Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is back on the sauce, and by "sauce," I mean cocaine. He's hoovering the stuff in the morning and the evening, at the movies and the office — just blowing lines all over this land, really. Now, I'm not sure anyone on the Vinyl writing or producing staff has ever actually done cocaine or spoken to anyone who has. It's not the complete Harry Potter spell-esque energy zap Cannavale is playing his character's return to illegal narcotics to be. In reality, he would merely be sitting or standing there grinding his teeth, constantly asking for more cocaine.
Instead, we watch someone experiencing something much more akin to a complete manic episode. This consists of a come-to-Jesus speech during which Richie tells the Germans, who've already signed, sealed, and delivered the papers to buy the failing American Century record company, to go fuck themselves, because Richie's got something called integrity and a pure love of music. WHO'S WITH HIM?!?! You know, the type of speeches people make every day in offices everywhere in real life. Has no one ever stood up and asked you to to follow them blindly as they possibly lead the company where you work off a cliff? What's that? Oh, cool; me, neither. I also do not live in Jerry Maguire. And why are you choosing this moment to say that you have a wife, kids, and mortgage to think about, Ray Romano's character; honestly, Richie is trying to say something that MATTERS here!
We leave the men vascillating about following their coked-up head honcho to check in with his wife, Devon (Olivia Wilde), who's having a bit of a crisis herself. She's got the ennui, you see. The ol' "party girl (not just any party girl, Andy Warhol Factory girl) gets married, moves to the suburbs, has two kids, and is supposed to be content spending her days at home tending to them. But really, are you fucking kidding me? I didn't sign up for this bullshit" malaise. Look it up; I think it's in the latest edition of the DSM or maybe just in whatever one they were working with back in 1973.
Devon's ennui-filled moment is taking place in a bathroom at Friendly's and it will later cause her to forget her kids at the restaurant. She drives a good portion of the way home before remembering they exist and that she forgot them. It's the depressing, sallow way her skin looks under the lights in the Friendly's bathroom (no one ever looks good underneath those harsh fluorescent lights, Devon), though, that transports her to another bathroom, many moons ago.
Flashback: Devon and Richie are supposedly watching The Velvet Underground perform "Run, Run, Run" (here being covered by Julian Casablancas). But really, they're just vibin' with each other, if you know what I mean (you know what I mean). She goes to the bathroom and Richie stalks on in behind her, even though it's the women's room. He just locks that door and grabs her by the throat, which Devon seems to be into. She slaps him across the face — which he's equally into. Clearly, their sexual appetites are simpatico and they have sex against the bathroom sink, locking eyes in the mirror as they grunt their way to release. Did I just describe the world's most mediocre sex scene? Probably, but that's exactly what happens in Vinyl during Richie and Devon's first tryst. I bet you don't even need a cigarette right now. I certainly don't. Cheers.
It's great we didn't need that cigarette break, because we can return to the American Century offices for some simply beautiful — in its sad, historically accurate way — institutionalized sexism and racism. Oh happy fucking day.
Richie the conquering hero storms into the conference room and informs everyone that the Polyamory (or something — it's really not important what the German company was called anymore, is it?) sale isn't happening. This means that the A&R reps are all fired. A collective gasp goes up, which makes sense, because how would you react if the head of your company stormed into a conference room coked out of his mind and informed you that everyone is fired, effective immediately, even though he needs you now more than ever after deciding not to go through with a major business deal?
Richie isn't really firing everyone, though, he's just pre-writing Donald Trump's Apprentice-style management book: How to Effectively Motivate Your Employees By Literally & Figuratively Scaring the Ever-Living Shit Out of Them. Step one is to plasticize your conference room chairs. Step two is to say they're all fired. Step three is to announce that you're actually allowing them back on a two-week grace period, as long as they sign a new artist or band.
So the challenge has been issued. But one of the A&R reps has a question: He wants to know if they can have longer than two weeks. Nope, YOU'RE FIRED. Ugh, that guy, am I right? Asking about timetables when it's about finding the music. Another dude has a question and he makes the mistake of calling Richie "boss." "Stop calling me that. Knock off the step-and-fetch-it routine. Call me Richie," he says to the employee, who happens to be Black. Oof. It really seemed more like he was just being polite to his superior. The moment really ended up bringing glaring attention to a racial divide and attitude that previously hadn't existed at the office thus far in the show.
After Richie issues his challenge, Jamie (Juno Temple) follows him into his office and wants to know if she gets credit for finding the Nasty Bitz. He says her scouting doesn't count because she's "a secretary — and a girl." Listen up, ladies, the next time you locate something, remember that it's not technically a find, because you're a girl. HBO's Vinyl taught you that, courtesy of 1970's workplace sexism. It really was a time to be alive.
Jamie's persistent, though. First, she goes the nauseating route. She asks Richie what she has to do to move up the ladder to become an A&R rep — and if it involves sucking his dick. He admits the thought has crossed his mind, but he's going to pass. What a mensch! Instead, Richie pulls the very Don Draper/Peggy Olson-esque move of not quite agreeing to officially be Jamie's mentor, but sort of hinting that he's wiling to give her a shot by letting her work with another A&R rep to develop the Nasty Bitz. Then, he asks Jamie for some cocaine — because she is the office drug girl — and I once again lose all hope that Richie might have been doing a semi-decent thing for another human being who also loves music the way he does. He was just being nice to Jamie so he could get more drugs. Antiheroes: so hard to read. We do get to hear Jamie use the c-word, though.
Another great part of HBO shows, besides the vulgar language? The stars go full-frontal. That's right, folks, this episode has a very important shower scene during which Devon learns that Richie did not die in the club collapse at the end of last week's episode. She's briefly worried he did, because she hasn't seen him since the incident and she receives a call from the police that his car is in an impound lot near the site of the collapse.
Luckily, when Devon gets to what I assume is their pied-à-terre in the city, she discovers that Richie hasn't been crushed under a thousand cinder blocks; he's merely in the shower. He gets out to hug and comfort her, and we get to see Bobby Cannavale in the nude. Fans of Boardwalk Empire will know it's not the first time, but hey, with so much gratuitous female nudity on other HBO shows, it's nice to see a penis or two every so often.
Devon also finds out that Richie is back on the sauce (cocaine) and she urges him to go to a meeting so he can return to sobriety. She's wavering and having a hard time, too, and his rejecting her sexual advances isn't helping her rapidly dwindling sense of self about her past versus present identity (complete with flashbacks that include my beloved John Cameron Mitchell as Andy Warhol). I'm sensing a Devon breakdown in the future, but first we have to deal with Richie. One spousal meltdown at a time tends to be the pattern on television, mostly because writers have many minutes of airtime to fill. Plus, Richie's breakdown is so spectacular. It comes with tears, shaking, and rocking back and forth. It's so childlike. He's so Freudian, all id and ego, with no superego putting anything in check.
Then, it's off to band practice for the Nasty Bitz. Per their drum kit, it's bitz with a "z," although I'm seeing it spelled with an "s" on some other sites. I'm going to assume they know how they want their own band name to be spelled and go with the spelling on the drum, though. Jamie is providing them with actual feedback, while her designated A&R rep Julie (Max Casella) is treating her like an errand girl and telling the Nasty Bitz that they're terrible. This Nasty Bitz plotline is kind of disconnected from the main thread of the story so far, but who knows, maybe they'll become a fictional version of Iggy and the Stooges meets the Sex Pistols that saves American Century down the line. At the very least, Kip (James Jagger) can show Richie how different drugs actually affect the human body. Baby steps.