October 5th, 2008
No show knows how to waste time like Entourage.
“Tree Trippers” is straight out of the Entourage playbook: our group faces an important decision, which leads them on a quest of sorts that really just stretches out one sentence into an entire episode for the sake of being filled with antics, tongue-in-cheek celebrity cameos, and likely some sort of drug-based hallucinations.
Now, admittedly, I like my Entourage episodes to have a bit more plot, and this episode kind of struggled in that regard, but the season remains charming: whereas last year felt like nothing but episodes like this one strung along in a row, this feels like a worthwhile detour in order to recollect on the current situation.
First off, I want to discuss what is one of Entourage’s biggest problems: the “Opening Credits Addition Justification” episodes. Last year, Perry Reeves moved into Debi Mazar’s old spot in the credits, and we were subjected to some really weak Ari episodes that, as much as I love Mrs. Ari in small doses, just never clicked with the dynamic of the show. And this year, with Rex Lee making his appearance in the credits for the first time, we get a Lloyd-specific story about he, his boyfriend Tom, and a Games Night at Ari’s.
It’s just the kind of antics that the show, in my view, is smarter than. I like Lloyd as his interactions with Ari go, so I was glad the episode did ultimately use it as a chance to get Lloyd and Ari on the phone together, but the scenes featuring only Lloyd fell flat. This isn’t the fault of Lee or Brandon Quinn, who plays Tom, but rather just the feeling that whenever we’re completely separated from our main characters the show kind of doesn’t work. We just don’t know enough about Lloyd beyond the context of Ari to make it work, and the show is not, nor will it ever be, a true ensemble piece. Even Turtle has never been given a proper storyline of his own for more than a few episodes (remember how quickly his girlfriend disappeared?), so bringing in another character and sending them off on their own feels like justification and not much more.
It kind of takes away from the rest of the episode, although there’s not much to take away from: the guys go out to the desert with Eric Roberts (cameoing as a mushroom-growing, mushroom-taking, winnebago owner), trip out on some shrooms, and ponder whether they should do Benji, the movie that’s a guarantee, or if Vince should fight with Warner Bros. in order to be the second lead in Smoke Jumpers. Eventually, Vince gets his two signs, decides he wants to do Smoke Jumpers, and voila: problem solved.
Of course, he could have done that by making a pros and cons list, but this is all about indulgence: about Drama being the master of the shroom quest, of Eric becoming mute while tripping (I was actually convinced he was faking it, personally, but I guess I was overthinking it), and of Ari hallucinating, talking to his son while doing so, and kind of imploding a little under the stress of it all. It’s not all that interesting, it’s just kind of fun to watch. It’s a bit strange that this episode was so much longer than last week’s: this episode could have probably done with a few cuts, while last week felt like it could have used some more time. Regardless, this wasn’t an episode about depth of character, but the show can have one every now and then (but not too often) that doesn’t go anywhere at all.
Still, the show needs to make sure it doesn’t get caught up in this rut: the more it ramps up towards these projects, and thus the less complacent it seems, the better for its future.
- Here, Arnold was the equivalent of Chekhov’s gun: considering how rarely we acknowledge Arnold’s existence, if he shows up on a spiritual journey into the desert for no real reason chances are he’s going to factor into its conclusion.
- I like Eric Roberts, and he was one of those guest stars that always works so well for Entourage: one who is willing to totally buy into the cliche written for them. I also like it when the cameos all just hate Ari Gold – it’s a nice constant, and Piven does that sense of awkwardness due to history so well.
- Sometimes, the show just wants to have fun: what was the point of the porn star cameos other than boobs, exactly?
- Funny how last week we had “Day F**kers” and then this year “Tree Trippers” – I’m going to go listen to some Beatles now, methinks.