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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How To Make It In America: “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?”

Illustration for article titled How To Make It In America: “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?”
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Sometimes, the underlying message in a typical How To Make It In America episode is less, “Stuff always works out” than, “Stuff always works out as it was meant to.” It’s not really a show that subscribes to luck or entitlement, or is particularly glamorous. If anything, “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?” finds the entire cast caught somewhere in a realm of denial, delusion or self-sabotage. Still, there is a sense that Ben, Cam, Rachel, Kapo, and Rene will end up okay, whether that means mainstream success or simply having their friends, family, limbs and a little dignity intact. More importantly, we want them to, which has been season two’s foremost achievement.

Despite the characters’ varying humiliations and impulsivity, “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?” represents a significant bounce-back week for HTMIIA, which stumbled with the poorly sketched and mostly silly “Mofongo.” There are more laughs than in any single half-hour since the season première, as well as more drama (poor Kapo) and even a bit of uncomfortable tension (you go, Rene). It’s also a lot sexier.

The episode opens, in fact, right where things left off. Except where “Mofongo” concluded on a humorously lusty, PG-13 hookup between Ben and Nancy, “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?” begins the next morning, with Ben on top of her from behind, while Gina Gershon wails in believable ecstasy. And it ends with the two abandoning pretense and discretion, banging each other’s brains out on the bottom deck of Nancy and her husband Yosi’s boat. While Yosi is one level above. For his birthday party.

Yep, Nancy’s married. And to a loutish Israeli clothing manufacturer who also happens to be Crisp’s new business partner, no less. Ben is, as we know, a classic neurotic—he acts without thinking and then agonizes over his choices and completely loses his cool. Cam knows this too, and will be none too pleased after discovering that Ben’s not only endangered their first real shot at success, but broken his word about steering clear of Nancy’s vagina. Still, you could see Ben’s genuine passion when he eyes the Manhattan skyline with Nancy, sighs and sums up the show’s entire point of view when he says, “I used to feel like it was mocking me, like it represented everything I wanted but couldn’t have. Tonight, I feel like I got a shot.” And in turn, you can see how turned on Nancy is by Ben’s innocence and ambition. What happened next was simple math. Or chemistry.

The episode’s only real blemish is Rachel’s continued interest in Neanderthal’s head fashion-punk-farmer moron Tim (played a bit too much as caricature by James Ransone, a.k.a. Ziggy from The Wire). Creator-head writer Ian Edelman has convincingly demonstrated his leeriness toward the gentrifying generation and current Lower East Side squatter-glam since HTMIIA’s inception, but done so by keeping it on the margins as comic relief. In “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?” Tim becomes more prominent as Rachel’s entrepreneurial muse, and as Domingo points out, a sort of yin to his yang that completes Rachel’s sublimation of Ben. But when Tim looks out from his Victorian-era Bushwick porch, sipping coffee and dangling a cigarette from his mouth, and jests, “Rich girl, please do not gentrify our neighborhood. Our drug dealers have a hard enough time affording cool sneakers as is,” it makes you wince. And then it makes you wonder why Rachel doesn’t wince too. Unfortunately, she finds him exotic and novel, like the tomatoes he grows that seem to have put her under some kind of spell. Which in turn means Tim’s gonna stick around for a while until this whole drama plays out, and that he’s simply an unlikeable recurring character.

Meanwhile, poor Kapo gets busted by the FBI while consulting Ben and Cam, and suffers the extra shame of being tackled by two agents while making a run for it. It was nice to see that Ben’s immediate reaction was to cash their advance from Yosi to bail their friend out, and nicely balanced out with humor as Cam assures Ben that Kapo will be freed that evening and asks incredulously, “You never knew anybody who got brought in for questioning?” Especially after the elevator doors closed on Kapo as he pleaded for them to “please don’t forget about me.” Oh, Kapo.


On the contrary, Rene gets his groove back in a big way this week. Even viewers who detest Luis Guzman’s low-level ex-con and Rasta Monsta kingpin have to appreciate the way he handled getting shook down by Everton Thompson (Eriq La Salle, letting his Soul Glo), a Caribbean-community leader stirring up bad PR for Rene as a means to squeeze him for profits. À la Ben, Rene wears his heart on sleeve, explaining calmly to Thompson that he inherited the Rasta Monsta name and simply wants to run a legitimate business. Only he winds up getting fucked in a very different sense. There’s some real volatility to the whole storyline, and reason to both worry and eagerly await its resolution, especially as it concerns Cam, Domingo, and the Rasta Monsta THC spray.

HTMIIA continues to juggle its handful of protagonists well, and it’s easy to see where season one got cluttered with additional cast members like Martha Plimpton and Shannyn Sossamon. Rachel’s backsliding wanderlust and continued icky anti-sparks between Cam and Lulu aside (Lulu’s presence has become perfunctory at best) aside, “I’m Sorry, Who’s Yosi?” is a funny, tight little teleplay with open ends that bodes well for the final two episodes, and hopefully a third season.


Stray Observations

  • Great use of the Damned’s “New Rose” during the closing credits, and continued terrific contrast of wistful new dance and hip-hop and grounded, foreboding rock.
  • As a New York Jew myself, I kind of love the overt New York Jewiness of HTMIIA, particularly in exchanges like when Cam asks, “How don’t you know about your own people?” and Ben replies, “I’m a Reconstructionist Jew.”
  • Pretty convenient express 1 train to Borough Hall, eh?
  • Ugh, I just wanna smack Tim. Why Rachel doesn’t when he dismisses her, God forbid, real job, makes me crazy. And this is why I don’t want to have to even consider him as more than a colorful accessory.
  • Tattoo parlors in Brooklyn have actually started to look like that. Not that I’d ever get one. I am Jewish, after all.
  • There’s plenty I didn’t really have room to touch on, like Domingo and Rachel’s confrontation or the absence yet again of Joe Pantoliano (boo), so feel free to open things up in the comments.