House of Lies Season 1 Episode 5 recap

How are you guys doing with this show?  Am I the only one?  Every time I worry about something that’s going on, some development I’m not sure about, there’s something that just tickles me so much I’m delighted.  Like how, at the end of an unbelievably dense ‘previously on’ recap, Marty smirks “I wouldn’t talk down to you like that”.

So. What I liked:

I thought everything to do with Jeannie’s story was great.  It happens to everyone in the workplace, all the time.  It’s not usually so blatant, when you get to do something cool that your boss doesn’t – but it happens.  And it was telegraphed from the second he harassed her about not drinking in front of the Utah-ians – Marty was going to be up Jeannie’s ass the whole time they were there.  She knew it, she knew it wasn’t fair, and there was nothing she could do about it.

And still, she can’t keep from seeking his approval.  Even though I think ‘Daddy issues’ is a really broad – and kind of lazy – label to apply to Jeannie, she lived up to it, didn’t she?  She needed Marty’s approval in the middle of the night?  And you know it KILLED her.  That she needed to do it, that she wanted his approval, and that at the end of the day, after telling her she wasn’t up for it, she did, in fact, need his help.  You know how much she hated that?      

My friends and I call this ‘revisionist history’. You’re a boss who wants things (like, ‘Jeannie can’t take care of herself without my help’ ) to be true. So you create a situation that makes it so, and then it’s undeniably true in your mind from then on.  I gather it’s the mark of very successful people. I’m a third of the way through the Steve Jobs biography and it seems to be coming up quite a bit.

So Marty ensures his place at the top of the dubious food chain, simultaneously endangering and reinforcing his team’s loyalty.  After all, he’s proven he’ll pull the rug out from under them when he needs to – then again, he didn’t jeopardize the account in Utah for even one minute by trying to push through the boss’ amazingly obvious racism.  That’s the kind of professional savvy that nobody’s going to teach you in a book.  “If it’s not going to happen for you, just stand down.  You’ll save everybody a lot of trouble.”

And in the end, Marty makes Jeannie feel lower than she was going to anyway, and also gets to make himself feel like sh*t, since she unleashes on him in a way that is authentically emotional and also what he needs to hear.  When she struggles not to cry when she’s telling him off – that was nice.

These moments of brilliance and, even more than that, originality, allow me to overlook some of the less original elements of the show.  Okay fine, Doug and Clyde try to get laid in each new location – but if that’s the case, they’d be much more adept at it, and wouldn’t be so wide-eyed about the properties of corn when discussing the back door.  (Sorry if you’re reading at work, that’s as sanitized as I can make it).  It makes me want Dylan on the show.  Our Dylan.  He has an elaborate vocabulary for each – ahem – unusual situation he gets in, and the fact that none of us know what he’s talking about allows him to school us, while still sounding like the expert. That’s who these guys should be.

I would have bought this more than Clyde’s naivete – and, if we’re being really honest, I would have appreciated something indicating that a sliding scale of judging the quality of women comes into play at a motel company in Utah.  Is that mean?  And she would have eaten the corn with a fork. Sorry. And he got off way too easily after what he didn’t do.  I was expecting this to come back on Clyde somehow.  Nothing?

I can’t get into Marty’s ex Monica, either.  When she first shows up, she’s waving what looks like a red Birkin bag – and to me, that embodied everything I feel is wrong with her.  Everything about the over-sexualized, someone’s-mistress, ignoring-my-son vibe is, like the bag, reminiscent of seven years ago.  It’s just not interesting to me anymore – although given how sweet Roscoe is in the face of two largely terrible parents, maybe I’m supposed to be uncomfortable.  Still the breaking into the apartment felt cliché, whether you rant and go all depressive and ruin the painting or not.  

Mostly though, I can’t worry about a merger ruining Marty’s life because as we’ve seen, nothing sticks to Marty. So why he’s sweating Greg is beyond me.  Jeannie pays some lip service to it this episode – that what I’m sure about, after five episodes, is that these characters are really, really recognizable as coworkers, in a way I haven’t seen in a long while.  They do all the things that are true when you’ve known each other for this long.

Their extra-curricular activities, though, are doing everything they can to make them seem not like real people, and also not like people I want to know.   


Attached - Kristen Bell on Conan last night.