There’s a human desire to make sense of the chaotic events of our life, to make it seem as if everything is happening for a cause. Rand Gauthier and Pamela Anderson have been telling themselves similar stories despite their differences in circumstances. They’re misunderstood, dismissed, and unable to generate the results they desire. However, they’re both on the verge of altering their own narratives right now. Pam has finished filming Barb Wire, a comic-book adaptation; if it’s a hit, she’ll go from Baywatch bimbo to bona fide movie star, possibly even a franchise lead. And what about Rand? He took the fact that he has Pam and Tommy’s sex tape to mean that he should have Pam and Tommy’s sex tape as well. This is how, in the end, the universe tilts in his favor.
Pam and Tommy’s story hasn’t progressed too far yet. Episode three picks up where episode two left off, which was the series premiere: In a windowless, wood-paneled office, two filthy males are watching strangers have sex on a homemade film with shaky cam effects. Men who have seen a lot of sex on camera are curiously captivated. Uncle Miltie observes, “It’s as if we’re seeing something we’re not intended to see.” It’s hotter than any porn he could make, despite the fact that it’s not porn. Rand takes the video home for ritual smudging, because, should we forget, this is a business enterprise masked as divine vengeance for Tommy’s bad behavior. Those “Namaste, motherfuckers” T-shirts were designed for Rand.
The new business partners take their stolen goods on a montage tour of Porn Valley, but no distributor will touch the tape without written releases from its stars, for fear of being sued into oblivion. I don’t commit much crime, but I believe that if a group of pornographic executives believes something is a terrible idea, it is probably a poor idea. Vivid Entertainment receives a pass. New Sensations, like New Sensations, and even Naughty Times Films, operate underground. Perhaps the gods aren’t on Rand’s side.
They haven’t been in a long time. Rand was previously married to Erica (Taylor Schilling), an adult-film star who left him for a woman. Erica loved that Rand didn’t judge her for making pornography for a job, and Rand enjoyed that Erica didn’t judge her for it. They’re still Mr. and Mrs. Gauthier legally, and Erica refers to Rand as her super, which is exactly who he was when they first met. Her old toilet isn’t flushing this time.
Rand commits himself to the work of locating the antiquated float-cup valve missing from Erica’s toilet, while he struggles to get his sex-tape business off the ground. He answers the phone and photocopies documents. It’s regarded worthy of montage, much like browsing for a sex tape. When Rand discovers the pump part on the internet, the B and A stories collide. The World Wide Web! The enigmatic hinterland, where obscurity reigns supreme and crimes against personal privacy is difficult to prosecute. He hasn’t just found any float-cup valve; this is the float-cup valve that will transform the way the entire world consumes pornography. Rand and Miltie agree to sell the videos on their own through the Internet’s relative safety. They’re almost self-sufficient. They require seed money to cover the costs of manufacturing and shipping. So Miltie contacts Butchie Peraino, the loan shark who financed Deep Throat and shares Rand’s idea of an unpoliced market. He offers Rand and Miltie some extremely terrible repayment terms, which they accept without hesitation. An entire business is born from the germ of an idea.
Miltie is in charge of the money, which necessitates him flying briefcases of cash around the world and opening bank accounts in Montreal and Amsterdam for unknown reasons. Rand is in charge of the less glamorous aspects of production, such as turning Pam’s images into original cover art, creating a pathetic Web 1.0 site, tracking down a person with a lot of VCRs, and measuring envelopes to make sure they’re big enough to hold cassettes. Montage montage montage montage montage montage montage montage montage montage
Despite the bustle, Rand hasn’t forgotten Erica in her hour of need. He shows up at the house she and her girlfriend share and falsely proposes with the valve he claims has transformed his life forever. Over dinner, he tells her how much better he feels about himself — excluding the details, of course — and it’s amazing what a little grand larceny can do for the male ego. He’s so confident in his masculinity that he even laughs along with his ex-shrimp wife’s dick jokes! It comes out that he only met Miltie because of Erica. When Miltie’s anal specialist quit, Rand was frantic to find a person with a small enough penis to preserve a scene. They’re now co-founders. Tomorrow, billionaires, billionaires, billionaires, billionaires, billionaires, billionaires Rand’s small member has transformed his fate in this vast and mysterious universe. He returns home and signs the divorce papers, which is a meaningless gesture because he lacks the funds to actually file them, but it’s a gesture nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Pam and Tommy at Lee HQ are unsuccessfully attempting to manifest a child using Hindu meditation cards. Pam’s professional life, on the other hand, is going swimmingly. Barb Wire is a studio priority, and she’ll be filming a long, emotional monologue as CJ tomorrow. Pam is rarely allowed to speak more than two lines in a row, even though she is in her fourth season of Baywatch. While Tommy’s band is featured on VH1’s Behind the Music, a show dedicated to the stories of performers who have died or faded away, she is ascendant. Tommy is able to rejoice in Pam’s success despite the fact that his own popularity is fading. He even cooks her a big Greek supper to commemorate nailing her big scene when he’s at loose ends all day. I’d say Pam hit the husband jackpot if we didn’t know Tommy would end up in prison for spousal abuse. He even instructs her on how to stand up for herself after she tells him that the committee of middle-aged men who run Baywatch edited CJ’s speech.
It also works. Pam shoots the scene the way they want it — another shot of her dashing into the surf with one half of each butt cheek exposed — and then insists on filming the speech she’s been practicing all week. She’s prepared a response to each of their objections. Isn’t the other actor available? Pam has considered how they can manipulate the reactions in post-production. Her hair is the same, she wears the same clothes, and her face is as camera-ready as her ass.
In addition, Baywatch is a small league compared to the cinematic career that awaits her. Gail Chwatsky (Mozhan Marn), a committed PR exec at the Barb Wire studio, has been hired to make sure it’s a smash, and Gail takes Pam as seriously as she wishes she could take herself, which is as serious as Tommy takes her. Gail wants to know what tale she would have them tell instead about Pamela Anderson Lee, who got her start in the pages of Playboy. Jane Fonda, the girl next door to sex symbol to Oscar-winner slash activist slash fitness guru pipeline, is Pam’s North Star. Pam’s dream is more than a career aspiration; it’s a dream of self-acceptance. Pam wishes to be less concerned about pleasing everyone all of the time. “Freedom,” Gail sums up without a trace of cynicism. “That’s a fantastic story.”
Pamela Anderson Lee is head over heels in love, throwing her weight around on set, starring in a major blockbuster, and about to become a mother. Her own personal fairy tale collides with Rand Gauthier’s rags-to-riches redemption narrative. We already know whatever version of the tale the media eventually tells from the series debut, in which Jay Leno asks a squirmy Pam about the sex tape on national television. Because, unfortunately, Gail is completely incorrect. Not for a woman, especially a former centerfold, in mid-’90s America, before social media, and before Me Too, it’s not as simple as choosing the story you want to portray about yourself.