A Look at House of Lies- Season 3, Episode 9: “Zhang”

And just like that, DollaHyde is back.

After taking a brief aside to shift to MediaWolf, House of Lies returns to the misadventures of Lukas and Dre.  Misadventures that, at least for the pod, result in some unexpected turns through Compton.

Zhang- Marty and Dre on driving range

Though we start during a brief flashback with Lukas filming the pod, the episode begins proper, fifteen hours earlier, on the driving range with Marty and Dre.  Marty explains that no one wants to make a loan with Lukas due to his felonies, drug ties and gun running.  It’s just too black of a deal for clients.  What the two need is a high net-worth non risk averse player.  Dre may have just the guy- a guy named Zhang from Guanzhou.  Zhang isn’t fond of strangers, so Dre will travel by himself to pay a visit.  He also knows that Dre is sitting on a gold mine with DollaHyde and has offered loans, so now all Dre has to do is kiss ass the right way and boom, instant deal.

Zhang- Coltrane talks to Roscoe and Lex about the 818

Jeremiah and Chantelle escort Roscoe to school just in time for Roscoe to run into Lex.  One of Roscoe’s friends, Coltrane, played by Cody Sullivan, tells Roscoe about someone doing 818, some krumping thing in the valley.  Roscoe’s interested, though Lex is a bit hostile to the suggestion.  Why?  I have no idea.

Zhang- Caitlin meets Monica

Monica arrives at Kaan & Associates and surveys the building before running into not Marty, but Caitlin, who explains that Marty’s absence is due to putting out a five alarm predawn fire.  That’s fine.  Monica can wait.  She doesn’t have to wait too long.

Zhang- Monica presents WON demographics and statistics to pod

When the pod, minus Clyde, has assembled, Monica presents her pitch in the form of a container full of WON- wholesome organic nutrition.  It’s all you’d ever have to eat or drink for the rest of your fucking days, as Monica puts it.  Problem is that it sounds like every other protein powder ever, and it is, but the Millennials gobble this up, according to Monica’s statistics.  The stats look too good to be true with WON having a large chunk of the market share, but the numbers have been vetted.  She’s deferred all of her normal fees and now taking massive stock options.  All Monica needs is an IPO, but the pod reminds her of the first rule in consulting: no freebies.

Doug takes the container to an office where he finds Clyde avoiding Monica like the plague.  The two get into a back and forth on relationships until Doug reminds Clyde just who Doug is: the perfect wingman.  All of a sudden, Doug turns on his Puss ‘N Goots persona and even crawls onto a table.  What would he do if Lukas Frye entered the room?  He wouldn’t care.

Zhang- Lukas arrives and scares the crap out of Doug

Well, he certainly does when Lukas does enter the room.  Before Doug can go get Marty to let him know about the unexpected arrival, Lukas and his camera crew decide to get the jump on Marty.  The reason?  Lukas and Marty have a meeting on the books today.  Lukas also knows about Dre’s sudden trip to China, so it’s clear once again that Marty shouldn’t assume that he knows everything about Lukas, but he should assume that Lukas knows everything.  While Marty may know about DollaHyde and be best buddies with Dre, he doesn’t know Lukas all that well.  Today’s the chance to turn that all around.  With a trip to Compton.

Zhang- Lukas brings his film crew to Kaan and Associates

You know, the trip everyone wants when they’re pulled out of work.  Well, not everyone, since Will, Caitlin and Jeffrey are stuck dealing with Monica.

Zhang- Clyde, Doug, Jeannie and Marty in Compton

In Compton, Marty again tries to downplay Lukas by telling the pod that this is all just one big passion play.  They’ll end up in some sort of trouble, leaving Lukas to come in and rescue them.

Lukas arrives and lets the pod know that the corner where they waited is the exact same one where Dre and Lukas first met.  The purpose of the trip is to show what’s real to Lukas.  In Compton, everything else is an illusion, like a shot of heroin.  You’ll be fine for one second, but after that, you’re back to reality.

Zhang- At Lukas' DollaHyde warehouse

The group arrives at a warehouse that Lukas claims is the largest hip hop clothing manufacturing plant in the country…until about seven years ago when Dre decided to move production overseas.  No problem.  Lukas kept a few hundred people on payroll so they’re provided for and help fill a few orders.  The pod wouldn’t be surprised if Lukas also healed the sick, too.  Clyde thinks the plant is a financial sinkhole, but according to Doug, the building is on DollaHyde’s books, so it’s not illegitimate.  And Dre hasn’t been to the plant since DollaHyde moved production.  What a dick.

Zhang- Monica with Will, Caitlin and Jeffrey

Back at Kaan & Associates, pod B contends with Monica, who assures them that she knows all of the consultant talk.  If any of them try feeding her bull, she’s already been fed it before.  And seconds later, Caitlin mistakenly ends up trying to feed Monica just that.  Well, at least Jeffrey likes Monica…

As the ride through Compton continues, Lukas points out various landmarks and buildings, among them Bludso’s BBQ, where he and Dre came up with the name DollaHyde- from Douglas Dollarhide, the first black mayor of Compton.  After that, they printed the logos on merchandise and the rest was history.

Zhang- Lukas at Ronjon's Lounge

Soon, they arrive at their destination: Ronjon’s Lounge, which used to be the first official DollaHyde office.  Marty, again, sees this as all theatrics, but Jeannie just urges Lukas to explain why the pod is actually there.

Zhang- Roscoe and Lex play video games online

While playing some video games, Roscoe brings up the event that evening, but Lex just isn’t interested into drama geek shit.  Luckily, Jeremiah offers to drive them both.

Zhang- Lukas introduces Marty and the pod to Dre AND Zhang

So after a few drinks, Lukas brings the pod into a back room where we find Dre and Mr. Zhang, who isn’t Asian, but Black.  Oh, and his name is Lovey: a man you come to in the hood when you need money.

A confrontation ensues with Marty demanding to know why Dre is in the States instead of China.  Dre fights back, saying he already exhausted all of Marty’s resources, but Marty’s aghast that Dre would come to the gutter ghetto for money.  Lukas, by the way, won’t sell, but all of this was worth it just to see Marty try and save face.

Jeannie tells both Dre and Lukas that no one would go public with either of them as the face of DollaHyde.  They’re both just stuck with each other.  Everyone can make this all work, but Dre and Lukas won’t make it work as friends any more.

So after all of this, Lukas keeps the cameras rolling throughout the entire meltdown and is in prime position to watch Marty and Clyde make mad grabs for the camera.

Zhang- Lex the dick

At the 818 event, which looks more like stepping than anything else, Roscoe is thoroughly impressed with everyone busting some crazy moves.  Lex, however, is not, and after both goading Roscoe into busting some moves and being snarky to Roscoe’s friends, Roscoe is ready to go.

Zhang- Roscoe is sad

At House Kaan, Marty discusses Roscoe’s situation with Chantelle just as Roscoe
enters.  Before Marty can be the controlling parent, he’s the supportive parent as Roscoe, without a word, cries silently and embraces his father for support.

Zhang- Lukas wants to keep rolling

This episode, I felt, was less about the pod causing or solving issues, and more about them reacting to forces around them, both with DollaHyde and Monica’s proposal.  As such, more focus went to the adventure aspect of traveling through Compton and the comedic aspects of the show, but less so with actual character development- the exception being Doug and Clyde, who I’ll get to in a second.  “Zhang” showed us more of the mess that Marty spoke of last week with Dre scrambling to get money to pay Lukas for a deal that he’s stated he won’t agree to.  Just when I thought MediaWolf would take priority for the remainder of the season, Dre and Lukas return and prove that this season, beginning with the Free Range and Colossal Foods arrangement, has been almost nothing but one complication after another for the pod.

Zhang- Marty and Dre argue

For all of Marty’s smarts, he, again, has been outfoxed by a man he thought he had pegged down.  And Lukas capitalizes on this.  Like Julian Zannino last week, Lukas can shine a spotlight on Marty’s insecurities: he’s overconfident and a tad too arrogant for his own good.  He assumes to have the best answer to everything, but when confronted with a situation he can’t entirely comprehend, he tries to play it off as an act.  Both Dre and Lukas are convinced that Lukas is a cancer that seeks to destroy DollaHyde.  As with before, and as the episode’s actual intro proved, Marty is a man interested in control.  When things go his way, he’s the cool, confident man we’ve known him to be.  But learning that Dre not only wasn’t in China, but went to a ghetto to collect money shattered any preconceived notions Marty had that fixing this DollaHyde problem would be as easy as Dre originally made it sound.

Zhang- Jeannie

The counterbalance to Marty is, of course, Jeannie.  Again, Jeannie’s trying to take less extreme methods to DollaHyde than Marty is.  Whenever Marty isn’t buying Lukas’ attitude, Jeannie tries to appeal to Lukas through her version of kindness.  After all, it’s part because of Jeannie that the pod is where they are now with DollaHyde, so she’s able to appeal to Lukas in ways that Marty won’t.  Not that he couldn’t, but he won’t.  Since Jeannie’s a partner, it makes sense that she’d exert leadership control, as she’s been doing since she forced Marty into giving her parity.  It’s believably handled since, as exemplified by the MediaWolf deal, Jeannie has a more personable approach to dealing with clients that doesn’t involve becoming personally attached, as Marty did with Dre.

Zhang- Lukas watches his masterpiece bloom

Briefly on Lukas, though.  Again, I’m impressed with T.I.’s performance and how well he can go from being thuggish and dangerous to calculating and smart in one scene.  Lukas has no qualms about where he’s from and, as such, he comes off as a sort of Robin Hood type to the pod.  Despite this, he at least appears to maintain a connection with his roots, while Dre, at least until near episode’s end, couldn’t wait to get out of Compton.  Most of the episode’s more memorable lines, I feel, came from Lukas, such as when he talked about his friend being shot and how we can be laughing with someone one moment, but in the next instant, all the jokes stop forever.

Zhang- Caitlin notices that Jeffrey has, indeed, achieved wood

As far as the new pod goes, my guess is they’re going to be shafted with the B plots, since they didn’t meet with the McClintock family last week and have to contend with Monica this week.  Each of them does get their moment, with Will taking leadership control and assuring Monica that they’ll start grinding models, Jeffrey achieving wood- his words, not mine- when he sees Monica’s data and Caitlin trying to play nice.  Perhaps Caitlin should have met with Christy first to learn a few things.

Zhang- Clyde and Doug on Puss n Goots

Clyde is here to be funny, as always, but he’s also the cold splash of water that Doug needs when the two have their pseudo-confrontation.  Clyde doesn’t want to confront Monica after the hell that she put him through.  Fair enough.  I thought now that he confronted and patched things up with Marty that he’d be more than able to confront Monica, but Marty, as far as I know, never put Clyde through the type of disillusionment that led to him sleeping naked in a car.  Again, as far as I know.

So the two are back to having their playful banter, and it shined through one of my favorite scenes here.  While Doug is convinced that Clyde is tying himself down to Marissa, Clyde is quick to shoot back that Doug is in no position to talking about relationships.  It was just last week that proved Doug couldn’t handle being in a relationship for his own reasons.  Like Lukas, Clyde at least knows where he came from due to past flings and doesn’t try to downplay them.  Doug does.  Otherwise, I doubt he’d be as defensive as he was when talking with Clyde.

Though I would really like some more backstory on this whole “Puss ‘N Goots” persona that Clyde and Doug are so familiar with.  I mean, Doug as a wingman?  It sounds too good to be true, yet Clyde seems to know all about it.  Maybe there are some deleted scenes out there where Clyde and Doug go out on the town.

Zhang- Roscoe pissed at Lex

As far as Roscoe goes, it looks like he’s starting to agree with his father’s sentiment about Lex.  I honestly don’t know why Lex came off as so antagonistic toward Roscoe’s friends.  They don’t make fun of him, as far as I know, so what reason would Lex have to be so negative about something Roscoe wants to do?  It just seems like another reason to dislike Lex after the show tried so hard to make us feel for him when we last saw him.  Again, for me, Lex has been portrayed as a bad apple from the start, so if Roscoe decides to embrace the single life and dump Lex, all the better for him.  But I’m sure we’re not done with Lex yet.  They wouldn’t just have them break up off screen without some sort of follow up.

“Zhang” proved that DollaHyde will continue to be a thorn in the side of Kaan & Associates, possibly for the remainder of the season.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode: the ride through Compton showed us some new locations outside of the sterile office buildings we’re so used to with this show, the dark humor shined as it always does and it showed the increasing divide between Dre and Lukas.  What it doesn’t have is a ton of character development for the main cast.  Maybe, given how much we got last week, this was a chance to just let the gang be themselves, and I’m fine with that.  Monica’s slowly getting her groove back, so I guess that’s fine.  Maybe getting stabbed shocked some sense into her, even if means she’s attracted Jeffrey’s attention.

This episode wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.  If I had to compare, I’d stack this episode against “Middlegame,” where the bulk of the focus went to both the pod and DollaHyde.  There, we had a good balance of comedy and character development.  This week, though, more focus went to the humor, and as such, it’s still a good episode and while I liked the documentary aspect of it, I didn’t find it anywhere near as memorable.

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