“This place is toxic,” announces Karen with finality, and Hank breaks into a grin: They’re going back to New York. Or are they? By the end of this packed episode, Becca will have thrown a tantrum about it — “New York doesn’t mean shit to me. It isn’t the answer to anything!” — Karen will have figured out who Hank is sleeping with, lied to him about who she’s sleeping with, and both of them will have had an ugly scene with the drunken parents of Becca’s best friend. So there’s ample evidence to support the “toxic” theory.
But is it really all California’s fault? We learn some unfortunate things about the Moody family this week that have nothing to do with geography. For one thing, Becca’s never really had a close friend until now. (This is really one of the few hints the show has given us that New York wasn’t an Eden for the Moodys.) The job of parenting her parents seems to have taken a toll on the little Goth.
We kick the ep off with a funny scene regarding the Trouble With Becca, who has gotten into the habit of working her hatred of everyone and everything into even the most casual of conversations. Hank explains to Karen: “I told you, she’s changed. She’s a miserable little bitch all the time now.” The statement is all the more shocking because he says it conversationally, without malice, simply because it is true. The two parents reunite over their dismay and instantly decide that the problem, of course, has nothing to do with them: “It’s all Chelsea’s fault.” This breaks Californication into a whole new backyard of funny: Complete Parental Delusion.
Next comes the conjugal reunion, but that’s cut short when Karen confesses that she’s slept with Bill. “I did feel like I owed him one … I did kinda ruin his life and all … you know that night I married him and jumped in the car with you?” Hypocrite Hank takes it like a punch in the stomach. (This show is rich with men who cheat on the women they love but can’t take tit-for-tat.) He quits his sexual advances (her goal, perhaps?) and they head to class, where her gorgeous presence in the back row sets off alarm bells for Jill and Jackie. “You are unbelievable! Which one are you sleeping with?” Karen asks him after class, knowing his type. Felicia strides in, and Karen misses the sexual tension there because Felicia is so busy insulting her. “So awful, isn’t it, that whole working-mom thing? I’m so lucky with my teaching schedule.” Karen takes a dislike to the younger Koons generation, too, when Chelsea says that keeping Becca in Hollywood is her “only chance at a normal life.”
At a dinner party with the Runkels, Rick Springfield, and Sue Collini, Springfield brags of his sexual prowess — he’s terrific at playing a rock-star sleazebag. “Do you want to go up to my room and listen to some records?” Marcy asks, wide-eyed, at her teen idol. “Only if they’re mine.”
Hank and Karen are called away from the party because Becca and Chelsea have opened thousands of dollars worth of wine at the dean’s house. He’s surprisingly gracious, but Karen accuses him of “shitty parenting” and puts the blame on Chelsea. Felicia agrees: “Becca doesn’t have the gumption, she’s a follower.” In perhaps the only wrong over-the-top note, Becca bursts in drunk and calls them all, accurately, hypocrites. Later, she’ll beg Hank to let her stay in L.A. (are we the only ones who think she shouldn’t get a vote?).
At night in the garden, Hank and Karen share a cigarette — a scene as sexy as any filmed on the show — and she confesses she hasn’t been cheating on him, she was just messing with his head. His eyes light up: This is a woman who keeps surprising him. But as sweet as that coda is, it’s Kathleen Turner who steals this episode when she comforts — and confronts — a weeping Charlie. His wife, behind only half-closed doors, is loudly achieving her teenage fantasy (“Yes, Rick Springfield, yes, yes!”). Turner dubs him “the saddest sack ever,” but promises she’ll get Marcy back for him, then proceeds to fake a furniture-rattling orgasm that brings Marcy’s revelry to a complete halt. “Collini out,” she says, exiting.
Where does this all leave the series? The L.A. Times’s Show Tracker observes that the show is up a creek: Hank so clearly belongs with Karen that his otherwise entertaining dalliances risk just making him seem annoying. But a Hank tamed is no Hank at all, is it? Californication creator Tom Kapinos promises something of a shocking “twist” at the end of the season. We’re not sure that’s good news.