Season 3, Episode 3 “ben mendelsohn”

Bill Hader in Barry

Bill Hader in barry
photo: Merrick Morton/HBO

After two episodes of nonstop tension and escalating crazy—Barry kidnapping Cousineau and exploding at Sally at her workplace, Bolivians gunning for Chechens—barry had to ease up on the gas. There are still surprising turns in this week’s descent into assassin-actor delusion—we check in on each wing of the story (minus the cops)—with reversals and setups for future action. There’s nothing super shocking or explosive (well), but it’s an enjoyable bridge to the meat of the season.

From the beginning, showrunners Alec Berg and Bill Hader have shown a fondness for cheeky narrative inversion. plot lines that seem to be crucial or inevitable wrap up with casual ease, while minor details mushroom into dangerous threads. Take Fuches’s tooth, which was knocked out by the Chechens at the end of the first season. DNA testing on the pearly white led Detective Loach to Fuches (Stephen Root), which then set Barry up to completely lose faith in his former mentor, who wore a wire. Whereas when Barry (Hader) was found by police alongside Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) and the body of Cousineau’s murdered girlfriend, Det. Janice Moss, they cleared him from suspicion right quick. The Chechen pin Barry planted on Moss’ body exonerated genes almost. It wasn’t impossible, just curt.

A similar jokey plot resolution may be at work with the Bolivians. After shooting up an empty plant nursery run by the Chechens as a front for moving heroin, crime boss Fernando (Miguel Sandoval) tells a worried Cristobal (Michael Irby) that his elite cadre of soldiers are suiting up for a daytime raid on the nursery. Cristobal, trying to protect his lover, Hank (Anthony Carrigan), argues that he’s been in the field for a long time, he’s good at his job, and “there is nothing for us here.” Teddy-bearish Fernando fixes Cristobal with a neutral gaze, then replies, “You are good at your job. We’ll cut our losses and head back home. We gave LA a shot.” Does Fernando suspect Cristobal, or are the Bolivians really leaving? Or if wires get crossed, are things about to get worse?

The Chechens are understandably freaked out that their HQ was breached, but the heroin is still there. Head man Batir thinks the Bolivians did it, but Hank tries to put the blame on vandals. They agree to call in “The Patsy.”

That would be Fuches (downgraded from “The Raven”), still in exile in the mountains of Chechnya. The local woman Fuches met briefly in the first episode, played by the striking Marika Dominczyk, tells Fuches he has a call from America. In a short time, Fuches has comically transformed: He’s joyfully herding goats and, one might assume, in a relationship with the woman. “I’ve got a little slice of hever,” Fuches tells Hank, who wants “The Patsy” to handle the Bolivians. Hank says that Barry has cooled down, that Fuches isn’t on his mind anymore: “He’s total basket case, and he looks like shit.” Fuches says he’s not interested in whatever job Hank has.

It’s high time we checked in with Cousineau and Barry, who provide the episode opening as they get their makeup before hitting the set. Here’s Laws Of Humanity showrunner Brian’s exchange with Cousineau (cclassic ’80s genes):

Brian: “Do you remember me? Murder She Wrote? I was a PA. You attacked me.”

Cousineau: “I need more.”

Brian: “You threw hot tea in my face because your omelet had chives.”

Cousineau: “What I playing a priest?”

A quick note that Hader and Berg are signaling, even if for laughs, that Cousineau has a temper and can be violent. That will come in handy. Winkler plays the episode, as he has in others recently, in a state of numb rage, with Buster Keaton dead pan, eyes sunken and dull. Ironically, Cousineau’s so distracted by his hostage status, he’s probably doing the best, un-hammiest acting in his life. Even more ironically, Cousineau’s LOH role is a husband whose wife’s death was due to big pharma jacking up prices. Barry, naturally, plays the pharma executive who comes in and stiffly apologizes.

When the showrunner tells Cousineau that they’re giving him a line, Barry has to prompt Cousineau to say “Thank you.” The student has become the master.

Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Anthony Carrigan in barry
photo: Merrick Morton/HBO

A later scene between Barry and Cousineau, as they run lines for the scene between a pharma bro and a bereaved husband, is on the nose, of course, but allows Gene to ask Barry point blank, “Did she suffer?” And the joy drains from Hader’s face. On some level Barry is still telling himself that getting his ex-teacher a line on a dumb legal procedural equals redemption. Later at the crafts services table, Barry gets a job offer text from Hank, which he rejects with irritation. Fuches calls, and a tense phone reunion devolves into recrimination and shouts. Barry doesn’t need Fuches or Hank; he and Cousineau have a bright future.

Speaking of showbiz dreams, Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and her young co-star on joplinKatie (Elsie Fisher), run the gauntlet of a press junket. Since the release date for joplin was moved up, they have to face a barrage of quick-fire questions from entertainment reporters. Katie is clearly still very disturbed by Barry’s violent outburst on set. She is assured by Natalie (D’Arcy Carden) that Barry’s a great guy, even if he shouted at the class a few times and “told us that he killed a few people in some war, and that messed him up, but I don’t think that makes him violent.” Katie doesn’t buy it. Fisher has a sweet, open face, so emotionally transparent. Will she be the hero of the season, or its next heartbreaking sacrificial lamb?

On the set of Laws Of Humanity, Barry and Cousineau get ready to shoot the scene, but here comes the big shock of the episode: Rather than deliver his single line, “I accept your apology,” Cousineau hauls off and punches Barry in the face. “I want you to stay away from my family,” he shouts. “Fuck you and don’t talk to me anymore, you piece of shit!” And he storms off set. It’s clear that Cousineau’s furious ad lib was totally in character for the show. Has Couscous just re-started his career? If so, art becomes life becomes must-see TV.

Later, a devastated Barry calls Hank to say he’ll do the job, the Fernando hit. Will Cristobal be able to text Hank that the Bolivians are leaving before Barry goes into action? Will Hank be able to coordinate with Cristobal so his lover is not in danger? Meanwhile, Batir looks extremely suspicious that Hank is hiring the same madman who took out most of their men at the monastery. “He was just having a bad day,” Hank explains.

We end back in Chechnya, with Fuches’s lady friend trying to get him to give up his dreams of revenge on Barry. She tells a 16th-century fable about how a group of souls in purgatory chose vengeance instead of forgiveness, how they were transformed into a pack of panthers and got revenge, but their souls sank to the bottom of the sea. Fuches, fixed on ego and rage, hears only the violence part. “The vengeance army panther thing,” he murmurs, his mind miles away. “How long did it take them to put that together?” The woman sees. “It’s a morality story. It’s not real.” Bathed in the red light of the fire, looking every inch a devil, Fuches rasps, “But it could be.”

This is an episode in which multiple people are referred to as good at their job: Cristobal, Moss, Barry, even Fuches with the goats. Unfortunately, the jobs these people excel at often involve murder and misery. So until they start getting good at forgiving, de-escalating, or just staying the hell out of each other’s lives, the bloodshed will continue.

Stray observations

  • Hank’s text to Barry is pure NoHo: “Hey Barry! You still feel like you have no purpose, seeing shit, going crazy, etc.? If so, I have a job for you!”
  • As an occasional junketeer, I object to the portrayal of interviewers (from E! news other Access Hollywood) as bubbly twerps. We pose two questions before asking who the next Spider-Man should be.
  • Natalie on Sally’s outfit: “I love your romper. It says, ‘I’m a woman, but don’t treat me like one.’”
  • Fuches takes a beat when he hears Barry’s on Laws Of Humanity: “That’s a great show.”
  • Sally thought that Cake Boss was an Avenger and let’s hug her for that.
  • during the LOH shoot, Winkler makes the tiniest twitch when Barry places his hand on his shoulder; the tension is just mwah.
  • NoHo Hank, keeping it real: “If not for that Groupon almost expiring…” “Neighborhood kids, being chodes,” and his reference to Barry as the “Greek Freak of assassins.”

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