I think I'm in love with Ari Gold.
Let me be clear: I am not talking about having any sort of an infatuation with Jeremy Piven. (I hear he's a prick -- plus, I can't respect a man who can't handle his sushi.) But I've recently been watching Entourage in reruns, and, while I'm probably supposed to be fantasizing about Vincent Chase and his perfect wavy dark hair and the way he wears old concert tees with the dirty style I usually get tingly from, it's with his agent with whom I am way more impressed.
Disclosure: I always found Vince the least compelling character on the show, including during his mini drug-addicted-philandering-with-a-porn-star stage. Yeah, he's a good looking guy, and I liked that the writers of the show fleshed him out as being loyal to his friends, but there never seemed anywhere to take him. Okay, so he wanted the artistic integrity to not be an underwater superhero in a shitty sequel that was being rushed into production to capitalize in the way Hollywood likes to do things, choosing instead to do a movie that bombed spectacularly at Cannes, but I had a hard time investing in that choice he made or the horrific reaction to the movie.
I was too busy loving Ari.
Could wear the hell out of a good suit? Double check.
Could go from threatening to dice his assistant with the sharpest blade he could locate to rescuing that same assistant from a predator who wanted to ravage poor, wonderful Lloyd in exchange for a lucrative contract Ari needed? That moment was fucking heartwarming.
In the very first episode of the series, Ari was an agent who nailed women who were not his wife. But as the seasons progressed, that moment in the pilot was seemingly forgotten. Ari became written to be a faithful husband, and the only cheating he did on his wife was when he ignored her needs for that of his clients.
My favorite Ari quote, other than the one in the episode Exodus where he left his first agency after a takeover helped along by Adam Davies -- he of the lower-level douche agents who will do anything to get ahead -- was a speech Piven performed at the moment of his character's present-tense destruction, his office blockaded by guards. The way Piven performed in that moment was Emmy-worthy, but trumping even that one for me is the one where Ari, a few episodes back, was sitting in a therapy session with his wife.
She was never given a name, in what I like to think of as an homage to Curley's wife in Of Mice and Men. But there they sat, working on their marriage. Ari was seething to get across to Mrs. Ari the sentiment that he was always in control of his anger -- while that very anger was simmering to the surface with such an intensity that his lips were quivering and my remote actually heated up in my hand as I watched.
And then his phone rang.
It wasn't his regular cell; it was the special one, the coveted-number one. It was the one he called the "Bat Phone" without even a shred of irony -- because he's a man who actually had a Bat Phone.
His wife didn't want him to answer. They were engaged in a session. It meant something to her. And she was right to feel that way. This was their relationship they were fighting for in that plush therapist's office. Couldn't she get just an hour of his time? An already scheduled hour, one you just know she had to schedule through Lloyd?
"You could have it if you want to live in Agoura fucking Hills, and go to group therapy. But if you want a Beverly Hills mansion and you want a country club membership, and you want 9 weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, than I’m gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a motherfucking Wednesday."
And you know what? I get that response.
I would not have understood it in my twenties.
Or evidence of a devolving of my spirit and my capacity for empathy?
But see, there was a vulnerability to the character of Ari I responded to; it wasn't just his sneer or his capacity for being a dick. He was a good father and he was able to build himself back up to being a major success after a spectacular and very public business fall.
I like a person willing to show a little hustle.
In my opinion, the show was his. Who cared if Vince got to play a bloated Pablo Escobar, even if the intentionally-loathsome director of that film's first appearance on the show had him pulling on a vintage Springsteen tee to wear to a meeting at the pool of the Chateau? Instead, I was way more invested in whether Ari would get busted leaving temple on Yom Kippur to broker the deal. (And as someone who for the three whole years I actually fasted on that holiest of days -- besides once sucking on a piece of macaroni which I thought God would sanction it because it wasn't cooked and tasted disgusting -- I applauded his moxie.)
I get that he's ruthless. I know he was scripted to be fanatical about success. I know he worked not just for profit or for the freedom he would rarely allow himself to enjoy, but for the feeling of winning. Every day, every meeting, was a chess match -- and I respected his lack of having a tell in every single one of his strategic plays.
(Quick thought: Rhapsodizing about Ari Gold is probably up there with why my closest friend tells me I choose the wrong men. She's got to give me a break on this one, though. He's fictional. Sort of.)
Nobody outside of a Sorkin show does a better walk-and-talk than Ari. No character has ever delivered insults with both an enunciated eloquence that was completed with the finesse of the slight nod and the half-smile Ari pulled off, almost coming off as charming in his moments of supreme cockiness.
And okay -- maybe nobody on television needed bipolar medication more.
But I loved the character's passion and his drive.
I loved that he got what he wanted.
I loved that he'd take a bullet for those closest to him, and that he'd aim darts filled with a potent elephant tranquilizer to anyone who wandered with ill intentions onto his path.
And I give him credit for being the only one who can say "boom" as an emphatic end to a statement without sounding like a total asshole. (I do know one real life guy who can do that too. Rare.)
In a moment when the chips were really down, when he was usurped within the agency he had helped to build into a powerhouse in a style far more Shakespearean than sitcom, I've maybe never seen a calmer desperation grace a character's face. And just like I once strove mightily to cut my sweatshirts into the exact style of the Flashdance stripper-welder-ballerina who was really just a girl with a heart made from pure gold, I strive now to handle pressure within my life like Ari Gold.