Love Is A Losing Battle In The Latest Pam & Tommy

With this week's penultimate episode, the saga of "Pam & Tommy" seems to finally be winding down. The show has made its way back to the Jay Leno interview that started the series, and the Penthouse lawsuit at its center has gone up in smoke — as has the money Tommy owes Rand. "Destroyer of Worlds" is a pretty dark time for everyone. Last week's Playboy dreams were a brief respite from the real world, where mobsters collect in the form of busted knees and strangers still won't stop laughing at Pamela. With only one chapter left, the series is headed towards a conclusion that seems destined to be more bitter than sweet.

Burned cash and scorched earth

This is the most Rand-heavy episode we've seen in a while. The once-triumphant thief is already being brought low by the pitfalls of the free market that let him sell the honeymoon tape in the first place. Early in the episode, he stalks past a guy hawking knock-off tapes in the parking lot of Tower Records to pitch the store manager on selling the real deal. What makes his version different, the man asks. "The difference is I was first, man," Rand says, clearly furious at his quickly dissolving power. The video store guy answers with some sage advice: "You know, David Bowie once said, don't be the first to do anything. And I bet he wasn't even the first to say it."

Rand talks a lot about karma, but doesn't seem to recognize that he now seems to be receiving a heaping dose of his own. Butchie, the tape's mobster financier played by Andrew Dice Clay, catches up to Rand in this episode, too. He makes the guy choke down vodka-soaked cherries while questioning him about where Miltie's gone. Until now, Rand seemed pretty sure his buddy was doing international work for the project, which he clearly wasn't. That facade comes crashing down when Butchie hilariously yells at Rand that Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, while Amsterdam, where Miltie is hiding out, is notorious for its drugs and sex workers.

By the time Rand realizes his business partner has ghosted, it's too late. Rand owes Butchie tens of thousands of dollars, and the guy makes him pay it off by becoming a certified shady henchman. This is apparently a thing that happened to the real Rand, too; in the "Rolling Stone" article that provided the foundation for the show, Gauthier told interviewers that "knees are a little harder to break than most people think." Jesus. Anyway, Seth Rogen's version of Rand doesn't acclimate well to the shakedown business, so he decides to go after his own personal big fish instead: Tommy.

Rand meets Tommy in a parking lot while Pam takes a night away at a hotel. "What's up, lover-cup?" he chirps when she tries to call and check on him. His attitude is much darker when he finally comes face to face with the guy who ruined his life, though. Rand asked for a specific amount of money, the amount Tommy owed him for contract work in the first place. Tommy shows him the money, and then lights it on fire in front of his eyes — but not before calling him "a bottom, a beta, a chump, a b**ch." In a fantastic scene later on, Rand's ex Erica finds out about his involvement with the tape and kicks him out. Oddly, her scorn doesn't seem to hit the guy as hard as Tommy's does now.

I'm not sure who we're meant to feel bad for here, until the two standoffish men lay out the entire thesis of the show in just a few lines. "Well, you're a bad person," Rand tells Tommy. "Yeah, maybe," Tommy answers, unbothered by the accusation. "Maybe I am. But what about Pamela?"

Fact check: did Pamela really speak up on Leno?

What about Pamela? It looks like last week was our only chance to escape into her sunny personal world. This week, we're back to 1996 Pam, who's now openly pregnant and on the press tour for her film "Barb Wire." At a press conference, she cuts through the reporters' sniggering to say, on the record, that the couple did not leak their own sex tape. The camera stays close to Lily James' face as Pam says, with straight-faced conviction, that she and Tommy were victims of a robbery.

Later, Pamela goes on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," where the host who has been joking at her expense addresses the tape directly. He asks her what it's like to have such a level of exposure, and the camera cuts to a shot of Pam from the side, the audience sitting enraptured behind her. "What's it like? It's horrible. 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." The camera then cuts back to Pam on screen, giggling and joking along with Jay. It makes the previous shot feel surreal in contrast.

In real life, Anderson did go on Jay Leno and talk about the tape. This scene seems to be a composite of two of her appearances, with some more overt dialogue added in for narrative's sake. In the scene, Pam wears an updo and black dress that match up with an appearance she made on Leno's show while pregnant with her first child. Her statement about the tape, though, is more reminiscent of a different interview with Leno, in which Pam wears a latex dress and has a stylish wet hair look going on. Both are available on YouTube. In the latter video, Anderson calls Leno out for his jokes, playing a supercut Lee put together of every time the host said the couple's names during his monologue. "It's not funny," she tells him afterward. "This is devastating to us."

Barb Wire is a bust

Unfortunately, this isn't the last time Pam is made into the butt of the joke in this episode. "Destroyer of Worlds" builds to the premiere of "Barb Wire," a now largely forgotten 1996 movie that cast Anderson as an action hero. Obviously, Pam is a hopeful person against all odds. So far in this show, we've seen her escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and face down a cadre of invasive lawyers while keeping her composure. But she's also been pretty naive, thinking there might be a few copies of the tape when there were in fact already hundreds.

This week, we see a more hardened version of Pam, one that's unsurprised when the judge in the Penthouse case allows the publishers to proceed with printing unauthorized photos of her under the first amendment pursuit of "newsworthiness." She stops putting on a smooth-it-over smile long enough to admit that she's been dealing with bulls**t like this for a long time. "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," she says. She's fed up, but by the time Pam's scheduled to attend the "Barb Wire" premiere, she's reverted back to people-pleaser mode.

The "Barb Wire" premiere seems to go well enough. Pam lounges at the afterparty, in her element as she talks about how the movie could garner a sequel. Then she hears it: someone saying this is the second-best movie she's been in this year. You can see her deflate, but Tommy doesn't notice. When they get back to their limo, he makes the driver take them to a theater screening of "Barb Wire." The idea is to sneak in the back row and watch the audience watch the movie. Only, when they get there, people are laughing at "Barb Wire." 

We're left with Pam and Tommy sitting in the limo, dressed in the kind of epic, edgy '90s glam outfits only they can pull off, and we can almost see their love start to collapse quietly under the weight of the world's criticism. As the show fades to black, Allie Hazan sings us out: "So tell me, that you'll be mine forever and I will never, ever have to ask you again — is it a sin?"