The penultimate episode aired last night in the UK, with the show building to a big upset in the final scene. The comedy felt stripped back in favour of simmering drama this week, and I was disappointed one of the funnier subplots came to an abrupt end. It didn't help that a big scene in the middle was a reprise of Episodes' opening (a flashforward to events here), such was the desire to confirm that Matt LeBlanc would be appearing in this series.
This week, Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean's (Stephen Mangan) relationship hit crisis point, in the wake of Beverly snooping on Sean masturbating to actress Morning Randolph's (Mircea Monroe) sex tape, and later spotting them both embracing (an innocent hug, as Morning had just made it clear she's not attracted to Sean). Beverly's meltdown resulted in her storming out of their luxury home, only to get involved in a car accident with LeBlanc (the root of her ire), who offered Beverly some comfort and a friendly ear at his surprisingly tasteful beach house. Elsewhere, Sean had an al fresco dinner with studio exec Merc (John Pankow), which was typically uncomfortable.
It's the Beverly/LeBlanc moments that stole the show this week, with LeBlanc remaining a hard guy to pin down. Is he a likeable guy with a dark underbelly? Is he a manipulative bad boy, using his Joey persona to lower most people's defences? LeBlanc hasn't behaved as scandalously as I'd have preferred (a symptom of this being written by American associates of his?), but "Episode Six" was still notable for giving us a positive look at the laissez-faire LeBlanc. He came across as rather humble and stupid for once, particularly when it became clear he genuinely thought Pucks! is a good TV pilot that hasn't sullied the good name of Lyman's Boys -- much to Beverly's disbelief, and mounting anger when she realized LeBlanc's the reason all the bad changes were accommodated.
Of course, then came the episode's big shock, with LeBlanc and Beverly sharing a steamy sofa clinch and kiss. A case of opposites attract? Is Beverly just trying to teach her husband a lesson, or feel as prized and sexy as Morning Randolph? Or is LeBlanc being an incorrigible shit-stirrer, knowing the chaos this will cause? A mix of all the above? Whatever the motivation, I was actually rather surprised, despite the fact hindsight screams at the inevitability of this moment. Beverly and LeBlanc hated each other on sight, because they were hiding a deep-seated yearning for each other? It'll be interesting to see what happens next week with the core triptych of characters, not to mention the fate of Pucks itself. I think it can go one of two ways still: (a) the pilot's a travesty but the Lincoln's return home even deeper in love and content with their more humble lives in England, or (b) LeBlanc uses his celebrity for good, demands the Lincoln's be allowed to restore the pilot to something resembling Lyman's Boys, and Pucks becomes a huge US hit.
What do you think will happen?
Overall, I enjoyed "Episode Six" for the sense that events are building to something conclusive, and for the surprises between Beverly and LeBlanc. That all helped take the edge off the fact the half-hour wasn't especially funny, and it was a shame the Sean/Morning infatuation didn't lead anywhere very interesting. Oh, and there was atrocious use of greenscreen for exterior scenes of the L.A café, which made the work on ABC's V remake look outstanding.
written by David Krane & Jeffrey Klarik / directed by James Griffith / 14 February 2011 / BBC2/HD