TV Review: Pam & Tommy, 1×4, “The Master Beta”

The honeymoon is literally over as Tommy finally notices the stolen tape. The once-besotted lovers argue for the first time as Pam feels Tommy isn’t taking the tape’s disappearance as seriously as she is. But Tommy insists he’s upset and promises to do something about it. He hires a private investigator who has no trouble tracking Rand down. As if Rand needs any more headaches, he spots a guy selling bootleg copies of the video out of a van on the Sunset Strip and realizes that he and Miltie’s covert money-making operation is neither covert nor money-making—nor exclusive, as copies of the tape seem to be popping up everywhere.

When Pam sees a bunch of crew members watching the tape on the Baywatch set, she is mortified and insists that she and Tommy track down how people are getting it. They know it’s on this new thing called “the world wide web,” but the only place they know to find that is at the library, so they don their best disguises and infiltrate the Malibu Public Library, typing in “Pamela Anderson Sex Tape” into the search engine, much to their dismay. As soon as his private eye relays Rand’s identity to Tommy, Tommy sends a bunch of his biker friends to beat Rand up, but Rand manages to elude them and escape to his estranged wife’s home. Meanwhile, Miltie has already felt the heat and run off to Amsterdam, hopefully far enough away from Tommy’s reach.

Meanwhile, in all the craziness, Pam finds out she’s pregnant, which is the one thing that makes both Pam and Tommy temporarily forget the whole tape fiasco. They are thrilled beyond belief, but their joy quickly becomes heartbreaking when Pam miscarries, and Tommy attacks the paparazzi outside the hospital. It’s the first time we are reminded that these are real people, not just cartoons.

It has been said that a person’s character is truly revealed when they have to deal with hardship, and it’s only when Pam and Tommy’s whirlwind relationship hits adversity, which comes fast and furiously in this episode, that some of the cracks start to show. In their performances as Tommy and Pam, Sebastian Stan and Lily James continue to build their characters up from the shallow, ditzy narcissists we first met. As life starts to get real for these two who haven’t lived in reality for quite some time, it’s fascinating to see the different approaches to handling it.

Pam’s most significant obstacle has always been to prove she’s more than just her looks and James brilliantly finds small ways to allow the audience to sympathize with Pam, forcing viewers to confront their own biases. The different approaches to these two characters are perhaps the lynchpin of the whole series, far outside the realm of the story, as showrunner and writer Robert Siegel seems to purposely present Tommy and Pam as representative of our culture as a whole. Famous men can get away with just about anything, whereas a woman’s fame is predicated on a much different baseline.

Famous women cannot be anything more than the box they are put into and, for Pamela Anderson, her looks and her image continue to chase and define her, no matter what she does. Their respective careers are heading in different directions, and yet Pam has to work twice as hard as Tommy to get half of the respect if any. As the series progresses, we see how Pam has to fight to be taken seriously, no matter the arena she’s in, and the fact that she has to fight for respect even in her own home with her own husband is a defining moment.

While the first three episodes focused on Tommy Lee’s outsized personality and carefree life as a famous, privileged, white, male rock god, it becomes more and more Pamela’s story as we get deeper in, one that is much more complicated and fraught with contradictions. A character we once could dismiss with one quick stereotype is being developed as a textured human being, and James’s portrayal of her indelibly captures every layer, working perfectly in tandem with the writers, who clearly are presenting Pamela as the more sympathetic character.

As for Sebastian Stan’s Tommy Lee, the loveable idiot from the first three episodes starts to reveal his true colors as the lost, angry, and resentful has-been, jealous of his wife’s rising star, as his continues to sink. Their different reactions to the tape being out in the world sums it all up, as she is panicked about what it will mean for her career, while he can only see the elevated caché it gives him, as the “bad boy rocker,” oblivious to how it will impact his wife. Just as Pam is being set up to be more sympathetic, our feelings towards Tommy are also starting to head south. In the hands of any other actor, we would have hated Tommy so quickly in this episode, but Stan finds ways to make Tommy loveable and worth giving multiple second chances.

Meanwhile, who knows if we will even see Miltie again, as he has flown off to Amsterdam. It would be a shame never to see Nick Offerman in that awful mullet again…not.

As the episode ends with the tape out in the world, we wonder if we are even going to see Rand again. Is his story done? We shall see, but one thing certainly is clear: this show is addictive, and we can’t wait for more.

Pam & Tommy is now streaming on Hulu.

Written by
Catherine is a senior writer for We Live Entertainment. She has also written for Awards Watch, In Session Film, and Awards Radar. She is Rotten Tomatoes-approved and a proud member of The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, and the Online Association of Female Film Critics. Offline, she loves baseball, World Cup soccer and all things ‘80s.

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