Vinyl Episode 3 Recap: Malice In Chains

Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Richie (Bobby Cannavale) & Devon Finestra (Olivia Wilde)
How do you solve a problem like Finestra? If you're the man himself, you don't. Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is doing just fine, thank you very much. I mean, there's the nonstop sniffling that's the de facto way actors signal to audiences that they have a coke problem, obviously. And there are the flashbacks to the night he was an accessory to the brutal murder of Frank "Buck" Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay). Oh, there's also the fact that he hasn't yet told his wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) about how he decided not to make the lucrative deal to sell American Century to German conglomerate Polygram because, unlike Richie, its love of music isn't pure. It's all going to be okay, though, because no one's going to blow up Richie's spot.
Oh wait, of course someone's going to blow up Richie's spot — and in the most believable way possible! Listen, I haven't been to many industry dinners in which high-ranking executives basically jerk each other off while dining on quail and quaffing Champagne. So, I'm not sure if they're all accompanied by the equivalent of a Comedy Central Roast of the evening's honoree as well as other industry power players.
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That's what's happening when the third episode of Vinyl opens, though. Jackie Jervis (Ken Marino) is giving a speech roasting various record company owners and executives and he makes fun of Richie for blowing off the Polygram deal. Richie is pissed. First of all, the news hasn't been made public yet, so he's not sure how Jervis found out. Second of all, he hasn't told Devon — ugh, I'm really sick of her being out of the loop as the long-suffering wife back home in Connecticut, Vinyl writers — and the look on her face when she hears this is not a happy one.
Pop quiz time! How do you think Richie handles the situation. Does he...

A. Lead Devon out of the ballroom, sit her down, and explain his rationale for not selling American Century to Polygram?

B. Laugh politely along with the rest of the crowd, showing that he knows how to handle a joke made at his own expense, because that's what you do at a roast?

C. Pat Devon's hand and mouth, "Later," letting her know that he can tell she's surprised and also worried about their family's financial security. They'll have a discussion when the night is over?

D. Immediately storm out of the ballroom during Jervis' speech and go straight to the bathroom to do a lot of cocaine.
I mean, do you even have to consider options A through C? This is Richie "disco snow" Finestra we're talking about, here. The guy sniffles more than someone with hay fever walking through a meadow wearing a wool sweater on the first day of spring. While he's in the bathroom, though, he has a bit of an epiphany. What if he gets his old friend Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) to record some blues records for American Century? That's the kind of soulful music Richie wants on his label.
Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh)
What Richie is completely forgetting; however, is how he screwed Lester over on his way to the top of the food chain. When Richie goes to see Lester, the latter reminds him that he's now relegated to being a building super who manages a few bands on the weekends. He literally lost his voice because of Richie (during a flashback in the pilot, we saw Lester being hit repeatedly in the windpipe by a bunch of hired goons sent to enforce his failure to fulfill a deal). Richie wants to take advantage of a Black artist he already tried to take advantage of years ago. For once, Vinyl is providing poignant social commentary on how the music industry treated Black artists even after the civil rights movement.
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We're then whisked to Greenwich for Devon's sad story arc. She's been relegated to helping raise funds for a ballet company that's escaped the Soviet Union. This is actually a noble cause, but somehow, Devon has managed to get steamrolled at every turn by some haughty bitch who just keeps expecting Devon to find more money for the gala they're planning. Even when Devon goes back to Andy Warhol (John Cameron Mitchell) himself to get his signature on a silk-screened print he once did of Devon so they can auction it off, the HBIC of the charity gala isn't impressed. She says the print would fetch a higher price if there were two of them. Devon doesn't even have a comeback, even though we all know how much she wants to say something like, "Oh, I'm sorry, are you a close, personal friend of Andy Warhol's? I must have missed you at the Factory at all those parties."
I get that right now Devon is supposed to be feeling very sorry for herself because she was once one of Andy Warhol's Factory Girls and she also wanted to bring the feminist revolution to Greenwich. Really, I do. Unfortunately, it's all coming off as very Betty Draper (January Jones) on Mad Men. I need Devon to have a breakthrough and show some inner power soon or she's going to remain very one-dimensional and forced into submission by her husband — as we see in the flashback of a post-coital sex scene where Devon asks if she can come work for Richie. He urges her to have another child, instead.
Back at American Century, Richie continues to fail at sobriety. He's drinking and snorting cocaine all over the place, making his top team of bros extremely nervous about the future. They have a meeting of the minds during which they cut 70% of their current artist roster, which makes them realize they need a way to make some fast cash. This leads to the brilliant realization that Christmas albums make loads of it. They suggest having Elliott Gould record a Christmas album, even though he's Jewish. People love Christmas albums, even if they come from Jews, the team asserts. That reminds me; please stay tuned for my forthcoming album, Jingle Oy the Vey, dropping December 2016.
Richie also continues to have a steady stream of visitors at the office that make him extremely addled: the detective investigating Buck Rogers' case (they find his body in this episode; it is not pretty), as well as record producer Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) and his mob cohort Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo). The latter two want to make sure Richie won't tell the detective anything about the murder. They offer Richie a bridge loan to tide American Century over during this rough time. He passes, says he'd never talk to the cops, and his ulcer grows three times in size.
Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram) & Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid)
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I also need to talk about the plotline that I'm pretty sure exists just so we could watch Clark (Jack Quaid; yes, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan's son) get harassed by Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram). You see, Clark decides he's going to sign Alice Cooper, who's already signed to Warner Brothers with the rest of his band. Alice plays along with this idea, forcing Clark to party with him, wear eyeliner, and even play golf with Alice's snake wrapped around his neck.
Clark thinks he's being the best A&R guy, ever, and all of this will totally be worth it when he can tell Richie that he lured Alice Cooper away from his band and his label. Doesn't he know anything about the legal repercussions of breaking contracts, let alone leaving one's bandmates in the dust? Apparently, the bonds of brotherhood mean nothing to Clark Morelle.
Anyway, what we all figured was going to happen happens. Alice was just fucking with Clark, because once upon a time, before they had a contract and a label, Richie made it seem like he was going to sign the band. It took seven years for Alice Cooper, the band, to catch on, Alice explains. Then, one night, they were told they could meet with Richie if they could get themselves to New York. They flew all night and went to multiple places around the city to try to meet with him. The meeting, of course, never happened. Alice tells Clark this story while he has him imprisoned in a fake guillotine. Let it never be forgotten that Alice Cooper has a marvelous flair for the dramatic. At the end of the day, though, I'm not sure how Clark is still employed as an A&R rep.
You know who should be an A&R rep, though? Jamie. She knew that Julie's (Max Casella) stupid plan for the Nasty Bitz to learn The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" to impress Richie was a bad idea. When they start playing the song at their gig, the audience isn't impressed — and neither is Richie. In a flash of brilliance, Jamie chucks a bottle at Kip (James Jagger) and tells him to play their original stuff. He does, and Richie says to sign them. Screw you, Julie.
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