"His Visit, Day 5" is television of the absurd. Ionesco-TV. Samuel Beckett could've written the closing scenes with the motley crew hanging out in the motel parking lot, with assorted dead-gray ghosts and fantasy figures. You gotta give HBO credit for having the corporate courage to pay for it and put it on the air. It's TV that keeps on giving. Once you've seen it, you can't help but spend hours turning it all over in your head trying to answer the question "what just happened?!"
In fact, amid all of the mega-bizarro stuff, there were some discernable, and disturbing, plot-moving points served up, along with some important backstory details dropped in "Day 5." John's spacey soliloquy at the end is full of clues, at least I think they are after spending the past few days thinking about them, even when I was trying not to.
The whole thing is transcribed on the blog penned for the HBO Web site by writer/surfer Steve Hawk but here's a salient part:
"The zeroes and ones make the Word in Cass's camera. In the Word on the wall that hears my-Father-in-Cass's-camera, the good one Mitch catches doesn't wipe Cissy out. In the-Word-that-hears-my-Father, Cissy shows Butchie something else. In-my-Father's-Word, Cissy shows Butchie in Shaun. In-my-Father's-Word, Tina raises Shaun at lunch....In Cass's-camera, Butchie knows Kai kept the faith. In-my-Father's-Word, the Wave lifts them up."
It's too much to parse here but I'm starting to think of Mitch, Butchie and John in Father-Son-Holy-Ghost terms. (It would help explain the "I don't know Butchie instead" business, no?) I also think that as strange as it all us, David Milch and Kem Nunn do know where they're going with it all and that the story is building to a pre-determined end (either that or they'll have to bury two characters alive).
The only thing that's really clear to me after watching "Day 5" is that "John from Cincinnati" rises and falls on the strength of the actors. Really good actors, naturalistic actors can take the what-the-heck? dialogue and way-out concepts and make you go with it, somehow, and forget how un-natural it all is. Ed O'Neill (pictured far right), whose years as Al Bundy distracted us all from the fact that he is a fine actor with the right material, has been heartbreakingly good as the oh-so-conflicted and confused Bill Jacks. Really fantastic. Garret Dillahunt is impressive too. With all due respect, Emily Rose isn't as up to snuff as she needs to be to make us really get Cass and her struggles.
Chandra West has done more for me in her brief appearances so far as Shaun's long-lost mom, Tina Blake. Austin Nichols seems to be getting more comfortable in his pale skin as the titular character in "Day 5," but I still wonder what the show would be like with someone like a (younger) David Morse in this key role.
Paul Ben Victor (pictured left) and Dayton Callie (pictured above blowing sax) are growing on me in their roles as dope dealers Palaka and Freddy. For some reason, of all the weird and wonderful combinations of words in the episode, the line that sticks out (beyond the closing quip from Vietnam Joe, of course) was Palaka's harried "I gotta clean the four," delivered early on in the seg when Palaka and Freddy are trying to scrub out the motel's empty, filthy pool -- "the four" being the tile designating the four-foot depth mark in the pool. There was something about the way Palaka scurried over to that tile and scrubbed furiously that made me laugh out loud.
One other thing I keep wondering about: What was it that the Spanish-speaking woman handed to Cissy when they were in the clink together in the pilot seg? Is this going to come back as a significant plot point, or will she be akin to the "Sopranos'" Russian hit man?