Culture / Media

Transparent Episode 7 Recap: Symbolic Exemplar

Ali and Syd are shopping for an outfit for Ali’s date with Dale. Ali is specifically looking for something that will qualify as high femme according to Dale’s preferences, but she has no idea what high femme looks like. Syd to the rescue! When Ali presents the first lacy option, Syd explains that it is not high-femme so much as “what you’re wearing when they find your body in a motel room.” Ali’s second option is not much better at “Holly Hobby femme.” Ali is very confused about what constitutes high femme, so Syd tries to give her a quick crash course. Syd explains that her own casual, low-maintenance look is low femme. When Ali asks what she is, Syd tells her that she’s “Middle Earth Femme.” “Like a hobbit?” Ali asks. “No,” explains Syd, “like people who live under the subway. Like Mole-People Femme.” You know you have a good friend when she is honest about your subterranean mammal tendencies.

Finally, Ali puts on a dress that they both seem to like. Syd does not, however, explain that the red dress with white polka dots that laces up the back is Srīrāmnagar Hee Haw Femme. Either that was a missed opportunity or someone forgot to send me the memo that Hee Haw was in style. But even if it is, just no.


Syd is very complimentary towards Ali and her “boobage” because the Hee Haw dress hikes up and pushes out all the goods. “You look hot as shit, Al,” and Ali applies her fire engine red lipstick as she admires her inner femme turned out. Flashback 1994

13-year-old Ali is very upset about the dress she has to wear to her Bat Mitzvah. She thinks it’s hideous, but Mort disagrees. He thinks it’s a beautiful dress. She’s not winning the fashion argument so Ali quickly switches gears and asks her father if he believes in God.

“That has nothing to do with your Bat Mitzvah,” which is hilarious and mostly true. These ceremonies are like Jewish sweet 16s except that we’re 13, and really it’s the perfect opportunity for the parents to relive their weddings but this time without any meddling from their own parents and with friends they wish they could have invited to their weddings in the first place. Ok, sure. God is a part of it, too. But no one cancels a Bar/Bat Mitzvah a week before show time because the kid is having doubts about God. That’s a lot of pickled herring gone to waste.

Mort admits that he does have conflicts with God and Judaism. “With the pain and suffering. I struggle with it.” Yeah? And so you say to your oppositional child who hates her dress, “All good Jews struggle. It’s part of being Jewish. So Mazel Tov! You’ll look beautiful in that dress. Now get out of here and practice your torah portion!” But that is not what Mort said.

Next we see Mort arguing with Shelly about canceling the Bat Mitzvah with the same commitment and passion (and dishonesty) that Tevye used to convince Golda that their daughter should marry the tailor Motel instead of the butcher. Jews, are you with me here? Gentiles and/or non-Fiddler watchers, I apologize for the Jewy reference. I didn’t mean to alienate. But would it kill you to watch Fiddler on the Roof one of these days? Would it?? Uch, as if I ask so much.

Where was I before my inner yenta forced her way out of my kishkes? Oh yes, we were discussing what should have happened but what didn’t happen because Mort was not interested in his daughters conflict with God. In fact, he was suddenly sure that there was a god – a god who would give him an excuse to go to the cross-dressing camp! So, he dug his heels in. Sure, Shelly kvetched about losing all the money they had deposited everywhere, and I’d detail all line items for you, but it gives me tsuris just thinking about it because our older son is becoming a Bar Mitzvah in December of 2016 – which may seem far away to some, but to those in the know, it’s practically tomorrow, and we haven’t done a thing or put down a single deposit, and oy vey! Why did I agree to recap this particular recap? It’s like a knife to my heart…my heart that I keep in my wallet.

After Shelly yells about all the money they’re losing, Mort asks her what she wants him to do about it, and she says, “I want you to be a man and save the goddam day!” And if he wasn’t sure before that moment, he was sure then that there was a god, and that god wanted Mort to be a woman and go to the goddam cross-dressing camp.

*         *         *         *         *

We’re back to modern day as Tammy is supervising the gentilification of Sarah’s childhood home. That’s right. Gentilification. When you make something that had a bit of personality and flavor -gentile. You’ll recall that all the books have been removed. All the wood and walls and everything that gave the house history and charm has been excavated to make space, to let the light into to this soulless, bookless, vapid house that Tammy made. Sarah comes home and wonders where the pony wall went, but Tammy doesn’t know what a pony wall is and says whatever it was “it is now going to be called the Open The Fuck Up Railing!” which doesn’t sound as charming as a pony wall, but ok, Tammy, it does look a lot brighter and spacious. You’ll forgive me if I’m having a difficult time with change.

Tammy reminds Sarah that they have a celebration weekend to look forward to now that their custody schedules align and they won’t have their kids. And Sarah reminds Tammy that they’ll also be going to the Trans Got Talent Show and is immediately distracted by an unearthed glove that happened to be Joshie’s Michael Jackson glove. She recalls how they all looked for it and he cried and how he used to do moonwalk shows for her before bed, and then she sees his old pirate treasure chest. “You weren’t going to throw this out, right?” But Tammy is still surveying the new space, and I know that she would have thrown out their found objects, their childhood memories, their connections to the past, and I am squinting at Tammy – partially because I think she would have thrown out all of Joshie’s things and partially because I’m not used to all that light.

*         *         *         *         *

Ali steps outside of the store ready for a Ho-Down, and by Ho, I mean, well, you probably get the picture. She strikes a pose in her fringe jacket and hoists up her leg and rests her booted foot on her satchel and waits for her cowboy.

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Dale arrives in his pick up truck and she throws her bag in the car and off they ride. And they ride. And they ride. “Wow, this is far,” says Ali. “Almost there, Little Lady,” says Dale, and I expect him to spit tobacco out the car door window, but he doesn’t. Eventually, they arrive, and Ali is not disappointed. The house is a life-size Lincoln Log cabin. The inside is just as rugged and manly with a Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign in the entryway, plaid curtains, and a television set out of 1974. The fire is going in the fireplace. Dale opens a beer. Ali start s to sit down. Ah…ah…ahhhh. Not so fast there, Little Lady. “Nobody said you could sit down.” And it’s going to be like that!

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But not yet.

*         *         *         *         *

Josh and Sarah are at Josh’s doctor’s office discussing how to complete the intake form so that Sarah can get medical marijuana without appearing suspicious. The doctor, a buddy of Josh’s, walks in. He looks like Josh’s brother from another mother with his curly Jewish locks and a nose you could sit on. It’s Dr. Fiscus from St. Elsewhere! And he’s here to distribute marijuana!

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Dr. Fiscus, or whatever his name is, runs through the symptoms that Sarah has claimed on her form. Anxiety. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. “Really?!? For such a a pretty lady? Such an upset tummy.” Sarah then displays diarrhea-of-the-mouth as well as from other orifici, speaking a mile a minute about her recent separation and trouble sleeping but being the happiest she’s ever been, and Doc is convinced. She walks out with a bag full-o-pot, which Josh says is not called ‘pot’ but ‘medicine.’ Pot, medicine. Corn, maize. S’all good.

Josh and Sarah are in the parking lot of the doctor’s office, and Sarah is smoking a joint. Josh brings up the talent show and asks why Sarah said that he was going to go. “How many fucking Little League games has he gone to you for you? How many hours has he wasted in his life? You can give him one.” Josh is not convinced. “That’s his job as a father. That’s what he’s supposed to do.” Come on, Sarah! Give it to him!! And we think she’s going to chew him a new asshole. “Oh my god!” Make him cry, Sarah! “I forgot how much I. Love. This! This is LEGAL? I have a BAG!!” So much for the telling off. Sarah offers Josh some medicine but he declines. “I’m trying not to pile fucked up on top of freaked out.” Good advice, Kids. Don’t get fucked up when you’re freaked out. Finally wise words from Josh.

*         *         *         *         *

Now we’re back to Cowboy Dale and k.d. lame.

Ali: What do you want me to do?

Dale: When you talk to me, I want you to say, “Daddy” at the end of it. Every fuckin’ time.

Ali: What do you want me to do….Daddy?

Dale: Hike up that skirt. Let me see those panties. Pull them down to your knees.

Ali: Daddy, normally I would object to the word panties.

Dale: Shut the fuck up! You talk too much.

Ali drops her panties and reveals a bush circa 1976.

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And when Dale asks what the fuck all that is, she says, “Big girls have bush, Daddy.” But Daddy is not having that.

*         *         *         *         *

We’re not going to see what exactly Daddy is having until we first cut away to Josh and Rabbi Raquel Fein at Josh’s house. Josh admits that he thought the rabbi would be wearing a yarmulke. She confirms that, in fact, she does not staple it to her head. She tells him that she doesn’t want to throw him off with too much Jewy-ness on their first date. But Josh is curious and wants to see her in uniform. She takes the yarumulke (or kippah) out and puts it on her head. “See? Not so sexy.” She takes it off and puts it on a few times to show him sexy vs. not as sexy, but Josh insists that it’s sexy either way. Good answer, Josh! And his answer gets him some kisses with tongue!

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*         *         *         *         *

Back on the farm, Cowboy Dale is shaving k.d. lame’s parts. While it’s not exactly what Ali had in mind she says it’s really hot. And with that, Dale tells her it’s time to go shopping. And now they’re in an adult store looking for dildos.

Ali: You wanna fuck me with a pink dick?

Dale: Nah. Needs balls.

Ali: How ’bout this realistic one?

Dale: Too veiny. You gotta let the dick choose you.

Guess it’s sort of like the sorting hat in Harry Potter, and it needs to tell you which dick you should house. Ali spies a red one across the shop and it’s got her name all over it. Sparkle Unicorn. Matches her lipstick.

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*         *         *         *         *

Josh and Rabbi Raquel are going at it. She goes to unbuckle his buckle, but Josh stops the proceedings. Seems he’s got a bit of trouble in the arousal department. Rabbi Raquel is very understanding and offers an explanation. “I have a fear I’m just going to name because I’m a namer. My mentor talked about how sometimes rabbis, anybody – priests – people project all their god shit on you so I’m just like a walking yarmulke and you can’t ever get a hard on.” But Josh insists that’s not the issue.

“No it’s not you. My father is my mother right now, and in my head I’m like basically afraid I’m never gonna get a hard on again – like ever. Tonight, my sister wants me to go to this talent show. Trans Talent. My dad’s gonna be in it. He’s gonna be wearing a fucking dress!”

Now, most people I know like Josh the least because they think that he is the most selfish and fucked up, and that may be true, but I can’t help but feel for him right now. Ok, he’s doesn’t for a second consider what Maura is going through, and he’s definitely got a lot of douche-bag moments, but he’s losing his father and questioning his identity as a result, and I think that’s probably pretty normal. And he likes Rabbi Raquel, and he gets points for that.

Rabbi Raquel offers to go to the show with him, but he says no because he’s not sure what he’s going to see let alone what kind of company he’s going to be. So Rabbi Raquel says she’ll wait for him in his house and whip up whatever she can to serve them for dinner.

*         *         *         *         *

We get a brief peek at rehearsal for Trans Got Talent and we see chairs that have been reserved for Pfeffermans.

Tammy and Sarah enter through a curtain in the back of the room. Sarah had some tokes of her medicine before she arrived, and she is feeling mighty happy. She sees Maura and yells for her. “ MOPPA WOPPA!!” Maura shushes her and shows her to the 5th row. Maura asks if Josh and Ali are coming, and she says that they are. Maura excuses herself to get into her “show garment.”

“Good luck!” Tammy says. Sarah laughs. She can’t stop laughing. Tammy asks her why she’s so giggly but before Sarah can respond, Maura pops out again.

“Actually, they don’t say good luck. They say break a leg – because if you say good luck, it’s bad luck.” Honestly who doesn’t know that? Tammy. That’s who.

“Well, break a leg then!” And a satisfied Maura leaves again to get ready.

“Show garment. How funny is she?” and Sarah hands her coat to Tammy and asks her to get her a drink. “You alright?” Tammy asks. “Yeah! This is GREAT!” Then Sarah spots Josh making his way through a sea of trans folk – Moses in the Trans Sea.

Ali has arrived, too. She’s apologizing to Dale for bringing him, but Dale reminds her that these are his peeps.

Sarah yells for Josh. “MY BRUTHUH!! OVAH HAAAAHHH!!”

Josh is less happy than Sarah and asks if she’s got some of that medicine. They find a room where they can self-medicate, and Ali soon joins them.

“What are you wearing?” asks Josh. “Are you in the show or something?” asks Sarah. And Ali explains that she’s dressed for a date and points out Cowboy Dale.

“He’s like a professor you guys. He might even be my TA. Oh, and he’s trans.”

“Wait, that dude wants to become a woman?” asks Josh. “That dude was a woman,” Ali says. Josh is stunned. “Did he have the lower surgery?” asks Sarah because that is what many people ask whether it’s appropriate or not. Josh says, “I just realized something. That means that 4 out of 5 Pfeffermans now prefer pussy.” At least he’s laughing about something. Must be the medicine.

The emcee comes on stage to get the audience pumped up. “When I say Trans Got, you say Talent!” And the audience plays along – all but Josh and Ali who both look hugely uncomfortable. We know that Josh is having his issues, but we are unsure if Ali is upset or just squirming around to get used to her groomed privates.

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The emcee introduces Davina and Maura. The lights go up, and the two of them look fabulous in their 60s bouffant wigs and black and white dresses. Please no ABBA. Nope! They’re singing Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know. The kids start laughing, uncontrollably, nervously. Dale asks Ali if she wants to get out of there, and she says yes.

They go into a restroom, and Dale asks what’s going on. Ali admits that she’s just really losing it in there. Dale does not take that as a cue to discuss her feelings or process what’s going on. Instead he asks if they should move back to a stall while he’s holding Sparkling Unicorn in his hand probably because he knows that getting fucked in the public bathroom really helps clear the mind. I get that. Reminds me of the time I felt a migraine coming on, but I had a bikini wax appointment. Well, I didn’t want to risk skipping the appointment and not being able to reschedule until a much later date. Unlike Ali, I don’t go for the Big Girl look. And wouldn’t you know that the waxing stopped that migraine dead in its tracks. So maybe, Ali needs to lighten up a little and just get fucked in the bathroom to take her mind off of her trans mom who apparently now looks exactly like her Aunt Lily.

Josh is not having it either and gets up to go.

Tammy asks Sarah where her family is, and Sarah gets defensive. Tammy accuses Sarah of being drunk. Sarah does not do herself any favors by spilling her drink on herself, so she gets up in a huff and leaves Tammy to watch the show on her own.

In the bathroom, Dale is trying to remove Sparkle Unicorn from the packaging. I’m thinking maybe you take Sparkle out before your outing so that you can give it a little wash prior to shoving it up there and then storing in a travel case for easy access.

toy case with combination lock

Isn’t a girl who makes all that effort to be your cowgirl worth a little planning ahead for your little head? But if he HAD thought aHEAD, we wouldn’t have my favorite scene of the episode.

Dale’s fighting with the packaging. “Who makes these freaking things?!?” Ali answers “I don’t know” just to say something.

Dale: Are you wet? (claws at packaging)

And with the energy of a slug, Ali answers, and we have to laugh.

Ali: Yeah. Yeah. Totally wet.

Dale: Yeah, you want this (now chewing at the corners of the plastic)?

Ali: Yeah. I do (said completely unconvincingly)

Dale: You’re gonna get it… (more chewing) … pull down those panties. What kind of company would make packaging like this?

Ali: Panties down.

Finally Dale sets Sparkle Unicorn free, but Ali quickly realizes that she might not be as wet as she pretended to be and suggests they use a little lube. Dale squeezes some some lube out on his hand and rubs it all over Sparkle Unicorn.

Dale: Oh, that’s good. You ready?

Ali: Uh huh.

And he squeezes Sparkle right out of his hand and launches it to the other side of the bathroom floor.

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Dale: Shit. I’m just going to wash it off.

Ali: mmm hmmm….ok…or maybe not.

Now we see the end of Davina and Maura’s number. “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know,” and we see Maura stare into the empty Reserved for Pfefferman chairs, and we are sad for her.

Josh is storming out of the theater and into the parking lot, and Sarah is calling after him. She tries to tell him that they shouldn’t leave and that she’ll be totally devastated, but Josh says he can’t be in there. Sarah asks for a ride home because Tammy is “like fucking being an ASSHOLE!” Josh spots Tammy’s truck and has a hissy because Tammy’s truck is filled with remnants from their house.

“That fucking bitch looked me in the eye and made me a promise!” but Sarah cannot stop laughing at him. “You think it’s funny? Back to fucking reality, Stonehenge!” and now I want to laugh, too. Josh yells some more about the fact that it’s not her house, and he gets in the car and makes his way to his old, new house.

*         *         *         *         *

“FUCK! YEAH!!! WOW!!” He is clearly upset by the gentilification.

Bianca is sitting on the sofa watching television. “What’s up?”

“DAMN! SHIT!! That bitch did all this?? All the fuckin’ wood is gone. All the fucking books are gone?? And look! We have a beautiful plasma television (that happens to be set to Dance Moms) instead of a fireplace because only a fucking moron caveman would light a fire in an actual fireplace. Now, we can watch a fire on TV!!

Bianca plays it cool and says, “Or you can sit down and we could watch normal TV. I’m packing a bowl. Do you want to join me?”

And he does.

*         *         *         *         *

At Josh’s house, Rabbi Raquel is alone at the dinner table. We are now very angry with Josh, and we don’t even care that he feels like he’s living in an alternate universe because Rabbi Raquel is a nice, Jewish girl who doesn’t deserve that, JOSH!

*         *         *         *         *

We see Josh and Bianca swimming around in the pool. Bianca splashes Josh and we immediately assume that something untoward is going to happen. No? Just me?

*         *         *         *         *

Davina is trying to get Maura to come out and have a drink with everyone, but Maura is too sad. Davina gives her the old, “I told you so,” but that doesn’t put Maura in a celebratory mood, go figure. And Davina says, “You’re spending a lot of time stuck on those, pardon my French, rude, fucking kids.” While she speaks the truth, Maura politely declines.

*         *         *         *         *

Tammy and Sarah get home and look for Josh. And then for Bianca. Tammy sees the pot on the coffee table and puts two and two together and heads to the pool.

Oh shit! What are we all going to see??

“What the FUCK is going on down there?!?” screams Tammy. “Bianca, get the FUCK outta the pool!” and she marches into the house. Sarah walks out on to the deck and gives Josh the disappointed, shrugging hands sign – disappointed but unsurprised at his behavior.

*         *         *         *         *

Dale is driving Ali back to his house. “Chaser? What does that even mean a chaser?” And Dale tells her that there are those people who like trans people because they are trans. Ali acts all insulted to hide the fact that she’s been caught unknowingly chasing. She suddenly feels suffocated in her push up bra and rips at her dress and undergarment until she breaks free and hurls the bra out of the car. Obvious but effective.

*         *         *         *         *

Maura is also driving home, her wig in the back seat. But home is where the heart is, and Maura ends up at Shelly’s door. There are no words – only sad, knowing looks, and Shelly tenderly embraces Maura, and we are relieved that Maura can at least count on Shelly even if she didn’t go to the Trans Got Talent show – where she probably would have gotten stoned and left early, too.

*         *         *         *         *

Dale pulls up to his house which has through some sort of magic transformed into a charming, well-appointed bungalow having no trace of the manly log cabin Ali had clearly imagined when she was a chaser. Tasteful artwork on the walls, candles set up in the fireplace, Dale standing in the corner of his kitchen with a tea kettle in his hand. “Want some tea?” he asks, but Ali is too dumbfounded to answer.

And scene!

Tune in next time when we find out if Maura tells her kids what they need to hear. If Rabbi Raquel tells Josh what he needs to hear. Or if anyone finally gets any!


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  1. What a selfish lot this group is. Every last one. Yuck! Especially Joshy. Ewwww! I like your recaps better than the episodes sometimes , especially this one. Mazels on the upcoming Mitzvah. I’m so confused why the TA guys place was like a northwoods flannel lodge and then at the end ot wasn’t . Oh well… On to ep 8.

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      Thanks for the Mazels!! And yes, Joshy definitely seems to be a contender for Most Yucky Character. I will admit that I do feel for him. I’m cautiously optimistic that he has potential to be a mensch…with the help of a seriously good therapist of course. Let’s compare notes when you’re finished with the season!

  2. Sorry I just read.. She probs imagined it as a chaser.

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