What's this? A really good episode of Episodes? Can such a thing even exist? Surprisingly, it can. "Episode Five" was this comedy's strongest installment yet, mostly because it found convincing and amusing use for its three leads that embraced the showbiz world it's spent so long setting up. This week, Sean's (Stephen Mangan) infatuation with actress Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe) grew into a real problem, as she appeared to be giving him the come-on by stripping to her bra in his presence. Is Morning unaware of the signals she's giving out to her boss, or is she making a play for him as bitter wife Beverly (Tamsin Greig) believes?
The story nicely diverged shortly after, with Beverly becoming upset that the costume designer for the Pucks pilot can't tailor a classy outfit for Morning's librarian character without any porn overtones. Beverly was comforted by studio assistant Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins), leading to both women hanging around together on the sound-stage, getting high in a children's bedroom set and developing an unexpected bond. Meanwhile, Sean accompanied Matt LeBlanc to a Rape Prevention Task Force benefit dinner, only to find Morning had decided to join them for the evening, which became a problem when LeBlanc started to push Sean into having a fling behind his wife's back.
Both were good uses of the Lincoln's; particularly in humanizing Beverly a touch, because she's essentially been a pessimistic complainer from the start, but it was also fun to see Mangan out on the town with LeBlanc again. Mangan can play a husband perfectly well, but it's just funnier watching Sean squirm in the presence of a beauty his wife disapproves of, flattered by her attention and encouraged to take things further by his new celebrity pal. I especially loved Mangan's behaviour when Morning took her top off; his eyes unable to resist a darted look at her exposed cleavage. LeBlanc had a more supportive role this week, but it seemed to work much better for him, playing the chilled devil on Sean's shoulder.
The reveal that Beverly stole Sean away from his first wife shortly after they met was unexpected, and gave added complexity to a similar situation possibly arising between Sean and Morning. Plus it was amusing to see Sean bump into his former personal assistant Andrew (Oliver Kieran Jones) at the rape benefit, soon realizing his erstwhile P.A's having a much better experience of Hollywood, with his screenplay getting made with Matt Damon and Keira Knightley as the leads.
Overall, "Episode Five" was surprisingly good fun with a decent pace and a good combination of unfolding relationship drama and proper laughs -- such as Merv (John Pankow) leaving the side of his blind wife at the dinner, unbeknownst to her, so she referred to him in conversation with Sean and LeBlanc, who didn't know how to respond to her unfortunate mistake. The ending was also very strong; with Sean deciding to rise above the peer pressure of LeBlanc, refuse to accompany Morning home (where one thing may lead to another), and was later forced to admit everything to Beverly. The final shot, of Sean getting up the middle of the night to masturbate to a sex tape on the internet he discovered Morning's infamous for around L.A, unknowingly caught in the act by his wife, was a really good way to end the episode. Excruciating, funny, but played with a tinge of seriousness that wisely stopped short of being a punchline with Beverly storming in to catch Sean red-handed (or should that be sweaty-palmed?) Instead, Beverly could only watch, open-mouthed.
What did you think? I haven't enjoyed Episodes very much since it began, but this episode seemed to hit most of its marks. Hopefully the remaining two installments will be of similar quality, or better.
written by David Krane & Jeffrey Klarik / directed by James Griffith / 7 February 2011 / BBC2/HD