ENTOURAGE 8.01 ‘Home Sweet Home’

Vince gets out of rehab as his friends stumble around his sobriety and play with fire.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Home Sweet Home"

Writer: Doug Ellin

Director: Doug Ellin

The last season of "Entourage" was a train wreck. Or rather, it was all about the downward spiral of Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) as he headed down the slippery slope of addiction in Hollywood until finally Eminem  and his bodyguards beat the crap out of him and the police caught Vince with cocaine in the hospital afterwards. It was a dark journey, but it also sucked the humor out of the show pretty quickly and made the storyline difficult to watch.

Around the same time that Robert Downey Jr. was having his own public addiction issues, there was an episode of "The Simpsons" that notoriously satirized the industry's reaction to its troubled stars. From the mock Betty Ford musical, an animated judge sang "I should lock you away where you can't hurt or maim us, but this is LA and you're rich and faaaaaamoooouuuusssss!"

And so it is that Vince gets out of jail time by enlisting in rehab. The season picks up just before Vince's release, as he contacts his brother, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and Scott Lavin (Scott Caan) to come pick him up. Notably not called was Vince's best friend, Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly); who is now running his own management agency with Scott. E is also on the outs with his fiancee, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). The breakup between Eric and Sloan is mentioned to be over his refusal to sign a prenuptial agreement and possibly his role in forcing Sloan's Godfather out of his own company. However, it seems like a step backwards for E's storyline and it never gels onscreen.

On the other hand, Ari's breakup with Mrs. Ari (Perrey Reeves) feels a lot more genuine because it had been a long time coming. Ari drove his wife and family away because he loved his job more than he loved them. Now that it's come back to haunt him, Ari seems genuinely desperate to get his family back. Piven's best moment in the episode comes when he learns that Mrs. Ari is already seeing someone else. The look on his face says it all. And instead of melting down, he just leaves. For some reason, Ari tends to get all of the really juicy character beats on this series. Piven is a really talented performer, but some of that humanity should be extended to the other characters.

The problem with Vince is that he's been a cipher for so long that you practically have to project emotions on him to make him seem like a real character. For the entire episode, Drama and the rest freak out about Vince's possible relapse and go through various ways to try to keep him sober. They won't even tell him that they hate his idea for a movie about the surviving miners in Romania (not Chile, as the show helpfully points out).

Initially the tension between Vince and Eric seemed kind of tacked on to the episode, but Vince's later candor with E was refreshing. Vince may have all of the personality of a tree, but at least he's direct. He even seems willing to be reasonable when people are truthful with him. Despite his relative lack of character development, Vince does seem genuinely good natured and he's willing to tailor his latest dream project for Drama if it means that the project gets made.

Speaking of Drama, the "Johnny's Bananas" animated clip shown in this episode looked like a**. I know "Entourage" has had a lot of fun showing Vince's crappy movies and presenting them as masterpieces, but this might really be the bridge too far if they expect anyone to love that fake show. It would be a lot funnier if "Johnny's Bananas" premiered on Fox and was canceled after one or two episodes.

Since last season, Scott Caan's career has taken off with "Hawaii 5-0," but his character Scott Lavin is still incredibly insufferable and not funny. It's a mystery as to why he's still around or why Eric is partnering with him despite clearly not being able to stand him. But the biggest issue with Scott is that his presence throws off the chemistry of Vince's friends and Ari. It just doesn't work as well when someone else is added to that mix.

In the end, Turtle screws up big time and may have accidentally burned down Vince's mansion. It's a pretty big f*** up from Turtle, but Vince seems to forgive him instantly. If nothing else, Vince is a good friend that way. The jokes were a little hit and miss in the premiere, but there is at least the sense that "Entourage" is trying to be funny again. And I would welcome that direction. I've been watching Vince and the gang for years and I genuinely do want to see how "Entourage" wraps up. This is an encouraging start to their last ride together.

Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.