‘American Gigolo’ Episode 2 Recap: Working Man

‘American Gigolo’ Episode 2 Recap: Working Man

There’s more plot packed into this one episode of American Gigolo than the original American Gigolo film contained in its entirety. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, mind you — it just is what it is. Primarily, it serves as a reminder that David Hollander’s American Gigolo and Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo have little in common besides the title, the concept at its most basic level, and an extremely handsome brown-eyed man in the lead. Which, as they say, is a good start.

In this episode, we watch the continuing adventures of Julian Kaye as he readjusts to life on the outside after spending 15 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. The action (pun intended) picks up right where the pilot left off: with Julian’s old friend Isabelle, no longer the little girl he used to play Operation with at her aunt Olga’s big poolside parties, slapping him and growling at him (hot stuff!) and practically forcing him to fuck her, despite his body’s obvious discomfort with the situation. 

He winds up fleeing the scene, only to discover Olga being spirited away from the house by an unknown assistant and his old buddy Lorenzo explaining that Isabelle ordered him not to tell Julian that Olga was sick. He also discovers that Detective Sunday is tailing him; she mentions that the real killer said he was hired by someone named “Keane,” which Julian interprets as a garbling of “Queen,” Olga’s one-time title. 

Which leads us to arguably this episode’s greatest pleasure: The simple sight of an alternately sad and smiling Jon Bernthal rambling around Los Angeles with his inimitable swaying gait. He strolls the beach and a stray dog follows him around. He looks for an apartment and a job and winds up finding both with the help of an old prison buddy (Donte Johnson) and a landlord (Yolonda Ross) willing to give him a chance.

Meanwhile…hoo boy, there are a bunch of meanwhiles. Michelle and her awful husband Richard are on the hunt for their son and the teacher who abducted him; in desperation, and in hopes of beating her husband’s goons to their quarry, she even reaches out to the teacher’s estranged husband for help.

Olga’s handler, Guy (Lothaire Bluteau), sneaks into the records room of a private school, steals a file folder, and plants it in Julian’s car. It contains information on Lisa Beck (Taylor Blackwell), whom we learn via flashback was Julian’s legit girlfriend when they were teenagers.

After an unpleasant but very funny run-in with Guy, whose name she insists on mispronouncing, Detective Sunday gets a warrant to search Olga’s house. (There’s a brief aside where she has a similarly unpleasant run-in with the receptionist at her gym, overladen with weird and delightful sexual tension.) But when she gets there, the house has been ransacked both Guy and Olga have been shot to death — and the phone is ringing, because Julian is calling a number left by Guy on the file folder, and the number was Olga’s for some reason.

Along the way we also learn how Julian and Michelle initially met: She tried to hire him to seduce a lonely friend of hers, and he wound up seducing her instead.

What I’ve learned from reading a bit of other people’s reactions to American Gigolo the TV show is that there are folks in this world who aren’t interested in watching Jon Bernthal strut around L.A. while being sexy and melancholy. Couldn’t be me! It’s hard for me to imagine a more telegenic leading man than Bernthal, his face all raw power, his eyes all bleeding soul, his body a machine — this time one built for sex rather than violence, as it was in The Punisher and We Own This City. His performance fascinates me, which is more than I can say for other more prominent shows at this moment. Let’s see where he rambles to next.

Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.

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