Californication: The Rule of Three


Season 3 Episode 4

The rest of the country has always had a complicated relationship with California, and Californication has always been good at capturing the mix of envy and superiority that New Yorkers, in particular, bring to La-La Land. Early seasons nailed this: Hank Moody was the 21st century fish out of water, a man happy to participate in any and all sun-addled bacchanalias, but with a bemused, near-snobby air that said “look at these crazy Californians.”

Now settled in on the West Coast, and with nothing to chafe against, Hank is more and more the layabout sybarite, letting lust wash over him like surf. Indeed, he’s pioneering a new wrinkle in laid-back adultery — it’s not cheating if the woman’s on top. As he puts its it, as one more comely brunette seeks out his magnetic lap: “I’m like flypaper for the emotionally disturbed.”

True to inert form, as the episode begins, Hank is asleep in his faculty office as Felicia prowls about. Poking him with her moral compass, she announces she deserves to have him, since her husband has cheated on her. “Are you trying to tell me that that smarmy piece of wiener cheese took his love to town?” Hank asks, and you can hear anger in his joke, not at their marital peccadilloes, but that he has ended up working for a man he finds so inane. They’re interrupted by Jill, who announces when they’re alone that she’s not going to sleep with him anymore. Then she does.

But student/stripper Jackie is the woman really on his mind, as she’s had the effrontery to drop his class. Hank tells himself this is a heartbreaking shame because of her talent as a writer, but nobody’s falling for that excuse but Hank. (It seems he’s becoming more hypocritical and self-deluded the longer he lives in California.) He drafts Charlie to join him in an academic intervention at the Faster Pussycat Nightclub. “Hey, I have a student who’s a stripper,” he says. Charlie: “Of course you do!” At the club, Jackie explains her decision as she gives him a lap dance. “It was an elective; I’m a business major.”

Cut to the chase: Back at her house, Jackie is now peeling off her shirt. “This is so not fair,” he says petulantly, as she seduces him. “Better shape up … because I need a man and my heart is set on you” is on the soundtrack.

Guilt-ridden, he heads home to connect to Karen via webcam. “That bed is awfully big without you,” he says, but, she, a veteran of the Moody manipulations, doesn’t fall for it, pointing out that he’s never had problems getting bedmates. “I’m not liking myself very much lately.” he says, speaking for the viewers.

Happier, at least for a nanosecond, are Charlie and Marcy. They’ve reconciled, after an offer to buy their house found both of them sabotaging the sale. (Charlie tells buyers they’ll probably divorce if they live there, as Marcy steers them through a fouled bathroom.) As the realtor marches out, furious, Charlie says, “I just think we were supposed to live happily ever after, and I just took a wrong turn.” It’s a lovely moment — until next week’s previews show him caught in some sort of betrayal again.

There are other highlights: Becca goes clothes shopping with her Dad, who decides he likes her better Goth than sexy; and Sue pitches Hank a new career path that involves lending him out to sex-starved Hollywood producers’ wives. “So you’re suggesting I drop this whole writing thing and sell myself as a man whore?” he asks, annoyed. Come on: It’s not only a valid idea, but he’s halfway there. (When was the last time he wrote something?)

But by the end up the ep, the hat trick we’ve been building up to all season is finally in place: Hank Moody looks out at his English class as three women he’s involved with all take seats. He’s got it all: a twenty-, thirty-, and fortysomething; a boss, a colleague, a student. Taking an Eve-like bite out of a shiny red apple, the professor writes one multifaceted word on the board: “Fuck.”

Californication: The Rule of Three