The second episode of Pam & Tommy is looser than the series premiere. It’s faster and funnier. I guess that’s what happens when you untie your narrative from the unhappy grump who stole a rock star’s sex tape and point the camera at the hot newlyweds so drunk on each other that even Rodgers and Hammerstein makes them horny. Does it follow that Pam & Tommy is a better show in its second hour? That’ll largely depend on your appetite for an animatronic cock played by Jason Mantzoukas, who makes the brave choice to give Tommy Lee’s penis his regular everyday voice. (I will never listen to How Did This Get Made? the same way.)
The miniseries lays out a version of events that’s more or less the truth of how Pamela Anderson met Tommy Lee, though the times and dates are gently massaged. On TV, it’s the spring of 1995, and Pamela is swearing off bad boys. Her famous exes already include Bret Michaels and maybe Dean Cain, David Charvet, Scott Baio, and maybe Antonio Sabàto Jr., so when Pam tells her girlfriends that actors and rock stars are “fucking crazy,” she’s not stereotyping. She has simply done her homework. Now she’s in the market for a good guy, like maybe an accountant, she insists. Then she orders shots for the entire club because when Pamela Anderson says “shots,” she means “for all.” On this fateful night in the annals of tabloid history, all includes Tommy Lee.
Tommy stalks across the club in Pam’s direction with the intensity of a cartoon depiction of a jungle cat. Just watching Sebastian Stan makes me tired. His performance is all energy all the time. His eyes are always open wide like they’re too big for their sockets. He’s able to transmit across the screen a kinetic quality that would likely bowl you over in real life. Tommy plops himself next to Pam on the banquette, takes her face in both his hands and licks it from her jawline to her temple. He stands on his seat, drains a shot glass, and shouts “Opa!” because Tommy is pure chaos and also Greek. They drink more, they dance, they lick more, drink more, dance more, lick more, drink, dance, lick. Pam’s updo remains immaculate. Lily James does not look exactly like Pamela Anderson, but she looks nothing like Lily James.
From the get-go, Tommy’s pursuit of Pam is relentless. On the same night they meet, he invites himself on her work trip to Cancún — a meet and greet for Baywatch’s middle-aged syndicators. He continuously redials her number and leaves a message every time. But when the roses that greet her at the hotel are not from Tommy, Pam’s bummed. You can’t have it all. On the one hand, an accountant would probably think to send flowers; on the other, an accountant is unlikely to pursue Pam across national borders and use the alias “Mr. Hugh Weiner” when calling her hotel.
Because guess what, you’ll never guess, Tommy is in Cancún. He rescues Pam from a boring work dinner and provides her with a tour of his own personal Mexico, which is a “Joe Francis Presents”–style production. Tommy yells everything he says like he’s saying it for the benefit of someone listening in from nearby, yet he notices when Pam runs out of margarita. He drops a tab of ecstasy into the next round, and the show does an okay job of making drugs look fun but also dumb. After spending the entire night telling her entourage she’s not going home with Tommy, Pam shocks no one by going home with Tommy.
They don’t have sex, though. They undress while standing across the room from each other. “Would you like to meet him?” Tommy asks Pam. “Yes, I would,” Pam breathes obediently. It’s too silly and embarrassing to be hot. As is well documented, Tommy Lee has a massive penis, and Pam politely calls “him” beautiful. They share a bath and touch each other. She traces his tattoos and flicks his nipple rings; he pets her eyelashes. It’s somehow kind of sweet. They really like each other.
Every subsequent night is basically a rerun of their first night in Mexico, which was a rerun of the night they met in L.A., with mid-’90s flourishes thrown in for variety’s sake: “Tootsie Roll” plays, they end up at a foam party. Pam & Tommy does not make being Pam and Tommy seem glamorous, but their grip on each other is romantic in a tenacious, almost juvenile way. Tommy’s anthropomorphic penis doesn’t stand a chance when he tries to dissuade his owner — the only recently ex–Mr. Heather Locklear — not to jump into holy matrimony. Oh, to be (not especially) young and (probably not really in) love! Tommy asks Pam to marry him, and she puts on her best white bikini — the one from the safe — and says “I do” on a Yucatán beach to a man she met four days ago. The lighting is hopeful, the soundtrack is “Steal My Sunshine,” the timeline is mostly accurate. Still, you can’t help rooting for these complete idiots. “I’m going to service you for the rest of your life,” Pamela tells Tommy. They have a naked pillow fight, the TV kind where the feathers escape the pillows. They have sex on the patio, sex in the tub, sex while spraying Champagne.
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Cancún sits next to you in first class. On the plane, Pam and Tommy finally start the process of getting to know each other. Pam likes romantic films, like Pretty Woman; Tommy leans horror. Pam likes French fries best; Tommy loves french fries too. In the car home from LAX, they decide that “home” will be Tommy’s Malibu compound. “We could renovate together,” Tommy suggests warmly. This is the other side to Stan’s performance and the one that sells their love story. His Tommy has an almost boyish neediness, an uncoolness that contradicts all the tattoos. He says “cool beans,” and he really thinks Pamela Anderson is the best person in the world, and he would really, really like it if she’d consent to decorate the house with him.
So they dream up a house with a waterfall and a koi pond and a meditation gazebo like kids playing make-believe, except it’s not make-believe. They have so much money that they don’t notice when they spend it. The real price for the life they’ll live together is their privacy. There are paparazzi at the airport and paparazzi at the fence, but the real snake is about to walk through the front door. Rand, along with Lonnie and the rest of the construction crew, are there to do a preliminary walk-through. Eventually, yes, Tommy will treat Rand like dirt, but Rand already thinks Tommy’s an idiot because he got a calf tattoo of a pentacle without understanding its holy significance.
Pam and Tommy are married, check. Living in Malibu, check. Rand is on the scene, check. And yet a critical domino is missing, one that, however bizarrely, Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr will help slot into place. Mr. and Mrs. Lee are having a pizza-and-beer night on their silk sheets, channel surfing past Baywatch (Pam hates watching herself), Star Trek (Pam would love to fuck Tommy in space), and finally landing on The King and I, which Pam adores (King Mongkut is kind of a bad boy). Tommy has never seen it, but Pam sings “Getting to Know You” and Tommy sort of sings along because when he’s not acting totally berserk, he’s genuinely good-natured. Isn’t this exactly how people move past lust to love? Just acting dumb together.
It’s Pam who first reaches for the camcorder, in case she needs to one day blackmail the heavy-metal drummer from Mötley Crüe with footage of musical-theater improv. It’s Tommy who positions it atop the TV and aims it at the bed. We don’t see what happens next, but we know who does: The small black cassette is already playing in Uncle Miltie’s office.