Is this the episode in which Richie takes such a giant snort of coke that he goes flying right over the proverbial shark? Or does our protagonist’s tense hour of bottoming out this week signal a chance for Vinyl to unburden itself of this ridiculous, overwrought “off the wagon” plot and move on to something more constructive for our characters and for us?
Spoilers ahead: the episode’s end revealed a key plot point to be something of a Sixth Sense hallucination in Richie’s mind. That “twist,” which some viewers may have seen coming, ultimately overshadows the episode’s big David Bowie moment, itself quite a letdown (spoiler, part two: David Bowie doesn’t take a shine to Ray Romano, and that’s pretty much it). This is pretty disappointing, but it’s hard to even feel too bad in the midst of the open-jawed amazement of the episode’s primary conceit.
So let’s get to it and begin where it matters most, sadly: Richie is peaking on an epic bender, back at the house “hanging out with” his German friend Ernst (Carrington Vilmont), the two of them talking dirty about Devon, who has been gone for days, since she and Richie quarreled outside Hamilton’s place. Ernst urges Richie to take the opportunity to screw his receptionist, and Richie gets furious seeing how close his kids are to their Spanish nanny and not his mom.
At the office, high-as-fuck Richie spazzes out in during Andie Zito’s first meeting, tries to screw the receptionist, only thwarted by “coke dick,” and hollers at the Nasty Bits, demanding they get with the program and hire a good lead guitarist (later, Kip has a meet cute with his dream guitarists, after they steal equipment from a store together. Yay?)
A fistfight with Andy Warhol in front of Max’s Kansas City and a late appearance at Zak’s daughter’s bat mitzvah (with a fistfight there too!) complete the boss’s tour-de-force of zonked out ignominy, with so many “bumps” taken off his wrist, hand or whatever that he doesn’t notice all the weird stares he gets when he looks over at Ernst.
You see, throughout this entire wild ride, Ernst is there, egging Richie on with his Germanic pronunciations, his sardonic, nihilistic laughter. He shadows Richie from place to place, calling him out of his meetings and on to the next lark, taunting him about where Devon is and whom she’s with. They keep returning and joking about Nathan’s hot dogs — at one point Ernst has a ketchup stain all over his pants — and the laughs get wilder and wilder every time. Something is fishy, but what is it exactly?
Where is Devon anyway? She drops in to the Chelsea Hotel, gets naked for a plaster caster artist who is dating Ingrid. He flirts with her as she poses nude. Later, she has an intimate confab with Ingrid about difficult men, remembering Ernst.
“This place, it’s like a youth hostel,” says Ingrid, encouraging Devon to bring her kids and live there, live the artist’s’ life again. Instead she goes back to CT and encounters Richie, who apologizes profusely. But when he brings up Ernst, she turns white (like she’s seen a…), and swiftly packs a bag to get the kids out. They drive off into the night.
The other woman in Richie’s life, Andie, has started at the company and she’s ready to hit the ground running. Her first suggestion: change the logo. Why? “the logo looks like a toilet.” None of the idiot men at the company have noticed this, and they are ready for her to save them.
Even sad sack Zak feels revitalized by her presence. He and Andie go to Bowie rehearshal to try to rope the star into . But Bowie (actor Noah Bean) is too smooth to dig Zak’s hard sell and wants to just have dinner, sometime, with Andie. Turns out Zak blew it, because he is a guy who blows things.
The episode ends with a flashback to the old ays: Devon, Richie, Ingrid and Ernst high out of their minds on the way to Coney Island, where a car accident just as Ernst is climbing into the back of the car leaves him ejected and dead on the pavement. I guess it turns out that Richie was simply so fucking high, he was hanging out with a ghost the entire time, and all the asinine things Ernst said must have come from his own subconscious. When he wakes up from this delusion, will he pull himself together? Let’s hope so for the sake of the show, because while Bobby Cannavale pulled off the bender performance admirably, it’s getting tedious, weighed down by the cliché, Let’s do better next week — all of us.