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