“The Comeback” aired the third episode of its revival on HBO, titled “Valerie is Brought to her Knees.” The provocative title is a nod towards Season 2’s raunchiest episode yet.
It began with Valerie (Lisa Kudrow) on her first day of shooting “Seeing Red,” the autobiographical HBO show about Paulie G (Lance Barber) and his experience working with Valerie last season on “Room and Board.” She was giving her camera crew, now a professional outfit at the hands of Jane Benson, a tour of her trailer.
“On a sitcom, your dressing room is your oasis,” she explained. “But this show shoots more like a film so this is my trailer. My place to get away from it all.”
The tour of her tiny trailer was interrupted when she learned Paulie G. had written a scene in which her character, Mallory (based on her), has to fake giving his character oral sex. It was a tense moment but Valerie was able to brush it off, like so many of this new job’s hits to her dignity, by justifying it as high art on the part of HBO.
Speaking of Paulie G’s character, Mitch, the audience learned who Hollywood cast to play him. While picking up some flowers at the front gate, Valerie was greeted by her “Seeing Red” co-star, Seth Rogen. The 32-year-old actor plays himself on “The Comeback” and is, not surprisingly, the most charming part of this episode. Almost every time he’s on screen, he’s doing something insanely charming, funny and clever. He’s very kind when he meets Valerie and, although clearly weirded out by her camera crew, plays along for her sake.
The two exchange an awkward moment where she gives him the flowers but spills water all over his lap and car. She offered to bring the flowers to his trailer and he jokingly asked for some breakfast to be waiting for him as well.
“I like breakfast meat too,” he joked. “Just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean I don’t eat that.”
Valerie thinks it would be funny to take the bit to the next level, so she walks on set for the first time with a full ham. It’s worth mentioning that she’s dressed in her old track suit from “Room and Board,” despite being a totally different character now (wink). As she steps on the set, she’s stopped by the line producer of the show who informs her that the sex-scene won’t be filmed that day -- reminding the audience of its ever-looming presence over the episode.
Rogen then walked on set laughing with Paulie G. and she presented him with the ham.
“You got me ham,” he said politely. “Based on the very off-handed comments I made.”
Valerie surprised even the audience by giving Paulie G. a tasteful gift as well. To celebrate his first day working as a director, she got him a binder with the title embroidered on it. This led to one of the best gags in the episode.
“Wait what?” Rogen interrupts. “This is your first day directing anything ever? You’ve not done like a short or a commercial or something like that?” Paulie stumbled for the right words before the movie star laughed and revealed he was just trying to scare him.
“I knew you were a brand new director and somehow an old hack at the same time,” Rogen joked.
With that crisis averted, Paulie G. then pulls Valerie aside for a private moment, away from the cameras. Luckily for the viewers they pick him up anyway as he tells Valerie that “Seeing Red” is important to him and he’d really like a fresh start.
It seemed like a sweet moment until Valerie had to film the fantasy moment of the sex scene where she’s forced to stand between two very young and very naked girls who are “only there to get [Paulie G.] aroused.” It's hard to tell at this point if Paulie is truly a changed man, if he's lying or if he's changed but is still kind of a jerk anyway.
Jane comes to Valerie, saying that she wants to turn her behind-the-scenes cameras off the nude women because it seems exploitative. Unwilling not to film something in which she agreed to be filmed, Valerie insisted Jane’s cameras keep rolling.
The scene is awkward but hysterical. Valerie had to stand between two women while the cameras got a solid minute of footage. Once the minute was done, she needed to stand there while the girls inexplicably make orgasm noises.
“That was hell, where I just was,” she said when they finally cut.
That’s when the actual oral sex scene began. Paulie G. explained to Valerie what she’s supposed to do and Seth Rogen awkwardly sat there waiting for things to get rolling. Before they can actually get the scene down, and after a very awkward turn-to-camera adlib from Valerie, she forced Paulie G. to explain why she’s indulging his sex fantasy.
Paulie explained it’s more of a degradation of her than it is a fantasy of his. Feeling “better” probably isn’t the word -- but -- different, Valerie agreed to do the scene. Luckily for her, this episode contained a brilliant white knight.
Rogen stood up and told the director that he interpreted the scene differently and sold an amazing angle in which Valerie is more of a willing participant and the camera stays on his face the entire time.
“I don’t want to see myself get a b--- j--,” he says.
Just like that, Valerie’s graphic sex scene was changed to a significantly more tame, drop below the camera frame shot.
“I got you ginger snaps,” he told Valerie when they’re alone, showing to the audience that he knew exactly what he was doing.
The episode ended with Rogen pretending to moan on camera while Valerie ducked quietly out of frame with her head in his lap.