Culture / Media

Transparent Episode 6 Recap: Get in This Whirlpool

The episode opens at Shangri-La where Josh comes to meet his Moppa Maura. He walks up the steps and passes a couple of senior trans ladies who invite him to spend some time with them. He ignores their offer and knocks on Maura’s door.

“Hi Puppy,” says Maura giving him a welcome hug. I play this scene back three times to make sure I hear that correctly only because I can’t quite accept that Josh could be anyone’s puppy. A meerkat or wombat, perhaps, but a puppy?

wombat meerkat

Josh tells Maura that he doesn’t work at the record label anymore and that he really needs to get out of his comfort zone anyway and have his own label. Here’s a label for you, Josh: Schlemiel. Sad Sack. Or how about Knob?

Josh suggests that after Maura sells her house, she can invest in his new record label, and Maura says she will give him money but tells Josh not to tell his siblings.

Then Maura asks Josh if his sisters talked with him about what’s going on with her. “Yeah. They kinda made it seem like you were parading around town in a dress, but you look totally normal.”

Ouch.

Maura prompts Josh to ask any question he might have or make any comment he needs to make so that they can process Maura’s new identity.

“I get it. Whatever people want to do behind closed doors – that’s their business.” Maura takes her long hair out of her pony tail holder and sweeps her long silver locks to the front of her shoulders, and as it spills delicately on to her chest in an act of liberation and beauty, and Josh excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 12.32.25 AMOn the way to the bathroom, Josh passes Maura’s bedroom where he discovers a collection of wigs set on top of mannequin heads waiting their turn on Maura’s keppie (that’s Yiddish for ‘head’). He surveys the top of the vanity, scans over all the make up and stares into the mirror as if he’s saying, “Who am I if I once was the son to the father who is now a woman who is not my mother?” And also, “I could really go for some cereal right now.”

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Ali and Josh and Sarah are hanging out on the playground comparing notes about Moppa. Josh is clearly having the most difficult time with Maura’s new identity. “I think Dad’s losing his mind,” he shares. “I went online and looked up his symptoms the first sign of dementia is a change of personality. He’s got to be the center of attention, and you guys think it’s real.”

Ali says it’s definitely real.

Josh: What does this mean? Everything Dad has said and done before this very moment is a sham? Like he was acting the whole time?

By George, I think he’s got it!

Ali: It just means we all have to start over, which is why I am going back to school.

Josh: Here we go!

Sarah: Ali’s got an interest.

Josh: Oh yeah, she’s gonna sign up –

Sarah: Only Dad’s gonna pay the registration fee…

Josh: She’s gonna buy some books…

Sarah: …And Dad’s gonna get her some school shoes, and Dad’s gotta buy some clothes…

Josh and Sarah then reminisce about that one time when Dad bought Ali her loom. “Loom, LOOM, LOOOOOOOOM!” they chant at Ali just before chucking a dodge ball at her.

And I love this kind of taunting that only siblings can do so effectively, and I feel them all suddenly become small children before my very eyes. Ali sits inside the jungle gym, caged while she silently eats her frozen yogurt on a stick, rendered completely silent by her cruel but painfully correct brother and sister.

“You’re back on dairy!” says Josh, which is the perfect last line of the scene.

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1994 Flashback

Shelly looks out the window with a glass of white wine in her hands.

“We make gorgeous children,” she says to Mort who is stretched out on the sofa reading. “We do,” he agrees. Shelly delivers a glass of single malt to Mort and she sits herself down next to him, draping a leg around his, already a little buzzed, reminding him that it’s Sexy Sunday.

“Can we try something different?” asks Mort

“Oh God! Don’t tell me it’s the cock ring again.” And here I have a contender for the best line of the episode, and I make a note of it.

It’s not the cock ring again.

Mort tells Shelly that he read about these guys in Esquire who wear their wives’ underpants and when they do, they become suddenly 18 again. At first Shelly laughs incredulously, but she sees how earnest Mort is about the underpants, a word that makes me laugh every time I hear it. They giggle and kiss and Shelly is clearly up for whatever Mort throws at her, minx that she is.

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Ali is with Maura telling her all about the Women’s Studies and Gender Studies program she wants to pursue.

“All thanks to you, so thank you!”

“Because I’m a renown scholar and academic?” asks Maura. “Just say yes.”

“Yes!”

Mort invites Ali to sit beside her, and she plays with Ali’s hair and says, “I saw so much of myself in you when you were just growing up and experimenting in your gender confusion.” Ali is confused by this story of confusion. Mort continues, “You were such a tomboy – neither here nor there. Some people say it runs in the blood.” Ali is uncomfortable with this game and changes the subject – to money. Maura agrees to help with tuition and asks that Ali not tell Josh or Sarah. Ah, secrets and lies. Always a fantastic way to make your children love you the most while you try to convince them that you love them the most. Maura uses her faux favoritism as poker chips she cashes in when necessary.

“You know I’m doing my LGBT Trans Got Talent? You said you were going to check your calendar. Can you come?” Ali replies with an unconvincing yes, but we feel like tuition paid for her answer.

Personally, I think it’s probably best to just let your children know which one is your favorite and who will be receiving the lion’s share of the inheritance. They might as well make plans for their eventual windfall or lack thereof and not be surprised later. You too?

–           –           –           –           –           –

Sarah and Tammy prepare the kids for Maura’s visit. Sarah wants to make sure that the kids understand that Grandpa is now a woman, and her explanation goes pretty well. She uses a teddy bear as a model and asks the kids how they know if it’s a boy or a girl.

Grace asks if the bear has a vagina, but Zack says that he doesn’t see anything but hair. No! Not butt hair! Nothing BUT hair. Shees. So that means the bear is either an ungroomed hippy girl bear of the 70s or a boy bear with a buried penis. It’s a thing. I looked it up. Or just a toy that makes for a bad model to use when teaching children about gender constructs.

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Sarah goes on to explain that a person can change your gender, and Grace asks if Grandpa is magic.

“Yes! She’s magic!” Sarah answers relieved with such a simple answer. Tammy gives her a critical but encouraging look and says, “You need to steer the ship,” which I love. Sarah follow up with, “Ok, it’s not really magic. Anyone really can do it,” which is not much better. Tammy adds that it’s not that easy and that it’s kind hard and you can’t go back, but before she goes down a path that will also prove too difficult to go back, we cut to Syd and Ali at the back of a lecture hall.

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This is a great scene where the feminist academic gets to espouse all sorts of bat-shit crazy ideas to a captive audience beginning with “…cause women bled without dying, and men were frightened, and thus story was invented. A hero’s journey was the only way out of that fear. Why is she bleeding and not dying? It was a very short journey to PAP smears from there.” And while it’s difficult to follow the professor from Period to Pap smear, I can’t help but recall Blue Lagoon. You too? Brooke Shields was pretty freaked out when she got her period, too, and did her best to hide her hemorrhaging vagina from Christopher Atkins. Periods are scary! So many valuable lessons about love and insights into human nature in Blue Lagoon.

PHOTO CREDIT: COLUMBIA PICTURES

PHOTO CREDIT: COLUMBIA PICTURES

Ali can’t believe that Syd fucked the teacher, and Syd reminds her that they lived together for six months. We then here the professor explaining that “exclamation points which are in and of themselves small rapes the way an exclamation point might end a sentence and says STOP. TALKING. WOMAN.” But there’s no time to laugh because Syd leans over to Ali and asks, “Have you every been raped by an exclamation point?” and Ali says, “Actually, once I was gang raped by a question mark, exclamation point and a semi-colon.” And we’re not supposed to laugh because well, rape, but we can’t help it because apparently punctuation rape is just plain funny. Period. Wait, period? – that’s scary. I take that back. Punctuation rape is just plain funny – exclamation point!

After the academic feminist is finished talking at the class about the patriarchy of punctuation, Syd introduces Ali to her. Then, she meets the TA who is not Paul Bunyon, bearded and flannelled, as Ali first suspects, but trans man Dale. She makes small talk … about flannel.

Ali: I like your shirt.

Dale: Thanks. Flannel.

Ali. Flannel…so, versatile.

Ali is fascinated by Dale and wants to know all about him, but it may be that she is more than just curious from a research angle.

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Outside of the lecture hall, Ali asks Dale a bunch of questions and wants to know if she can interview him. Dale is confused by Ali, picking up on the fact that she may have absolutely no experience with queers and asks if she isn’t a dyke. Ali says that she is not a dyke…but politically she’s basically a lesbian but she’s “…really into dudes. Dude, dude, dude-ley dude dudes. The dude-lier, the better.” I love Ali’s awkward fumbling for words and I can’t help but feel for her. Ali then asks Dale if he’s into dudes, but Dale is into women, femme women, high-femme women, and we see Ali picturing herself a high-femme gal for her new trans man friend.

1994 Flashback

Maura and her friend Marcie are at a hotel, walking down a hall with an ice bucket in full lady-gear, giggling. They see a man walking towards them and they panic. Trying to act natural, Maura asks the man where the icemaker is. He points them in the right direction, and they run down the hall laughing with relief that they were able to communicate with a stranger without incident.

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At dinner, Maura and Marcie look through a brochure for Camp Camellia, a sleep away camp for cross-dressers. Maura reads all the highlights: a beauty pageant, a workshop called Nails – A Celebration, a beard covering seminar, and a tea dance. Maura thinks it sounds like so much fun, but Marcie doesn’t know how she could ever get away for another weekend. The server delivers their Caesar salads. “Enjoy, Ladies!” she says, and the girls are overjoyed to be treated like Ladies.

“Ah SHIT!” says Maura when she looks at the camp dates. “It’s my daughter’s fucking Bat Mitzvah!” A Bat Mitzvah date is non-negotiable – even more immovable than a wedding date because in addition to having booked the venue and caterers and DJ and chocolate fountain, a young Jewish student studies all year a particular part of the Torah and chants specific portions and often gives a speech about that portion, and the date is the date! “Goddammit!” she says because it is, in fact, all God’s fault.

–           –           –           –           –           –

Josh is eating cereal and logging on to his computer. We know from previous episodes that he has a special relationship with cereal. He searches for “transvestite” and clicks on the LIVE STREAMING vertical banner ad on the side of the screen.

“Hi Handsome,” a blonde trans woman on the screen says to Josh. “How big is your cock?”

Josh is not interested in sharing metrics that would divulge the bulge. Even though he tries to tell her that he just wants to ask her some questions, she persists. “You want to be straight up my ass?” she asks. Josh does not want to be straight up her ass and instead asks when she knew that she was trans. She assumes that Josh is considering the same path for himself, so she asks him if likes to dress up in women’s clothes. And then when she asks if he wants her to fuck him, well he’s done. He closes the laptop and eats more cereal.

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–           –           –           –           –           –

Maura arrives with her friend Davina at Sarah’s house in a flowing kaftan bearing flowers for the hosts.

Tammy wishes them both a Shabbat Shalom and shows them around the newly gutted first floor.

“Oh you kept some of the books!” Maura notices. Tammy says, “I love books…as a design element.” And then I hear my mother hissing “goyisha kup!” which is her way of saying that gentiles don’t read. Of course some of my best friends are gentiles who read, but my mother is very loud.

Davina comments on the size of the television, which Tammy explains is perfect for movie night with the kids. Bianca appears, and Sarah introduces her around and then Grace tells Maura that Mommy told her she was magic. Sarah tries to explain that she was only trying to explain, and Dad absolves her with an understanding nod.

“Drinks?” Tammy asks to break up the tension. “Gentiles love to drink,” says my mother in my head only adding to the tension. “I wouldn’t mind a bourbon,” I say to myself.

–           –           –           –           –           –

We see Rabbi Raquel delivering a Friday night sermon in synagogue. She sees that Josh has come in while she’s talking about the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. Josh is probably thinking that he’d like to see her Promised Land – cause he’d like to live somewhere where there is plenty of milk and honey for his cereal.

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Sarah asks that all cell phones be put away now that the sun has gone down. On Shabbat, observant Jews do not use electronics of any kind. They don’t work or write or even rip paper. I had a religious roommate in college who pre-ripped her toilet paper. I was always nervous for her that she might not pre-rip enough. What if someone slipped her some high-fiber challah? With raisins in it, no less?!? Oy.

Maura is impressed with Sarah’s commitment to Jewish ritual and the celebration of Shabbat. Sarah tells her that Tammy and she have been working on keeping Friday night dinners. Tammy read about it in Real Simple, and it makes me laugh because sometimes I think Tammy is real simple.

Sarah invites Maura to light the candles. Davina wants to help, but Sarah explains that it is the mother’s job to light the Shabbat candles, and Maura does the honors and wishes everyone a Happy Shabbos.

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Rabbi Raquel is finished sermonizing, and she makes her way to Josh. “Josh Pfeferman! What the Pfef are you doing here? In a suit??” Josh tells her that he wanted to show her that he’s not usually drunk and crazy, and he wants to see what she’s doing there. Rabbi Raquel asks after Ed and the family, and eventually she takes Josh on a tour of the synagogue. She escorts him into a room with an old mikvah that the synagogue hopes to restore. A mikvah is like a Jewish hot tub except that the water is warm, not bubbling hot, and you immerse yourself as a form of ritual purification, not to get down and dirty. This mikvah is empty, and Josh asks if he can get in there, the mikvah that is.

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Maura announces to the family that Davina and she will be performing a duet at the LGBT Center at Trans Got Talent. (Please don’t let it be ABBA, I say to myself.) Maura asks that Sarah bring Josh cause he’s so weird in this whole area, and he needs all three of his babies close … close …. close. Sarah promised to get him there.

–           –           –           –           –           –

Josh and Rabbi sitting in a mikvah, K-I-S-S-I-N…Geee-yah.

Josh asks Rabbi Raquel about personal stuff, and she admits that she came close to marriage. She ended up wasting maybe her last good years on the wrong person. Josh doesn’t get what she means at first, so she has to explain that her eggs are dying. “Right now,” she tells him, “I’ve got crunchy, crispy, old lady eggs.” But Josh bets that her eggs “are super moist.” Now, I know that everyone wigs out at the word moist. I don’t have a problem with the word moist – unlike the word pustule. Ew. But I do have a problem with referring to eggs as moist. Plump and ripe, perhaps. Fecund even, but not moist. “I bet you say that to all the ladies,” says Rabbi Raquel, and we leave them sitting in the drained mikvah, smitten with each other, as we pay another call on Shabbat dinner.

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Len arrives to collect the children. Sarah and Len argue about the agreed time of pick up. Len offers to show the text where they agreed 7PM and not 8PM, but then Bianca reminds them all of the no cell phone rule. Sarah introduces Len to Bianca and then to Davina. “And you know Tammy.” “Good Shabbos, Leonard,” adds Maura.

Len: Hi, Mort.

Maura: Maura.

Len: Beg your pardon?

Maura: I’m going by Maura now.

Len: I’m sorry?

Maura: Maura.

Len: Wow.

Len is overwhelmed and completely freaked out by the Twilight Zone scene he just walked into.

Maura invites Len to sit and join them, but Len declines and stands straighter and stiffer, and I think he might crack. Sarah informs Len that Zack has a cold, and Len loses it.

“Did someone give you a cold?!? Someone in this room give you a cold?? Did SHE give you a cold (pointing to Tammy)?!? Just curious who started the cold. When I dropped him off, he was completely healthy!!”

Maura tries to redirect. “Would you like some raisin challah? It’s very good.” But Maura’s attempt to diffuse the situation only makes things worse.

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Len: I’m so sorry. I’m about to get into a car with two small children and I would like to know what to do. THEY know about all THIS? Just want to get the terminology straight. Are we talking about Grandpa Mort? Grandma Mort? What is it exactly cause we had said that we wouldn’t do THIS until we had talked to the kids.

Now, I’m going to give Len a point here because I wouldn’t be happy about my ex-wife taking it upon herself to talk to the kids about something we agreed to handle together. It’s Sarah’s dad, however, and the situation required a timely conversation, but I feel for Len anyway. And then…

Sarah: Tammy and I did talk to the kids.

Len: TAMMY and you talked to the kids? YOU and TAMMY? I’m sure that confused them even more!

Tammy: Believe me, we did not talk about anything beyond their own understanding, ok?

Len: Beyond their understanding?!? Tammy, I don’t understand this!!

Sarah: Oh, there’s that tone.

Len: It’s my TONE?? That’s what it is?? This is al great, but it’s my tone?!? The register of my vocal chords – that’s what’s confusing everyone? Cause I can change my tone! I can talk like this…(change of register to Mickey Mouse on Crack) – I can talk like a lady – ok would you ladies be more comfortable if you all lived in an all-female planet? Maybe you could sail off in a uterus shaped space ship…

Wait. Let me drink that in for a minute.

Ok, continue.

Tammy: Sounds like a good idea to me.

Len grabs a knife and continues as rageful Mickey: I could cut my dick off. That would make it easier for everyone. I could be a girl, too.

Tammy urges Leonard to put the knife down and then Maura makes a speech apologizing for causing all the fuss and not speaking with him earlier and then inviting him to “join the whirlpool or get out,” and I’m pretty sure she’s not talking about a mikvah though that would probably a good place for Leonard to cool off.

Len pus down the knife and his voice resumes to his naturally lower register, and he collects himself. “Sorry about he knife. Good Shabbos.” And just like that, he’s gone.

Sarah and Maura smoke some ciggie butts out by the pool. Sarah hopes that she’s not ruining the kids with all the crazy stuff. Maura asks if she remembers their family’s crazy stuff, and she says that it’s all blended in with the good stuff. Maura is pleased that she remembers the good stuff, and as a reward for remembering the good and under the auspices of providing a safe haven, Maura offers the house to Sarah and Tammy.

“Don’t tell Josh or Ali.”

–           –           –           –           –           –

Favorite line: Much as I enjoyed the uterus shaped space ship, I had to go with “Exclamation points are in and of themselves small rapes the way an exclamation point might end a sentence and says STOP! TALKING! WOMAN!” because I went to an all wimmin’s college, and I was transported – but this time with a sense of humor !Exclamation Point!

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