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Black Monday Recap: Everything Works on a Sitcom

Black Monday

295
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****

Black Monday

295
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Erin Simkin/Erin Simkin/Showtime

It seems fitting that an episode that makes repeated reference to a classic sitcom should center on a triangular will-they-won’t-they situation straight out of a ’90s network comedy. Last night’s episode revolves around Mo and Dawn’s efforts to get Blair and Tiff back together — which very nearly pushes the ex-lovers back into each other’s arms.

“295” — as in days left until the big crash — begins a month after the previous episode, with Dawn and Mo despairing over Blair’s seeming disinterest in getting back together with Tiff. He’s young, rich, and single, and he’s in no hurry to leave the party. “Last night,” he boasts to Dawn and Mo, “I ordered ethnic food!”

The episode’s B-plot involves a payment Mo attempts to make to the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia that Mo’s in debt to. He gives a bag of cash to Keith, who promises to hand it over — but, as we’ll see, doesn’t quite deliver.

Inspired by a “honey pot” plot from Hogan’s Heroes, Mo schemes to make Blair jealous of Tiff’s new squeeze, a hot trader named Jack whom everyone calls Jackson Polack (because, Mo explains, he’s Polish and he’s “splatter-painted half the town”). He’ll have the opportunity to flaunt the buff Jack in Blair’s face at the annual Manhattan Pageant, a charity auction where the trading floor’s hottest bachelors are for sale, and which Mo is hosting. Mo shows Blair photo evidence of Tiff and Jack, prompting Blair to hightail it over to the Upper East Side, where Tiff is staying with her parents.

What follows is one of my favorite moments of the show so far, a montage set to the Cars’ “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home.” The scene cuts between Blair arriving at Tiff’s apartment, following a stomach-sinking trail of clothes — a bra, stockings, a bow tie — to her door; Mo arriving at his apartment to find a similar but more menacing trail of broken robot parts, including the bow tie that jauntily graced his robot butler; and Dawn arriving home to her doctor husband, who calls out from the bedroom requesting she bring a bottle of wine. Glasses and bottle in hand, Dawn follows yet another trail, of her husband’s clothes.

The camera zooms in on a single piece of bowtie pasta before Dawn discovers her husband in his pajamas, eating dinner in bed, too stuffed to please his lady. (“But you can do stuff to me if you like.”) Mo walks into his bedroom to find his robot butler’s head in his bed, Godfather-style, and Blair sneaks up to Tiff’s room just in time to see her getting it on with Jackson Polack.

It’s the kind of moment that wouldn’t feel out of place on a goofy sketch show with a laugh track, and it’s pretty amazing that it works on a prestige cable series. The show’s high volume of one-liners and random zingers gives it a 30 Rock–esque screwball feel, but the world of the show is much less cartoonish than Tina Fey’s beloved NBC sitcom; the combination can be a bit off-putting until you get used to it. But four episodes in, Black Monday’s tonal mash-up makes more sense. The mix of sitcom plotting, Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow–style bro banter, and glossy cable period-piece is starting to gel.

Anyway, back at the office, Mo finds out what that robot-head-in-the-bed business was all about: Keith never actually paid off the Yakuza. He passed the job off to Yassir, who gave the money to Wayne, who promptly took off for the airport, where he’s sitting at a bar when Keith and Yassir reach him via cell phone. Turns out he’s put all that money on what Keith calls a “LaGuardia spread, ” a sort of last resort: You take out a big long shot on margin — investor-speak for borrowing money from a broker in order to purchase stock — pack a bag, head to the airport, and “call the floor.” You either come home a hero — or not at all. “You get on a plane and you fucking disappear.” Keith and Yassir find out Wayne bought 100,000 contracts of feeder-cattle stock on margin and booked it to the airport.

Meanwhile, Dawn and Mo’s angel/devil routine with Blair is just a chance for a series of referenda on their own relationship (including this revelation, from Dawn: “You don’t remember telling me that you were the last guy in your junior high to get pubes and how it totally defined— ” “Nope, no, don’t remember that,” Mo cuts her off). Eventually, Dawn agrees to go along with Mo’s honey-pot idea — but only if she’s the honey.

At the Manhattan Pageant, Blair arrives with Dawn, and they spot Tiff right away with her new slice. (A nervous Blair remarks, “I haven’t acted since college. And the U Penn Gazette called my performance as Otto Frank ‘the worst thing to happen to Anne Frank.’”) When it’s Jack’s turn in the auction, Tiff is the first, and highest, bidder, offering $15,000 right off the bat.

A dejected Blair dances with Dawn, and remarks that even though their plan didn’t work, he still had a good time with her. Tiff approaches and introduces Blair to Jack, insisting that she’s not getting back together with him but rather wants to focus on herself, “for once in my life.” Panicking as Tiff walks away, Blair grabs Dawn and kisses her passionately. Tiff looks over and yells, “Blair!” Blair immediately pries his face off Dawn’s, calling out, “Tiff!” They run to each other and embrace, while Mo tells Dawn that he wants her back — he’ll be waiting at the restaurant where they had their first date, whether she shows up or not.

At the airport, Wayne is about to board a flight after hearing on the radio that cattle-feed stocks are plunging. Keith and Yassir track him down just before he gets on the plane, and the three of them see a news report on TV that mad cow disease has broken out, which means stores have to throw out all their beef, which means cattle-feed stock is suddenly skyrocketing. They book it back to the stock exchange just as Mo has been apprehended by a group of grim-looking Japanese gangsters, and barge in with the money right before they force Mo to cut off his pinky finger.

While this is going on, Dawn has, in fact, showed up at the restaurant, and has commenced getting sloshed at the bar when she figures Mo’s stood her up. Blair arrives with Tiff, and sees Dawn sitting by herself. He stops to thank her for her help — and suddenly the two are furiously making out, just as Mo has arrived at the restaurant’s glass doors. I ask you — could this not be the end of a Friends episode?!

Black Monday Recap: Everything Works on a Sitcom