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