Recap: ‘The Comeback’ – ‘Valerie Cooks in the Desert’

12.15.14 3 years ago


“Valerie Cooks in the Desert” was an episode of “The Comeback” where even a fart joke was sad. A conversation between an HBO executive and Valerie interrupted by noises from Mickey in the bathroom was low-level humor at best, but quickly revealed itself to be something more: a consequence of Mickey's cancer.

For a comedy, “The Comeback” has certainly had its melancholy moments, but this episode kept ratcheting up the sadness. That culminated in a shot of a note Val wrote to her husband Mark. It was sad not just because of its contents (“I was late. Hopefully not too late.”) nor the circumstances (Val was late because of reshoots delayed by Paulie G.), but also because Jane, Valerie's producer, picked up the private, folded note and held it up for the camera to see.

There's more sadness ahead, at least if Jane uses all the footage she's gathered.

That includes a devastating encounter in a grocery store with Gigi, the lone female writer on “Room and Bored” from season one of “The Comeback.” Now significantly overweight and depressed, despite a job on ABC Family's “Pretty Little Liars,” Gigi serves as a crystal clear mirror for Val, and a very clear metaphor for the audience.

While her character was pretty one-note in season one of “The Comeback,” Bayne Gibby has a lot to work with in a short scene here, giving Gigi a lot of humanity along with her houses: “I own four houses, and they're all empty,” she says.

The line isn't subtle, but “The Comeback”'s second season isn't concerned with subtly on any level.

For example, moments after her interaction with Gigi, Valerie says, “that's a cautionary tale. that's what happens, though, when you make show business your whole life!” In season one, Val might not understand that she's talking about herself, but she definitely knows here, immediately changing her plans to make dinner for her husband. Her note to Mark shows that she's aware she's screwed up her priorities.

The most pointed thing Gigi says isn't to Val, but to Jane, insisting Jane not use any of their conversation. That's unlikely, and it seems “The Comeback” could be working toward a similar finale to season one, as those who've been followed by the cameras see what happens to that footage.

But so far the fallout is with other people. What finally pushed Valerie Cherish over the edge this episode was not Paulie G.'s humiliating scripts, or his delay in writing additional pages for a reshoot, or the fact that he might be using again (Mark's idiot nephew mistook a masseur for a drug dealer), but the fact that all this was contributing to her not making it home in time for dinner with Mark.

Instead of taking it out on Paulie G. or the HBO executive who ordered the changes, Valerie berates two mid-level crew members, dumping her frustration on them, even though they're just as affected as she is. It's an uncharacteristically unguarded moment for Valerie, especially since cameras are rolling the whole time and she acknowledges them in the moment. This won't look good.

Even though Valerie is still working hard to make sure people don't confuse her and the character based on her–again, taking it out on an easy target, the set designer–and is also working to save her relationship, she's ironically becoming the character in “Seeing Red,” who The New York Times called “self-destructive and mean.”

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