Barry can act.
That’s not the only thing to take away from tonight, obviously, but it is a serious takeaway. When Barry can tap into his emotions, he can bring what’s necessary for a scene. He’s been largely unable to do so because his life is a combination of dead-eyed professionalism and rationalizing bullshit; it takes something severe to get him to that place. In this case, it’s the job getting personal.
As we saw in the closing scene of last episode, Taylor and Vaughan are immediately killed by the gunfire from the Bolivians. (The episode opens with the same scene from their perspective.) The SUV flips, and after Cristobal lands, he inquires about it, sends a couple of guys to scout it out, and then calls up Goran. As much as I don’t want to derail the plot discussion, Cristobal is absolutely hilarious, revealing himself to be a kindred spirit with Noho Hank, discussing the bullet via DHL and The Four Agreements. Unfortunately for Goran, being super nice doesn’t mean he can just overlook the Chechens taking his stash house. Now they are at war.
One of the Bolivians finds a bloody handprint on the SUV, traces it to some footprints, which lead to a mini-junkyard of sorts. Barry’s phone goes off and the Bolivian finds him. Chris gets the drop on him, but he is hesitant to shoot until Barry keeps imploring him and the Bolivian draws. Chris pulls the trigger and is clearly not okay with himself afterward. Barry can’t deal with that right now though because he’s got to go rehearse his Festival of Shakespeare scene. Chris is calling him during the scene, and he blows his one line, pissing off Sally and getting Gene to give him a talk about getting off of drugs. Unfortunately, Barry’s not on drugs– unfortunately, because as Gene puts it, “if you’re not high, and you can’t handle one fucking line, then maybe this.. is not for you.”
Meanwhile, though, the stars align for Barry in his old life in a way that just may enable him to continue his acting career. It turns out the LAPD had tapped the phone call between Cristobal and Goran, and so now they know a couple of soldiers were in on the job… and Moss immediately connects this to Barry’s past as a Marine and goes digging. She doesn’t find him on Facebook (because he used “Barry Block” and not “Barry Berkman”), but her partner, Loach, confirms they found two dead Marines in an SUV at an airstrip. “Let me guess, one of them is this guy,” and she flips him the photo of Barry. Loach: “No, but if you had been right, that would have been really cool.”
The cops start by investigating Taylor’s apartment. They find a stack of cash exactly equal to the one they found in Gene’s studio, concluding the two did a job and split the money, although the evidence is still circumstantial. Then they find the copy of Gene’s book that Taylor removed from Barry’s backpack… which, in case you forgot, was a copy Ryan gave Barry in the pilot, and so it has Ryan’s name written on it. There’s your connection, and it looks like Barry might miraculously be off the hook once more.
On the other end, with the report of two dead soldiers, Noho Hank makes a call to Fuches, asking if Barry brought anyone with him to the Bolivian job. “Because if he did, Barry’s dead.” Exactly what Fuches said would happen to Barry if he didn’t kill Taylor. Later, Fuches and Hank reminisce about Barry, Fuches drinking straight from a bottle of Blanton’s, Hank talking about how he thought he saw Barry at the store this morning. Fuches asks if they’re good. The answer, of course, is “Well, to be honest… Goran is very upset you told him to start war with Bolivians, who, P.S., are just off-the-charts nice guys. So, no matter where you go, we will find you and kill you.” Bad news for Fuches, although if everyone involved thinks Barry is dead, that might actually keep his criminal past away from his acting present. (Until it doesn’t.)
Onto the pivotal scene of the episode. Barry finally answers Chris’ pleas to talk, and they meet in Chris’ SUV just off the highway in a clearing. Chris is freaking out: He’s freaking out that Taylor and Vaughan are dead, he’s freaking out that he had to kill somebody (“I was never in the shit, you know? I was in logistics– logistics!”), and his conscience won’t let him keep it quiet or let it go. Barry tries to warn him of the dangers of going to the police, of telling anybody, not just to Chris but also his family. Chris suggests just turning himself in, but Barry knows that’s going to unravel quickly and get the rest of them caught up. Chris, however, simply can’t hold this down– his wife already knows something is wrong; she knew something was wrong when he told her he was going to the gym, and she’ll know when he gets home. He has to come clean. He’s going to turn himself into the cops.
Barry: “Why did you say that?” Chris: “Why did you Facebook me, dude? You’re a fucking hit man, and you fucking Facebook me?” Barry: “WHY DID YOU JUST SAY THAT?!”
Hader is great at communicating how angry and upset Barry is over this, because he knows now there’s only one way this can go, and he doesn’t want it to go that way. Chris Marquette is excellent as Chris Lucado, as well– he’s not an idiot, as so many characters in his position might be. He’s just a glass rifle, someone who can’t handle killing, but realizing what the stakes are, he tries to backtrack. He tells Barry he’ll be cool. He tells Barry he won’t say anything. He tells Barry “I didn’t tell my wife I was going to the gym, I told her I was going to see you.” He tells Barry he knows Barry is a good guy, and implores Barry not to do anything crazy, so he’s just going to drop Barry off, go home, and not say a word. Barry knows that won’t be the case, though, and as soon as Chris starts the car, Barry grabs the wheel. “Wait-wait-wait–” and we cut outside the car to hear the silenced gunshot and see the explosion of blood on the windshield and the shattered mirror.
Barry could have killed one Marine. Instead, now three are dead. (Bill Hader made the observation in the “Inside the Episode” segment that Barry sees Chris as the version of a Marine he wants to be– stable life, wife and child– and Taylor as the version he’s afraid he’ll become, and because he didn’t kill the bad version, he got to a point where he had to kill the good version. Such is the tragedy of doing bad things while believing yourself to be good. “You will eventually come to moral decisions that will take you completely by surprise.”)
Barry plants the gun in Chris’ own hand and gets a ride to the theater, having a daydream about nailing the scene interrupted with a flashback to shooting Chris. He arrives late to the festival but not so late he can’t perform. Sally tries to impress on him how important the scene is but he’s not listening; even as he tries to prepare for his one line he’s in a daze, flashing forward to imagining Chris’ wife Sharon getting the phone call about Chris, breaking down, their child… to the funeral itself. And it’s tearing him up in a way none of the others have. He’s genuinely upset, but he uses that emotion in the performance, and it makes his small role powerful enough that Sally can play off his emotions and put together a real performance, one that even gets an agent to stop looking at his phone and eventually gets her a (presumably) real meeting with an agent.
Sally excitedly tells Barry about her impending meeting with Daniel Meldman from Gersh and thanks him for making it possible for her. “That was acting. You’re a real actor.”
It’s almost startling we have one episode left. Barry is almost surely going to commit to acting now. But how does he do that without the past catching up to him? The LAPD may be off him, and Fuches and the Chechens may think he’s dead, but surely that won’t last.
STRAY BULLET POINTS
- “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was a darkly ironic choice for the song in the opening scene.
- “You want babka?” “Don’t get cinnamon kind.” That was either intentionally or practically a Seinfeld reference.
- “It’s Cristobal. Sifuentes. From Bolivia?”
- “Agreement three in the book: Don’t make assumptions.” I can’t overstate how delightful Cristobal is. (Goran repeats “Don’t make assumptions.” Noho Hank: “Is that from The Four Agreements? Such a good book.”)
- “Men I just sent are dead, yes? The same military guy you just kill, he kill a few of my guys, too. Maybe now we are all even Kevin.”
- “Okay, there’s about ten minutes of discussion about The Four Agreements and other self-help books, many of which are terrific. There’s no shame in seeking help, is my point.”
- I wasn’t sure if Gene was paying attention to Sally’s scene in the rehearsal, possibly because of the breakup with Moss, but his assessment seemed fair if tough: “It, uh, to use the technical term, sucks.”
- “I was doing Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Pasadena Playhouse with a bunch of coke-heads… It’s usually about a three-hour play, we could bring it in just under 37 minutes. We thought we were great. Apparently we were unintelligible.”
- Fuches gets sentimental about Barry: “He couldn’t have been more than 5 the first time I saw his dumb face. Sweetest kid you ever seen.”
- Then he gets back to his usual Fuches self: “You know, he never got a chance to apologize to me, and now, too late.”
- Barry does remind Chris: “I told you to get out of the car, man.”
- In attendance at Gene Cousineau Presents: A Festival of Shakespeare are “The ‘red-headed reader’ from ICM, and Daniel Meldman from Gersh.” (Also, seats are reserved for representatives from Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor.)
- Gene and his class break the huddle after his pep talk with “One, two, three: Cousineau!”
- “Recently, our dear friend Ryan Madison was taken away from us too soon. Because of this, all the proceeds from the show will go toward the fight against violence.” A confused woman in the audience: “What?”
- When Barry is late, Sally asks if someone else can fill in for him. Natalie: “We have a saying in Italy: You make-a your bed.“
- For the first time I noticed Barry was wearing a memorial / KIA bracelet for a fellow Marine. I couldn’t make out the whole thing; I did see “PFC Jack G____” and “Psalm 91:1,” which reads “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Also Semper ___”, I’m assuming “Fi” or the full “Fidelis.”)
- Gene comes to congratulate Barry on his performance. “I just saw you go to a place tonight I have never seen before! I don’t know if you can do it again, but it was amaz–” Barry punches a mirror. “Okay, I see you’re still in that place, I’m gonna leave you in your process. You know, I have a few notes–” Barry throws a chair. “It can wait until Monday.”
- “Whatever you did tonight to get to that place, that’s your new process, okay? All you have to do is do that every time.” Easy enough, right?