Priorities can quickly turn any situation poisonous. That’s the crux of “What You Like Is In The Limo”, a much-needed turning point in Denis Leary’s televised Melba toast that FX has been promoting as Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. For three straight episodes, we’ve watched Johnny Rock, Gigi, and The Heathens lounge around in stuffy rooms, where they’ve clumsily tossed around rock clichés and digressed about a bright future that may or may not come. At the end of last week’s “Lust For Life”, that future was all but written in bedrock after Gigi shrugged off her own stage fright and won over a sweaty crowd at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. This week, we’re finally drawing blood, as Gigi sharply scolds her bandmates: “Instead of focusing on the music, all you care about is the rock star bullshit side of things.”
That they do. When an offer comes in from Belgium—yes, the same Belgium that adores Cliff Poncier’s grungy Citizen Dick in Cameron Crowe’s Singles—demanding that The Heathens play a reunion gig with Johnny front and center, the gang act out the tackiest episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. At Ira’s request, each member tosses out ridiculous demands for their stage rider, from “two room-temperature Figi waters, seedless grapes (white), and a little brie” (Flash) to unapproved pharmaceuticals (Rehab) to four $3000 diamond-encrusted bottles of vodka (Johnny) to masseuses that look like Johnny Depp (Ava) and Melissa McCarthy (Bam Bam). Eventually, they start arguing over which animals they should ask for: an iguana, a snake, or the country’s biggest owl. “We gotta have a rider that reflects our newfound rock star status,” Johnny argues.
Yet all Gigi wants is “lemon tea and honey,” the only thing she needs to go out there and do her best. She tries to impress this knowledge on her greying bandmates, but no chance. They receive everything they want—in addition to several other hallucinogens, including Belgium Blue, “the strongest weed in Europe”—and, not surprisingly, this leads to Johnny’s own downfall. After a strong start, he begins hallucinating on stage, seeing all of their requested animals coming for him at all corners, which has him exiting stage right and urging Gigi to save the show. As such, the Johnny Rock-led Heathens are officially kaput, and it’s now the age of Gigi and the Assassins. But “What You Like Is In The Limo” is smarter than just an age-old lesson in excess, it’s a springboard of assorted tensions that should affect everyone.
Or, at the very least, Johnny Rock and Flash. After teasing us all season, we finally receive a one-on-one scene between Flash and Gigi, which is more than appropriate considering she’s liberally referring to the guitarist as “babe” and “honey” (even in front of her father). It’s here Flash seemingly convinces Gigi that Johnny is holding her back and that the two of them should ditch him. “I’m in it to make great music with you,” he pleads. She agrees, though contends they should give him one more chance. So, when Johnny fumbles after a strange on-stage case of ornithophobia, Flash quickly declares in the limo post-show that he’s out of Team Assassins. To his surprise, Gigi backpedals on their agreement and keeps her father on board behind the scenes, a place Johnny’s been all along. It’s far from a surprising move—where else would Johnny go?—but it’s all about what lies ahead.
Finally, John Corbett gets something to work with in Leary’s vision! The look he gives at the end, as White Rabbits’ moody “I Had It Coming” starts in, is about the closest thing to a cliffhanger we’ve seen on this show. And watching Gigi devilishly smile as she peers at her exploding Twitter account, after eerily embracing the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that disgusted her moments before, indicates that she’s hardly the innocent character we’ve been urged to believe in for the past few episodes. No, there’s perhaps an ulterior motive to her agenda, one that involves surreptitiously capitalizing on each and every member and one that may lead to devastating consequences in the near future. How she brutally ignores Flash (kudos to another solid performance by Elizabeth Gillies) is so cold and calculated and removed—it’s just what her character needs to be more than simply a boring, loving daughter.
Look, it’s not much, but it’s something. Considering the show’s structurally inhibited by its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it half-hour format, it’s a little understandable that Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll took this long to string together an agreeable web of conflict, even if it’s still admittedly thin. Because everything so far has been supplied and resolved at face value—Johnny’s sobriety and Gigi’s stage fright, to name the obvious—there’s been nothing to truly mystify us. “What You Like Is In The Limo” appears to have flipped the switch, or at least one of them, and now finds the show at last playing with its motley crew of characters. Judging from those final looks, it would appear Gigi has no plans in passing over the dice to anyone anytime soon—and everyone knows it. With regards to priorities, this state of play could be the show’s elixir going forward.
- According to Rehab, “[Belgium] has been on the cutting edge of pharmaceutical drugs for 50 years.” Plan accordingly.
- It’s good to see Leary poking more fun at himself. When two women in craft services mistaken Johnny for the Wedding Crashes guy, the surprise nod to Christopher Walken over Owen Wilson deserves a golf clap at least.
- This week’s mandatory Bowie reference: “I’m what happens when David Bowie meets Joe f’n Strummer,” says Johnny.
- Give Bam Bam some beer and a drum solo and he’s yours.
- It’s about time Belgium approves achievium, excellivate, and tokenderall. Yes, those are probably all spelled wrong.
- Shots fired: “Neil Young’s like 90. I don’t need a teleprompter.” Okay, Johnny.
- Gigi: “This band is so friggin’ dysfunctional it makes Metallica look like the Jonas Brothers.”
- Next up: The band goes to therapy for Some Kind Of Heathen.