The ''Entourage'' season finale: Vince vs. Ari
This episode of Entourage marked the end of season 3 and the end of an era. Maybe. Since the episode's title was ''Sorry, Ari,'' it was pretty clear that Vince Chase would cut hyperbolic, hyperactive agent Ari Gold loose. But until Eric said those fateful words ''You're fired!'' to the strains of Ted Nugent's ''Stranglehold,'' the show kept us guessing, with a succession of will-he-or-won't-he narrative switchbacks that had me biting my nails down to their stubs.
Before that pulse-quickening climax, there was the typical snarky skewering we expect from Entourage. Specifically, a sharp send-up of the agency pitch meeting, where the ''suits'' try to show the ''talent'' that they are the company with the hottest assistants, the slickest offices, and the most expensive lobby furniture. Vince and the fellas quickly discover that there's not much of a difference between your ICMs and your CAAs and your UTAs, other than what ''brands'' they'll be referencing during the flashy PowerPoint presentation.
Drama, for once, seemed to be the voice of reason: Of all the ''lying, money-hungry'' blankity-blanks, Ari is the best. In the finale, Ari proved that he can deceive, lie, and beg like no one else. But Vince really didn't care about that. He just wanted Ari to be a mensch and apologize for messing with Bob Ryan and screwing up the Ramones deal. Ari was thinking like an agent, not like a friend, and that's why he got canned. Vince wanted a buddy, not a business partner.
And speaking of Bob Ryan, it's worth giving a quick nod to Martin Landau for killing in this role as the bumbling, washed-up producer with Oscars on the mantel but cobwebs in his head. It was such a good impression of a certain type of Hollywood has-been that a real one is reportedly pissed off at Entourage's producers over the characterization. Landau's final scene, however, wasn't mean-spirited; it was a touching take on how the ugliness of showbiz can leave you feeling pretty rotten on the inside. When Bob Ryan said, ''I'm over this town,'' I kind of agreed with him.
On to the cliff-hanger question: Is Ari really gone for good? From a pure entertainment perspective, Entourage can't succeed without the white-hot freneticism of Ari Gold/Jeremy Piven, so I doubt Piven is going to be sliced from the HBO payroll (especially given his Emmy win tonight). Here's a few hypothetical scenarios to mull over until next year:
1. After a few hug-it-out sessions and more on-the-knees begging, Vince decides to take Ari back. His career gets back on track and much starlet bedding and fist bumps ensue.
2. Vince decides to go agentless; his career heads into a tailspin. Meanwhile, Johnny Drama wins an Emmy (and sticks with Miller-Gold), so Vince ends up being the one on his knees pleading for a meeting with Mr. Gold. Begrudgingly, Ari takes him back, but Vince has to go back to starring in commercials.
3. HBO cuts Jeremy Piven from Entourage so he can star in an Ari Gold spin-off called Hug It Out, which ends up being worse than Arli$$ and only lasts one season. (Kidding, just kidding....)
Whatever ends up happening, let's hope that season 4 will improve upon season 3 in one big way: by adding fistfuls of stiff narrative structure. I was a dedicated fan of the show this year as you've seen from my diligent Sunday-night reports but it definitely lacked the well-honed direction of season 2, which followed one project the making of Aquaman for an entire 12 episodes. This year was a bit too loosey-goosey; just like Vince, it couldn't quite decide on a project and stick to it. With that grousing off my chest, I'll definitely say that I'm already antsy for next season.
What do you think? Will Ari and Vince get back together, and if yes, how? Will Drama's pilot get picked up? And how are Vince and the boys going to maintain their rich-and-famous lifestyle?