Welcome to Chippendales where bartender Bobby promises heavy pours, choreographer Nick has prepared a dazzling and sexy show, the men are handsome and good listeners, and owner Steve has created a safe space for women only. Never mind the blood stains, this is a classy establishement and all you need to enter is a subscription to Hulu. In this recap of the double-episode premiere, we will meet Somen Banerjee, discover his unlikely rise to owner of the first all-male strip club, and set the scene for a true-crime murder that will unfold over the remaining six episodes.
Episode 1 – “An Elegant, Exclusive Atmosphere”
It’s the late 70’s and Indian immigrant Somen Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) works at a Mobil gas station next to a strip club near LAX. In a vignette of a typical day on the job, two men try and rob the store of a case of beer. When Somen tries to stop them, they make fun of his accent, his name, and spray a beer on him before knocking over a display of novelty name license plates. While putting them away, he pauses on one that he has picked up – “Steve.”
Invited to the home of his boss Mr. Singh (Eliyas Qureshi) for dinner, Somen is offered a promotion to General Manager of all 7 gas stations owned by his wealthy boss. Mr. Singh is shocked when Somen turns the offer down, revealing that over the past 5 years, he has saved 90% of his salary and has a dream of opening a backgammon club, based on the fact that 3 million Americans play the game and there are no clubs for it. He uses his $44,000 of savings to buy a failing discotheque in West LA, filling it with velvet couches to create “an elegant, exclusive atmosphere,” and rebranding the place Destiny II, implying that it’s the second location of a successful business.
Destiny II is not a success, with just two patrons playing there four-and-a-half months after opening. When Paul Snider (Dan Stevens) enters one night with his girlfriend Dorothy Stratten (Nicola Peltz), Somen introduces himself by his adopted American name “Steve.” He is enamored by the fact that Dorothy is a recent Playmate of the Month, as Hugh Heffner is Steve’s idol. He is even more dazzled by Paul’s Rolex and his talk about how Destiny II could be a success if Steve got a nightclub promoter who could attract celebrities. Paul claims to be such a promoter and Steve practically gets on his knees begging for his help, offering 25% ownership of the club in exchange for Paul’s services.
Six weeks later, Steve confronts Paul because not a single celebrity has come to Destiny II. During the argument, Steve notices that Paul’s Rolex is no longer working and he tells him the battery died. Steve points out that Rolex’s don’t have batteries and, looking at it closer, realizes that both the watch and “nightclub promoter” are fake. Steve is ready to dismiss Paul when the roles are reversed and Paul practically gets on his knees to beg to stay. He pleads that he needs the club to be a success just as bad as Steve does, saying Dorothy will leave him for someone more successful. Steve works Paul’s ownership of the club down to just 5% but agrees to let him stay and that he won’t tell Dorothy about any of this.
Giving up on the backgammon club concept, Steve and Paul transform Destiny II back into a disco club, which doesn’t work. They try hosting special events, like female mud wrestling and an oyster eating contest, neither of which draw in the crowds. Dorothy begs for a night away to go dancing and Steve asks Paul if he can join them. He is uncomfortable to find that they have brought him to a gay club. Steve tells them he will wait outside, but he stops when the energy of the club changes. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” by Abba starts playing, the lights dim, and up on the catwalk, male go-go dancers come out and start stripping. It’s not just the gay men in the room going wild, but also the straight women, including Dorothy. Steve is inspired, rushing to Paul and saying “That’s it,” pointing at the strippers. Outside of the gay club, Paul tries to talk Steve out of the idea, but Dorothy, who has followed her boyfriend, says it’s a great idea. “Women get horny,” she informs her boyfriend, taking them to a newsstand to open up an issue of Cosmopolitan to showcase how women are just better at hiding it than men are. Paul warms up to the idea.
In preparation for their new business venture, Steve and Paul begin visiting places where attractive musculara men hang out, like the outdoor gyms at Venice Beach. Paul is the more confident of the two, approaching men and offering them the job, using the fact that’s they will get to sleep with a lot of women in this line of work. Not a lot of men go for it, with the pair even offering a job to a hot dog vendor. But they are not deterred, giving women fliers to promote the club while still trying to attract exotic male dancers. Cut to Steve unveiling a new sign outside the club, which gives it a new name – Chippendales. Paul questions the decision and Steve explains that it’s named after Thomas Chippendale, an 18th century cabinet maker whose hand-carved cabinets were the pinnacle of class.
It’s opening night and things are already looking up, with a line of women outside waiting to get in for the first show. Paul is the master of ceremonies, often vulgar with his introductions, like telling women to put a newspaper on their chairs and referring to the show as a carpentry class with “beautiful wood.” The music starts and the men come out, an all-white group of varying ages and body types. Each man is wearing clothes they brought from home. There’s no finesse to the show, they just approach women in chairs and dance and strip and receive tips. Still, the crowd goes wild and night after night, Chippendales gets busier and busier.
One night, a man named Nick De Noia (Murray Bartlett) walks in with a beautiful woman on each arm. Steve approaches to tell him that men aren’t allowed. “I get the jist,” Nick says, “Talk about a flaming pile of trash.” As he turns to leave, he tells Steve that he was just checking it out as a curious professional. Steve asks what Nick means and he hands him his business card, which says he is an “Emmy-winning choreographer.” Steve looks over at one of his strippers, who is on his hands and knees chewing on a piece of clothing like a dog to the delight of a woman. Nick saw it, too. “Classy,” Nick says sarcastically as he and his lady friends leave.
It doesn’t take long for Steve to contact Nick, meeting him at a restaurant. We learn that Nick is married to an actress named Jennifer O’Neal and that he was an actor before stepping behind the camera as a director, producer, and choreographer. The show he won two Emmys for was an NBC series called Unicorn Tales. Steve asks for Nick’s professional opinion of his show. “A show has choreography, production values, narrative,” Nick scoffs. “What you have is a crass spectacle; a cheap gimmick devoid of the slightest hint of stagecraft and professionalism.” Steve asks him to help him turn the show around.
Steve and Dorothy are impressed with Nick as they watch him lead the dancers through their first rehearsal. Paul, however, seems bitter and jealous, mentioning to Steve that they don’t need Nick. Steve tells him that Nick is only there for a few weeks and then he will be gone. Nick asks the dancers to lock eyes with the most beautiful woman in the room, pointing at Dorothy (the only woman in the room), which sets Paul off. He gets up and grabs her arm, pulling her away.
Paul takes Dorothy out to lunch at a Hollywood hotspot. While dining, Dorothy is approached by a film producer named Peter Bogdanovich (Philip Shahbaz) who remembers meeting her at the Playboy Mansion. He invites her to his table to introducer her to his friends. Paul listens in as they tell her how charming her personality is and that they’d like to have her read for a part in a movie. She rushes back to Paul’s table excited, but Paul belittles her moment by saying that those men just want to sleep with her. His bitterness has reached a breaking point, with Paul accusing Dorothy of sleeping her way to the top before it even happens. Dorothy is upset and throws out a curse. Paul yells his curse back, causing the piano player to stop. The whole room gasps. Dorothy is embarrassed as she stands up, looks around at the elegant diners, apologizes, and leaves.
Paul is fuming when he returns to Chippendales, barging through Nick and the dancers and kicking a garbage can on his way in. He goes behind the bar and helps himself to a drink, slamming it back and screaming as he breaks a glass in anger. Steve comes out and asks him what’s wrong and Paul snaps about how Dorothy is going to sleep with a film producer. Nick storms in and says “I’m sorry, I’ve had it.” He tells Steve that he doesn’t want Paul to be present while the dancers rehearse and fires him as emcee. “You don’t get to fire me,” Paul says incredulously. “Oh, but I do,” Nick smiles, revealing that Steve gave him full control of the show. Paul breaks a few more glasses as he curses Steve and storms out.
The Grand Re-Opening of Chippendales is a sold out affair. Paul helps stock alcohol for the bartender. Dorothy approaches Steve with a costume idea for the dancers, taking a page out of the Playboy book – isolated cuffs and collars. “You are a genius,” Steve exclaims. The new emcee Larry (Adam Ray) starts the show and the dancers appear in jeans, flannel cutoff shirts, vests, and cowboy hats dancing to “Life at the Outpost.” The vests come off, then the shirts, then the jeans, until they’re in nothing but boots, briefs, and cowboy hats. Dancing in unison, thrusting in the direction of the thirsty women watching, the introductory number is a huge hit. When the dance finishes, women are holding up dollar bills, eager to be approached.
After the women have gone home, Steve pops a bottle of champagne to celebrate with the dancers and bartenders. He makes a toast and then goes to Nick, handing him a check for $3,000 and thanking him. “Glad I could be of service,” Nick replies, lingering for a few awkward moments as if he expects Steve to say something more. He doesn’t. “Good luck to you,” Nick says as he leaves. Steve returns to celebrate with his employees.
Paul left during the show, dragging Dorothy with him. Steve has stayed at the club so late that he won’t be returning to his apartment that night. He calls Paul and Dorothy’s apartment and gets their answering machine. He leaves a message asking Nick to pick up a few things on his way in tomorrow since he won’t be going home. Afterward, Steve walks outside and watches the sun rise over his successful business, Chippendales.
Why didn’t Paul and Dorothy answer the phone? We see inside their apartment. Dorothy is on the floor face down as Steve leaves his message, a pool of blood under her head. Up on the bed, Paul’s body lies naked face down. On the floor by his head, a rifle splattered with red droplets.
Episode 2 – “Four Geniuses”
Steve sits in his office reading the front page story about the murder suicide of former Playmate of the Month Dorothy Stratten by her boyfriend Paul Snider. He folds up the paper and puts it in the bottom drawer of his desk. He then goes to an Indian restaurant to have lunch, paired with a bottle of Coke.
Nick looks at the Hollywood sign through the window of a Downtown LA high rise building. Doors open behind him and we see a team of lawyers enter with Jennifer O’Neill (Kyna Treacy), his wife. They sit at a table and sign their divorce papers. Nick’s eyes keep darting to one of the handsome lawyers (Jack Schumacher) on Jennifer’s team. We see a flashback of Nick meeting him at a gay bar, hooking up with him in the bathroom, and then trying to set up a date and being turned down. We then see Nick unpacking his belongings in his new apartment, his two Emmys given a place of honor on a high shelf. He pulls out a VHS tape and puts in an episode of Unicorn Tales, which he hosted. In the introduction, a younger Nick tells the story of The Ugly Duckling, talking about how he was lonely, afraid, and didn’t feel like he belonged. It’s in direct parallel to everything we now know about Nick De Noia.
The numbers Nick created for Chippendales have gone stale, with the crowds dwindling and Steve overhearing two women complain of being bored with the cowboy routine that once thrilled them. He soon finds himself at Nick’s apartment building having a poolside meeting. Nick tells Steve that a show like his would need constant refreshing and he should consider hiring an in-house choreographer, giving the impression that he is too busy for such a role. Steve buys into that and offers Nick complete creative control of the show, including a budget for props and costumes. Oh yeah, and he wants to fire all the dancers and build his own team. Out with the old, in with the new.
Nick holds auditions outdoors in the parking lot, leading a group of eager dancers through a few routines. One of them, a Black dancer named Otis (Quentin Plair), catches Nick’s eye and he pulls him aside to ask about his dance background. Otis is an actor who toured with a professional production of Godspell who has had some formal dance training. When Nick makes the cuts and selects his dancers, Steve is surprised that Otis was picked, pointing out to Nick that he’s Black. “Is that a problem?” Nick asks. Steve stares at Otis and ponders. “No. It’s good. Customers will love it.”
Otis makes his debut in the show to a solo performance of “On Broadway” and the women in attendance go wild. A regular patron named Denise (Juliette Lewis) sees Nick watching intently and approaches him, telling him how much she loves the place. Nick dismissed her, saying he’s working. We see that he is distracted by Otis, whose pants have just come off to reveal a thong. “God, I wish I had his body,” the emcee calls out. The women start grabbing at Otis, one of their hands even going into the bulge of his thong. The emcee mentions the “Kiss and Tip” and Otis suddenly finds his lips being smothered by a paying customer.
A bachelorette party is in the crowd that night, with the bride-to-be pulled up on stage for a lap dance from one of the men. Among the group is an uncomfortable woman named Irene (Annaleigh Ashford), who has caught Steve’s attention from his upper office. He goes downstairs when he sees Irene go to the bar and he makes small talk with the bartender Bobby (Darren Lipari), making it clear that he runs the show. Asking if she’s having a good time, Irene shares that it’s not her kind of place. “It’s not my kind of place either,” Steve laughs.
As another routine goes on behind them, Steve sits at the bar with Irene and joins her in drinking a Coke. Her eyes go wide with confusion as she watches Bobby fill a glass with ice and Steve asks her what’s wrong. She shares that she used to be a bartender and that, because the glass isn’t being filled to the rim with ice, Steve is likely spending an extra 50 cents in alcohol per Long Island Iced Team, which would be a monthly revenue loss of about $3,000. With Steve’s permission, she takes him behind the bar and explains that a high-volume bar would have ice scoops in two sizes, one for 12oz and another for 16oz drinks, which would increase the efficiency. As she talks about money, something about Irene becomes flirtatious and almost sensuous. “Ballpark, this one change would boost your annual bottom line somewhere in the low to mid six figures,” she says as she touches her fingers to her collar bone. “I’m an accountant,” she adds in a way that seems to suggest she’s asking Steve out. “We could use an accountant,” Steve replies, eyes full of adoration.
After the show, Nick goes to the locker room to give the dancers a few notes, but mostly to congratulate them. He then goes up to Otis and asks if he knows how to tango because he has an idea for another routine for him. Otis says he’s good at the tango before asking if the Kiss and Tip is mandatory. “Only if you want to get paid,” Nick replies. That night, we see Nick unable to sleep in his apartment. He gets up and puts on a record, dancing a tango with a dish rag in his hand.
The next day, Steve helps Irene move a desk into his office, her first day as Chippendales’ accountant. Otis knocks on Steve’s door to inform him that on his way in, he passed a group of women protesting the club outside. “I only phoned an hour ago,” Steve brags, revealing that he called the nearby Seventh-day Adventist Church to inform them about the sinful establishment. He picks up the phone and calls KCBS to tell them about the protests. Hanging up, Steve excitedly shares that they will make the 6:00 news. Otis is in awe, having just watched his boss save $6,500 in free advertising by making it a news story rather than paying for a 30-second spot. Otis shares that he studied business in college and, although he pursued an acting career, he would like to get back to a more stable job to support his wife and kids. He asks Steve if he can shadow him. “Sorry, I do not have time for a trainee,” Steve says. Otis asks if he can simply observe and Irene offers that she could use some help with the books. It’s her glance at Steve that makes him agree to let Otis help out with the business.
As that night’s performance ends, the emcee gives each dancer a momentary solo before sending them out to collect their final tips. “Everything you saw tonight only happens at Chippendales,” he concludes, adding that they don’t have to go home but they can’t stay there. Irene overhears a group of girls talk about going dancing at another club, giving her an idea. She suggests to Steve that, while men aren’t allowed in during the show, they could be invited afterward to a bar already full of horny women. Steve gets excited and they converse about how much it could boost their revenue. Steve leans forward and kisses Irene. “I hope I didn’t just overstep,” he says, suddenly embarrassed. Irene leans in and kisses Steve back.
A line of men cheer as the bouncer lets them into Chippendales after 10:00. The club stays packed as the party continues. Backstage, some of the women have been brought into the locker room to hookup with the dancers. Nick sees Otis moving through the crowd with a banker’s envelope and asks what he’s doing. He tells Nick that he’s helping Steve. Nick seems confused as he watches the star of his show head upstairs, meanwhile dismissing another one of Irene’s attempts to get close to him. Upstairs, Otis unintentionally interrupts a make out session between Steve and Irene when he goes to retrieve more singles for Bobby at the bar.
Steve takes Irene shopping at an Indian supermarket, ordering lunch for the two of them in Bengali. He talks about how the food is almost as good as his mothers and reveals that his father owns a printing press in India, a career he was supposed to accept. Irene has a similar story, with her father upset that she didn’t return home after college to work for the family’s aluminum siding business. She wanted to be an accountant in Hollywood and had a short stint at Warner Bros. before being let go and ending up at a landscaping business. “I just missed the glamour and excitement, and then Chippendales came along.” Irene reaches under the table to hold Steve’s hand, the pair blushing as they sip from their Coca-Cola bottles.
Otis debuts the new tango routine, becoming a bull fighter with a red cape as the other dancers charge at it. Off to the side, Irene and Steve have opened up a merchandise table. The girls go wild at the end of the routine and the emcee announces the start of the Kiss and Tip just as Otis dashes offstage. Nick rushes to the locker room to follow him, seeing Otis grab something from his locker and rush back out to the club. He is dumbfounded as Otis heads to the merch table and Steve announces that Otis is the guest cashier. With most of the women following Otis, it drives up business for merch. Nick pulls Steve aside, irate that he pulled his most profitable dancer away from the show to sell merchandise. Steve promises that it was just for this one night and also defends himself, saying that Otis is the one who wanted to help with the business. He says Otis wants to be “more than a dancer,” a comment that seems to really offend Nick.
Nick goes to the bar and asks Bobby for vodka. Denise takes the seat next to him and repeats the line she keeps approaching him with about how obsessed she is with the place. She says she sees it becoming a franchise, asking Nick if the club was his idea. “Let’s just say I took a lump of coal and turned it into a diamond,” he says, saying that he’s the director, producer, and choreographer. Denise asks if he has hiring authority, saying she feels like it’s fate that she work there. Nick is skeptical, especially after she reveals that she’s currently a medical receptionist, but she claims to be great at costume design and refers to the current costumes as being “generic and boring,” lacking the “wow factor” of the rest of the show. Nick laughs at her, but she takes him backstage and grabs one of the dancers, Ricky (Michael John Benzaia), away from his hookup to demonstrate something. Ricky models a pair of pants for Nick as Denise talks about how frustrating it is to get a strippers’ pants off, adding that it’s also not sexy when the men fumble with them during the show. “Pesenting break away pants,” she announces as Ricky rips them off in one fast pull.
Nick interrupts Steve and Irene as they take inventory of merchandise to introduce Denise and announce that he has hired her. Steve denies her employment, saying they can’t add another salary to the payroll. “Bring her on or I walk,” Nick says. “Is that a threat?” Steve asks. “It’s a promise,” Nick responds. Irene brings up the fact that they spend a lot on having the costumes cleaned and mended and that they could save money in the long run by bringing that job in house. “Only because it makes financial sense,” Steve agrees. Irene rushes over to Steve to thank him. “This is it, this is the team,” Irene gushes, feeling good about the four of them. Steve and Nick, however, are glaring at each other.
Welcome to Chippendales returns on Tuesday, November 29th with episode 3, titled “Velveeta.” Here is a description of the next episode.
While Steve is away in India, Nick cooks up his next creative triumph. But when Steve returns home, he has other plans for the show.