HBO’s Vinyl: Episode 1-07: The King and I – Recap & Review

Richie and Zak hit Vegas to land the Big Fish aka The King

Richie and Zak hit Vegas to land the Big Fish aka The King

This a recap/review with some spoilers and some opinions.

The promise was there. After all, hadn’t Richie Finestra hit rock bottom in the previous episode (Episode 1-06 – Cyclone). Non-stop blow and other abuses had pushed him so far down into the sink-hole that his wife had taken the kids and left him. His life now included the hallucinatory imagery of an old friend that Richie had killed in an auto-accident caused by drugs. That would be Ernst.

But it went beyond just that. His relationship with his business partner and the co-founder of ACR, Zack Yankovich, a relationship that was already on the rocks because Richie had backed out of the Polygram deal, was in the midst of sinking into the abyss.

Richie had shown up way too late to Yankovich’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, and Zak had thrown Richie to the floor in a fit of anger.

Go destroy your own family, you’ve already destroyed mine. Oh wait, you’ve already done that, said Yankovich.

Where else could Richie go? Surely, when you hit rock bottom, a turn-around usually happens. Or is supposed to happen. Maybe not so much in real life, but in television….?

At the monthly business meeting, Skip announced that, despite the cutbacks and staff reductions, they wouldn’t be able to make this month’s payroll – a figure quoted as $33K.

Someone suggested that Richie give up his apartment in the city.

Richie: I need that place, I’m out to all hours of the night, and it’s not my apartment – it’s the company apartment.
Skip: Then how come I never get to stay there? What’s the rent?
Richie: $1100 a month.

By the standards of living in the city at that time – that was a luxury apartment. Me? I lived on the Upper East Side – and paid just $200 a month in 1973 for a small one-bedroom.

So a plan was hatched. They would sell the rights to the corporate jet that they were leasing for $100K and the buyer would take over the lease payments.And that took them out to LA. And the $100 K they’d come away with would almost cover three months of the ACR salaries.

Sounds like a plan and things immediately brightened. We heard and watched Jan & Dean’s Surf City. You know the lyrics – Two girls for every boy.

What we didn’t know at the time we heard it, that those five words would be a huge clue as to what would happen later in the episode. Then we heard Jackson Browne singing – Doctor My Eyes

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand…

‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams

While this Jackson Browne song wasn’t really an optimistic song, it did signify a spiritual search was in the works.

Did that mean that Richie Finestra would turn the corner? He was already off the blow and had also given up booze. It was a beginning, wasn’t it?

The buyer of the plane had invited them out to his beach pad in Malibu. We saw Gram Parsons, Stephen Stills, and even Neil Young plus Mickey Dolenz  and Mama Cass – not really, but at least the actors used had a likeness to the originals.

Also at this party, we overheard that The King – Elvis Presley – was unhappy with his label RCA. That got Richie’s attention. Presley was now doing his thing in Las Vegas. In 1973 he was 38 years old. He now performed for an older crowd, and although Vinyl didn’t go into any of Elvis’s problems (he’d be dead four years later in 1977) – the show did show us that Elvis was far from happy, that he had become something of a caricature of his younger days, and he was still under the control of Col. Tom Parker.

So Richie and Zak, along with two bimbos they picked up at the pool at the hotel in LA , were soon touching down in Las Vegas. Richie had a plan – they would promise Elvis a return to what he loved = rock ‘n roll music, and sign him to their label American Century Records.

When Zak stated that Elvis was big and made BIG BIG money, Richie said – We’ll worry about that AFTER we have him sign the contracts.

Richie meets Col. Parker in the Vegas hotel lobby and it is all arranged. Parker would call them later, and Richie would then meet with Elvis after the show. But Elvis was now doing songs like Polk Salad Annie, and was beginning to look a bit bloated, and in truth, Elvis wasn’t a happy camper. Speaking of which, he wasn’t a camper either.

Richie pitches to Elvis

Richie pitches to Elvis

So Richie is pitching to Elvis, and things look good. Until Col. Parker shows up and first sends Elvis off to bed, and then second, tells Richie to show himself out.

Richie and Zak are down but not out. They decide to enjoy themselves in Vegas, and they head for the blackjack tables. Richie is hot, and they soon find themselves up about 5K. Suddenly Richie decides to pocket the winnings, but not before announcing that with the 5K winnings at the blackjack table and the 90K up in the room – it was time to call it a day.

Bad Mistake. Richie wasn’t all that discreet, and the two bimbos overheard the talk about the money. Soon the foursome is back upstairs in the hotel suite, and Zak is going to have a good time with both girls especially when Richie says he was going to get some more Dom.

Just about then, Jan & Dean popped into my mind – Two girls for every guy —

I won’t go any further with the plot details here, but suffice it to say, that if you thought that Richie had hit rock bottom the week before, you’d be dead wrong.

Some stray thoughts: Too much of this episode was revealed early and then throughout even without direct or specifics clues or hints. The Jan & Dean Song. and Richie seeing the number 18 in multiple places and circumstances were clues that stood out in retrospect.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out how this episode would play out. Yes, there was a twist, and it was a late reveal – but it seemed too engineered and far too obvious.

The dropping in of celebrities is becoming a bit hackneyed this far into the show (7 episodes) and Richie’s arc is still in a steep descent and decline. It was fun to see Ray Romano as Zak Yankovich have much more to do in this episode – but it was also an episode that wasted our time with mail-room hazing of Clark who was nearly fired earlier but was granted a reprieve only if he moved down the pecking order from the A & R dept. to the new boy in the mail room.

We had no sign of Olivia Wilde as Richie’s wife Devon this week.

In the main, I’m calling this series a major disappointment. This is not to say that series is a flop, but I think it is too heavy-handed – like last week Ernst never seemed real, and there was a decidedly late reveal – just like there was in this episode. And where are they going with it? Will Richie Finestra be redeemed and recover himself and his family. Will American Century Records with its ties to corrupt record bosses like Maury Gold and his connections to organized crime come back to bring down ACR?

Or will the murder get unraveled? I’ve no clue. But if you ask me – this is a show, that no matter how it ends, will not have light at the end of the tunnel.



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