In the first season and now, Valerie's quest for attention and affirmation led her to be filmed by a camera permanently mounted in her bedroom. Last week, Valerie Cherish was turned into an object and humiliated by Paulie G., via her character, Mallory.
So, while it seems like there's little dignity left for her to give up, this episode makes it clear that she can still find ways to sacrifice. Because Valerie Cherish is once again desperate for her new TV show to work, and in this episode of “The Comeback,” that leads her to literally give up her house.
In order to save scenes featuring her character at home, which have been cut because of the budget, Valerie offers her home as a ready-made location. Besides the impact that has on her life, it also further blurs the line between the character Mallory and Valerie Cherish.
After last week's affront, Paulie G. is entirely silent this episode, but he's just as awful as always. During filming at Valerie's house, instead of just asking Valerie and Mark (and Mickey, and her camera crew) to leave, he whispers to a crew member to let her do the job. It's comedic because they're literally the only people there, but the crew member shouts as if she's talking to 50 people.
The take-over of their property leads to Valerie and Mark seeking refuge at a hotel-like rental property that they own. After Mark succeeds — for once! — in shutting the cameras out, there's a literal gunshot. It's truly shocking for everyone, us included, when a gunshot leaves Jane literally ducking for cover (she's usually just ducking out of the way of the cameras), but even more shocking when we see its aftermath: a blood-splattered wall.
That's the image we're left with, but a good part of the episode is spent on Valerie trying to become a better actor. Recognizing Seth Rogen's skill in improvisation, she takes an improv class at The Groundlings.
This gives “The Comeback” yet another meta layer to play with, because The Groundlings is where the Valerie Cherish character was literally born. Lisa Kudrow created her there in 1990 (Kudrow <a href=”http://metro.co.uk/2009/10/27/lisa-kudrow-241060/“>has said</a> the character then was “an actress who was so desperate for attention she'd go on chat shows talking about her 'favourite charity,' which she clearly knew nothing about”).
Of course, Valerie Cherish is not Lisa Kudrow, and Val it's no surprise at all that she's horrible at improv. During her first scene, she comments on everything that's happening and whispers to her scene partner. As we know from watching “The Comeback,” she needs to control everything; she can't just listen and respond, as a good improvisational scene requires. And she most definitely cannot stay present in the moment.
During a break, Mickey says that tests revealed he has cancer, and when Valerie goes back on stage, she keeps saying that word, bringing it into the scene because that's all she can think about. It's a nice nod to both her failure at improv (Jane's face says it all throughout these scenes) and Valerie's concern about Mickey, even if, at first, she's too busy performing for her camera crew to recognize her friend's stricken face.
All that gives “The Comeback” a chance to comment on its own use of Mickey's cancer as a comedic device, with the Groundlings' instructor telling her that while nothing is off-limits, there are some things that just don't really make people laugh.
A beat later, there's a joke about the “Seeing Red” line producer's wheelchair. Then, a suicide played for shock value. At least when “The Comeback” sacrifices its own dignity, it's completely aware of what it's doing.