Monday, November 17, 2008

Entourage S.5 E.11 - "Play'n with Fire"

As the culmination of season five looms in the distance, Entourage delivers one of the season’s most exciting episodes, the first one this year that has had me itching to watch another episode right after its completion rather than complacently going to sleep. All season long there have been hints that the writers are angling to take the show in a new direction (Vince’s jeopardized career, Drama’s TV success, E’s new clients, Ari and the studio job) and judging by last night’s episode and next week’s preview, they might just be willing to follow through with their promise of really shaking things up.

After suffering through 30 ridiculous takes for Verner (and finally convincing me his performance in Smokejumpers wasn’t terrible), Vince and Verner had it out at each other in a frenzied shouting match that ended in Verner’s public firing of Vince. Ari jumps on a helicopter to Big Bear to pacify things but Verner’s temper grows stronger and by the end of the day they’ve scheduled a meeting with the studio to try and salvage the production. Vince is willing to make amends but Verner will hear nothing of it and storms off to see the studio chair John Ellis (Alan Dale). Verner’s psychopathic storming of the studio played out fairly over-the-top but the shots of Vince and E running after him in bewilderment keyed into one of the show’s strongest enjoyment factors – the sense of these outsiders engaging in some sort of Hollywood absurdity and not believing their eyes while being caught up in the whole madness themselves. In the end, Ellis shuts down production on the film completely (a fairly melodramatic plot development) and the boys board a plane back to Queens uttering Vinnie’s oft-quoted credo from the early seasons, “If it all falls apart then we’ll go back home”, albeit this time with considerably less spunk.

The episode’s other major development was the attention devoted to Turtle and the reveal of his background. The episode begins with Jamie-Lynn Sigler calling him up and reigniting their relationship. While their courtship doesn’t feel anywhere near as genuine as Turtle’s relationship with the car mechanic’s daughter in season 3, Jamie-Lynn is at least able to coax more information out of him (last time all we got was for Turtle to take off his hat). The self-exploration started when she pushed Turtle about his life aspirations and he squirms when he realizes he doesn’t really have any. Furthermore, we learn that Turtle fronted the money for their big move to LA through being a bookie (no wonder Vinnie is so loyal) and that his real name is Sal (a good choice on the writers’ part, not ridiculous by any means but you can also see why a guy like him would rather go by his reptilian moniker).

Next week promises more big changes with the gang heading back to New York and for the first time in the show’s history we’ll actually get to see them in their old neighborhood (last time they went back, to shoot Queens Boulevard, everything was kept off-screen during the in-between seasons ellipsis. There’s also the promise of a huge blow-out between Vince and E – yes, we’ve seen this before, but this one looks pretty serious. All in all, last night’s episode was a great set-up for what could be a series-defining season finale. The ball is in the writers’ court now. Will they conclude the series’ most conflict-filled season with a cliff-hanger ending or will things revert back to the good life?

Oh, and major credit goes to Kevin Dillon and the writers for allowing Drama to get the night’s funniest line despite his minimal screen time with his delightfully esoteric name dropping of Barbet Schroeder.

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