Californication: Enter Ed Westwick

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Photo: Jordin Althaus/Showtime
Episode Title
The Land of Rape and Honey
Season
3
Episode
2

We open with a character lustfully licking his lips, and it’s not Hank Moody — it’s Ed Westwick! He’s in class, reading his short story about vampires aloud. (The lip-smacking comes with the vampires’ joyous anticipation of slurping blood from frat boys.) The gothic prose is so lousy that Hank visibly texts Becca while the student reads, but Westwick delivers it with fever and passion.

One of the pleasures of Californication is its winking references to David Duchovny’s real-life sex addiction. Here, it takes on the never-ending “who’s gay on Gossip Girl?” roundelay with similar delight. Westwick’s character — who for some reason is named “Balt” — shows up at Hank’s office in a heartbeat, fawning over the teacher and making clear that he’s looking for much more than extra credit.

Hank, rattled not by the come-on but by the idea that someone could consider him old enough to be a mentor, laconically tells the would-be writer that if he can do something else with his life, he probably should: “The world doesn’t need any more lame vampire fiction.” He ejects the crushed student and pulls out a joint. No, Hank Moody will not be a Mr. Holland’s Opus type. Later, Charlie muses on the incident. “We’ve all got a gay experience in our back pocket,” he says. “Men will be men, boys will do boys,” he adds, confessing his own pre-adolescent explorations with a best friend.

So about Charlie: His marriage is taking a sitcom turn. He answers the door to a handsome black man he mistakes as a salesman — “Hello, my Nubian brother” — only to discover that Marcy’s dating the guy. It’s a punchline straight out of a 1980s Norman Lear comedy. Later, he comes home to find them acting out a rape fantasy and “saves” her. The only relief from all this is when Sue (Kathleen Turner, remember) tells Charlie of her own rape fantasies, which star Jack Nicholson (shades of Prizzi’s Honor).

Anyway, it turns out that Balt attempts to commit suicide (or least, chugs a lot of NyQuil) immediately after leaving Hank’s office. Dean Koontz then gives Hank a panicked dressing-down: “This is no time to be glib, Hank.” “How can you be sure?” But Hank’s kind when he visits Balt in the hospital and confesses his own near-gay past — stealing Charlie’s anecdote word-for-word. Westwick, who’s really pretty great here, seems delighted and manipulative all at once.

Back home, Hank is taking a pass at adulthood with Becca. He forbids her from going to the mall, and she gives him the stink eye. (It’s about time Becca started acting like a normal teen.) They wind up in a screaming match, and Hank pulls a Baldwin, claiming he hates her. The episode closes on his heartbroken face. So far, adulthood doesn’t look like a comfortable fit.