Bored to Death
Jonathan sure got a lot of mileage from his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. The biggest piece of news to come out of “Two Large Pearls and a Bar Of Gold” (I’ll never think of Zach Galifianakis’s penis in the same way again — not that I thought of it before) is revealed near the end. Jonathan gets a call from someone who saw him on the show, ready to reveal information about the Fair Lawn sperm bank and the whereabouts of his missing father. It’s a bookend to the episode’s unsatisfying beginning: Jonathan travels to Fair Lawn and interrogates the owner of a fur store situated next to the site of the former sperm bank, which went up in flames in 1981. The man knows nothing, and Jonathan’s forced to return to New York with only a mink shawl for his mom and the disappointment of finding yet another dead end.
But there’s business to tide him over. Patti Stevenson, the girl to whom he lost his virginity at Princeton many years ago, is getting married in a few days, and her father — big fan of his appearance on Cavett — needs someone to guard the non-penis-related family jewels. (Concurrently, Leah catches Ray fooling around with Olympia Dukakis in the bathtub, playing a deep sea diver-type game where she digs around for his “two large pearls and a gold bar.”) They’re in the form of a valuable necklace worth upwards of a hundred thousand dollars, and they must be protected for the wedding ceremony. He brings along Ray and George, who are promised weed, booze, and some cool outfits that make them look like longshoremen — but also, what else are they gonna do, really? — and settles in for a night at a spooky old house with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He’s determined not to lose this necklace; he never loses anything, even his sunglasses, which most people do.
The episode exploits the kind of mental games that neurotic, self-obsessed Brooklynites inadvertently play with each other. When one person has an ailment, suddenly as if through osmosis, that ailment is passed around whoever’s in close proximity, especially if it’s all in the head. Earlier in the episode, George was with Josephine and having impotence issues surrounding her growing attachment — usually a sign to George that he needs to get out, and fast. He mentioned this to Jonathan, and before long the seed is planted. See, while hanging out at the house, Patti is putting the moves on Jonathan to fulfill a vow they apparently made: Before either of them get married, they would be together for one more night. Jonathan resists, but when he eventually gives in, he can’t perform.
It’s a good thing in this case. Suddenly, the power goes out, and Jonathan is attacked by what I can only assume is the gimp from American Horror Story, eager to do some looting after his Tami Taylor fucking. The gang does what it can to fend the masked guy off — whether it’s Jonathan dusting off his fencing skills or George just running at the guy with a huge American flagpole — but before long the assailant has escaped into a cab. Jonathan kicks himself only until he lets Patti’s father know the bad news, and notices the blood mark on his robe — the telltale sign that he, himself, was the bad guy. Most mysteries on Bored to Death aren’t that difficult to decipher from where we’re sitting, and it’s always kind of funny to note how much people praise Jonathan’s impeccable sleuthing skills.
In any case, it’s been six episodes of an eight-episode season, and I’m realizing that the show has a bunch of different timelines running at once. On one hand, Ray’s relationship with Leah has been through some serious fits and starts; it feels like every other episode he’s either back with her, or she’s pissed at him and kicking him out of the house to run through the streets of Park Slope covered only in bubbles. On the other, Jonathan has put his main quest mostly aside, and the development of characters like Louis Green happened slowly and deliberately. There are slow burn references like the Cavett stuff, and quick payoff scenes involving George massaging Ray’s back with an electric toothbrush, closing out last night’s episode. The ends of the last two seasons have been the finest parts of the show, when the two joke schedules (to coin a term that isn’t that great) completely align. It feels like there’s still a lot to cover about the Fair Lawn incident, but I have no doubt the show will stick the landing and keep its eye on little moments in the process.