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How To Make It In America: “The Friction”

Illustration for article titled How To Make It In America: “The Friction”
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Pusha T could teach Ben and Cam a thing or two about how to make it in America. In 2011, after more than 15 years of under-appreciated work with his brother Malice in Clipse, the Virginia-bred MC elevated to a new level of mainstream attention after partnering with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label. And on the week that his official solo debut, Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, hits streets, Pusha begins a multi-episode guest stint on How To Make It In America as an enforcer for Rene’s sudden rival, Everton Thompson (Eriq La Salle). Clearly, his career is being managed with more nuance than any of the budding entrepreneurs inhabiting Ian Edelman’s increasingly bleak comedy.

Though “The Friction” is teeming with downer vibes, it’s also HTMIIA’s funniest chapter since the season première (and all-around best since “It’s Not Even Like That,” if not best period). Rachel in particular scores big laughs, notably while shrooming with Tim (ugh) and, upon spotting an open manhole cover, asking, “Do you know about the mole people that live beneath the city?” She then elaborates, “It’s, like, straight Narnia down there. They live in darkness.” Lake Bell has real timing, and can be very silly, and until Rachel’s trip turns bad amid a run-in with Tim’s girlfriend, she’s consistently hilarious.


But it does go bad, and at least Tim’s likely out of the picture now (good riddance). When Rachel broke the news that she and her hipster-tomato-farm article had been axed from Biscuit, Tim’s reaction was, “What else can you do except grab your balls and hope the world accepts you for who you are?” He didn’t even hesitate. It’s as if not only do those turds of wisdom fall easily from his mouth like low-hanging fruit, but he actually buys his own bullshit. And for some reason, Rachel does too. When it all comes crashing down, and Tim humiliates Rachel by assuring his girlfriend, “She’s just some girl I felt sorry for,” it’s clear that Rachel has lost control of her better senses, because as with Domingo, Ben, and even Darren, she’s the one who’s used to dictating relationships. After all, that’s how we avoid getting hurt. But this one really stung.

Ben’s got issues of his own after (finally) realizing he’d been played like a six-string by Nancy and Yosi, which also gave us an opportunity to check in with Kristen and Kirsten, who are actually growing kind of charming in limited doses. During the first half of “Friction,” Ben was out of character as the level head while Cam freaked out about Yosi wanting to license Crisp and re-brand it. Alas, that didn’t last for long. Once Nancy offered a quickie on her office couch, he suddenly forgot what he and Cam were so worried about and only made the situation worse. Though in fairness, his partner isn’t acting very wisely either. With Rene on the trail of Rasta Monsta THC spray and Crisp in danger of selling out, Cam inexplicably convinces Domingo (who deserves a real smack upside the head for mass-distributing the spray to begin with) to move the product across state lines. Thus, theoretically, Rene’s out of jeopardy, the spray still gets a market and Cam has the money he needs to manufacture Crisp on his own.

That’s about when Pusha T comes barreling into the back of their Monsta van, with a shotgun-toting friend in the passenger seat for good measure. Dating back to season one, something about Cam and utility vehicles doesn’t mix, and between Everton’s goons and Rene’s, the guy’s in deeper than ever. Which is why he suddenly plays the class card with Ben. When the two convene at day’s end, having both failed to secure a business plan without bowing to Yosi, Cam jabs, “I guess you can take the boy out of Barney’s but can’t take the Barney’s out of the boy.” Ben, in turn, essentially accuses Cam of being a naïve dreamer. Both, however, are just projecting their own disappointment, and know that one of them can’t succeed without the other.

While Ben and Cam’s interpersonal scrape might resolve itself in next week’s finale, it’s doubtful that anyone’s predicaments will end on an especially hopeful note, let alone a triumphant one. Everyone’s pretty well fucked, and the best-case scenario for all involved might be to break even with limbs, bank accounts, and soul intact.


Stray observations:

  • For anyone who’s tried to start their own business or stop working for someone else, this season is such a vivid depiction of how much more stressful that can be than the alternative. Cam’s day in particular felt like a vice, and it’s why he’s so reticent to cancel out all that time and sacrifice for a quick buck with Yosi.
  • Poor Kapo.
  • Have I mentioned how much I hate the Tim character? Rachel maybe needed that little reality check (or both of them, seeing as how she was also fired), but once Tim went from a target for satire to actually integral, he was an embarrassingly accurate reflection of a loathsome neo-urban stereotype, and as such, painful to hear talk, no matter how ironic. (“Let’s ride the snake to the lake.” Ugh.)
  • Classic Mobb Deep during Pusha’s entrance. Amazing.
  • Once again, Nancy seems to represent some kind of devil to Ben (much as Tim is to Rachel?), tempting him by asking, “You are being handed the keys to the kingdom. Don’t you think that comes with a price?” The answer to that question from a person like Nancy is almost always, “No.”
  • That scene with Rachel in the bodega made me sad.
  • I love when Rene references white-bread culture, i.e. his Matlock crack.
  • Do you guys feel like the show can somehow spin all this into redemption and success in the finale? Do you even want it to?
  • Were you sympathetic to Rachel in the sauna, or feel like she shoulda known better?

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