Saturday, January 2, 2016

REVIEW: 'Mozart in the Jungle' - Hailey Hangs Out with Famous Musicians While Gloria Performs in 'Touché Maestro, Touché'

Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle - Episode 2.04 "Touché Maestro, Touché"

Guest cellist, Andrew Walsh, invites Hailey out to see Lang Lang play, and gives her a real glimpse inside the world of classical music's elite crew. Thomas and Rodrigo enjoy a rare guys night in and end up in a tent in a living room, exploring the farthest corners of their minds. Gloria proves she is more than she appears.

"Touché Maestro, Touché" doesn't really advance the season-long story forward all that much. The tension between the board and the orchestra union as well as Thomas' musical composition are largely placed on the back burner. The orchestra is getting ready for their tour of Latin America. But the episode doesn't focus on the last minute details before they take this major trip. Instead, this episode is simply about a bunch of characters simply hanging out with each other and some fresh faces and having some fun. It's an episode that is light and breezy without too much stakes to it. And yet, it's the most enriching episode of the season so fun because the show just relaxes and allows some great performers to do what they do so well.

The episode kicks off with the latest performance by the Symphony. They are joined by a special guest cellist, Andrew Walsh - played by Dermot Mulroney. It's a powerful piece that they are performing. And yet, so much of that scene is played from the perspective of the performers. The audience doesn't even know that the Symphony is performing for a crowd until the piece is finished and the applause starts. The intensity of that scene comes from these members of the orchestra working together to make beautiful music. That's what Rodrigo has been trying all season long to do. This scene is about living in the moment of that performance. There are no major screw ups. It's simply a performance that goes off without a hitch. That hasn't happened on the show yet. It's actually quite amusing to see the orchestra finally get into the swing of things right before they leave the country. It's also noticeable that Rodrigo doesn't spend any time agonizing over how this performance didn't work. It was simply music that left the audience to determine its value.

Of course, that was only one of the performances in this episode. After it ended, the show does move swiftly into its various plots with some noticeable work. Andrew is quite the charmer who has a somewhat contentious relationship with Rodrigo. It's all done as playful banter but there is obviously some tension there. But again, the show doesn't linger on that little piece of plot. It instead moves forward to Hailey getting to spend a night with Andrew and a bunch of other famous people in the world of classical music - including Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell and Alan Gilbert. It's not a story with a whole lot of depth to it. It's literally just these people hanging out at a bowling alley rolling some balls, doing some Dance Dance Revolution and playing some ping pong. And yet, it's captivating to watch because it's so effortless. Not all of these guys are great actors but it's relaxed enough to the point where the experience is much more rewarding than the lack of story. It's just fun watching this group of people hang out and have fun.

Of course, things do take a turn eventually when Hailey does sleep with Andrew. It's something that always felt inevitable given how much of a player Andrew seemed at the beginning of the episode. And yet, Cynthia didn't warn Hailey about him. Plus, Hailey chose to spend this night with him. She did it because she's a fan and because she wanted to have fun. She's choosing not to linger in the hurt emotions of her breakup with Alex or the uncertain state of things with Rodrigo. She's just choosing to have this adventure that feels right in the moment. It could create trouble later on. A show doesn't cast Dermot Mulroney just to have him pop up in a hangout episode. He could complicate things between Rodrigo and Hailey in the future.

And Rodrigo is still dealing with complicated feelings about Hailey. He spends the evening after the performance with Thomas - who is struggling after getting his divorce papers. The two partake in a mysterious drug that soon opens them up in unexpected ways. The two of them bond in a way that they haven't before. It's a sequence that is much better than the last time Rodrigo dug deep into his soul to find clarity about himself. But it still presents plenty of complications. The two of them have fun. But both are still clearly holding onto the pain of their pasts. Thomas wants to drink to deal with the pain of his wife leaving him. It all harkens back to the belief that his mother never loved him. Meanwhile, Rodrigo wants to conduct one of Thomas' greatest performances. But when he goes to do it, he lingers on the sight of Hailey in the woodwind section who doesn't follow his conducting like she should be. It's a shot that indicates lingering feelings on Rodrigo's part that he may not be completely aware of yet. But it should make his homecoming much more special in the coming episodes.

And lastly, Gloria listens to Rodrigo's advice and performs during an open mic night at a club where she doesn't expect to run into anyone she knows. She's taking that first step towards achieving her dream again. And yet, she doesn't bring Rodrigo along even though she knows that he is supportive of this. She's nervous and unsure of herself. However, she gets such a confidence boost which she's actually on the stage singing. But she isn't performing to a crowd of strangers. Pavo happens to be in the audience. In fact, he's the only person she can make out in the crowd. And yet, his presence doesn't derail her performance. Instead, it gives her more energy and confidence as she heads into the really fun and dynamic part of the song. This flirtation between the two of them has been pleasant so far. It should be interesting to see how it flourishes. However, it's also a little concerning that this story with Gloria is happening solely so she can connect to the artists better once the tension between the Symphony and the union finally does reach its inevitable breaking point. Of course, that's a concern for the future. Right now, it's just so mesmerizing to listen to Gloria sing and open herself up in a way that she hasn't done before on the show.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Touché Maestro, Touché" was written by Alex Timbers and directed by Jason Schwartzman.
  • There was perhaps a bit too much time spent on Rodrigo and Thomas' drug trip as the two opened themselves up to each other in ways both playful and serious. And yet, it still had its desired effect later on with Rodrigo taking care of Thomas as his "hermano."
  • Also, that episode ending performance by Lang Lang on the piano as Hailey listens is fantastic. It was also a very smart decision on Schwartzman's part to just let the camera stay still and let this performer be the only spark necessary in the scene.
  • That montage of the members of the orchestra enjoying their evenings and then packing for this big trip was fantastic.
  • Of course, Rodrigo is the last person to board the bus to JFK airport because he's too busy taking in the empty stage at the Symphony. At least, Mike got some amusing lines out of it though.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.