It’s a big day for the boys. More accurately, it’s a big day for Vinnie as production opens on “Smoke Jumpers,” marking the first time in more than a year that he’s been on a movie set. No wonder he’s a little nervous, skipping breakfast and screwing up his lines when rehearsing with E. Even worse is the fact that his German director (I think his name was Vernon…?) likes practice about as much as Allen Iverson (“We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice.”) and informs Vince that he shoots the rehearsal. Bad news for Vinnie’s nerves, but co-star Jason Patric loves Vernon’s approach. He also, it seems, loves poaching Vince’s lines, and after he steals a couple of Vince’s pivotal scenes, it’s time to take action.

It won’t shock anyone to know that I’ve never been on a movie set, so I don’t know how these things typically work. But it seems to me, if it’s the first day of shooting and some douchebag steals my key lines, I’d say something. As in, right then and there. Maybe that’s not kosher, and maybe Vince handled the situation the right way initially by assuming it was an honest mistake and letting it slide. Granted, he tried to talk to Patric about it after the fact but never actually got around to addressing the issue. Vinnie’s co-star, it seems, is a black belt and probably isn’t someone you’d want to piss off. Fine. Meanwhile, you run the risk of being scenery in what stands to be either your comeback film or your death knell. I know Vince is the cool-under-pressure one in the group so it’s not surprising to see him try to shrug it off at first, but it was maddening watching Patric’s thievery without Vince asking someone “what the hell is going on?”

Of course, he did eventually ask Vernon about the situation, and the director claimed that he knew what Patric was doing but he was choosing his battles with the fiery actor to keep him happy. Sounded like a copout to me, and Vince agreed, telling the guys he thought Vernon was a bigger pussy than he was. Actually, it turns out Vernon is the snake on the set, handing Vince’s lines to Patric and then blaming the actor for it. Why? The smart money says Vernon isn’t a fan of Vinnie’s work and he wanted to run as much of the movie through Patric as possible. Maybe he had other motives, but the look on Vince’s face after Patric told him what Vernon had done suggests that he came to the same conclusion. And if that’s the case, what’s the long-term effect here? Did Dana Gordon shove Vince down Vernon’s throat because she promised Ari the role? If so, things could get ugly for Vince.

Speaking of Ari, this certainly wasn’t the first time he’s provided the most interesting storyline for an episode, and we should all be thankful that it won’t be the last. One of the readers of this blog has noted several times that Jeremy Piven is the only true “actor” on the show and that the others should all just watch and learn. While I wouldn’t go that far, he is without a doubt the show’s most talented actor, and tonight he proved once more why he’s also its biggest draw. Some were surprised that Ari turned down Warner’s $10 million offer last week but, to me, it spoke to the kind of emotional depth that Piven and the writers have given Ari over the years. Tonight, we saw even more of it when Ari met up with his old buddy Andrew Klein, a literary agent who’s fallen on some tough times in the wake of the writer’s strike. Turns out Klein, played brilliantly by Gary Cole, was on the fast track with Ari before their old firm split. Klein has since carved out a nice little career for himself, but nonetheless it’s a career (and salary) that drastically pales in comparison to the life that Ari now leads. And since Ari knows it could have just as easily been him working in Encino, he feels guilty.

Now, whether or not he feels guilty enough to lend Klein $500,000 is another story. But when Ari takes a closer look at Klein’s books, he sees an opportunity to not only help a friend, but make a savvy business deal. After telling Klein that he doesn’t want to give him the loan, Ari instead offers to buy his company and give him the life he was meant to live. Klein balks at first, of course, and calls Ari out for feeling guilty about how everything has turned out. Granted, this was a simple and understated scene, but watching Piven and Cole as it played out was great. The highlight was when Ari reminded Klein about when he wanted to move back to Chicago to become a lawyer, and Klein talked him out of it by asking him, “Do you really want to die a loser fucking lawyer in Chicago?” Ari stared back at Klein for a few moments and replied, “Do you really want to die a loser lit agent in the Valley?” Harsh words, for sure, but sometimes harsh words need to be spoken between two good friends. And in this case, they worked – Klein agreed to the buyout.

Unfortunately, Babs isn’t on board. Oh, right – Ari’s got a partner in all of this, and she thinks Klein is too much of a “loser” to bring into the fold. Shit, now what?