Season 1, Episode 5: “He in Racist Fire”
Directed by Peter Sollett
Written by Adam Rapp
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Racket” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cyclone” – click here
Moving further through 1973, we’re back with Richie Finestra (Bobby Canavale), as he tries to juggle professional life, his family life with Devon (Olivia Wilde), and at the same time does his best to keep his involvement in the murder of Buck Rogers under wraps. Seems tough, right? Well, a little zip of cocaine and Richie can face the insurmountable odds no problem. Or can he?
This episode begins with a part Led Zeppelin-part Jethro Tull knock-off, wearing costumes and all – Wizard Fist. What a name. They perform at Renaissance fairs and such. Brutal. A bunch of other bands go on and on, as Richie listens, alongside an unimpressed Julie (Max Casella), and the ringleader of this apparent night out, Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid).
Heading off, Richie gets a call from his father Vince (David Proval). He chews his son out a bit over the alibi Richie requested. “Fuckin‘ big shot,” Vince eggs him on.
Richie: “There‘s more than one way to be dead, pop.”
Julie calls Clark in for a talk. There are firings going around, and Clark starts to suspect he’s gone; he’s right. “You‘re fired, kid,” Julie tells him. The show the night before was certainly that one last nail in his coffin. But poor Clark’s left in tears, begging for his job. Instead he ends up with a pay cut – taking the job of Jamie Vine (Juno Temple). Because nowadays Jamie has other things to do. Meanwhile, Cece (Susan Heyward) appears to have a whole other thing going on, showing up “in a limo” in the morning, as well as other things. Damn, girl.
In the board room, Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) and his new client Kip Stevens (James Jagger) about promotional label “bullshit” for radio stations around the country. Kip wants Jamie in there with them and tells the whole room: “I‘m Kip Stevens, fuck your mom; there‘s my bio.” Richie and the label are doing label-type things, attempting to break apart The Nasty Bits. Almost the way Jim Morrison, and other lead singers, found themselves attacked by label dudes who “groom” talent and try to take the supposed star onward, upward, away from their bands.
One thing I’m starting to love about Vinyl is how Jamie has really, despite all odds, carved a niche out for herself, amongst all the sexism and the nonsense around her. Temple is a solid actor anyways. Here, she gets to show lots of that.
Cece lets Richie know about Hannibal (Daniel J. Watts) possibly being lured to another label, by the greasy Jackie Jarvis (Ken Marino). This clearly worries Richie, and shakes him up. Just as he seemed to be doing all right. He calls Devon and cons her into a date, which is actually him trying to “impress” a client.
Richie: “You up for some fondue? If not we can fondon‘t. Go somewhere else.”
Jamie’s worried about her job, as Clark is in her position now. No promotion for her, though. I suppose at least she’s still got a job while others are being sacked. Still, raw deal for bringing in a new act.
Out on a photo shoot, Richie goes to see Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse). They’ve got a complicated past. It’s clear Richie abused their relationship in some ways, giving too little while taking too much. He wants her to help the label, but she gives him options on how to bring her into the fold. Richie tries to sell her hard: “You‘ll have a voice, okay. I‘m different, Andy.”
At a high class restaurant, Jamie meets with a woman, obviously her mother, who she lies to about a promotion with American Century Records. But she gets the reply: “You‘re an embarrassment.”
In the office, Richie finds his father laughing and drinking with employees. Vince calls himself “just an old horn player“, yet it is extremely clear that Richie cares about his opinion. And things go on devolving until they’re basically at each others throat. But Vince is at odds even more now with his son needing that alibi. After discovering the nefarious shit Richie’s involved with, Vince is feeling worse.
A brief Little Richard (CJ Lacey) interlude, as he woos and wails his way away. Beauty.
In the studio, Jamie listens to The Nasty Bits rock hard. It is super raw and sounds a bit brutal. Eventually, Kip gets into an argument with his guitar player, calling him “lazy“; Jamie’s rubbing off on him. Yet after the session when Lester arrives, there’s trouble – he fires the guitarist, tough and to the point.
Out at dinner, Richie’s entertaining Hannibal best he can. Lots of fun, some laughs. The title of the episode comes from an anagram of Richie Finestra out of Hannibal, displaying a talent for coming up with them.
There’s still the problem of Kip and his heroin. He has the addiction and he’s afraid nobody is around to “take the knocks” with him. In comes Jamie, promising just that.
While Devon and Hannibal dance, Richie snorts some coke in the bathroom. He joins everybody and they’re all having fun. Just like normal people. Things get a little too sexual, as Hannibal and Devon dance with lust. Richie hauls Cece into his lap forcibly, which she doesn’t appreciate much. Soon enough, you can see the look in Richie’s eyes go dark while Devon enjoys Hannibal, quite a bit. The night ends abruptly. But Richie brought her there to impress, for the purpose of business, and he got upset when things went south. I don’t blame her. I blame him. Maybe Hannibal a bit, as well. Either way things get hot and heavy in the elevator before getting complicated. She knows she was “bait” and then reveals there was no plan to bang Hannibal, just a blow in the bathroom for Richie from a faithful wife. He goes way too far before getting smacked.
Richie: “Want a bump?”
Hannibal: “I don‘t need a bump. I got a bump.”
Devon: “Why yes you do, sir.”
The cops have got Richie’s place bugged. They heard the conversation between Papa Finestra and his son. With further and further evidence, how long does Richie have before cuffs click on those wrists?
Richie gets a call later from Jarvis, who’s just signed Hannibal. Wow. Just, wow. Not particularly impressed with Hannibal at this point, either.
We get a great Lou Reed (Connor Hanwick) scene, “White Light, White Heat” rocking over the crowd. At the same time, Devon heads into the Hotel Chelsea, while Richie’s at the club with Lou onstage and talking to Andrea. Their history becomes clearer with each conversation. He has really insulted two important women in his life in this episode, though, Andrea gets a slight satisfaction out of Richie’s revelations. Regardless, she gets in on the label. Another extra dimension to Richie and his life filling up with madness. Lots of things are adding up. Will he go too far, again, and cheat on Devon?
This was an intense episode. Can’t wait to see “Cyclone” next! Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.