“La Ronde” finds Marcy in treatment; Ashby, Charlie, Hank and Karen keeping (most of) their libidinal impulses in check; and Californication getting all literary.
Or the lack thereof: Ashby has been staying away from Mia and is still thinking about one-who-got-away Janie Jones. That Hank’s next interview with J.J. is after dark makes Ashby a little jealous — because if it’s after seven, it’s a date. Each main character uses that logic at least once in this episode, but we’re not going to bother with that repetition; it’s not one of Californication’s better gags.
Anyway, it does indeed seem to be a date for Janie and Hank: There’s an art gallery and cheap wine in plastic cups and everything. Unfortunately, it turns out this is guru Julian’s art gallery, so he, and Hank’s baby mama, Sonja, are also part of the date. Julian, macking on Janie, exhibits quite the repertoire of pickup lines: “Have you experienced childbirth? But not orgasmic childbirth? Are you menstruating right now?” And then he starts groping Hank. Proving herself about the classiest lady to ever catch Hank’s eye, Janie gets her and Hank the hell out of there and on to the date’s natural conclusion: bringing Hank home. She finds vasectomized men, marked as they evidently are by commitment and sacrifice, very alluring. Hank plays that up by turning her down, explaining that he wouldn’t want just a one-night stand with her.
Meanwhile, Karen is on her own date — with Ashby. He’s sent his driver to pick her up and bring her to the otherwise empty Hollywood Bowl, where he’s arranged for Lili Haydn to play the sort of god-awful chick music that passes for part of a mature date in Ashby’s perverse mind. As we feared, Karen has a great time. Ashby delivers a spiel about how she reminds him of someone, she suggests he take that woman out on a date, he insists he’s learned from his mistakes — and then he lunges in for the kiss. She rebuffs him. Twice.
Meanwhile, Marcy has finally made it to rehab, so Charlie is still alone with Daisy. She’s enjoying the novelty of living a normal life, working (for free) as the waxery’s receptionist, dating a guy who works at the Sharper Image across the street, and liking the new Runkle alternative family. Needless to say, she’s a great comfort to Charlie as he worries about Marcy’s coke problem — and about what’s going to happen to their sex life without the coke. But this is the new, (un)improved-formula, abstinent Californication: She comforts him with Dirty Dancing and with some very chaste dancing, not any of her porn-goddess skills. But it’s not an entirely sexless episode — just about keeping things in the family.
After turning down Janie Jones, Hank drops by Karen’s place to brag about his self-cockblocking redemption and to, as she puts it, look for some sort of reward. After providing said reward, she fends off Hank’s pillow talk and questions about her evening by trying to fire him up again, only to discover a lump. Given that the episode takes its title from Arthur Schnitzler’s play about syphilis making the rounds in slutty turn-of-the-century Vienna, we’d assume that she’s found an oozing, inflamed sore on Hank’s dick. That would be a fascinating and apt plot development, but it seems more likely that our Hank is up for a cancer scare in the next episode.