The penultimate episode sees Pam’s infamous Leno interview, disastrous “Barb Wire” launch and the beginning of the end for the idiot who still somehow managed to ruin her life.
With a return to Seth Rogen’s Rand Gauthier, the inept moron who still managed to destroy Pamela Anderson’s (Lily James) life by releasing the sex tape, we get a sense of the depth of both his stupidity and his obliviousness.
In many ways, he comes to exemplify the “nice guy” stereotype, as he continuously dismisses his own awful behavior by blaming everyone around him and yet you can see that deep self-loathing lurking underneath.
It was established early on that Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) is an a-hole, and that he was genuinely awful to Rand by stiffing him thousands of dollars for the work he’d already done on Tommy’s home renovation. It established just enough sympathy for Rand’s situation to carry us through to this point where he’s definitely worn it all away.
Full credit to Rogen’s portrayal, he sunk to such absolute depths of depravity and cluelessness that it was totally believable when he was screaming at his ex-wife Erica (Taylor Schilling) as she kicked him out of the house that he is tired of hearing about releases.
After he’d finally come clean to her that he’s the one who released the tapes, Rand seemed genuinely shocked that she would be furious at him. Amazingly, based on his little smirk as he revealed this, Rand actually expected her to be impressed with him.
“It’s porn!” he argued obtusely, with Erica trying to explain to him the difference. Porn stars agree to share that side of them with the world by singing releases, but Pam and Tommy did no such thing.
Tommy told Rand much the same thing earlier in the episode, but Rand’s Rand-centric worldview just doesn’t allow for outside opinions, and he genuinely doesn’t seem to get the problem here. This episode was not light-handed with its message about female sexual exploitation, and it actually cast Tommy in a sympathetic and almost heroic light for this one scene.
Desperate to pay back some of the money he and Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman) — who ditched him with all their cash for an extended stay in Amsterdam — owe Butchie (Andrew Dice Clay), Rand decided to send a letter to Tommy signed “Karma” demanding the exact amount that Tommy owes him.
This is also indicative of just how stupid Rand is, though he was smart enough to keep a fence between him and Tommy. He’s pretty much taunting Tommy at this point, while revealing that he is still in Los Angeles and very much available to be taken down, or picked up by authorities.
After all, it’s not even just about the tape. Rand broke into Tommy’s house and stole the safe along with all of its contents and then sold them. Tommy knows who did it, and Rand has the nerve to try and shake him down now for the money he owes him?
And Because Tommy was a jerk to him, he feels completely justified in exploiting him. “But what about Pamela? What did she do to deserve what you’ve done to her?” Tommy asked Rand. “Do you have any idea what you’ve put that warm, kind, sweet woman through?”
Did this conversation ever happen? We’ll probably never know the truth, but it was the kind of truth bomb that Rand needed to hear. And just like what Erica said about releases and consent, at least a portion of that message came through.
When Rand — who’d sunk about as far as he could — was ineptly trying to be an enforcer for Butchie to make up some of what he owes, he kept shouting at the guy, “You did this to yourself!” Obviously, that message was to himself. But he’s just not smart enough to know a way out of it.
Kind of like he wasn’t smart enough to anticipate that the tape could easily be bootlegged. And yet, he still tried to sell his copies to Tower Records (with a bootlegger selling in the parking lot) just because his were the originals. “Because I was first,” he said — admitting to another person that he’s the one behind the leak.
With the classic “nice guy” edit, we’ve got a guy who will never own up to his own faults, though it appears that at least on some level he feels them. But because he’s so emotionally immature, he acts out with even worse behavior rather than own up to anything.
What’s remarkable, and also ties into the “nice guy” trope, is that no matter how stunted or stupid this guy is, he still managed to topple the life and career of a huge Hollywood star. The damage that can be perpetrated by the most unexpected and idiotic individual is incalculable, on an individual level and, in some cases, on a global scale.
While Rand was setting the stage for his own demise, Pamela was living in the world that he’d built for her. With her big dreams of stardom hinging on her starring role in the film “Barb Wire,” she was nevertheless hounded by questions about the tape by the press and even Jay Leno.
Yes, 1996 was a different world, but it’s disgusting the way she was victimized by every man around her, including her own legal representation and — in his own arrogance — her husband. Every poor decision made on her behalf and without her full support by men led her to a moment on national television where Jay Leno could embarrass her in front of America.
And she was expected to smile and take it. In a brief moment, we got a glimpse of her truth. “What’s it like? It’s horrible,” she told Leno in this episode. “To have something so intimate stolen from you, something private from inside your marriage, and have it taken without permission and exposed to the world? It’s devastating. This is devastating to us.”
In truth, Pam dealt with Leno’s jokes in her next appearance after the film’s release. It was then — this episode has it happening while she’s promoting “Barb Wire” — that she more directly called him out for it. She played a montage of his jokes when he tried to play it off, before pointedly telling him, “It’s not funny. It’s not funny. This is devastating to us.”
Back to the show, Pam’s understanding of her position in society is why she wasn’t surprised by the results of their lawsuit, either. Tommy was so confident it would result in the magazine being banned from sharing photo stills, but instead things went exactly as Pam knew they would when she fought against filing suit in the first place (knowing it would only raise the public profile of the tape).
While the depths and scope of this invasion into her privacy and person is on an unprecedented level, Pam is no stranger to having her bodily autonomy taken away from her. Practically from the moment she developed a woman’s body, that body apparently belonged to every man who leered at it or lusted over it. And her attempts to take some ownership over it only exacerbated the problem — especially when it came to this case.
We already sat through a horrific deposition where she was asked inappropriate and unnecessarily personal questions (while there was no interest in deposing Tommy at all). Was this about legal justice or just titillation for legal professionals in suits?
Now comes the judge saying that he’d thrown out their case because the tape is in the “public conversation,” thus Penthouse is within their First Amendment rights to publish stills from it as news. Despite the tape being stolen and distributed without their consent, Pam and Tommy have no rights over it anymore.
But that’s not the true “conversation” being had, as Pamela layed out with a script using the subtletly of a sledgehammer to drive home one of the key points of this whole series.
“I don’t have any rights because I have spent my public life in a bathing suit. Because I had the nerve to pose for Playboy,” Pam explains to Tommy and their attorney. “They can’t actually say that sluts and that’s what this ruling is saying I am in case you’re unclear– they can’t actually say that sluts don’t get to decide what happens to pictures of their body, that I don’t get to decide what happens to my actual body, so they say something else instead.”
Slut-shaming and the dangers of “nice guys,” even when they’re incredibly stupid. For a story taking place in 1996, “Pam & Tommy” is speaking very candidly and openly about the exact same problems and dangers that women face in 2022. That is, of course, the point. But it’s also pathetic that we’ve progressed so very little in more than 25 years.
To make matters worse for the titular couple, the big premiere of “Barb Wire” quickly dashed any illusions that it was going to make her the next big movie star in Hollywood. A cutting barb at the afterparty, calling the “second best” movie she’d been in that year, was only made worse when Tommy took her to a public screening where they heard people laughing.
It all comes crashing down in next week’s finale of “Pam & Tommy,” hitting Hulu on Wednesday.