The ‘Entourage’ Guilt/Pleasure Index: Back Already?

Hey, Entourage: Back so soon? Just two weeks after wrapping up season three, the show rushes back to fill the post-Sopranos vacuum. We rejoin the gang in the jungles of Colombia, where they and director/irritant extraordinaire Billy Walsh are finally, finally filming Medellin. Which means that at least we won’t have to endure any more episodes about their struggles to finally film Medellin. Hello, season four! No wonder this is the one show we can’t stop watching–slash–can’t stop hating ourselves for watching!

Episode: "Welcome to the Jungle"

Pleasure: Do you recall that in our recap of the final episode of season three, we may have mentioned that this show needed a major jolt — either “Vince contracts gonorrhea, Drama comes out of the closet, or Walsh has a Coppola-style, Hearts of Darkness meltdown on the set of Medellin”? Well, guess what!

Vince did not get gonorrhea. And no, Drama didn’t come out. Not yet. But insaniac director Billy Walsh does, in fact, have a very Coppola-esque meltdown on, yes, the set of Medellin, right down to his plan to direct by day and write a new ending by night. In fact, the whole episode is filmed like a faux documentary (from some future DVD, presumably), and we get the blow-by-blow from the set of the troubled film. We’re in for all sorts of surprises. To wit:

Billy Walsh: no longer entirely annoying! Actually kind of endearing, running around and barking orders and chasing a female co-star while wearing nothing but undershirts and a head wrap, like some heat-stricken extra from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Vince: Convincing in a fat suit! Medellin: Looks pretty good! Great, actually! As in, it finally feels like the kind of passion project that’s worth burning up two season’s worth of story line!

There’s not much story in the episode, save for a last-minute effort to fly in screenwriter Stephen (Traffic) Gaghan (whose eventual arrival in Colombia is treated with slightly less heraldic fanfare than the coming of the Messiah), but no matter. On the whole, it’s a welcome respite from a tired diet of g-strings, convertibles, and the Turtle & Drama Comedy Half-Hour.

Guilt: Not much story — and not much guilt. Could there be a connection? Not much Ari, either, which is a shame —the episode feels a bit like some contractual break for Jeremy Piven, in which he can knock off his few scenes in one suit and a single afternoon. No doubt he’ll be back, though, and soon — despite Billy’s craziness, the neophyte producers managed to put the whole film in the can in a single episode. Tidy! And too bad. Entourage could benefit from an extended stay in the jungle. For now, though, the premiere provided a very satisfying twist — and a promising start to season four. —Adam Sternbergh