The Casino
Episode 1

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Just Take the Penicillin Now, Save Some Time

But then we're back to the parking lot, which I now realize is the Gaming Commission lot and not, like, the mall, talking about how Tom's uncle was one denied a permit because of their family's alleged links to organized crime. He kind of blows my mind by telling Tim, "You know Vegas is a small town, so you know people," as if the Mob is so pervasive that his tiny little grandmother is on the take. Which is kind of a harsh indictment, especially coming from a native, and I thought that wasn't true anymore, anyway. Tim cutely pats weird, crazy, talkative Tom on the back, and tells him to "be confident," and "just tell [his] story." And I wonder what that would be like? Without the benefit of helpful visual aids, would the Gaming Commissionaires really understand what a stark difference lies between Julia Sweeney/Al Franken Kid Tom and new grown-up "Dice Town" Tom? Is he going to walk in there and start talking about how they are best friends and business partners some more? Is it going to go all Italo Calvino now? Will Bastian Balthazar Bux make an appearance? Stay tuned to find out, because first we need to see the opening credits.

To put it bluntly, the opening credits are weird. Everyone agrees on this but nobody can really pin down why. Like, for example, Queer Eye, the opening credits are weird because they live on "Gay" street and go to "Straight" street, and because the post-Queer Eyed Guys are rotoscoped and cartoony and creepy and don't have enough facial features. Here, it's nothing so simple. They don't go from "Website" Street to "Nugget" Street or anything. It's just a terribly strange, off-putting stew of the following elements: roulette wheels and showgirls and buildings, all spinning wildly, the two of them on the Strip in a convertible looking very "Dice Town," cards being shuffled, all that Vegas kitschy high-roller crap, and these sick soft-focus face shots that would not be out of place in the opening of a soap opera, or those 1-900 commercials where the girls are like, "Do you want to talk…to me?"

All of this time Matt "Velvet" Dusk, who we'll meet in a minute, is singing a lounge song with which I am not familiar but involves "two shots happy, one shot sad," which is a pretty good description of this horror cocktail. Then it goes to a differently strange place, with naked girl silhouettes and the lights of the strip on the left and "What happens in Vegas..." on the right, and then some dancing girls, and the Vegas sign, and a girl putting on lipstick like the Tarot card for "The Whore," and then "...stays in Vegas," except we won't really have any room for comparison, since we're...pretty much just staying in Vegas. (So does that mean then that we are also happening in Vegas? We're happening in Vegas, baby!) Title shot, and we're back. We go through some more stupid fast-forward daytime Vegas footage, fast-forward down the highway -- I love this, the way they take us with them through the geography of the city. And to such awesome places!

At the Nevada gaming board, their case is called, and Tom goes before them to answer questions, which is great, because he'll get to talk about himself. And we'll get to watch. The Commission Chair exposits that Tim and Tom are two of the five members of the Nugget Board of Directors, and reiterates for us that they have no gaming experience. The clock shows us that hours are going by, they are bored and we are bored, and Tom sighs and swallows and wants a Game Boy, because he just can't stand the pressure they are putting him under. Sitting across a table from them now like job applicants, Tom informs us that being a gaming license applicant is just so difficult because it "feels like you are poked, prodded and probed into every orifice [sic, and sick, dude]." Tom's relationship with his great uncle is described paternally, but the Commissionnaire points out that there were good reasons for the denial of a gaming license to the great-uncle: relationships with East Coast gamblers supposedly involved in bookmaking. He asks Tom flat-out if he was ever involved in this side of the business. "Were you ever a messenger for him?" "No," Tom replies, but "Have I made bets for him before? Yes I have, on very rare occasions." The inside of Tom's head? So scary. He's like Rocco deluded. He's like Paradise Hotel deluded.

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The Casino

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