Episode Title: "Microphallus"
Writer: Matthew Carnahan
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) is afraid. And he has very good reasons to be.
In the first three episodes of "House of Lies," we've seen Marty manipulate and lie to potential clients all in the name landing the contract and delivering the big bucks for his management firm, Galweather & Stearn. And if Marty destroys a few marriages (including his own) here and there and ruins a few lives… well, he's got the proverbial bags of money to sleep on in the form of his seven figure salary.
Marty is his job and there may not be a human being underneath his ruthless exterior. Despite his sexual escapades, we know that Marty's marriage to Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri) failed because of character deficiencies on both sides. And Marty's relationship with his son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) is almost non-existent. Roscoe confesses to his father that he has a crush on both a boy and a girl and Marty doesn't even try to help him deal with it. A few half-hearted platitudes don't exactly make Marty father of the year.
It's only at work that Marty feels firmly in control, as he inevitably gets the cooperate raiders eating out of his hands even when he fails. The downside is that Marty operates in a way that makes him a lot of enemies; including Greg Norbert (Greg Germann) of MetroCapital. In the pilot episode, Marty inadvertently broke up Greg's marriage by bringing a stripper to a dinner date with Greg's wife; who much preferred snogging the stripper instead of her husband. A few punches later, Marty and Greg were mortal adversaries.
All of which leads us back to this week's episode, "Microphallus;" as Greg returns with the unwelcome news that MetroCapital is looking to acquire Galweather & Stearn… And Greg makes sure that Marty knows in no uncertain terms that he plans to use that power to destroy Marty's livelihood. Even Marty's boss, Harrison "Skip" Galweather (Richard Schiff) warns Marty that Greg intends to force Marty out of the company without a golden parachute while remaining bound by a non-compete clause.
The kicker is that Skip doesn't seem to care what happens to Marty one way or another. Skip notes that while Marty is insanely successful with the company, he also leaves a lot of collateral damage along the way that Skip has to clean up. More pointedly. Skip reminds Marty that they aren't friends and that he's never been invited to Marty's home before. So why should he stick his neck out for Marty?
Realizing that he's pretty screwed, Marty drags the resident devil on his shoulder, Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz) out for a night of clubbing which ends with Marty stealing a high end car from the valet parking and going on a dangerous joy ride. As Clyde begs Marty to slow down, we see it. That's not joy in Marty's eyes, it's terror. For once, he's realized that he controls nothing and his carefully constructed facade could blow out at any moment.
For the case of the week, Marty and his team of Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson), Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell) and Clyde go to consult with the third largest soft drink company as it plans to implement Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP; a major undertaking in which a company attempts to use integrated software to manage internal and external resources. It's not as simple as it sounds, or easy and inexpensive to implement. The first dilemma facing Marty is that the CEO loves the idea, but the CFO realizes it will cost the company money that it doesn't have and possibly sink the business. Problem number two is that the CFO is very cool towards Marty and problem number three is that the CFO's wife has the hots for Marty… and she doesn't bother hiding it.
Looking to bring the CFO around to his side, Marty accepts an invitation for Jeannie and himself to join the CFO and his wife for dinner at their sprawling mansion. And while the CFO gives Marty tacit approval to sleep with his insatiable wife, the CFO convinces Jeannie to give him a chance to explore his foot fetish. Oh sure, it starts out innocently enough with a foot rub. But as soon as Jeannie closes her eyes, the CFO is playing Pac-Man with the the entire top half of her foot… which Jeannie deems weird, but she doesn't tell him to stop sucking on her toes.
Upstairs, Marty learns about the CFO's "Microphallus" from his sexually frustrated wife, who gets everything that she wants out of Marty. It's amusing that both Marty and Jeannie leave the mansion feeling used and vow not to talk about what happened. But for all of their "good work," the CFO won't budge from his stance that the ERP is bad for the company. And even Marty is forced to admit that the CFO is right, even though he knows that disappointing and angering the CEO will only cost Galweather & Stearn the account that they so desperately want.
Faced with the classic no win situation, Marty opts for the outwardly honest and transparent solution of telling the CEO what will really happen if he goes forward with the ERP. And when that fails to dissuade him, Marty simply calls his friend at a company (largely implied to be Pepsi) and provides them with insider trading tips that will allow them to claim their former competitor for pennies on the dollar when their plans go down in flames. The best part is that Marty and his crew will then get the job to come back and help them cut the company to the bone… presumably for a much higher fee than they would have gotten in the first place.
At this point, we expect Marty to be morally dubious at best. However, Clyde, Doug and Jeannie have continuously appeared to be Marty's window dressing during his company presentations. In short, all of the best ideas and realizations come from Marty and everyone else is there to marvel at his ability and carry his bags. It's not the strong ensemble comedy that we thought that we'd be getting from "House of Lies." After a charming subplot last week in which Doug went down in epic flames during an encounter with dance judge, Cat Deelay; this week's minor Doug subplot dealt with him potentially sleeping with a transvestite despite his mostly strong claims to the contrary.
The entire bit between Doug and Craig over this situation wasn't funny at all; and Craig proves to be a huge a**hole when he loudly announces to the people in the plane that his colleague (whom he mentions by his full name) took a transvestite home. What else are friends for? Although, I would have enjoyed that just a little if Doug had punched Clyde out after that stunt on the airplane.
My point is that Marty is starting to come into focus as a character, but nobody else is. And no amount of foot sucking or transvestite jokes are going to change that. "House of Lies" may yet turn into a compelling comedy and I like the general direction that Marty is falling towards. But the writers of this show really need to step up their game. It's just not as entertaining as it should be.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.