and disco legend Niles Rogers and DJ Cassidy.) The DJ stops Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” (to the crowd’s obvious dismay) and replaces it with the Indigo record. The dancing stops. And then, warm…warmer…disco! It starts again. Looks like Indigo may have a hit and this could mean redemption for Clark.
I have to admit I didn’t watch Ray Romano’s sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but I’m starting to think I missed out. If I had to guess what “Everybody Loves Raymond” was about, based on Romano’s “Vinyl” character Zak Yankovich, I’d say the lovable Ray does mountains of cocaine, beats up his boss and then has lots of threesomes with Las Vegas prostitutes (which is why the show is called “Everybody Loves Raymond,” because all the prostitutes love him). Am I close?
Zak receives a call from Vegas. Since he was such a high roller during their stay in Vegas, the hotel wants to give him the “premium player” treatment and fly him out on a private jet and treat him to a comped suite. Naive Zat thinks this is because he dropped $800 on the blackjack tables, but Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie) quickly clues him in that “premium players” typically drop upward of 100 grand. Dusty Springfield’s “The Windmills of Your Mind” plays as the gears turn in Zak’s mind.
Zak finally puts everything together and sees Richie for the scumbag he is. Furious, that Richie blew the company’s cash and let Zak take the blame, he catches Richie in the elevator and gives him one of those classic “Everybody Loves Raymond” beat downs. This is when Richie’s character is most compelling, not when he is cocky and coked-up, but when he is desperate and vulnerable.
Richie returns to Devon. His nose is bloodied and he’s looking disheveled. Devon assumes he’s been on another binge, but she is wrong. Richie confesses his involvement in the murder of Buck Rogers to her. The stress of trying to keep the secret from Devon forced him off the wagon and has sent him on the season-long downward spiral into insanity.
As he walks away, a great cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” plays. The lines “I’m going down to shoot my old lady,” are extra poignant as Richie comes to Devon. But we’re just going to listen to Jimi’s version. Because Jimi Hendrix.
Richie calls his lawyer and says he has made his decision. He’ll rat on Galasso.
Tune in for the season finale of HBO’s “Vinyl” at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 17.