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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Californication: “Here I Go Again”

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Nearly everything that bothers outsiders and loyal viewers alike about Californication is front, center, and rear in “Here I Go Again.” Actually, guest star Drea de Matteo’s crack about losing her “back” cherry was a highlight amid an episode that scored clever, graphic laughs but otherwise went off the rails compared to last week’s grounded, steadying “Love Song.” (And yes, she did have a baby shortly before filming.)

For starters, Samurai and Kali take yet another turn on the bench, with Marcy and Stu subbing back in. Pamela Adlon and Stephen Tobolowsky continue to be surprisingly under-used this season, and mostly pop back up to indirectly facilitate Charlie and Lizzie finally consummating. It turns out the prim little nanny is possibly a manipulative tramp, which is kind of a hateful turn for her character, even if it does lead to a couple of steamy, Phoebe Cates-in-Fast Times At Ridgemont High-worthy poolside nude scenes. It’s hard to get a read on whether we should really like Stu any longer or appreciate Marcy’s reasons for being with him. The show lost a bit of spark when it availed itself of Marcy and Charlie as a couple,—and in turn, their dynamic with Hank and Karen.

Speaking of Hank’s ex, she actually articulated a lot of viewers’ (and you readers’) concerns about her essentially being a gutless emotional punching bag. After Hank lectures her about standing by her man (a now completely unraveled, alcohol-ravaged Bates), she merely shrugs and semi-sarcastically responds, “That’s what I do.” It’s one of two low blows at Hank’s expense in “Here I Go Again,” the other from Becca and a bit more direct: “I liked you much better when you were in New York.” Of course, it’s enraging that Hank suddenly become the undeserving scapegoat for Bates’ bad behavior and his ex-wife and daughter’s poor choices with men. But then again, was it unwarranted? Becca’s smart enough to follow chain reactions and not just snap-judge her dad or any one situation. It’s true that even shithead Tyler (Scott Michael Foster’s actually been really great in his limited role) could see Hank’s good intentions, but he also hasn’t had to live with the guy his whole life. Clearly, Becca’s done parenting up and answering her father’s cries of wolf, and wants to break to the chain.

Still, the final scene—which quickly devolves into de Matteo’s boozy stripper, Holly, flinging Becca across the room and Bates making an ass of himself before pounding a bottle of Scotch (why doesn’t Karen get rid of all the alcohol??!!)—is incredibly sudden in its emotional weight, and a bit jarring. This has been an ongoing pattern throughout season five, although at least “Love Song” didn’t conclude (nor does “Here I Go Again” commence, to its credit) with Hank and Karen experimenting with adultery. Becca’s incredibly harsh and uncalled-for verbal assault was only slightly less jolting than Karen’s apparent failure to connect the dots about Hank, Bates, and Holly. Or if she had, something subtle got lost amidst all the abrupt melodrama. And while Becca was once the show’s most sympathetic and intriguing character, she’s starting to function exclusively as a self-righteous belittler who, in this case at least, deserved reprimanding in her own right. By somebody.

“Here I Go Again” isn’t Californication at its best, and now Hank is looking close to his worst. It’s hard to say if seeking comfort in the arms of Kali while backstabbing Samurai is going to improve his situation any. At least it’ll be easier to watch than the unpleasant and unnecessary demise of Karen and Bates’ domestic bliss or Charlie’s ill-fated affair of convenience with the lady who wipes his son’s ass.

Stray observations:

  • Was I the only one who initially yelped, “I unwind by drinking tea and British TV too!” and then shrunk and said, “Oh”?
  • I promise I’m neither exaggerating nor trying to be cruel, but in a bit of irony, I thought de Matteo was Aida Turturro at first glance.
  • Stu’s dick, according to Charlie, “is like a pile of snakes with an apple on top.” I’d love to see this show’s whiteboard of phallic euphemisms.
  • Hank’s outrage at Bates’ invasive kiss was hilarious.
  • Stu’s face when Charlie referred to him as the “creepy old married guy” was great Tobolowsky-ness.
  • This rang a bit untrue, not just because of how things turned out, but given Charlie’s past sexual history and the running gag of him hitting “100”: Stu: “I know what it’s like to be hit on by pretty young things who want something from me.” Charlie: “Must be nice. Wish I did.”
  • I think I officially find Karen’s constant tic of saying “Ya know” kind of, ya know, annoying.
  • Digging to China. Lol.
  • Funniest moment: Hank muttering out something about going hiking with Holly at “Vandrhoffgadeien.”
  • Also, why didn’t Hank get her the hell off the lawn?!
  • Holly peed on the rug once.