[For Vinyl “Alibi” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Alibi. Zak constructs a dangerous plan to take down Richie; Kip’s excesses threaten an important gig.

The Season Finale of Vinyl, “Alibi” didn’t bring many surprises and wasn’t much fun but some storylines did get resolved, so there’s that. It would have been less disappointing without the behind the scenes explanation bit with Terrance Winter that followed. But calling it a disappointing is understatement… and we’re not known for that so let’s just say “Alibi” blows. Speaking of blow, that’s the one positive side to the season finale – the lack of snorting coke. Finally, we aren’t gazing up the debauched naval cavity of a crazed coke head every few minutes. Still, neither Richie nor coke really deserve the redemption Mr. Winter attempt to grant them in this episode. Maybe it’s because the writing sucks all the heat and intelligence out of the most interesting characters while conflating the importance and impact of a douche like Richie. Perhaps it’s how this episode validates and glorifies cocaine use. Or it could be the way this story pretends disco is anything other than a crappy club jam that deserved its inevitable death. No matter the reason, “Alibi” left us irritated rather than inspired and it definitely meant to be the latter.

In the opening scene Richie meets with the feds about snitching on Galasso. They can’t promise him 100% protection but do give him some informant tips. Basically, they’ll meet him once in awhile to check in, leave him with the bar bill, and let him “live his life” with occasional reports to them. The feds tell him the bug batteries are dying in Richie’s office so he can rest easy about them listening in on American Century anymore. On the other hand, the local police detectives do listen in just before the batteries die and hear a crucial bit of Galasso info that greatly affects the episode’s trajectory.

Meanwhile at the dance clubs, Clark leads a disco and cocaine-fueled movement that’s got everybody grooving to the beat. Later at the American Century offices we see the results of all his hard work when the Indigo album he’s been playing is suddenly selling like crazy and even hits the charts. It turns out Clark tapped into a whole new market that’s creating amazing sales. Luckily for the American Century partners, Clark never sent the letter they wrote up firing Indigo from the label so now he’s their hero, making money for the company out an untapped and growing resource – dance clubs. Looks like Clark’s destined to be back on the A&R track for season two.

The Nasty Bitz take turns practicing and bitching like playground squabblers until there’s a doobie smoke break and Jamie accuses Kip of being jealous of her and Alex. Kip says he cares about opening for The New York Dolls in 24 hours, not which bandmates’ cock she’s sucking. Oh snap. Later that night, though Jamie acts like a dumdum and tells Kip she cares bout him AND she’s attracted to Alex too. Big mistake. Why bring it up? The show is tomorrow. Hopefully Jamie will grow up soon and realize less information is better when sleeping with multiple band members… at once. So then Kip, of course, throws her out, quits the band, and sticks a needle in his arm. The next day he doesn’t show up for The New York Dolls show rehearsal because he’s busy ODing in his undies on the rat’s ass apartment floor. Jamie and Lester scrape him up and drag his barely functioning bod to the show where Richie shoots him up with cocaine so he can perform. Yeah, big hero – cocaine. It wakes him up but when he still doesn’t want to perform Alex tells him to stop being a pussy and shockingly that doesn’t do the trick. When Richie finds out they’re fighting over a girl he fires Jamie to prove a point about how girls don’t matter and tells them to get on stage and do this. Then he tells Jamie she’s not really fired but can’t handle The Nasty Bitz anymore. Maybe season two will hold a brighter future for Jamie but it’s a bummer to see such a smart and sassy character taken down to this level on finale night – just another reminder that “girls don’t matter,” as if this episode didn’t already have enough of these reminders. Here’s a hint – it does.

Kip rises from the dead quickly thanks to our episode’s hero, cocaine, and gets out there with his guitar. Once onstage The Nasty Bitz initiate a rousing round of boos because the audience wants The New York Dolls to hurry up and entertain them… and who can blame them? But they’re quickly won over when the band shockrocks the place with “Woman Like you”. The Ramones are in the audience and they, along with everyone else there, fall in love with this brand new twisted dirty love anthem. At the song’s end the cops come and bust it up, with Kip getting pulled offstage fighting and screaming F bombs. It’s a public relations wet dream. The police were there thanks to the brilliant mind of Andy, who mentioned what a PR bonanza it would be to Richie earlier in the day. However, when he mentions the cops showing up Terrance Winter only says that Richie called them. Why would he do that when it was actually Andy’s brilliant idea? Because girls don’t matter.

Speaking of characters treated like they don’t matter, Lester plays a small but interesting role in the finale. Maury Gold points out to Richie that because Lester wrote “Woman Like You” in 1962 but then never recorded it, he owns 100% of the rights to the song and thus American Century has to get his contractual permission to use it. Richie makes Lester an offer and claims he wants to do what’s right so they make a deal and it works out pretty well for Lester, who even gets a couple more bands to manage in the process.

On the other side of the story, gigantic idiotic mistakes are made by yet another formerly smart character. Zak joins Jamie in the echelon of smart-gone-stupid-for-finale’s-sake when he goes to see Galasso and tells him how Richie’s a drug addict and that he lost the $90K gambling in Vegas. He adds that American Century has a morality clause so that all it takes to oust Richie is a vote of the partners. Zak says he just wants Galasso’s support, not realizing the a mobster couldn’t care less and wouldn’t know what “support” even means in this case. So, Galasso immediately goes to Richie and tells him all about Zak’s plan. When Zak gets to the offices and sees Galasso there talking to Richie at first he thinks he’s getting help. But of course, it turns out Galasso’s mad at Zak… and not just because he hates the Jewish people. He threatens to crush him in one of the stolen cars he chops up at his “shop near Yankee Stadium” then leaves in a huff. Richie then explains to Zak why it was stupid of him to make a mobster question if he’ll get his money back. So, here we see how Richie’s “street smarts” are a lesson to “poor dumb Zak” and it all just feels like shallow attempt to redeem Richie and his obnoxious ways. Meanwhile local detectives are listening in on Galasso because the batteries are still barely working on the bugs in Richie’s office. So they hear him say he’s got a “chop shop by Yankee Stadium” and make a raid on it the very next day, landing them the prize of Galasso’s number two guy.

Next thing we know Zak gets pulled into a car and taken to a warehouse where Richie has to comes retrieve him. Galasso confronts them that somebody must’ve dropped a dime on him because he got raided at the chopshop the very next day after telling them about it. Richie defends Zak and says he’s too stupid to have done it. Gee, thanks buddy. Then Richie implies that maybe it was Joe Corso who also just happened to be there during the conversation and is also sitting in the warehouse with them now. Joe then makes the mistake of running his big fat yapper about the Buck Rogers murder and it gets him killed pronto right there at the card table. Galasso doesn’t play accessory to murder after the fact. The good news is that because Galasso now assumes it was Corso who ratted them out, Richie and Zak are off the hook.

Then Richie has a party at the American Century office to launch Alibi records. First he reads rave reviews of The Nasty Bitz performance opening for The New York Dolls. Then he talks about Alibi Records and how it’s for lost kids who need to know they aren’t alone in the world. Then all the employees act like a bunch of lost kids, spray painting the walls of the office and tearing the place apart at the urging of Julian and Richie. It’s a madhouse and meant to be fun and inspiring. But really it’s just a bunch of people spray painting an office and throwing files on the floor. Zak and Richie look at each other across the room and (as Winter explains it in his behind the scenes bit) we’re meant to wonder if they’ll reconnect as friends and business partners. Too bad we don’t care anymore.

We get it that the whole thing is “told from Richie’s perspective” and that he probably thinks of himself as the hero. But it’s clear from his behind the scenes comments that Mr. Winter also seems to see it this way. Yeah, sure Richie called the cops. Forget that Andy was the one who pointed out that the cops coming would be “the best thing that could happen” to The Nasty Bitz. Richie’s the real hero. He fake fired Jamie snarking about how girls don’t matter to “save the band,” and shot coke into the heroin addict to “save the show” – what he deserves is a kick in the teeth, not applause. Truth is that the best thing about Richie was his wife, Devon, and his enthusiasm for putting his life back together. But both of those things got lost in making The Nasty Bitz a hit. It’s important that Richie cares about the band’s success, of course. Problem is the audience cared more about the stuff Richie left in the dust. You know, stuff like girls and respecting the lives of band members who just OD’d. Because those things do matter. Terrance Winter was the one who made Andy smart and cool and inspiring. He gave Jamie the sassy upstart role. Why make us care about them just to blow them off in the end? Maybe we’ll find out in season two.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “Rock and Roll Queen” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Rock and Roll Queen. After an unsettling visit with Devon and his children, Richie begins to weigh his options.

The theme of “Rock and Roll Queen” lies in parallels, paired battles, reflections, and dualities. There’s two of everything and it’s all connected, baby. There’s Jamie’s tryst with Alex and Kip of the The Nasty Bitz, Devon and Ingrid’s fantasy role-play of each other’s lifestyles, Clark’s introduction of disco to the world of club mixing and Richie’s decision between cop and mafia deals. The scenes play out a divine balancing act between realizations and retribution while limitations stretch and characters change.

It all starts with Richie as he’s pulled back and forth in a series of tests. The US attorney visits Richie in prison and, luckily, it turns out they just want Galasso and are willing to conveniently forget Richie’s role in Buck’s murder for inside info on the mobster. Richie’s lawyer tells him it’s a suicide mission but with Maury Gold sharing American Century office space, it’s obvious how easy it’ll be for Richie to pull off.

Then Jamie gets the predicted ousting from her Aunt’s apartment and ends up sleeping at Kip’s place where he’s comforting and happy to have her stay “more than tonight”. The next day The Nasty Bitz do their album cover photo shoot with Andy from American Century. Kip and the new lead guitarist, Alex, fight over concept a bit before making peace AND a cool cover. Later that night they dance to the song “Rock and Roll Queen” then double team Jamie Vine. It’s all sexy-happy-free-love in The Nasty Bitz universe until Kip wakes up later to see Alex and Jamie snuggling deep asleep together and feels that lonely twinge sending him back to a needle in his arm.

The duality of this storyline carries farther even than this when we find out that Richie’s secretary, Cece, is now pregnant by their ex-star artist Hannibal. She’s a wreck about it. Andy isn’t helping matters berating Cece and Jamie loudly for their American Century liaisons as if this is an episode of the Maury Povich show. If Cece wanted to keep it a secret it’s too late now and she leaves the office in a waterfall of tears.

Richie stays clean for the entire episode and even takes a nap in his office Don Draper style. So, yeah clean but not exactly sober. The clean part is hard enough, though because he’s surrounded by coke with Corso and Zak hitting his coffee table for a snortacular lunch break. Maury Gold stretches Richie’s every last nerve as his sketchy new office roomie with no boundaries. There’s another nagging element when Lester figures out Richie borrowed money from Galasso and confronts him about it. People are getting wise to Richie’s bad decisions on all sides and it’s a lot for a guy to take while detoxing off coke one whiskey nap at a time.

Devon takes pics of naked Billy in her bed and they discuss a box of undeveloped photos she keeps in her Greenwich attic. It seems Devon took loads of Jimi Hendrix pictures back in the day when he was staying at their house and “getting himself together”. This means those picture are personal, private revelations of a huge star that just recently died, in other words – a goldmine. She asks Billy if he sees her box of Hendrix photos as some sort of windfall for him and he says no. He just doesn’t want her to run out of money and thus have to leave him. This is an obvious parallel to Richie who comes by later to tell Devon he wants her back.

There are so many dualities like this one for Devon in “Rock and Roll Queen” that she’s likely the real queen referred to in the title. She and Ingrid switch roles so that she can get sexytime with Billy while Ingrid plays out her motherhood fantasies babysitting and chaperoning Richie’s dinner with the kids. When Richie comes to pick them up at the Chelsea Hotel he finds Billy instead of Devon in the apartment. It’s a funny scene because Billy’s in the process of trying to beat down a bat when Richie walks in. He joins the battle right away so that they swat at it together. Even though Richie realizes this guy’s “with” Devon he can’t resist a good fight.

The most powerful pair of events in the episode happen one right after another and lead directly to its conclusion. First Zak gets a call from Vegas that helps him put it together that it was Richie who took the money in Vegas and then lost it gambling at the tables. Zak took all the blame while Richie watched him torment himself about it. So, now furious Zak pummels Richie’s incredibly deserving face many times. Contrite Richie doesn’t even fight back. He takes the beating with arms at his sides all the way down to the lobby in the elevator. After Zak leaves him standing with shocked stillness in their building’s lobby, Richie goes to see Devon at the Chelsea. He tells her about killing Buck Rogers and covering it up. Richie explains that’s why he “jumped off the wagon”. He was trying to keep all the nastiness away from her, he says. Before she can really respond he leaves her standing on the sidewalk and heads back to American Century. Now it’s late at night and he listens to The Nasty Bitz song “Woman Like You” and realizes he’s finally reached the goal of a great song from a brand new band. When the song ends Richie calls his lawyer and takes the deal to inform on Galasso. Although this seemed inevitable to us, apparently it took awhile for him to realize it’s his only real option.

The next episode is the season finale and there’s a lot at stake for Richie. His life is on the line as he snitches on Galasso, Devon’s gone, American Century seesaws on the brink of explosion, and all the while Richie’s barely staying sane without his BFF cocaine. One might think that Devon’s upon hearing Richie’s confession in that final scene might mean he’ll get her back but they’d be wrong. We know this because of the tune that plays as he walks away and into the street. The Jimi Hendrix song, “Hey Joe” fills the end credits with deep double meaning. It signifies that box of photos in Devon’s attic, her ticket to independence if she sells them, and was also the first single for Jimi with his newly formed group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. So, Devon’s sadness may actually be more about herself being “a new single” than empathy for Richie and thanks to her box of Jimi Hendrix pictures, she can handle moving forward on her own.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “E.A.B” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
E.A.B. Richie grows desperate and approaches Maury about doing a deal with Galasso.

Irony abounds in the “E.A.B.” episode. Every scene bursts with ironic twists and witty repartee. The episode begins with a classic song, Here Comes the Sun playing as Richie, Zak and Skip enter the bank to ask for a loan to highlight a classic financial irony of life. When you really need money most nobody will loan you any, least of all a bank. But when you’ve got plenty they’re throwing it at you. Because American Century’s at rock bottom, they’re denied the loan. Once outside the bank Richie gets coke off Skip and explains that he built the company high on coke and they lost it all when he was sober – yet another irony. As Richie jumps into their limo and abandons them in the street, Skip asks Zak, “How much of this shit are we going to take?” A valid question.

Then Andy meets with American Century’s lame marketing guy and and reams him a new a-hole because he’s “risen to the level of his incompetence” before she fires him. He says Andy can’t do that because Richie loves him. “Not as much as me,” Andy explains. Later in the episode the guy loses it in the lobby and curses the company as his final adieu, holding up a pentagram necklace he’d kept hidden inside his heinous polyester shirt.

Next Richie gives the Bitz a pep talk because without a hit from them there will be no Alibi Records. He pumps them up with his Richie brand inspirational lingo then leaves the band fiddling around but still pretty lost in the studio. Lester guides them, though. He teaches them that the chords “E.A.B.” in progression are a simple way to find their song. Lester illustrates with ease how “E.A.B.” serves as skeleton for all sorts of great songs. All the Bitz need to add is some flesh, hair, and eyes, he explains. Ironically, the Bitz now see that the guy they hired to handle their record deal is their studio savior too. “Just write what you feel, boys. It ain’t magic,” Lester says before leaving the studio to smoke on the roof. But he’s not done helping yet. Kip joins him for a smoke and asks if the Bitz can rearrange Lester’s song, one that he gave as an example when he was teaching them about “E.A.B.” Later Kip sings an edgier raw version of Lester’s song and all of a sudden The Nasty Bitz have a hit. Turns out it was pretty magical after all.

At a restaurant Zak meets with the singer he discovered at his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, Gary. He brought along the American Century lawyer, Scott, to sign Gary as a new artist with the label. Gary sings at the table, he’s so happy. At first the other customers are annoyed that somebody’s singing but Gary’s song is so glorious; they end up clapping. This irony of artistry often happens in New York City because real art usually disrupts at fist impact, so it can be greeted initially with rejection but then wins us over with valiant beauty. This is Gary in a nutshell. He’s so special, in fact, that Zak decides to mortgage his house so American Century can pay for Gary’s demo. This makes Richie feel terrible and he can’t let Zak do it. Instead he strikes a deal with the devil, borrowing the money from the mobster Galasso and thus risking the loss of everything, even his life, in an attempt to save the company – the most savage irony of all.

Then Joe Corso visits Richie’s office to say the cops know they were with Buck the night he was killed. He accuses Richie of killing Buck and, of course Richie yells back that, in fact it was Corso who did the deed. It’s evident from Corso’s belligerent denials that he’s some brand of psychopath so there’s no reasoning with him. the detectives who’ve been listening in on his convos give him a ride. They take him to the station where he sits at the end of an interrogation table. The detectives ask him if he killed Buck Rogers and then have the follow up question, why’s he protecting Joe Corso? Richie won’t budge or answer so they play the tape of Richie talking to Corso in his office and say they planted a bug there right before he had that “interesting alibi talk” with his father. He’s screwed. After puffing on his cigarette a bit, the silent Richie heads to a holding cell until somebody bails him out.

There’s not a lot of Devon in “E.A.B.” but still, she’s got it goin’ on. Living at the Chelsea Hotel now, Devon’s finally creating an artistic life for herself. Inconveniently, and with a hint of irony, though she’s still got her two kids in tow. A resident yells at Devon’s kids for killing her cat and the Chelsea’s landlord admits that he wasn’t fond of the cat BUT Devon still owes him so maybe it’s best if she leaves anyway. Sure she paid her rent check but residents of artist rooms have to contribute art work and she’s in an artist room. So, Devon promises to bring him some art soon. Next we see Bob Marley play at Max’s Kansas City where Devon notices a sexy paparazzi photog, Billy McVicar. Billy’s being shooed away by John Lennon who’s in the midst of his infamous lost weekend at the moment. Devon approaches McVicar and borrows his camera. She brings it over to John and asks if he minds taking a picture. In yet another irony, Devon has Lennon take a pic of her and Ingrid rather than taking one of him. Because she surprised him, Lennon likes her. She jokes with him that “they” say sometimes you can even see a celebrity in this place and makes him smile even more. Later we see Devon developing pics with Billy in a dark room and there’s a rad one of John Lennon. McVicar tells her she’s talented and he can hook her up with his editor but Devon’s just happy she’s got the picture to pay her rent at the Chelsea. To celebrate, she gets down and dirty with Billy in the darkroom. Maybe Devon will finally have that creative collaboration with him that she always wanted with Richie.

Back at the mailroom Clark confronts the guy who steals records and then they become friends over some cocaine to make the day go faster. Clark’s new friend explains that he gives the records to his DJ buddy at a club so he can get free drinks and girls when the guy plays the records. Then in the last scene of the epidode we see Clark with his new buddy from the mailroom entering a world unlike anything Clark’s ever seen before. It’s full of vivid color and invigorated people dancing to funky music. Turns out the guy he gives the records to is the same guy Lester knows who samples from those records in an inventive new way of making music. It’s a unique and vibrant sound that got Clark’s inspired. In the final irony of “E.A.B.”, Clark’s getting sandwiches and coffee at American Century when he finally finds a fresh sound that he could pitch to the label. He’s discovered disco and the art of modern club mixing completely by chance when he was just out looking for a good time.

It’s also kinda ironic that Clark’s experience validates Richie’s defensive stance about his use of cocaine in the first scene. The first time Clark does cocaine he discovers a whole new genre of music and when he was sober all he found was a band of bloated tin-eared wizards. But in contrast we see Richie’s untenable position; indebted to a mobster, sitting in a jail cell with a murder charge pending, his divorce on the horizon, and company failing. Richie’s woes are all due to his BFF cocaine and whether Richie wants to see that or not the evidence is clear.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “The King and I” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The King and I. Richie and Zak travel to Las Vegas in hopes of persuading Elvis Presley to change labels.

“The King and I” references two rock n’roll drug overdose deaths with Elvis and Gram Parsons when they meet with Richie in LA. In real life both died from drugs after many years of bodily abuse. In the case of Gram Parsons, the newly sober and straight Richie greets the singer/songwriter at a party where Gram invites him on a trip to Joshua Tree National Park and offers him some booze. Richie declines the drink and journey. Little did he know that Gram Parsons would die from an overdose of morphine mixed with alcohol at Joshua Tree – the very trip Richie declined. Soon after this visit with Parsons, Richie has a tete-a-tete with Elvis and at one point mentions how fifty years from now Elvis will look back on this. But in reality, Elvis will be dead from drugs only four years after this conversation. Even though Richie declines drugs and booze throughout the episode, these two ironic meet and greets stay with us as poignant reminders of all the formidable talent the music industry has drowned with drugs over the years. This theme pretty much hammers us over the head throughout “The King and I” even if you’ve never heard of Gram Parsons or, due to your eternally empty and completely unfulfilled life, Elvis.

The episode opens with Cece giving all Richie’s booze to the rest of the office. It’s Christmas for the boozers… but only for a momentary buzz because in the conference room employees cut up their Diner’s Club cards on cue. This signifies how American Century scrapes the barrel bottom in financial cutbacks just trying to stay afloat. Then Richie tells his team about a deal that could buy them some time with a hundred thousand dollar profit if they sell their jet. It would also pay off their jet debt completely. Catch is, he’s gotta go to Los Angeles today to strike the deal. Zak decides to go with him because he’d trust his wife naked in bed with Burt Reynolds more than Richie with one hundred thousand dollars. On the plane they fight and then make up. Zak boozes it up but Richie stays dry, though he gazes longingly at a bottle of whiskey even as he toasts the trip with a bottle of Coca Cola.

Then Richie and Zak sell the company jet in Santa Monica and get the hundred thousand that the company desperately needs. After the sale they’ve got seven hours to kill before their flight so they go to a party in Malibu packed with mellow musicians like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Mamas and The Papas, and tons of other peyote-toking folksters. Bottom line, it’s a boring ass party. Richie calls it a mortuary with an ocean view and he’s not far off. Then Zak overhears industry peeps talking about disgruntled Elvis who’s in Vegas right now. He’s sick of RCA Records. So, Richie and Zak break out of that banal party and hijack some folk star’s limo to LAX and then fly Vegas. Once there they hook up with the notorious Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager and a sublime sort of oddball old guy with an ever-present cane, cigar, and white hat. Parker tells Zak and Richie to join him up in Elvis’s room after the show that night. Then Richie and Zak meet two pretty women by the pool, ladies Richie either heartily convinced or paid to give Zak his first threesome, and they share coke with the guys but Richie doesn’t do it. He jumps in the pool, a la The Graduate, instead.

That night Zak is saddest and most surprised to see that hot rockin’ Elvis has been overrun by a sad sack in a spangled jumpsuit – a man who now sings of lettuce rather than love. Zak mourns rock n’ roll’s death and they all leave the show to hit the casino. In an odd turn of the tables Zak snorts coke and makes a series of ridiculous choices while Richie stays chill. One of Zak’s big mistakes is talking about all the money they have back at the hotel room right in front of the two luscious ladies. He also suggests they should take it all to the casino table because of Richie’s lucky streak. But then thanks to Richie’s clear head, Zak’s just as happy attending his first threesome in their hotel room. Richie leaves them to “go get some more Dom” but instead visits Elvis by himself. They have a one-on-one meeting because the Colonel isn’t around. So, Richie and Elvis bond as he reminds Elvis what it means to be “The King”. He’s gotta get back to being about rock n’ roll again… a King takes care of his kingdom, after all. Elvis paces a little and they talk deals. Then Elvis realizes that Richie “gets him,” and admits he wishes he’d done Woodstock. Richie lies and says there will be other Woodstocks (ha ha ha) and Elvis clearly agrees with Richie that he doesn’t belong at RCA Records with the capes and old ladies. But then the Colonel shows up and big times intervenes. He’s got Elvis by the balls, just like in real life, and when he tells Richie to see himself out it’s clear Richie has lost his chance to land the King after all.

When Richie gets back to the hotel room Zak’s passed out in what appears to be their ransacked room. The cash bag is empty now and Zak curses himself for talking about the money in front of the ladies. Richie rages at first but then forgives Zak a little too quickly. We then see the disheartened duo flying home coach and as Richie starts boozing again we find out that, in fact, it was Richie who took the money from the cash bag that night. When he came back from the Elvis failure he raided the cash bag and bet all their profits down to zero at the casino.

So, Zak and Richie return to NYC with the plane paid off to the creditors, but no profit for the company, and their friendship back on track even if it’s still crammed with lies and backstabbing. Everything is a compromise, after all, a give and take. Richie is the lone exception to this. Even as he walks around sporting a shiny gold halo throughout “The King and I” turning down drink after drink, woman after woman, and snort after snort; Richie’s always on the take. Behind the scenes he’s a King too. He’s the king of conniving and thriving in his secret, specialized Richie-brand debauchery and nobody knows any better… yet.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “Cyclone” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Cyclone. Devon seeks refuge with old friends; Richie falls into a deeper well of drugs and depravity.

The episode “Cyclone” fills Richie’s story with an eerie sadness and dread that’s perfectly balanced with the magical wonder of David Bowie and the discovery of two new artists for American Century. It’s a yin/yang situation much like many. Catastrophes such as these can also signify opportunities that are often hard to see at at first but inevitable if you just look deep enough. Richie’s headed toward rock bottom while American Century gets a makeover. Meanwhile Zak and Devon tell Richie what’s really on their minds but he can’t hear them because he’s busy being haunted by his guilty, wasted conscience or perhaps the lack thereof. Whichever it is remains unknown.

At episode onset Richie’s spinning around in the blender of his coke and booze bender. The episode opens with him headed down heart attack alley in his living room with shades drawn and furies raging about the absence of Devon, who left three days ago. He’s been up for those three days with his German friend, Ernst, the photographer we met a few episodes ago from back in Devon’s Warhol days. Speaking Devon, she’s hanging out with her old crowd, the Warhol gang. Specifically, her gorgeous blonde buddy, Ingrid and artist boyfriend who live at the Chelsea Hotel. Devon gets naked right away “for art” and her 70s bush is magnificent… inspiring, really. Then she has an intimate convo with the artist boyfriend as he gently poses her body and they talk about having sex without actually talking about it. The portrait he does of Devon turns out “moving,” Ingrid says and then she makes out with her boyfriend, not Devon.

Then Richie speedtalks his way to work, ranting a progressive succession of nonsense demands the universe can’t possibly deliver. It’s a quirky replica of the scene in Seinfeld when Kramer won a lifetime of free espresso and seemingly drank it all in one day. Next when Richie tells Ernst to find Devon and reel her in it becomes clear Ernst is an odd bird – eerily creepy and not just because he’s German. He’s really off, somehow. Almost inhuman. Like an alien. Elsewhere at the office Andy finally joins the team and everyone welcomes her with big hugs and open hearts. Andy’s going to modernize the label with a new logo because their current one looks like a toilet, which somehow nobody at American Century’s ever noticed before. The best line of the episode arises here when someone responds to Andy’s toilet feedback saying, “With a turd?” and now that she points out the potty, it’s all they see. Then Andy says she’s going to see David Bowie that night and invites Zak, a big Bowie fan, to join. She’s like a breath of fresh, non-coked out air while Richie tries to screw the receptionist in the bathroom but, oh yeah, he can’t do the deed because his limpy coke dick strikes out again.

Julian calls Richie because he can’t get The Nasty Bitz to agree on a new lead guitarist. Kip’s mad because only hippies have come to the auditions. Richie tries to help the situation but he’s so out of his mind he gets brutal with Kip and then doesn’t even recognize his golden girl, Jamie. Ernst shows up at the door and tells him that Devon is downtown, high and probably fucking somebody else. Then Richie digs into Jamie’s halter top to retrieve all her coke, snorts it, and hits the road again. A few scenes later we see Kip again. He plays guitar in a shop and he hears another guitarist with an amazing and manic groove. The guy’s got something – talent. When the other guitarist leaves, stealing the guitar he was playing, Kip follows, also stealing his guitar. He chases the guy into an alley and asks if he wants to be in a band. A similar event happens later in the episode with Zak after the Bat Mitzvah when a piano player performs solo during the winding-down clean up phase and his playing touches Zak with a heart-rending rendition of Bowie’s “Life on Mars”. Thus Zak discovers a new talent for the label or maybe he’s just realizing that he’s capable of recognizing true artistry even in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Either way, it’s a revelation for him. Both this and Kip in the guitar store are instances to show how artists surround us in the course of daily life, just waiting to be appreciated.

Speaking of artists, Andy and Zak visit Bowie during the waning end of his Ziggy Stardust days. He’s onstage practicing “Suffragette City,” and Zak asks Bowie if he’s still Ziggy so Bowie explains that Ziggy’s retiring now. Unfortunately, then Zak blurts out how they want to pitch him to do a benefit with American Century and Bowie immediately wants to blow Zak off and just spend time with Andy. This leaves Zak a little sad and feeling rejected even though he just met his idol. It’s one of those best/worst moments that define the bittersweet essence of real life. In a parallel scene back at the Chelsea Hotel Devon and Ingrid talk about men, including Ernst. When they talk about Richie, Devon says she hears the creaking sound of herself hanging from the rafters of their house every time she’s home. Ingrid insists that Devon’s an artist and just needs to make art to feel better but Devon cries and says she can’t. She’s lonely and not herself anymore. Boo hoo. Join the club, girl. It’s called the human condition and Zak’s got a bad case of it just over on the other side of town.

Richie drives home moaning about how he’s destroyed his family and everything he loves but Ernst has no empathy and mocks him so Richie kicks him out of the car. He goes into the house to find out that Devon’s finally home. Richie says he won’t do drugs anymore and that he loves her. She asks what he got himself into these past three days and Richie says hanging out with Ernst. Then Devon freaks and says she can’t believe this is what she’s coming home to after only three days. He says she should have stayed with her kids those three days. Devon says you’re right. I’m gonna stay with my kids. While he’s in the shower she packs a bag, puts the kids in the car, and drives away. Richie exits the shower to find his family gone. Then he goes outside to discover that Ernst is dead and he’s been hallucinating this whole time, imagining his friend by his side. We see a flashback to way back when Ernst died. It was in a car with Richie, Devon, and Ingrid on the way to the Cyclone at Coney Island in Brooklyn. Richie was driving wasted and crashed the car. Current day Richie drives himself out to the Cyclone now and remembers that fateful night. Is this Richie’s rock bottom?

We’ve never really seen sober Richie in action but it’s likely that’s what’s coming next on Vinyl and this feels like just the right time. Andy’s revitalizing the office, Devon and the kids are elsewhere, so Richie can focus on Richie. Whether or not he actually will is another matter but conditions are certainly lined up for him to get straight. Although we’ll miss his hijinks… the horrendous and constant snorting, not so much. There comes a point when even a Cannavale nostril suctioning the TV screen right off our wall makes the world just a bit too overwhelmingly nasal. Give the guy’s mucous membranes a break already. We’re excited to see a freshly showered Richie with his nose to the grindstone rather than the coke mirror next week. Bring it on, Vinyl.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “He in Racist Fire” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
He in Racist Fire. Richie visits a relative; Devon plays the vixen at dinner with Richie, Hannibal, and Cece.

Vinyl episode five explores themes of envy and disappointment yet still manages to feel kinda fun and invigorating, albeit ridiculous at times. The main course of envy presents us with a veritable platter of furious greens with virtually all the main characters reeling with rage that somebody else has what they want. But there’s a fair share of disappointment to go around too with staff firings and demotions at American Century and the loss of a major client. We find out lots more about Richie’s screwy life history with the introduction of his easily corrupted father. Then we also learn that Richie had a major love affair with Jarvis’s hot PR lady, Andrea when he was first with Devon and she’s coming back into his life now big time.

Coked-out-as-usual Richie asked his father for help with an alibi at the end of the last episode. So, at the beginning of “He in Racist Fire” his father tells still-coked-out-to-infinity Richie he gave the cops an alibi that they were at the movie Enter the Dragon when Buck was killed. Then Daddy wants to know what shit Richie’s messed up in because the cops showed him pics of Buck’s beat up body. Richie, paranoid about phone tapping, says to come by his office to talk about it. When he visits Richie’s office, dad entertains employees with stories of their boss’s adolescence while waiting on his couch. Then Richie shows up to yell contempt at him and Daddy yells envious disappointment back. Then, in a rare moment of peace between them, his father says he wants to see his granddaughter once in awhile and Richie says they’ll have him out the house… but it seems like a lie. After his dad leaves Richie pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes “Alibi Records” in block letters. So, at least he got inspired by all that family vitriol.

That morning was final firing time for those A&R reps with the chance to earn their jobs back and Clark was one of several that didn’t cut the mustard. It seems like he’s fired for reals this time until Clark cries and begs Julian for his job back, he’ll do anything he says. Then Julian offers Clark Jamie’s old job getting sandwiches and coffee, though it’s a pay cut and pretty humiliating to boot. Clark takes it although his Yale degree grants him a belief that he’s better than this. Jamie asks Julian if this means she’s promoted and he says she’s gonna do what A&R peeps do with the Nasty Bitz BUT for the same money she’s already making because American Century is barely staying afloat.

Afterwards Ms. Jamie Fine has lunch with her mother, “Mrs. Fineman” who turns out to be Lena Olin, the same woman that threw her out of the restaurant basement. She demands the key to the restaurant and Jamie hands it over. Her mother speaks to Jamie almost entirely in Polish and makes it clear Jamie is an embarrassment because of her job. Who is she supposed to leave the restaurant to? She threatens Jamie, who seems oddly comfortable under matriarch assault, with fork stabbery. No wonder Jamie wants to work in the music business – it’s just like home.

Richie insists that The Nasty Bitz get rid of Duck, the lead guitarist and the lead singer, Kip pulls a major punk-ass pout, insisting no. But then in the very next scene he gets Lester to do the deed for him. Lester tells Duck he may play better than Kip, but their fans come to see the hot lead singer, not him. Afterward Kip takes Jamie back to his place. Aggrieved about the loss of Duck, he pulls out his heroin cigar box to play junkie sad sack but then Jamie sexes him out of his punk-ass blues. But as soon as they finish he’s got a needle in his arm.

Cece comes in to work amidst envious office whisperings that she’s been doing a lot of late nights with Hannibal. Then Richie asks her if maybe he needs a new secretary since she’s so committed to Hannibal even though he’s married and thus otherwise committed and then it’s finally time to hear from Cece. She tells him Hannibal’s seriously considering leaving him for Jarvis, mainly because of his hot PR lady, Andrea. Andy is super smart, Cece explains, and has better ideas for Hannibal’s career track. So, Richie sets up a dinner with Devon, Hannibal and Cece that night. Then he brings Andrea lunch. He offers her a job at American Century in between them battling over the fact that they used to sleep together and maybe even love each other. Andy says she’ll only come into AC if he makes her a partner, not just the PR girl.

That night at dinner Devon, Richie, Hannibal and Cece have a dandy ol’ time. Hannibal does an impressive party trick, quickly constructing anagrams on demand for people’s names. The guy’s a genius. One of them for Richie is “He in Racist Fire” and thus we have the episode title – though it doesn’t seem to hold much resonant meaning. Then Richie and Devon take them back to their NYC apartment for dancing and more drinks. Richie cokes himself further into oblivion and then joins them in the living room where Hannibal gets exceedingly handsy with Devon. So then Richie pulls Cece into his lap and they both dart envious eyeballs at the gyrating Devon and Hannibal, who keep dancing ultra close. So Richie turns off the music and says he’s gotta bring Devon home to relieve the sitter. He tells Hannibal he’s a “fucking God” and leaves him there in the apartment with Cece. In the elevator he and Devon start to get down and dirty but then Richie gets majorly paranoid and accuses her of planning to bang Hannibal. Devon says she just wanted to remind Richie that he’s into her. But then he retorts that “your cunt doesn’t lie” so she slaps him with meteoric ferocity and walks away.

Next we see the detectives listening to a recording of Richie telling his dad info about the fake alibi. Turns out they weren’t tapping his phone but somehow got a recording of their office conversation. So, either Daddy wore a wire or Richie’s office is bugged. But the cops aren’t the only one’s gloating. Jarvis calls Richie and tells him he just signed Hannibal. So, now Richie’s out for vengeance. He finds Andrea at a Lou Reed show and insists she join him at American Century. This would give him both the revitalization his label needs AND revenge on Jarvis. We find out through their convo that Richie chose Devon over Andrea back when they were all romantically entangled at the same time. But now Richie seems like he thinks he should’ve chosen Andrea and talks about how they even look kinda the same. Andy ends up taking his offer to join AC but insists that she get partial ownership and won’t be his mother or secretary or work wife. It’s clear that Richie feels like this is just the victory he needs.

There’s virtually nothing going right in Richie’s life at this point as he circles the drain yet remains cocaine-fueled confident. We watch in awe as Richie sinks farther and deeper into delusions while the shit storm of his life swirls around his oblivious and massive head.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “The Racket” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The Racket. Richie attends marriage counseling with Devon and courts a funk superstar.

“The Racket” is all about dealing with backlash. Characters are starting to pay for the consequences of their actions or at least they think they are but it seems more likely things are in a snowball trajectory they don’t know about yet. The episode opens with Buck Roger’s funeral, a surreal and musical affair with the noted absence of Richie who’s busy pounding on a pillow with a tennis racket in a marriage counselor’s office. Richie tells Devon this rage comes from thinking about his father. Also, Dev should appreciate the fact that he’s missing Buck’s funeral today in order to work on the marriage. But Devon’s not buying it. She points out that Richie didn’t care about Buck at all, which is true enough. In fact, Richie probably cares a hell of a lot more about him now that he’s dead given the circumstances. Then Devon says she’s angry because Richie’s ruining her life by doing drugs and going against their agreement with the coke. She refuses to show her anger with the tennis racket. It’s, understandably, much more fun and on the nose to just yell directly at Richie.

Then we’re in the back of a limo with Richie’s team returning from the funeral pissed at Richie for not showing up and his all around failed buyout backlash. Meanwhile back at the office there’s a special star visitor from funkytown, Hannibal and his queen, Starr. Richie called him in for a “fluffing” because in the last episode the douchebag Jervis threatened to steal Hannibal and he’s about to sign a new contract. Hannibal enjoys some big white lines, hot chicks, and jazz while Richie joins in the snorting. Then he tells Hannibal he’s got the horn player from the record they’re hearing and can get him on Hannibal’s next album. After a round of Finestro brand sensual magic on Richie’s couch he plans a special dinner for after Hannibal’s show that night. As Hannibal leaves Cece, his secretary, tells Richie a detective is on the phone but first he’s gotta deal with Lester who’s in the waiting room. He sits next to The Nasty Bitz and gets called in before them. As Lester walks in he tells them, “Welcome to American Century, get ready to take it up the ass,” and thus perks up the ears of those pouting punks. Feeling confrontational and hurt, Lester then burns the tape that Richie gave him of all his old recordings and it starts a genuine fire in his office, setting off the alarm and sprinklers so that everybody gets soaked to the tune of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby”.

Another song perfectly suited to the scene is Pink Floyd’s “Money” which plays while Richie’s money guy, Skip tells his record press guy not to press or ship the Donny Osmond illegal extras he ordered. Turns out they’re being audited and can’t get caught right about now. But it’s too late. The printer has turned his life around after a heart condition and gave up drinking so he’s super efficient these days and no longer a sloth. He already printed and shipped them out to all the Sam Goody stores. Skip’s screwed. He goes to a record store and puts Donny Osmond on the record player then asks the store manager to put all of Osmond’s extra boxes of records in the back room to store them. But the manager refuses and says the store owner would fire him. So, Skip is stuck between a hard place and an impasse.

On the other side of town Devon visits a divorce attorney for a consultation but thanks to the lawyer’s abrupt honesty she soon comes to understand that she’s not going to divorce Richie, she loves him. Devon can’t leave him. Later that night he calls to tell her he has to take Hannibal out late and will be staying in the city apartment. She tries to tell him she spoke to a divorce lawyer but he doesn’t have time to chat and blows her off. Then Devon finally finds that anger at inanimate objects she’d been lacking that morning at their marriage counseling session and smashes the kitchen window with the frying pan she’d just scrubbed clean.

Having left Richie’s office, Lester runs into The Nasty Bitz eating lunch on the sidewalk outside. He tells them all about how bad it can get after you sign a shady record deal and explains that they don’t know the details and that’s where all the stuff that matters about their potential profit lies, in the details. Because Richie’s been so busy all morning with Hannibal and Lester’s fire, they haven’t signed yet. So, when The Nasty Bitz come back in after lunch to sign the tide shifts out of Richie’s favor because Lester comes along as their manager. In their negotiation Lester strikes a hard bargain and gets a tasty deal for the Bitz. Richie then asks Lester about the music he heard outside Lester’s place the night when he saw him from the car in the first episode. It was that funkadelic friend of Lester’s playing two records at once. Richie asks if the guy plays his own stuff and Lester says you never stop hustling do you? Richie responds, “You better hope I don’t”.

Next we see a bit of Hannibal’s funk show with music that’s smooth and sexy, magnificent costumes, and an audience that swiftly loses their mind to the groove. Jervis crams himself up Hannibal’s ass backstage as he attempts to woo the funkmaster over to his label in Richie’s absence while Cece nervously watches. She quickly calls Richie’s office to alert him but he can’t get out because two detectives, there to ask him questions, block his path. Richie tells them he doesn’t have time to talk to them and besides he already talked to the other detective. But then it turns out they’re not here about the Galasso case. It’s about Buck. Uh oh. They’re curious why Richie wasn’t at Buck Rogers funeral and tell him that he was the last person Buck called on the night he died. That’s why they’re here, ruining his evening and probably, eventually, his life.

We hear Robert Goulet recording a Christmas album at the American Century recording studio while Skip hides the boxes of Donny Osmond records in his own apartment, filling every nook and cranny of his place with an illegal stash of the king of wonder bread’s music. Then Richie finally gets out of the office after his zillionth line of coke for the day. The Natsy Bitz celebrate their cushy record contract (thanks to Lester’s finagling) and Jamie goes against her word and smooches with the lead singer again. Richie heads to a jazz club and we’re thinking it’s to talk to the horn guy he said he’d get to perform on Hannibal’s next album but the horn player he talks to there turns out to be his dad, the one he mentioned in the first scene. Richie tells his father he needs his help and the episode ends on the ba da dum reaction echoing through our minds. So, the question remains, is his father going to play on Hannibal’s next album? Just kidding, nobody actually cares about that.

There’s more than just a tennis “Racket” in this episode to contend with symbolically. “The Racket” could refer to any number of things, from musician contract negotiations to divorce lawyers and homicide investigators. So much of Vinyl involves shady dealings it’s hard to keep track of all the rackets involved. Richie’s drug use and recent murdering are only the tip of his iceberg of lies. The coke in his bloodstream has replaced all the platelets with falsehoods. Richie’s gotten to the point where he can’t even keep track of where the truth begins and his last lie ends. His interaction with the detectives illustrates this perfectly, wait… which murder allegedly involving me are you talking about? Meanwhile Skip plays at his own pathetic version of a racket which ends up with him living in a fort constructed out of Donny Osmond record boxes. That’s the thing about shady business, eventually it engulfs the culprit and they drown in their own doings. Yet somehow Richie’s not just treading water, the guy’s still killing it and swimming across the finish line in first place – even weighted down with all the lies.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “Whispered Secrets” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Whispered Secrets. Richie is embarrassed at a record producer’s banquet; a junior A&R rep courts Alice Cooper.

“Vinyl” continues to jump around in time and storyline with such disruptive bravado we can only assume it’s on purpose. This is seventies rock n’ roll, after all and told from a coke-fueled point of view. Were you expecting “Downton Abbey” when you heard Jagger and Scorsese were the team behind this show? We at Fetchland recommend you stop yer bitchin’ and just enjoy the roller coaster ride. There’s so much to love; the music, the costumes, the Cannavale, and the guest star turns are so much fun. For instance, this episode, “Whispered Secrets” brings the unfettered fun of seventies Alice Cooper back to life and it’s just as cool and wild as that sounds.

The episode opens on a banquet celebrating the lifetime achievement of Maury Gold. Richie kisses cheeks and shakes hands waltzing from table to table. The MC calls out everybody in the place including Richie and mocks how he almost sold American Century to Polygram but then pulled out and “saved them from themselves” slamming Richie’s business as well as his decision to keep it. Then Devon gets pissy because this is the first time she’s hearing that Richie didn’t sell the company and the sale was allegedly going to make their suburban life better. That’s what Richie kept telling her anyway. So, to spite him, and the deal they have not to drink or do drugs, she downs a glass of wine right in his face. Thing is Richie’s been coked out of his mind for days now and couldn’t care less. He goes to see Maury in the bathroom and tells him about the visit from the detective.

Richie wants to release a compilation album of all Lester’s old Blues recordings. There’s no surprise when Lester turns down Richie’s proposition but his reason is a shocker. Turns out Lester’s voice got destroyed over the years and he blames Richie. The next time we see Lester he’s emptying ashtrays next to a guy “Clive” who’s playing records with a funky sound. The old farts sitting nearby aren’t into it but Lester appreciates that Clive’s trying a new sound. We know that Disco, Punk and Funk were all invented within six months of each other in 1973 New York City, so this may just be the first bit of funk unfolding and Lester’s right there for it. He may have lost his voice but that ear for great sound remains intact. Later we see Lester at home playing guitar on the couch. His voice is whispery and meek, thus we hear for ourselves how Lester’s lost his gorgeous timbre.

Next we see Devon in a broken down empty old barn with an event planning group. They’re hosting a dinner benefit for the dance troupe from Russia that Devon promised to sponsor. It’s a project she’s used to try to keep her artistic side alive out here in the boondocks. Next there’s a flashback to Devon and Richie’s early days when they’re smooching near a Warhol silk screen of Devon and discussing how she can still try to have an artistic life even in Greenwich and with kids. Richie tells her to do the dance troupe thing and poo poos the idea of her joining hi at American Century. Then we’re back to the seventies and Devon’s asking Richie for $10K check to pay for the benefit but of course, belt-tightening Richie instead offers to have a band play at the barn. Desperate Devon then visits Warhol and while he takes another screen test of her she asks if he’ll sign the silkscreen for her. Andy asks her if she wants him to sign it so she can sell it. Devon explains then about the dance company and how she’s trying to build a space for them in the barn near where she lives. It brings her to tears. Warhol says he’s happy to sign it for her so they’ll buy it at the benefit and even offers to sign her dress, “They’ll buy that too” and all the while he’s got her gorgeous face on camera in close up. But when she brings the painting to the other benefit planners they flippantly say they need her to get another one, as if acquiring signed Warhol’s is just so easy breezy in 1973.

Back at the office Richie drinks vodka with a shaky hand and snorts lines to get his chill/thrill on. Then he cuts out the dead wood in their client list so they can make room for new exciting acts. They trim 70% of their roster and decide to put out a Christmas album because everybody buys them and it’s like printing money. Speaking of signing new acts, Alice Cooper’s at a recording studio when Clark, one of the young A&R guys, stops him to chat and tells Alice they’d love to have him at American Century. He can go solo and leave his band in the dust, Clark suggests. Clark and Cooper party together for a few bleary-eyed days while Alice gets Clark blind drunk until he’s wearing Alice’s boa constrictor, Eva Marie Snake, as the world’s scariest and tightest scarf while watching Alice golf as the sun rises. But in their last scene together onstage Alice Cooper stops rehearsal to mock Clark and put him in the guillotine. It turns out that Richie screwed Alice and his band in the past, leaving them stranded and waiting for a solid day. Thus, this was all just a scheme to terrify Clark, play out their grudge against Richie, and have a little fun in the meantime. So, no, Clark’s not going to sign Alice Cooper for American Century.

The Nasty Bitz rehearse in the restaurant basement again and they’ve taken Julian’s shitty advice to play The Kinks. Julian continues to debase Jamie when she tells the truth – that they sound like crap. Then it gets even worse for her when they’re all discovered and kicked out. Apparently, they were practicing in the place Jamie found and the woman who catches them calls the police. She describes them as “hoodlums with guns” and Jamie as a “blonde prostitute” which makes us think maybe this woman (played by the still stunning Lena Olin) is Jamie’s mother. Next we see The Nasty Bitz still playing The Kinks song but now for an audience while Richie watches and hates it. He gets mad and Jamie takes the blame even though it’s stupid, high Julian’s fault. Then Jamie instigates the band, screaming at them and throwing a beer bottle at their amp to get them to play their other stuff, the stuff Richie liked. So, they do and it’s mad crazy good. Everybody loves them. Richie tells Julian to buy the Bitz a round of beers and sign them.

Then Richie stuffs more coke in his face and mafia-affiliated ghosts of his past visit him at the office. Maury Gold with Galasso, the guy the homicide detective was asking after in the last episode, and Joe Corso. Gold and Galasso want to know what transpired with the detective and ensure Richie’s not a snitch even though it seems like he actually doesn’t know anything anyway. Richie convinces them and they leave after offering him a “loan” to help him with his current business transition. “Maury tells me you’re going through some tough times,” Galasso says but Richie insists that everything’s great. Joe Corso’s visit is a lot less smooth and subtle. He introduces Richie to a singer (that he’s fucking) and reminds Richie of their unique shared history, implying that Richie has to sign her or Joe’ll blackmail him.

Then, that same day, some kids discover Buck’s bludgeoned, bloated body in the projects wrapped in a flowery blanket. Richie goes home that night to find the Warhol gone from his bedroom wall. He sighs and pours some night-time cocaine into his drink, like ya do at the end of a long day. Then Corso calls Richie to notify him that the cops found Buck’s body. After he hangs up Richie listens to the tape Corso gave him and, unsurprisingly, we hear a weak and boring lady’s voice singing “Danny’s Song” not nearly as well as Anne Murray, who luckily takes it over for the end credits.

“Whispered Secrets” divulges a few secrets but it’s more about the internal grind that grudges bear upon us, sorta like secrets – but with more guts and less guilt. There’s the deeply embedded grudge between Lester and Richie, though in this case weighed down on Richie’s side by substantial guilt. Then Jamie’s got a weird, probably Mommy-related, secret situation in a restaurant basement. Devon’s secret sacrificial sale of her painting for the dance troupe feels like an “I’ll show you,” to Richie – a classic grudge move. While Julian’s willingness to blame Jamie for his screw up with The Nasty Bitz is the only true secret but it will cost him for certain down the line. Richie’s the one with the most secrets and they’re whoppers; Joe Corso and Maury Gold made certain to remind him of that.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “Yesterday Once More” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Yesterday Once More. Richie delivers a bombshell that shocks prospective buyers and his partners.

Essentially “Yesterday Once More” boils down to reinvention. Every major character needs it, seeks it, and desperately drives the story forward in this pursuit. Richie needs to reinvent his company. Devon wants to invigorate her boring life. Zak desperately desires a home-life and wife makeover. Jamie seeks a career boost. Julian tries to reinvent the Nasty Bits and in the last scene it looks like even Lester Grimes may finally get his chance. It’s all a frenzy and happens fast but all of it runs along that same theme of reinvention and what better place to look for inspiration than the past? That’s the only place Devon looks, with a little help from The Carpenters and their song “Yesterday Once More”.

The episode opens as Richie teaches himself to kickbox with the help of cocaine and a karate flick. Meanwhile back at the office the Germans and his partners await his arrival so they can finally sign off on the company sale. Zak takes valium to get through this next challenging bit of life and then wasted, bloody-browed Richie finally shows up at the office and makes a declaration. They’re not selling the company after all. He’s had a rock n’ roll epiphany. His skills have transcended to a spiritual level. The other partners mumble grumble next to this newly minted guru at their helm. Thing is… they really don’t want to sell because of the money. Their minds are on mortgages and kids going to college so they explain but Richie has dreams, dammit. He uses his recently acquired kickboxing skills, gives them each a taste of his fiercest karate choppin’ and swiftly breaks Zak’s nose. Then Richie calls the Germans “Nazi pricks” and tells them the deal’s off.

Meanwhile Devon has that faraway look in her eye again and she didn’t even do any drugs. All it took was The Carpenters on the radio to take Devon to la la land. She remembers Andy Warhol’s Factory and all the good times she had there. Devon flashes back to the night she met Richie at a Velvet Underground show. They were both with other people but the attraction was so palpable that when Devon left the table to go “to the ladies” Richie knew to follow so they could indulge in ferocious bathroom sink fucking. But that was long ago and today Devon’s in the bathroom at Friendlys Family Restaurant staring in the mirror and listening to The Carpenters song,”Yesterday Once More” – thus the episode title. Devon’s so lost in the song that she accidentally forgets her kids, still sitting in the booth at Friendlys. She drives away in the station wagon without them. It’s only when Devon passes a “children playing” sign during her drive that she remembers the kids back at Friendlys. So, Richie’s not the only one who’s losing sight of his commitments while tangled in a fantasy. Seems to be a family trait. Only difference is that Devon’s horrified with herself when she realizes how lost she got. Richie’s too busy stuffing blow up his nose and living the dream to care.

Back at the office Richie fires all of A&R and tells them if they find a great new artist within two weeks they can earn their jobs back. It’s because they turned down the deal with the Germans and are back to being a dream factory. So get out there and “find bands that make you want to dance or fuck or kick somebody’s ass,” easy peasy, guys. After this Richie tells Jamie, who wears a nearly-to-the-navel-deep V neck shirt, that her job is OK, unlike the others. She asks him what he thought of the Nasty Bits and he says he thinks there’s something there, some balls in their sound. After Jamie offers coaxing, blow jobs, and a new stash of coke for his collection Richie says she can work with Julie (Julian the head A&R guy) and get the band ready. Julie and Jamie then watch the Nasty Bits rehearse and he hates them. Julie’s got some Nasty Bit reinventing to do. He sends Jamie out for coffee and berates her in front of the band.

Speaking of berating, next we see broken-nosed Zak with his wife prepping for his daughter’s bat mitzvah. With four hundred people invited and a calculator whirring through costs in higher and higher escalations, it turns out Zak’s shelling out more for this event then he paid for his first house. At home that night he endures humiliations from the wife about paying for his broken nose and goes out to the garage to consider taking the whole bottle of valium as an escape from the pain. But then Zak tosses them aside. Instead he crashes up the back of his car with a wrench so he can backup the story he told her about getting a broken nose from a rear-end collision. So, clearly Zak’s afraid of his wife. He protects his job with Richie rather than venting to her about what’s really going on at work. Zak can’t vent to her because if his wife knew the money from the sale is kaput now she’d be even more upset. It’s his wife who insisted on the “premium package” for the bat mitzvah, after all. Zak’s humiliated all around. But hey, at least he got to take his feelings out on the back of his car. He’s a fighter after all.

Devon confronts Richie about the fact that he’s doing drugs and drinking again. Right after this the homicide detective that haunted Richie in episode one shows up to talk to him about a murder. Interestingly, it isn’t the murder from the night before but another very different one involving Maury Gold, the guy Richie sold out Lester to years ago. Gold apparently has mob ties and thus, may be implicated in a murder. The cop quickly sees that Richie’s not involved in this investigation and leaves. So, then Richie falls apart in Devon’s lap while she’s transported to more memories of their first days together again. In these particular glorious flashbacks Andy Warhol (played by John Cameron Mitchell) finally comes to the Vinyl party when Devon remembers how Andy met Richie for the first time. It’s evident that Devon was a Factory Girl and one of Andy’s favorites. In her recollection Richie encourages Devon to do a Warhol screen test, something Andy’s been dying for but Devon wouldn’t even consider until Richie came along. Devon hates it because she’s “just sitting there” but then sees Richie remove his sunglasses to watch her. This transports her into a loving place and thus her gorgeous eyes return to the camera and eat the lens with Devon’s in-love intensity. Then back in the present day she wants sex with Richie and starts kissing him. But he’s “tired” which is code for his coke-addled saggy dick because there’s no way in hell he’s actually tired. Of course not. How could someone who’s been non-stop snorting coke all day be tired? They can’t but they also can’t get it up – a known side effect of cocaine. So, Devon falls asleep and then wide-awake-Richie sneaks out. He goes back to where he saw Lester in the “Pilot” episode and knocks on Lester’s door. “We gotta talk,” Richie says and Lester lets him inside.

Richie and Devon long for their past selves in “Yesterday Once More” but not necessary their true selves. In fact, it seems possible these ideas they have about how they were may not even be real. Richie was a dreamer with a passion for music, yes. And Devon was going places with her acting and fancypants connections but these things don’t last forever. Somewhere along the way they took a few turns, including an agreement to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The duo seem to believe they can reinvent who they are – do it better. Richie appears to have a major lead on her with this endeavor but Devon has Warhol… and reinventing is what he does best. Mainly we want to see what’s going to happen with Lester. Will Richie redeem himself and help make Lester a star as a Blues musician? We hope this reinvented Richie can make it so.

–Katherine Recap

[For Vinyl “Pilot” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Pilot. Richie Finestra considers selling his struggling record company: Richie reunites with Lester Grimes.

The highly anticipated premiere of Vinyl is finally here. From Executive Producers Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, along with Boardwalk Empire writer and creator Terence Winter, this one’s stocked with great actors like Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple, Ray Romano… and even Mick Jagger’s son, James Jagger. So, it sounds like it’ll be sexy as hell. Set in the early 70s New York City music scene, the show promises cool clothes along with drugs and sensual indiscretions. There are heroes you love to hate, which Richie (the Bobby Cannavale character) declares about himself right up front; and pertains perfectly to the lead singer of the band Nasty Bits, played by James Jagger. So, we have parallel portraits of a decline and rise in the music business in this “Pilot” episode. But most importantly we’ve got sex, drugs, rock n’ roll… and don’t forget murder for good measure. Gotta throw something in there for the kids after all. Also at a fully engorged two hours, this “Pilot” episode is longer than the majority of feature films.

There are several storylines and time periods, all from the drug-addled Richie’s point of view. So even when he’s screwing a true artist out of his dream it’s Richie who is portrayed as the victim. The hot mess of disorganization is another consequence of Richie’s storytelling style. We jump back and forth between the 70s, 60s, and 50s without consistent transitions. Despite these flaws, the whirlwind pace and pure bastard perspective works for Vinyl. The conflicts twist and spin into several hilarious crescendos, including a homicide, a building collapse, and confrontation over who’s more hateful: Germans or the people who hate Germans?

The main story takes place in 1973 NYC: Richie Finestra (the sex and Brooklyn sandwich Bobby Cannavale) is a sobered record company owner with a gorgeous wife, Devon (Olivia Wilde) and two kids in Greenwich Connecticut, along with an apartment in the city. He’s got a driver but — in one of the show’s funny ironies — when he ends up getting loaded drinking booze from the bottle and snorting eight balls, he drives himself. Richie explains to us that he built his record company, American Century, from years of hard work, exploiting the artists, and cooking the books. His main helpers were Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) and a magic mustached guy named Skip Fontaine. They’ve all three screwed the company with major flops and decades of playing pretend with their bottom line. It’s time to sell the company, so they’re in talks with Polygram AKA “The Germans” to buy the stinker out. The big joke to them is that it’s OK to screw Polygram with this lemon because they’re German and thus it’s reparations. Thing is the sale also screws Richie’s people and his artists; and A&R* reps will likely get either booted from the label or, at the very least, less favorable deals.

At the same time Richie’s attempting to land Led Zeppelin, the hottest band at the time, and for good reason. In fact, it turns out The Germans mainly want to buy his company for this reason. Ironically, when Led Zeppelin’s manager finds out they may be sold to Germans he wants to pull out of the deal because he hates Germans. Their deal was already tenuous because Zeppelin got wind of how Richie might screw them with a low royalties cut. Robert Plant, their lead singer, confronts Richie face to face but it’s not until Plant gets up on stage afterward and starts singing that we see why this actor was cast as Plant. When singing he’s transformed from a prancing dweeb into the real deal… and his performance brings a tear to Richie’s eye at the thought of losing Led Zeppelin.

Another storyline focuses on the American Century sandwich girl and drug purveyor, Juno Temple as Jamie Vine. She meets the lead singer of a band called the Nasty Bits and takes his tape for a listen. Jamie keeps the employees fed and high but her real dream is to join the A&R team and sign new talent. Her discovery of the Nasty Bits inspires Richie and she does seem to really get what gives them potential. In one of the most interesting scenes she and the lead singer, Kip (played by James Jagger) have an after sex convo where she explains that his band sucks… but their emotional impact on the audience was awesome, and that means he could be a star. Then Jamie asks him what he cares about and he says, “Fucking. Fighting. Nothing,” and she says that’s his band persona from now on – he doesn’t give a fuck. As Jamie leaves, Kip is sticking a needle in his arm and the drug dealer tells him to be careful with that stuff. Thing is, Jamie, it’ll really help him with the whole not-giving-a-fuck persona.

Past and present come together for Richie when he hears enticing music and sees a bunch of people dancing outside. So he has his driver pull over… But when he asks a guy who’s “in charge of this area” about the music they pull a gun on him and say he should move along. It’s not his place. When he gets home later Richie listens to Lester Grimes playing and singing on a Blues record and it turns out Lester was the guy standing beside the one with the gun that shunned him. We’re transported to Richie’s memory of discovering Lester, the first artist he ever represented, singing the Blues in a club where Richie worked behind bar. Over the course of the episode we check on the trajectory of Richie representing Lester. First he lets the record company force a new name on Lester, “Little Johnny Little” because he’s so tall. Ha ha. Except it’s not really funny at all. Then that same record company guy makes Lester sing lame dance tunes when all he wants is to sing the Blues. It’s a shit spiral of compromise for Lester; all the while Richie is moving up in the world and ends up with his own record company. Lester, on the other hand, ends up lying in a pool of his own blood when Richie leaves him behind at the now-bought-out old record label where they really must insist he continue singing cha cha cha crap.

It’s clear from Richie’s portrayal that he manages to excuse all this as him “learning the hard way” from his experience with Lester. The record company insisted on shafting Lester, he conveys in his telling. But Richie also tells the Germans about how his company makes money even from their worst artists by making them pay all production costs and assorted “fees” out of their final cut from record sales. He’s mighty proud of how he protects the American Century bottom line by sticking it to the musicians and not quite contrite enough about Lester. Richie seems to think he’s just like any other businessman, but in the process conveniently forgets how much he hurts the very artists he claims to love. Also, there’s something more to this Lester story: Lester’s phenomenal talent was singing and playing the Blues. It didn’t just hurt Lester to deprive him of that; it genuinely robbed the music world of a gifted artist. For someone in Richie’s position, that’s the greatest crime of all.

Richie’s relationship with his wife, Devon, isn’t explored much in the “Pilot” but she does throw him a birthday party against his will. During the party we find out she was a Warhol girl and that they miss her at the Factory. Andy’s been asking after her. Devon claims that her husband and kids have filled her heart to the brim and this life in Greenwich, Connecticut is all she needs to be happy. But we recognize that faraway look in her eyes. She misses the high life. In a later scene Richie loses all control and starts drinking again. He offers the bottle to Devon and she pretends to drink but then spits it in his face instead, so then Richie hits the road and buys an eight ball just to seal in the juicy goodness of his sobriety lapse.

What sets him off onto this loony trek? The craziest scenes are with Andrew Dice Clay’s Buck Rogers, the radio guy moneymaker who’s in conflict with American Century because of “that bastard Donny Osmond,” whom they represent. Apparently Donny pissed Buck off and ever since Buck’s been stuffing coke in his nose and raging about it nonstop. Buck’s on a power trip and plans to boycott all American Century artists so they’ll get no radio play. That means no money and potentially no deals too. Richie takes a meeting with Buck in a sex club surrounded with naked writhing duos, threesomes and so on. It’s a hilarious scene where they discuss the Osmond’s asthma and whether or not Buck’s face resembles an asshole, which it kinda does. Richie brought his buddy Joe Corso to the meeting, an “independent promoter” who brings coke for Buck and appears to have mob ties.

After their meeting Richie goes to his surprise birthday party during which he gets a call from Joe that Buck is finally ready to strike a deal with him now that he’s on day three of his coke binge. Andrew Dice Clay delivers an eerily realistic egotistical cokehead gone mad. He repeats that Richie has to “face his fears,” a zillion times with such fervor and sincerity you gotta wonder if the guy really was out of his mind during filming. After his tirade Buck shoots a hole in his TV screen. Then Buck and Richie fight with Richie nearly choking to death until Joe intervenes with a microphone trophy to the back of Buck’s head. They think they killed Buck but as they search for something to hide his body in, Buck attacks them from behind so they really do have to kill him — with intent this time. Richie says they should call the cops and say it was self defense. But Joe says no way this looks like self defense. They gotta clean it up and get rid of the body. Joe knows how they can dump it and make it look like “just another drug deal gone bad,” so that’s the last we’ll see of Andrew Dice Clay as Buck. It was a blast while it lasted.

We’re transported at the end of the episode to a coked up Richie in the Mercer Arts club seeing The New York Dolls perform. The ceiling and walls split and come down on the audience who are all so caught up and oblivious in their love of the music that they don’t notice until the pipes also start bursting and spraying water on them. Then the stage lights come crashing down and the whole building collapses into an enormous crumble of smoke and rubble. After it settles we can discern Richie flat on his back, alive and dusty as fuck. He stumbles out of the wreckage and down the cobblestone street but he’s smiling because of the music in his head. In the after show back story we find out that the Mercer Arts Center actually did collapse but just during a rehearsal, not a performance and not with The New York Dolls either. But it’s cool to take artistic license for the sake of art and right on theme for Vinyl.

Vinyl delivers mad fun, fantastic music, and fab costumes with the sexy pairs Cannavale/Wilde and Temple/Jagger at the helm. It’s perfect timing for a show set in 1970s NYC with the current bellbottom boho fashion explosion and every art gallery in the city hanging up pics from this era on their walls right now. But the real acid test of any show lies with story. You can’t stay hot on TV without strong ass writing and a bullet train narrative. Can Vinyl’s story hold up? Some of the signs are there. We’ve got cliffhanger questions after the two hour “Pilot,” like how’s Richie going to avoid the homicide detective already on his tail about Buck’s murder? Will he keep boozing and coking his days away? Will the American Century buyout go through after all? What bands are we going to see in the next episode? Scorsese directed the “Pilot” so it’s possible things could go downhill from here but either way it’s worth it to tune in for all the sexy beasts onscreen and the rad tunes to boot.

–Katherine Recap

* Artists and repertoire.The division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters.