Californication comes again, with its second season premiere, with a real-life shadow hanging over it...but, more importantly for the production itself, with some of its cleverness diminished. And, as the title of the series might suggest, there is no way that this can be a "family-friendly" blog.
At the end of the first season, Karen (Natascha McElhone, perpetually a typo waiting to happen) leaves her repressed fiance at the altar, to reunite with the love of her life, Hank Moody (David Duchovny), much to the delight of their daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin); we begin this episode with the couple enjoying cohabitation, albeit with the morning's agenda dominated by Hank's vasectomy appointment. Hank asks for, and gets, the opportunity for one more act of coitus before surgery, with the proviso from Karen that he wear a condom one last time. Further negotiation is more in fun than in earnest.
During his vasectomy, the nurse in the operating room (Sheri Moon Zombie), somewhat improbably in street clothes and perhaps even more improbably willing to come onto a patient during the procedure (even given it's Duchovny as the apparently irresistable Moody), lets him know that he can't engage in any kind of erectile sexual activity for 48 hours, and might want to consider getting a bag of frozen peas (or soybeans) as a pain and swelling reducer.
After a brief, playful and slightly painful cuddle with Karen, they make their way home, where Becca is not at all enthusiastic about either her parents' plans to move back to New York City nor their real estate agent's demand that Becca keep her room straightened up for buyers. Hank, who has no frozen vegetables in plain sight in his frost-heavy freezer, takes off his pants and rubs his crotch with an aluminum ice tray instead...only to have the real estate agent bring a couple in to see him doing so. "Make yourselves at home," he suggests.
He discovers that Becca has run over to the house of Bill, Karen's ex-fiance, and Mia (Madeline Zima), who has stolen Hank's new novel and been presenting it as her own...inspired, as it is, by their one-night stand, before Hank knew who she was or that she was sixteen years old. He orders Becca into his car, and takes a minute to reassure himself that Mia is OK will Bill absent (no reason given, and the house overrun with teens in varying degrees of debauchery), as well as to express his continuing anger with her.
A trip to the supermarket follows, and a run-in with a wheelchair-using, irritable guy (Brian Posehn) and a reunion with a tryst buddy from some time back, referred to only as Surfer Girl (Michelle Lombardo, not at all like her character in
Quarterlife). A second temptation Hank has to decline, for both emotional and physical reasons, though he doesn't admit to the latter.
Out for drinks later with Marcy (Pamela Adlon) and Charlie (Evan Handler), old friends and the latter Hank's literary and film agent, Hank and Charlie trade vasectomy stories and Marcy warns that the first vasectomy may not "take"--another might be necessary. Sonja (Paula Marshall), who'd been somewhat disastrously fixed up with Hank by Karen in the first season (the evening ended with Sonja and Hank having sex and projectile vomiting in Karen and Bill's bedroom), inadvertently sits down next to Hank at the bar, in the company of her new boyfriend, Julian. After a chat, wherein Hank teases Julian for writing self-help books about "the artist within" all people, Sonja and Julian invite everyone along to a party in Laurel Canyon.
Some drinking, toking, and snorting later, after Hank learns Sonja is pregnant (by whom is not spelled out) and Hank sees Karen and Julian skulking around one of the rooms of the Laurel Canyon mansion, he charges after them, only to find Karen alone and frisky. She asks for some oral sex, since Hank is still impaired by surgery, and Hank feels his stitches tightening, and excuses himself to go check himself quickly in the bathroom. A guy coming out of another room asks him for a condom, since he's about to have sex as well, but Hank's best help is to suggest a way of pretending to put one on. Hank having checked himself, he finds that the bathroom door he used is jammed, so he goes out the other bathroom door, and finds himself in a dark room with naked woman obviously ready for some sort of sex; quickly, after he begins to serve her, but not quickly enough, he realizes that she is not Karen, and she realizes he is not her expected partner. Destiny (Kym Stys) runs out into the party to complain to host Lew (Callum Keith Rennie), the guy asking for the condom, about Hank's taking liberties. Karen, who eventually arrives, is as nonplused as anyone, despite Hank's fairly reasonable explanation that he simply went into the wrong dark room.
On the way home, the still slightly inebriated Karen and Hank argue over the accidental stranger-sex, and are pulled over by an obnoxious cop, who quickly takes offense at Hank's attitude and starts hitting Hank's buttons as well; when Hank elbows him in the chest, he start's hitting Hank literally, with a baton, the second shot being to his crotch.
Californication has never been afraid of going for the easy joke, but usually the setups in the first season seemed less mechanical to me than they did in much of this episode (the setups for what were supposed to be the Big Jokes, such as the cop's abusive attack); the almost improvisational interplay in the "smaller" moments seemed about as deft as previously. Of course, a season premiere often has a lot of ground to cover, but even so this one seemed rushed, and the attempt to get across Hank's simultaneous concern for and rage with Mia didn't quite come off as presented.
But the biggest problem with the episode for me might be Karen's apparent insensitivity to both her ex, Bill, whom she abandoned with a laugh and no evidence of a further thought in this episode, and to Hank, who clearly has a sexual past which is more than suspect but also is clearly a man who made a simple mistake, as everyone's reactions should make clear. Her (possibly passive-aggressive?) behavior, even under the influence, during the traffic stop, seemed improbable...in fact, all of this seemed more than a bit improbable. The series doesn't need to be loading the dice against Poor Hank, Victimized by Women, since part of the point of the show is that Hank has more than enough self-pity and bad luck stacked against him to need further, arbitrary bad behavior from others in his life.
Or, would Karen have to be that kind of selfish to be the true partner to Hank?
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Californication comes again with its second season premiere with a real-life shadow hanging over itbut more importantly for the production itself with some of its cleverness diminished And as the title of the series might suggest there is no way that this can be a family-friendly blogAt the end of the first season Karen Natascha McElhone perpetually a typo waiting to happen leaves her repressed fiance at the altar to reunite with the love of her life Hank Moody David Duchovny much to the delight of their daughter Becca Madeleine Martin we begin this episode with the couple enjoying cohabitation albeit with the mornings agenda dominated by Hanks vasectomy appointment Hank asks for and gets the opportunity for one more act of coitus before surgery with the proviso from Karen that he wear a condom one last time Further negotiation is more in fun than in earnestDuring his vasectomy the nurse in the operating room Sheri Moon Zombie somewhat improba