A Look at House of Lies- Season 4, Episode 5: “The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule”

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.  If there’s one thing I appreciate about House of Lies, it’s the episode titles.  While I wish they didn’t have characters say them in the least subtle way possible, they do a pretty good job getting at the heart of what our characters are going through each week.  Let’s jump right in.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Pod at Maya's charity

The episode begins at Maya’s charity event for her philanthropy: One Child, One Spirit.  The pod thanks Denna for sponsoring their table, though Clyde still feels that the pod should be raising funds for itself due to their situation.  Jeannie is hungrier than worried- once the merger goes through, they’ll be fine.

Maya arrives and has a word with Denna about whether the crude oil earnings she made last year will help children.  That money, however, has been earmarked for a blood diamond she’s been eying.  Money problems.  Maya does envy Jeannie, though, as she’s about to be a mother for the first time.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Maya pops a boob

She then shamelessly pops out a boob and begins to openly breast feed her son, who, in my opinion, looks way too big to be breast fed.  Who does this?  The kid can run!  He does not need the nipple anymore!

Anyway, missing from this wholesome event is Ellis, who said he would support Maya, but it’s another thing altogether to actually show up.  Maya figures that if Ellis doesn’t show up, the pod can just find another of Marty’s prison buddies to work with.  Earth Mother may have sharp fangs, but the pod does agree that she has some nice tits.  It’s nice to find common ground and work from there, you know?

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Jeannie calls Ellis

Jeannie isn’t getting a response from Ellis, so she calls him from Marty’s phone and gets through.  Ellis isn’t coming, as he’s far too busy with…well, he’s not working, but he doesn’t intend to come.  He wants to run his company without Maya’s interference.  If anything, bringing her back was enough.  He would want her to support his charities, but Jeannie points out that Ellis doesn’t have any.  He believes that philanthropies are bullshit.

Ellis refers to a quote by H.L. Mencken, who said the episode’s title- I mean, he said “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”  Ellis feels that his ass should be kissed, but Jeannie tells him that won’t happen because there’s a crisis of confidence at Gage.  Maya is the solution. If Maya doesn’t go through with the merger, Ellis’ stock prices will drop, his board will revolt, and he’ll be voted out of his own company.  As much as Ellis may not want to admit it, he found success when working with Maya.  So quit being a pussy, put the bullshit of the past behind him, and come on down.  Oh, and Jeannie won’t hit him again.

Jeannie out, Marty in, and he gives Ellis some good news.  They are on the verge of getting everything that Ellis wants and deserves, but Maya needs to be happy until the merger papers are signed.  So come on down, shake some hands, make a big contribution, and impress everyone.  Ellis promises to be there in 20 minutes.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Kelsey arrives at the function

Kelsey arrives just after Clyde and Denna learn that Doug breast fed until he was four.  Wasn’t there a joke like this on the first Grown-Ups film?  Kelsey introduces herself to Denna, who points out that Kelsey’s dress used to be Chanel until Kelsey decided to cut holes in it.  When Marty comes over, he still couldn’t give two shits about the start-up that Doug tries to force into conversation.  Marty needs to speak privately with Denna.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Marty speaks to Denna about Maya

It turns out that Maya has given partial ownership of her company to the grad students that work for her.  Not a smart move, though Marty may need to leverage that in order to help this merger go through.  He asks Denna if she knows any big oil magnates in the Bay Area.  She does- one Cal Manchester, president of Compass Oil.  He’d be interested in helping out if there’s something in it for him.  Something like a major setback in the mass production of Maya’s electric car?  That could work.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Clyde's pitch to Kelsey and Doug

Clyde goes through his pitch with Kelsey and Doug, neither of whom is enthused with his approach.  Doug feels that Clyde’s presentation style is a little aggressive and off-putting, but then, he has money issues, so he has more of a reason to be worried.  Kelsey stops the two when she spots Danny Buckingham- creator of easyasbuck.com: a website that provides HTML tutorials for teenagers, sold for $65 million.  Doug plans to talk with him because he can relate to Buckingham in a way that the others can’t- one child prodigy to another.  Keep in mind that Doug wasn’t a child prodigy.  That’s not a problem, Kelsey says, as he’s not really talking to Danny Buckingham.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Ellis toasts to Maya

Ellis shows up and we learn that he isn’t a fan of clipboards since it makes him look antiquated by association, but hey, perception isn’t important in today’s world.  Jeannie and Marty point him to Maya, but Ellis walks right by her, grabbing a drink in the process, and heads to the podium.  He announces that he’s writing a check for $1 million to Maya’s charity.  How sweet.  Sounds like a nice gesture, but let’s keep going.

At this point, Ellis should step down, but he refers back to H.L. Mencken again.  After quoting the episode’s title, he continues: Power is what all messiahs really seek, not the chance to serve.  So everyone should raise a glass in a toast to Maya, who may very well be an exception to that rule.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Kelsey and Clyde pitch to a potential client

Kelsey and Clyde make their pitch to a potential client who isn’t really on board.  His concern is that the app may target geriatrics that may not know how to use their phones or be a good revenue source.  Sensing that the man isn’t interested, Kelsey shuts down the offer altogether since this guy is an asshole and he doesn’t get to invest.  Even though they need money, Kelsey knows that her algorithm works and doesn’t see the need in pandering to a rich asshole who doesn’t give a shit.  They need to pander to an asshole who does.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Denna introduces Marty to Cal Manchester, played by Ray Baker

Denna introduces Marty to Cal Manchester, played by Ray Baker, who loves starving children- phrasing- and desperately needs some good press since every story written about him is “ecological nightmare” this and “raper of the Earth” that.  Typical headlines.  Marty is glad to help, though Cal isn’t too thrilled with Ellis and Maya being back together.  In fact, he’d prefer to rip off Marty’s head and piss on his bloody neck stump.

He wants good press, right?  So how does this merger help Cal?  Well, it doesn’t, unless producing an electric car for the masses isn’t a part of Ellis’ vision for the future.  This merger will neutralize Maya’s dream of mass production.  Without it, Maya is a free agent who can take her sought-after technology anywhere.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Jeanne and Marty differ on how to handle Ellis and Maya

Jeannie, overhearing this, sees that Marty now has a new plan that involves bullying Maya into the merger or Cal will threaten a buyout.  Marty sees this as teaching Maya a life lesson: you give partial ownership of your company to your grad students, you’re going to get fucked.  Jeannie much prefers getting the two to actually talk since the goal was an amicable partnership.  That, she feels, is much better than the slash and burn, scorched earth approach that Marty takes with everything else in his life.  Marty admits that Cal is just a contingency plan, a good one that Jeannie can’t see yet because she’s not looking at things objectively.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Doug and not-Danny Buckingham, played by Kenny Ridwan

Doug is still speaking with Not-Danny Buckingham, played by Kenny Ridwan, about investing in the app.  He even wants to buy the kid something, but he’s cash short.  Not-Danny thinks that it’s a good offer, but he’s still thinking.  Doug offers to write not-Danny a college recommendation, but not-Danny thinks that college is bullshit.  Not-Danny eventually settles on a basket of wine, but since Doug can’t buy that, the alternative would be to head to the nearest liquor store to buy some vodka and cigarettes.  Not-Danny walks off, and only when Doug sees Clyde and Kelsey talking to another potential client does he asks Not-Danny about his brand.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Ellis talks about greatness

Ellis talks to a group about how he was destined for greatness as far back as preschool, but his teacher didn’t believe in him because she was a cunt.  Jeannie, doing damage control, goads Ellis into telling Maya that he has plans to add a daycare for the employees at Gage.  It’s worth noting that Maya is now holding a younger, Blacker child that is young enough for breast feeding.  Oh, and she’s a girl, much to Ellis’ error.  However, this child is also adopted.  Ellis merely got confused since Maya apparently has so many.

Back to the merger, the documents will be ready and signed on Monday.  It can’t come soon enough, Ellis says, because though Maya has built a nice company for herself, it’s time to get back in with the big leagues while Ellis leads the two of them into the future.  Now Maya sees Ellis as the same pompous, dismissive, and arrogant prick that she’s always known him for and storms off.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Jeannie appeals to Maya

Naturally, Jeannie follows.  She believes that Ellis is trying, but Maya sees through his bullshit.  She knows that she’ll never see the million dollars that Ellis donated or the proposed daycare center.  Ellis just makes grandiose promises and never follows through.  That begs the question of why Maya wanted him there in the first place.  She wanted to see the new change of heart that Jeannie spoke of.  Hearing Ellis talk just reminded Maya of how miserable she once was.  She refuses to sign the papers.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Clyde talks to Marty about Kelsey

Not too far, Marty watches the two talk and pays little attention to Clyde crushing on Kelsey, though Clyde is worried about potential, multiple clitoral piercings.  If they get together and break up, it’s going to be weird because they’re in business together.  Marty doesn’t say a word in response, but Clyde figures that he should just man up.  As Clyde heads over to make his move, Jeannie walks over and now accepts to do things Marty’s way.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Clyde and Kelsey talk

Clyde saunters over to Kelsey just in time to hear that she landed a client who is willing to put up seed money for the app.  Clyde is overjoyed and suggests that the two go out to celebrate since, you know, he likes her, but Kelsey says no and Clyde is left with an awkward situation.  She stops, gives it some consideration, but then sticks with no.  Marty thinks that Clyde should go for it.

Denna bids Marty farewell, as she’s heading to London and will be back next week.  She wants to say good-bye to Cal, but he’s too busy talking with Maya.  Doug walks over with vodka and cigarettes that he was about to give to Not-Danny because he’s not Danny Buckingham.  Good thing Doug looked him up on the cab ride back.  Kelsey would have probably said something, but she admits to liking how much Doug trusts people.  She also sees that Clyde has reverted back to full asshole mode since she won’t go out with him.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Maya announces the silent auction winners

Maya heads to the podium to announce the winner of the silent auction, but it turns out that Ellis Hightower is the highest bidder on every single fucking item.  Huh.  She heads to the pod and tells them that she gave the students a piece of the company to motivate them.  Now she feels the pod used that generosity to fuck her over.  Marty believes that the students may be immune to the lure of Cal Manchester’s bottomless pockets.

Thanks to this corporate tactic, Maya sees Ellis Hightower as the lesser of two evils.  She also doesn’t think motherhood will change Jeannie since people like her don’t change.  Ouch.  The episode comes on a bit of a downer as the pod reflects on their unexpected day.

So getting Maya and Ellis to agree to those terms proved as futile as it sounded in the previous episode.  If anything, this episode showed that opposites do not always attract, even when they want to.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Kelsey tells off a potential client

Whether the Gage mess or Kelsey’s app, this episode showed the importance of having a backup plan in case your main plan doesn’t work out.  This is what helps push the dynamic between Marty and Jeannie.  They have two radically different visions for the firm and how to best handle Gage Motors, but in the event that one plan doesn’t work out, they can fall back on the other.  Jeannie, for example, isn’t a fan of Marty’s approach to the Maya and Ellis problem at all, but when her plan goes south, she realizes that his method will have to do, even if she’s not a fan of it.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Ellis and Maya clash

Both Marty and Ellis are men that wish to rule, falling right in line with the episode’s title that Ellis refers to twice.  They have plans for a better future, but in order to ensure that future, they need to be the ones calling the shots and making final decisions because, in their eyes, they know what’s best for everyone else.

But they don’t know what’s best for everyone else and when they try to save face after making a questionable decision, they end up making the matter worse.  They feel a need to be in charge and if one endeavor falls through, they keep moving forward to the next one because they crave control.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Marty speaks with Ellis

There are a lot of parallels this week between the various duos: Marty and Jeannie, Ellis and Maya, and even Clyde and Kelsey, to a lesser extent.  In each situation, one person is the salesman trying to make a dynamic pitch to wow a potential client.  We see this play out with the extravagant Marty, Clyde, and Ellis, who prefer a big showcase when making a pitch.  Consider the name of Maya’s philanthropy: One Child, One Spirit.  There can only be One vision for these pairs, not two.  And when you try to pitch them both, things go awry.

That’s exactly what happens this week with Marty and Jeannie trying to get Maya and Ellis to play along.  When it comes to Ellis, Marty wants everyone to be happy, but Jeannie is more direct and to the point with him.  And it’s clear that her slapping him around last week still affects him.  She wants him to man up and just go through with this merger.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Jeannie with Maya

The same applies to how Jeannie handles Maya, but she has a softer approach because Maya is easier to talk to. Even if she still feels that Ellis is an arrogant prick, she’s willing to put her pride aside in the hopes that he had become a different man.

However, the trouble with this is that Jeannie doesn’t have a backup plan in the event that things go south, but Marty does.  Though both are concerned with closing on Gage Motors, Marty doesn’t mind fucking over Maya in order to keep things moving because that’s the kind of person he is.  Jeannie had it right when she said that Marty applies scorched earth policies on everything in his life.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Jeannie gets told off by Maya

But Jeannie, despite being ruthless herself, isn’t the same sort of ruthless as Marty and takes no pleasure from adopting his methods.  She’s trying to be better than him, but her approach ends up getting her nowhere.  By accepting Marty’s proposal, she becomes the very person she’s trying to surpass.  When Maya told Jeannie not to worry about motherhood not changing her because people like her don’t change, there was clear remorse on Jeannie’s face and it showed how much she regretted going with Marty’s decision.  Just as Maya wished that Ellis had changed, she hoped that Jeannie wasn’t the same type of consultant as Marty.  She was proven wrong.  Not by Jeannie’s own doing, but by association.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Kelsey turns Clyde down

Kelsey and Clyde have a similar setup with the proposed app:  Clyde is willing to talk things out with potential clients, but if Kelsey senses that someone won’t be agreeable, she’s willing to cut the bullshit and move on.  Sure, Kelsey knows that this start-up needs money and she is looking at the bigger project, but she’s not going to waste time with disinterested clients that just deride her work.

And it’s her bluntness that puts a wedge between her and Clyde.  Now, I’m willing to bet that Clyde and Kelsey probably would have grown closer over time if Clyde chose to wait, but because he couldn’t, he’s now made an awkward situation even more awkward by going back to being an asshole while still having to work with Kelsey.  That’s unfortunate, given the progress the two had made in such a short amount of time, but since they do still work together and Kelsey does still want to get her start-up off the ground, I assume they’ll be working together again just fine.

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Reacting to Maya openly breast feeding

Even though this episode did end on a downer, it did have its funny moments.  As mentioned, the pod’s reaction to Maya just popping out one of her breasts to feed a child who looks too big for breast feeding was funny.  But seriously, who does that?

The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule- Doug offers to write a recommendation for Not-Danny

And Doug chasing around Not-Danny Buckingham and only finding out he wasn’t real when he looked the kid up shows how gullible he is, but this also showed a potential spark between him and Kelsey, who admires how much Doug trusts people.

I hesitate to say whether Maya is completely out of the picture since she was only just introduced one episode prior, but whatever the case, the pod closing on Gage Motors is proving to be more even more challenging now.  And with Maya calling out Jeannie for being the same as Marty, I’m wondering whether Jeannie will ever considering going with Marty’s methods again or just sticking to what she knows.

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