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The Racket

Written by Debora Cahn
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Zak, Skip, Scott and Julie attend Frank "Buck" Rogers funeral. While there, a man asks Zak if he's Richie Finestra. Richie, however, is in couples' therapy with Devon, where he uses a tennis racket take out his frustrations with his marriage on a sofa. He finds the technique helpful, but Devon isn't sold, and when asked by the therapist to use the tennis racket to release her frustrations, she explodes: "He's ruining my life! I'm not hitting the fucking couch with a tennis racket!?

In the limo after the funeral, everyone but Julie trashes Richie. Zak takes a call from Richie who explains one of their big funk acts, Hannibal, is "coming in to get fluffed" before they re-up his contract, and he wants the gang to stay away so the musician doesn't feel swamped. Only Zak is in the office but Richie still demands he make himself scarce.

Hannibal and his large entourage arrive at American Century, and the singer takes an immediate liking to Richie?s secretary, Cece. Richie pulls Hannibal into his office for a private drink, and Hannibal mentions that Koronet Records head Jackie Jervis sent him a case of Dom Perignon. Unimpressed, Richie insults Jackie and offers Hannibal a few vials of cocaine. He also brings in two groupies to remind Hannibal how well he's taken care of at ACR.

Jamie returns to the office with pastries for Hannibal and his crew to find Kip and the rest of The Nasty Bits waiting to sign their contract. Armed with the demo tapes Richie gave him, Lester Grimes walks in and despite not having an appointment, is immediately ushered in to see Richie. When one of The Nasty Bits balks, Lester tells him, "Welcome to American Century. Get ready to take it up the ass." Jamie gives Kip money to take the band out to lunch while they wait for Richie.

While Zak and Scott have lunch, Skip heads to a record pressing plant where he tells the manager to hold off on an "extracurricular" album run he had him press. Unfortunately, the manager explains, the records were pressed and sent to Sam Goody stores that morning. Skip panics as American Century is undergoing an audit and he can't have 10,000 fake record returns showing up. He rushes to the Sam Goody flagship where he finds the album in a less prominent window position than he paid for. Not wanting to get into trouble himself, the store's manager refuses to hang onto the fakes and Skip is forced to store them in his own apartment.

Back at ACR, as a happy Hannibal and his entourage leave, Richie is barraged by Lester and ACR artist Robert Goulet. Goulet is insistent on recording a song about ?the day after Christmas? for his upcoming Christmas album. Zak returns from lunch and Richie pawns off Goulet on him, allowing him and Lester to talk privately. Lester confronts Richie about his wanting to release Lester's old blues tracks. "Ten years, this is what you come up with?" he asks, though he admits it was his fault for listening to the reels in the first place. Lester lights the demo reels on fire and dumps them into Richie's trash can, setting off the sprinklers in his office.

Armed with her photographs of Richie's drunken destruction, Devon meets with divorce lawyer Lydia Gross for a consultation. Devon insists that despite Richie's history with drug and alcohol abuse, he's not abusive to her or the kids, and wants to share custody with him. Recognizing that Devon doesn't actually want to get divorced, Lydia charges her $150 for the typically free meeting. "You just wasted an hour of my time generating a card to play in the next fight you have with your husband," she explains to an indignant Devon. "You love your husband, sweetheart. I wish you didn't -- he sounds like a real asshole."

After storming out of Richie?s office, Lester comes across Kip and The Nasty Bits eating hot dogs outside of ACR and takes them to a diner for a drink and a talk. He talks them through the nitty gritty of signing with a label and explains how every single contract point is negotiable -- something record execs don't count on a band understanding. Armed with their new knowledge, Kip and the Bits hire Lester as their manager -- a development that shocks Richie. He and Lester heatedly negotiate the band's contract, and ultimately settle on a $20,000 advance -- and a tenuous truce.

Hannibal takes the stage at the Academy of Music that night, where Jackie Jervis and Andrea Zito hang backstage and attempt to court Hannibal for Koronet Records. Cece quickly calls the office to warn Richie of their presence. While Heather delivers Cece's message to Richie, two detectives -- who attended Buck Rogers funeral that morning -- show up to ask him questions about the late radio man. Though Richie tries to downplay his connection to Buck, the detectives know that he was the last person Buck called the night of his disappearance.

While Robert Goulet records his day after Christmas song in the studio, Richie calls Devon at home to let her know he'll be taking Hannibal and his entourage out after their show, and will stay at the apartment in the city. She tries to tell him about her meeting with the divorce lawyer, but Richie hangs up before he hears what she says. Devon vents her frustrations by taking a cast iron pan to her kitchen window.

Later, instead of going out with Hannibal, Richie heads to a basement jazz club where he finds a grizzled trumpet player sitting at the bar -- Richie's estranged father, who clearly did not die in the war. The two men share a tense drink before Richie asks: "I need an alibi."