This week’s title is easy to source: Cristobal (Michael Irby) is about to buy lemonade from two little girls at a stand across the street from his house with Hank (Anthony Carrigan). Before he can cross, a squad of black SUVs roar up full of Bolivian elite soldiers, as well as Cristobal’s boss—and father-in-law—the fussy Fernando (Miguel Sandoval). There’s also the old adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Everyone is trying to turn a lousy situation into something fairer, sustainable. Since this is Barry-land, they’re only making things worse.
We left off with Barry (Bill Hader) kidnapping Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), the hitman’s crazy eyes aglow with a scheme to achieve redemption through forgiveness: Barry will help Cousineau get a TV or movie gig, thus resurrecting his career and atoning for the fact that Barry killed the love of Cousineau’s life. An Elmore Leonard-meets-Patricia Highsmith lightbulb moment.
Recall that in last episode’s splendidly tense reunion between mentor and student, before Cousineau pointed a prop gun that fell apart, he admitted, “My career is shit, Barry, you know that.” Now we hear from multiple industry sources just how despised Cousineau is. Abuse comes from Sally (“he’s a shitshow”), from Jay Roach’s casting director (“a fucking asshole”) and an auditioner recalling Cousineau bringing a loaded gun to a Full House audition. Cousineau is stuffed in Barry’s trunk; he’s mauled by a small army of dogs; and the episode ends with him fearing for his son and grandson’s lives if he doesn’t do exactly as Barry says. It’s been a day.
Maybe scaring is caring? Twice Barry tearfully says, “I love you, Mr. Cousineau,” a declaration subject to investigation. It’s easy to believe that Barry honestly adores this father figure, the least toxic he’s ever known. But by this point, Barry is so damaged and detached from reality, does he even know what love is? Is he only acting like he feels that way, a performative show of crying and heavy breathing to fill the dreadful emptiness in his heart?
As for Barry’s relationship with Sally (Sarah Goldberg), red flags are waving. At the Joplin studio, Sally takes a meeting with a twentyish staff writer as the actor playing Chloe (Elsie Fisher) looks on, admiringly. Sally wants more nuanced, realistic dialogue for Chloe, more gray areas about why she leaves her abusive boyfriend, Zach. People don’t talk in complete, well-argued sentences, Sally says, frustrated. The staff writer, a parody of a millennial wokebot, responds in a complete sentence: “Her naiveté is a direct result of the history of subjugation of women by a draconian patriarchy.” To which a deflated Sally responds, right. Add some ums.
Barry strides in, totally manic. “Hey! I know how we can get Cousineau over the murder of his girlfriend. You cast him on your show.” Sally is taken aback; she whisper-asks Barry if they agreed on him showing up (every move of their relationship is choreographed by the controlling Sally). Sally suggested Cousineau to the casting director, who refused to even audition the guy. He’s in a lot of pain, Barry says about himself—er, Cousineau. When Sally won’t budge, Barry explodes, backing her against a wall and screaming, “Do it!” like he’s auditioning for the stage adaptation of Sexy Beast, before muttering “shit” and running off. Goldberg does excellent understated work here, as the chronic punching-bag girlfriend, reverting to numbed passivity. What a shock to see Barry escalate so quickly, in public, with his supposed true love. This season they’re just detonating the foundations, section by section.
Everyone is sleeping with the enemy: Sally’s relationship with Barry is slipping into danger territory; Cousineau is forced into a violent parody of a father-son bond; Hank and Cristobal have a love that dare not speak their name—to their crime families.
Speaking of, Fernando and his small army of dudes settle in (a wistful Cristobal watches them slo-mo dance to Willie Colon’s “Skinny Papa” as they pour beer over their shirtless bodies). Fernando has rented an Airbnb as an HQ for striking back at the Chechens, whom he blames for the Massacre of Bolivians that was actually Barry’s handiwork. Cristobal has been covering for Hank, but now he’s backed into a corner; Fernando wants “blood for blood.” We get one more surprise, though not a big one: Cristobal has been on the down-low. “Did Elena send you?” Cristobal asks. “She misses her husband, and the niños, they need their daddy,” Fernando replies sweetly.
From the trunk, Cousineau’s muffled voice pleads to sit up front; Barry is getting pissed. He manages to score an appointment with Jay Roach’s casting director, Allison Jones (playing herself), who was in the room last season when Barry auditioned so badly—yet so authentically—for Swim Instructors. “I like your intensity. You have a kind of not-present Joachim Phoenix thing,” Allison says, so she gets him a last-minute audition for the popular show Laws Of Humanity, that night. When Barry asks Allison about a job for Cousineau, she gives it a hard pass. “I won’t have anything to do with him,” she says; “he was awful to me.”
Back on the Joplin set, Sally is distracted and in shock about Barry’s outburst. Chloe approaches the writer who was in the room. “He’s clearly a violent person,” Chloe observes. But since Barry didn’t hit Sally, or make a threat, there’s nothing they can do about it. “They’re adults, and I like my job,” the writer says before closing her laptop and making another quick exit. I’m getting a slight Search Party vibe off Chloe. If she starts to investigate and uncovers Barry’s crimes, does that mean Barry is a Möbius strip between crime and entertainment—hitmen becoming actors and actors becoming detectives…or killers?
In a deserted spot near what looks like an abandoned oil rig, Barry rehearses his audition with Cousineau, who for the ten thousandth time begs Barry to free him. “So you can go to the police?” Barry asks. Cousineau swears he won’t, and Barry replies, “You’re a bad actor, Mr. Cousineau.” (This appears to be an episode where people tell the truth a lot.) Cousineau tries to reframe the situation, delivering an inspiring speech in a tidy narrative package. “You did a horrible thing but I see your pain,” Cousineau says. “It is the same pain you came to me fresh out of the army, a lost soul…not only did I teach you to be a good actor, I taught you to be a good human being.”
The Bolivians stage a nighttime raid on PLANTS!, but after shooting in the dark, realize no one is there. Cristobal warned Hank, who took his four-man Chechen crew on a Sunset Boulevard bus tour: “Holy shit! There’s Jimmy Kimmel!” Akhmal screams at a billboard. “The Man Show does not age well,” Batir grumbles. Later, when Cristobal makes it back to a visibly worried Hank at their house, it’s basically to break up. Their affair is becoming too dangerous, now that Fernando has brought his elite soldiers, known as “Las Águilas” (“The Eagles”). To illustrate, Cristobal makes finger-talons and screeches. (Unlike Hank’s “The Raven” from last week, these birdies are very real.)
Sally and Barry experience sudden career shifts. Due to a new series that has a similar abuse theme to Joplin called Pam!—which title Natalie (D’Arcy Carden) helpfully shrieks out—her opening has been moved up. Is Sally ready for the glare of media?
Barry, meanwhile, ace his audition for Laws Of Humanity (for a “pharma bro”) and, as he’s been doing all episode, pimps out Cousineau. He gives the audition execs the spiel Cousineau gave him (“not only did he teach me to be a good actor, he taught me to be a good human being”). “It worked!” he tells Sally on the phone. At home, Sally prepares a meal and beer for Barry, apologizing for how she reacted earlier that day. She’s making excuses for an abuser, internalizing blame. “I just want you to be happy,” Sally says. Barry is barely listening.
Barry pops the car trunk to share the good news, but Cousineau’s gone.
The rest of the episode is a curious mix of cartoon and hostage horror. Cousineau jogs along on a back street, out of breath, desperate to escape. He leaps over a fence, crosses the backyard of a lesbian couple who are breaking up over dinner. “You have too many dogs.” “Who?” “You.” “Me?” “Yes!” Outside the window we see an army of dogs of all sizes chase Cousineau out of frame. The canine slapstick, including a Pekinese who cheerfully follows Cousineau home, is jarringly silly (something from a 1980s direct-to-video that paid Cousineau’s rent for a month), but a cartoonish gag maybe needed amidst all the claustrophobic mortal panic.
Cousineau, clothes in tatters from multiple dog bites, staggers home, but his tormentor has beaten him to it. Barry sits on the couch next to Cousineau’s grandson, who is engrossed in a video game. Barry pats the cushion next to him; Cousineau devastated sits. “You’re going to enjoy everything that comes with being given a second chance,” Barry whispers. “Because if you don’t, this one” (meaning the grandson) “and that one” (the son) “go away.”
We end on extreme close ups of a wet-eyed Barry saying, “I love you, Mr. Cousineau. Do you love me?” Cousineau, frozen face in shock, nods. “Can you say it?” “I love you, Barry.” “Can you say it again?” In this false-face world where performance corrupts every aspect of life, violence is improvised for a single take, but kindness has to be rehearsed.
- The cold open has Barry getting Cousineau burgers and soda at a fictional fast-food chain called Menta. Which is Spanish for “mint.” Which goes with limonada? Help me out, kids.
- The wall behind (real-life casting director) Allison Jones’s desk is a montage of head shots. I spotted Shirley MacLaine. What about you?
- D’Arcy Carden is such a scene stealer with Natalie’s cheerful-oblivious shtick; thank goodness Sally brought her along as her assistant.
- The utter randomness of the woman surprised by the Bolivian raid on PLANTS!, in the middle of a phone call: “I’m just leaving literally the worst date. I’m not exaggerating this time. He ordered milk with dinner—oh” as goons with guns zoom into frame.
- The industry assumption that tall guys are funnier, reinforced by Jones’s contempt re: the poster for Swim Instructors Featuring Josh Gad (5′ 6″) and Adam Devine (5′ 8″).
- Director Bill Hader keeps the camera tight on Carrigan for an absurdly long 30-second take, and we get a little audio drama off-camera as Hank watches Cristobal leave: footsteps, car door opening and closing, engine starting, radio interview pop on, about Eagles drummer Don Felder trying to create a “wet sound.” An eagles/Las Águilas pun?