Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The Studio Job
Memphis. House in the country. A young man plays a six-string guitar while a young woman sings a country song. Two men bust in, followed by Evil Bo Duke Kirkwood. He yells at them for going to see a lawyer. The goons put the man's right hand on the coffee table and Kirkwood stomps on it. After posturing a while, he stomps the other hand.
Boston. Bar. Kaye Lynn, the young woman, confides in Nate and Eliot. Her brother won't play again; he'll be lucky to use his fingers again. Nate wonders why they would work for Kirkwood with his reputation. Well, he owns a record label and that was their shot. They were hired as songwriters, but the contract had fine print. Kirkwood still owed them a lot of money, so he offered them an album and a spot in showcase. But then he liked the album too much to let them keep it.
HQ. Hardison runs the briefing on Kirkwood. He had one hit -- cue a cheesy video. Sophie's ready to take him down just for that. Never released another single. He put the money into his label. Given the number of lawsuits dropped after just a couple of days, he has a nice little fiefdom in the music business. So they need to get Kaye Lynn her money and her music. (Uh, where's the brother in all this?) Sophie's not familiar with stealing music. Hardison explains about the album's digital master. There's a safe in Kirkwood's studio with the masters. Parker figures they just smash and grab, but Nate wants to get money for compensation and damages plus keep Kirkwood off them. He and Sophie call it: the Fiddle Game. Parker raises her hand. She can't play the fiddle. No, they're selling the fiddle.
Memphis. Kirkwood drives up to the Saddlebag Saloon in a truck decorated with steer horns. Inside, the hostess' screen lists him as having cancelled. Which explains why someone (Sophie, looking rather techno for a saloon) is sitting at his reserved table. Only Kirkwood isn't interested in excuses, so the hostess runs off to get a table for him. He heads over to the bar where Hardison is sitting next to Nate. Hardison leaves and Kirkwood nabs his seat. Nate offers to buy his drink. Hardison heads over to the sound booth while Parker warms up. The DJ steps out and Hardison slips in before the door closes. He checks out the playlist -- the DJ has a thing for Brooks & Dunn. He gives Parker an assignment. She twirls down the bar behind the drinkers, lifting wallets and tickets.
The DJ comes back. Hardison gets extremely colloquial pretending that he was double-booked for the DJ shift on his night off. The DJ wants to call and straighten it out. Hardison is happy to hear it; if he had to work, he'd have to find some way to dispose of his Brooks & Dunn ticket. The DJ suddenly remembers hearing he got the night off, and he'll find someone to take the ticket. Parker finds a ticket in her loot and slides it under the door, where Hardison "finds" it. The DJ heads off to enjoy himself.
Kirkwood brags to Nate that being rich and famous lets you turn down girls even prettier than the bartender every day. The bartender, forced to listen to this, is disgusted. Nate wonders why he didn't keep recording, but Kirkwood figures it's like Nate being a manager -- better to be the farmer than the cow. And what's up with this kid Nate has? Well, they recorded his best song on a demo a few years ago and sent it out; now all of a sudden this "European woman" shows up offering $25,000 for the rights. She's over there waiting on an answer. Of course, "she" is Sophie. Kirkwood offers to go over and find out what's going on. The local guys have to stick together, after all. He heads off and Parker joins Nate. The fiddle game is afoot. Parker's still unclear on where the fiddle is. "It just walked through the door." No, Eliot just walked through the door...
Eliot is up behind the stage lights looking over the crowd when Parker comes up and startles him, which she finds odd. He doesn't -- that's what cat burglars do. Except she's been a cat burglar since the age of ten -- maybe nine -- and this is the first time she has managed to startle him. Sophie explains that Eliot is nervous. Eliot denies. Parker thought he told Nate he could sing. Eliot affirms that he can sing, he's just surprised by all the people. Parker realizes that Eliot is nervous. (It's like she just discovered Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite.) Hardison says he has it covered and asks Eliot to say something. "I don't speak on command, Hardison." The sound is captured on his laptop, which can alter the pitch between "Darth Eliot" (low and tough) and "Spencer Smurf" (high and, uh, not tough). Hardison gets that he should never do the smurf one again. The software matches the voice to the pitch of the song -- it's a real-time version of AutoTune.
Kirkwood approaches Sophie and lays down some smarmy Southern charm. He introduces himself and she realizes she's taken his table. Is he important? Well, he owns the place. He offers a tour. Sophie introduces herself as Virginia Ellington and asks if her things (laptop, cell phone) will be safe at the table. Kirkwood is sure they're safe at his table. They walk off. Kirkwood's flunky checks the call history on her cell and dials Worcester Studios. Nate answers in a British accent, being careful not to be overheard. The flunky then checks Worcester Studios on the laptop and sees rapper K-Gent is recording with them.
Backstage, Eliot is practicing while Kaye Lynn paces. She's worried -- this song is the only thing they have left after everything Kirkwood took. Eliot promises her she won't lose the song. This is what they do. She notices he's having trouble with part of the song, so she sits on his lap and handles the fingering while he strums. (These are technical guitar terms, honest.) He gets the part down with a little guidance. Then she asks how he feels when he plays. He's thinking about the how of playing, not the how he feels. Eliot is stumped, so she asks if he was ever in love. He was, once. He promised that he'd be there if she ever needed him. Only he made the same promise to Uncle Sam, and you can only make that promise to one person at a time. Kaye Lynn tells him to use what he's feeling right now.
Kirkwood's flunky fills him in on "Virginia." He asks why K-Gent sent her from London to sign an unknown. She's impressed. K-Gent picked up a demo out of a box headed for the trash and sampled a song on his new album. Kirkwood realizes she wants to buy the rights cheaply before the guy learns of his luck.
Eliot comes out as "Kenneth Crane" and introduces a song about the road not travelled. (This is where you go to iTunes.) Hardison (now joined by Parker) is flummoxed; his system isn't correcting the voice. Nate isn't worried -- the voice doesn't need correction. The flunky says to Kirkwood, "You know who he sounds like?" Kirkwood nods and tells him to keep the manager around. "Kenneth Crane" finishes and the crowd cheers.
Backstage, Eliot is a little high from his success. Kaye Lynn hugs him and well, you can guess where this is going. Eliot removes his earbud. The flunky tells Nate he's wanted. Two goons back up the summons. Nate whispers for Eliot, but he is otherwise occupied. Parker and Hardison pack up to leave but the DJ returns. The ticket is for tomorrow night. Oops. Kirkwood tells Virginia that he knows she'd pay half a million for the rights. Good thing for her the manager doesn't know that. Except Kirkwood claims the manager as an old 4H buddy (it's like the farm version of scouting) and offers to facilitate the deal in exchange for future considerations. Nate waits with the goons. The flunky shows up and gut-punches him just as Eliot puts his earbud back in. (Not a euphemism.) He's on his way to help Nate, but he notices someone lurking outside. So he jumps the intruder and growls, "Who do you work for?" Uh, Forever 21. It's a fan looking for an autograph. Eliot kinda likes this part.
The flunky brings Kirkwood up to the room where Nate is waiting. They find him sitting in the chair with the two goons unconscious on the floor. Nate claims they got into a fight over something about reps versus sets. Kirkwoods sighs and gives him an envelope of cash. Back at the hotel, Nate hands it to Kaye Lynn. That's the fiddle game. They'll get the rest at the studio tomorrow when Eliot records the song for Kirkwood. Parker will steal the masters. In another room (trying on her costume), Parker suddenly realizes, "Oh! Eliot's the fiddle!"
A studio boss and a studio gofer girl exposit that a producer working for K-Gent has come from London just to record this one song. Gofer Girl will give him anything he wants. Gofer Girl finds the producer (Hardison all in white -- including a faux fur coat -- and gold bling) with "yes, it's her" the Icelandic pop star (Parker wearing a badly-cut yellow wig, lopsided eye makeup, black-and-white striped thigh highs and a fluffy yellow dress with a duck's head curved around the neck. The duck has little crosses for eyes. Imagine Lady Gaga feuding with Bjork). Gofer Girl is perplexed and propitiating as Hardison gives her the "she's a star" treatment, and flees to start the paperwork. Eliot's on the way but he's being followed. Hardison suggests he do his thing, but Eliot doesn't feel that's an appropriate response to a horde of screaming fan girls. Hardison tells him that Kenneth Crane has a fan page. Nice picture. Eliot's not happy to hear it -- "There's a price on my head in three different countries and I'm fairly certain a fatwa was issued." Hardison nukes the fan site but thinks he's being paranoid. Eliot figures a man with his history can't be paranoid.
Sophie is at breakfast with Nate (failing to understand his choice of ribs) when she spots Kirkwood. She slaps Nate, who realizes Kirkwood is on the scene. Sophie wonders how he found them, but Nate figures there are a limited number of five-start hotels in Memphis. He tells her to storm off. She wants to wait another beat, then goes to tell Kirkwood she'd like to slap him. He grabbed the rights to the song, so what does he want?
Gofer Girl leads Hardison and Parker over to the recording studio. Hardison goes in, Parker doesn't. She can't risk being "tainted" and asks to be shown to the meditation temple. She wanders off with Gofer Girl in tow. Hardison gives a status to Nate; Eliot took his earbud out for the recording. Parker dismisses an office space as too cluttered and keeps trotting through the facility. Hardison starts the session, but stops "Kenneth" for being pitchy. Parker's search for a meditation temple continues. Hardison stops "Kenneth" again for pitchiness. Parker and Gofer Girl approach a door with a security pad and Parker stops and coughs. She grabs Gofer Girl's key card as she sends her for water. Nate checks in; Parker thinks she's not being weird enough. Gofer Girl returns with water. Parker swishes, gargles and spits it out -- it's not iceberg water. Gofer Girl doesn't think they have any. Parker will settle for champagne. Gofer Girl is off again and Parker is through the door.
Hardison starts to groove to the song, but then stops Eliot yet again. They bicker. Parker can't find a safe, but then she hears Eliot playing. Isn't the recording studio soundproof? Someone delivers the Crane master to the flunky. Parker has found a lockbox under the acoustical floor tiles. Look, tapes.
"Virginia" is having lunch with Kirkwood at the Ribs, Ribs & More Ribs restaurant. The waitress fails to clear her plate of untouched ribs. Kirkwood is giving her the rights to the song for free. In exchange, she forgets all about Kenneth Crane. Kirkwood wants to get back into the game and having a song sampled by a rap superstar is a nice boost. Sophie realizes he's stealing the song for himself. How will he get Crane to cooperate? Kirkwood's phone plays "Dixie" as he tells her Crane won't have a choice. And she should stop asking questions. Sophie tips Nate that Kirkwood thinks he's the fiddle. Kirkwood's flunky assures him he'll take care of the matter and loads his gun.
Eliot is working on his own take when Parker arrives in the control booth with the tapes. Hardison finds Kaye Lynn's master and puts it in the tape deck. Parker finds Kirkwood's song; the artist's name is blacked out. The flunky summons Eliot, who won't go. So the flunky pulls a gun and Eliot whacks him with a microphone stand. Fighting ensues. Hardison plays the master of Kirkwood's song and then the video version. It's the same voice with a pitch adjustment. Hardison does a voice print search while Eliot tries to get their attention between blows. Parker looks for Eliot but doesn't see him through the studio window. Where'd he go? She turns back and misses the continuation of the fight. Hardison finds a match -- Jesse Jenkins. That explains why Kirkwood never had a second song -- he never had a first one. Jenkins filed a bunch of suits but they were never dropped (Kirkwood's usual M.O.). Never went to court, either. Eliot finishes the fight. Jenkins died in suspicious circumstances, Kirkwood was suspected but never charged. Nate knows this because it's about to happen to Eliot -- who finally gets Hardison and Parker's attention. He comes around to the booth door and tells them to scram. Now.
Back at the hotel, Parker gives the tapes to Nate but the case for Kaye Lynn's tape is empty. Hardison thinks he left it in the tape deck. Eliot heads off to protect Kaye Lynn from the inevitable uncomfortable questions. When he gets to the house, she is physically fine -- but the showcase organizer called and said Kirkwood is taking her spot. He's stealing the last song. So much for Eliot's promise.
Eliot wants to know the plan. Nate says they'll regroup and try a new approach in a couple of days. Eliot isn't having it; he won't let Kirkwood sing the song. Hardison is tracking his truck's GPS and it's too late. Kaye Lynn says the song will be gone forever if Kirkwood performs in front of the A&Rs (music scouts). Hardison repeats: it's too late. Eliot doesn't want to hear it; they can help or not. He and Kaye Lynn put on helmets and ride off on a motorcycle. Sophie says that you don't always get a second chance to make it right. Parker wonder why not and Nate agrees -- changing the rules is what they do.
The team passes a flock of CraneHeads on the way out of the hotel and Nate asks for Kirkwood's location. He's in his truck, practicing. It pulls up to a light and is promptly swarmed by the screaming CraneHeads; they have a text message that their idol is in the truck with horns. Kirkwood grabs his CD and hoofs it to the showcase. Sophie, Parker and Hardison arrive at the showcase; Sophie spots Kirkwood, who gives the Crane master CD to the DJ. Parker climbs on stage to "perform" and stall the showcase a little longer. The crowd fails to appreciate the genius of her performance. Eliot and Kaye Lynn arrive at the saloon, where the showcase is being held. She heads off. Eliot finds Kirkwood backstage among some microphones. "Surprised to see me?" Since Kirkwood tried to have him killed, like he killed Jenkins. Kirkwood carefully tells "Crane" that he wants to help him, then gut-punches him. He pushes the microphones away and whispers in Eliot's ear, "You think I'm going to confess to murder in a room full of microphones? If I was that stupid, I never would have gotten away with it."
Security removes Parker from the stage and Kirkwood comes out. He sits and starts playing the song. When he gets to the chorus, Kaye Lynn starts singing from the balcony. The spotlight finds her. Hardison backs her with a guitar track, since Kirkwood has stopped playing. She finishes and Kirkwood has the crowd give her a hand. He's about to play again when everyone hears what he whispered to Eliot. Flashback to Hardison capturing Eliot's earbud transmission on his laptop. Kirkwood prestends that was a joke and heads offstage. Eliot gives him a demonstration of proper gut-punching. Nate gives Eliot the master he retrieved from the studio and wanders off. Kaye Lynn shakes off a crowd of interested industry reps to join Eliot and thank him for keeping his promise. He gives her the album master, for her trip to Nashville. She invites him along; they could be the second coming of Johnny and June. (As in Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, which I hope you already knew.) He kisses her goodbye; he's already way down another road. The industry people sweep her off.
The team rounds up and heads out. Eliot wants to know how Nate took out those two goons. Nate sticks with his story: they got into a fight. Sophie wonders where Eliot was. "I was getting notes from Kaye Lynn on my performance." And how was he? "No complaints." (There would be some euphemisms in there.) A girl stops Eliot and he prepares to sign one last autograph, but she just wants the time. Time? Past her bedtime. Go home.
Comments: It took a viewing or two to get past the feeling that this episode was specifically designed to give the Christian Kane fans a thrill.
I've been taking classical voice lessons for some twenty years, and that kind of singing is very different from country singing. That tends to push the voice forward into the face and sinuses, while classical singers use the chest, throat and palate area. However, Kaye Lynn's lecture about feeling the song applies in all musical genres, but especially if you sing classical music to people who don't normally listen to classical music, in languages that they don't speak. If you can't feel the music, the audience won't either -- and that's what distinguishes singers from AutoTuned robot voices.
While Sophie is nuts with her disdain for ribs, I don't see eating them for breakfast, either. Can't wait to see what Sophie makes of grits...