Culture / Media

Transparent Recap Episode 8: Best New Girl

It’s 1994 and Mort is packing up the car to attend a conference. Shelly is upset because she knows very well that there’s no such thing as a surprise conference. Ah, but Mort is a smart person with all the answers. He explains that it’s not a surprise conference but there is a surprise speaker who came back from Russia a week early. He had access to pre-1952 Communist archives and has this theory about the Rosenbergs.

“Oy, the Rosenbergs,” says Shelly because the Rosenbergs were like the Madoffs of their time–criminals and an embarrassment and a shame to the Jews. And there’s nothing you can really say about them other than, “Oy.” Such a shonda. And what an artful ruse, Mort.

Mort tells Shelly to just enjoy the time, but Shelly reminds him that she can’t even go into the village thanks to Ali who canceled her Bat Mitzvah at the last minute, and she’d have to “explain and explain and explain” to all the villagers. That’s when she should whip out the Rosenbergs as in, “It could be worse. We could be the Rosenbergs. Oy.”

Shelly chats with her sister Judy on the phone. After the call, she hands pizza money to Sarah and tells her to watch the kids while she “helps Judy with her back.” She might stay over night, she tells them. That’s one bad back.

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Maura and Marcy have arrived at Camp Camellia. They are giddy watching all the cross-dressers walk along the road they’re taking into camp. “Mark, we’re mother-effin’ here,” says Maura with wonder and joy in her eyes.

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Shelly and Aunt Judy are nursing their white wines while Shelly vents, “500 calls and electronic mails went out announcing that a 13-year-old is now making the major decisions around here.”

“It’s like you do-si-do, you turn around, and your dance partner’s not there,” Judy empathizes and refers to Mort’s absence on many previous occasions. She asks if the two of them have gone to couple’s counseling to which Shelly says, “I am not throwing money at a PhD who tells me that I have to give my husband more oral sex.” The line is funny, but the delivery is makes the line. Gotta love Judith Light. She adds much needed comedy to an otherwise heavy show. Brilliant but heavy. I always look forward to her scenes.

Then Shelly goes on to confess that Mort likes to wear her underpants during sex. Judy needs clarification because she’s having a difficult time wrapping her head around his head wrapped in underpants. Shelly explains through her laughter, “He stuffed himself into my underpants. It was the biggest camel toe I’ve ever seen!”

Shelly also mentions that Eddie Paskowitz (her eventual 2nd husband) has been inviting her to his place. Judy thinks Shelly should treat herself as well as Mort treats himself.

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Maura and Marcy sign in for the welcome dance looking lovely and festive. The music gets louder as we watch them join all the other ladies dancing to “A E I O U”…U….and sometimes Y … WHY must they play that song? Now it’s stuck in my head. Interesting to note, however, that according to scientific evidence the top ear worms do not include IOU but are as follows:

  1. Spice Girls – Wannabe
  2. Lou Bega – Mambo No 5
  3. Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
  4. Lady Gaga – Just Dance
  5. ABBA – SOS
  6. Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman
  7. Michael Jackson – Beat It
  8. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
  9. The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
  10. Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

How many did you sing?

Some veteran attendees approach Marcy and Maura and talk about how much things have improved since the previous year. They now have hot water and professional servers. Apparently the servers the year before ran as cold as the water. “They had those girls from the Lutheran school down the road, and they wouldn’t look us in the eye! It was horrible!” “Girls can be such mean little twats.” I have to laugh at the word twat because it just doesn’t roll off the tongue like twat should. Now, in the UK, the word is pronounced with a short “a” and rhymes with cat. I find twat like cat much more pleasant to the tongue than twat like pot. Just my own two cents or two pence as the case may be. Which twat feels better on your tongue?

One of the ladies named Jackie turns to kiss a non-cross-dressed, cis woman who is Jackie’s wife, Connie.

Maura comments that she didn’t realize that wives were welcome, and Connie says that wives are more tolerated than welcome. “And the wives have a Bill of Rights. You can not borrow our clothes without asking first.” I wait to hear what else might be in the Bill of Rights because I imagine it looks similar to the Bill of Rights for lesbian couples. I get twitchy when Gabriella wears my shoes because her feet are wider than mine, and she stretches out my shoes. Shoes should be off limits. And most of us in lady couples prefer not to dress alike. We are lesbians not twinsies! But Connie does not have any other rights to share, which is a disappointment.

The music plays on. Bedazzled boys boogie. Liberated lads let go. Frocked fellows freak out. Dolled up dudes dance. And Maura thinks she’s in Heaven…but is she?

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13-year-old Ali is in the kitchen when Josh comes in and tells her that Sarah is taking off. Sarah confirms that she will not be minding the children because she was invited to a really cool protest “against abusive labor practices for fruit pickers and stuff.” She can’t sit at home while people are changing the world. Also, she tells the kids, “it’s depressing here–no offense.”

Sarah puts Josh in charge of his twin, which Ali seems to accept, not that it matters because no sooner is Sarah out the door than Rita appears to pick up Josh and take him away to her Amazonian village where the women hunt with bows and arrows and the men do their bidding. Rita is Amazonian pretty–much like Maura. So, Josh may be dating the woman he intuitively knows his father to be. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, of course.

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Ali lets Josh know that she is disgusted by their coupling, but Josh fires back with “You’re pathetic!” which is a generic diss that serves to end a conversation without speaking to anything in particular. I wish Ali could come back with something equally as juvenile like “Did you know that when you were born, they had to remove your tail?” or “You’re not really my twin. Our parents adopted you from the Rosenbergs,” but she is only thirteen, and she will suffer from many years of if-only-I-had-saids.

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Maura and Marcy are out for an afternoon bike ride. They head to the pay phone where Marcy decides to call home and check in. She puts on her best manly dude voice and talks a good game about identifying sales prospects. Then, he asks to speak with his son, Kevin. “Hey, Man!…That’s awesome!!….Coach didn’t say a word? Cause he’s a douche bag. Look, Buddy, you gotta man up. Can’t take that crap. Ok, love you.” All the while Maura tries to connect the girl in the denim mini dress with the Neanderthal on the phone. Maura decides not to call home until tomorrow most likely because she doesn’t want Marcy to know that even as a man, she wouldn’t ever be such a dick.

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Ali is left alone at home. Luckily she’s there to explain to the cute, androgynous bartender who clearly didn’t get the memo that the Bat Mitzvah was canceled. Thank you, Jill Soloway, for casting gender non-conforming supporting actors and keeping us smiling!

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Back at camp, the ladies are taking photos of each other and helping themselves to picnic buffet fare. Jackie tells the tale of Raul who “went all the way” and changed her name from Raul to Ramona. “She had the nerve to bring hormones to cross-dressing camp!” Marcy agrees that she crossed the line. Maura asks if Ramona was banned, but all they know is that Ramona never came back. “Good riddance” is echoed around the table, and Jackie adds, “We’re cross-dressers, but we’re still men!” And they all raise a glass to Marcy’s toast “To men in skirts!” Maura is clearly upset, an outcast in the one place where she thought she’d fit in. Maybe this isn’t Heaven, after all.

Next we see more lady activity–tennis, croquet, long walks and then we see Marcy and Maura sitting outside of their cabin in Adirondack chairs. Connie approaches and Maura confesses to Marcy that she likes Connie. Connie suggests that they go check out the lake, but Maura says they don’t do lake. “Why, do you have your period?” she asks, and Maura laughs a coquettish laugh.

Connie tells the girls that Jackie is playing endless games of Mah Jongg and Maura tells her to join them. “I could never get Shelly to come here. She just wants to go to diet camp.” Marcy adds that her wife would chuck her in the loony bin. “Our wives are not like you,” and Marcy lights a cigarette. Connie admits that she wasn’t always like she is.

Maura wants to know more about Ramona and asks if Connie knew her. Connie misses Ramona, and Maura is saddened by the whole affair. Marcy reminds her that’s not what this place is for. Maura asks what this place is for then, and Marcy explains that cross-dressing camp is for expressing your femininity. Transvestites are not transsexuals! Never the twain shall meet. They should be in a different place.

And there’s the lesson for the day, children. Cross-dressing has nothing to do with sexuality or even challenging gender roles. The only thing cross-dressers at cross-dressing camp do is cross-dress.

“I don’t agree,” Maura says. “We agree to disagree,” Marcy says dismissing Maura. Connie tries to lighten the mood. “You made her sad,” she says to Marcy. “Doesn’t it make you sad?” Maura asks her. Connie is a little sad but suggests that alcohol is great for sadness.

Even in 1994, we knew that alcohol was a depressant, Connie. The active ingredient in spirits is ethanol, which is a central nervous system depressant.This PSA was brought to you by Mom Writing Recaps. Sorry.

Marcy says the bar is closed, but Maura tells her as if in code “we have some al – key – hawl in our ca-BEENE.” I think Maura is trying to communicate! What is it Maura? Timmy has fallen down a well? No? Huh. 

Marcy reminds them that the pageant is in an hour, but Maura and Connie assure her that’s plenty of time for one…no two…no three…maybe four drinks. That’s a lot of ethanol, ladies.

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Jules the barkeep wants to know how Ali got out of her Bat Mitzvah. Ali tells her that she didn’t think she could memorize it all, so she said she didn’t believe in God, and her parents canceled it.

“Are you kidding me? NO ONE does that! A lot of people would have just done it for the cash. You’re a bad ass.”

That’s lesson number 2, kids. No one cancels a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. There’s cash to be had. Moral of the story: Bad asses are cool but Bar/Bat Mitzvah kids are loaded.

Jules doesn’t understand how kids can get up in front of all those people and sing, which prompts Ali to start singing her haftorah (the part of the torah that she’s assigned). She jumps on furniture while she chants Hebrew with complete conviction and feeling. She totally rocks it and Jules provides deserved applause. “OhmyfuckingGod that was brilliant! I have no idea what you just said, but I’m totally transformed.” “Oh well,” says Ali. But they do not do the horah together.

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Sarah is on a bus pushing some sleeping guy off her shoulder. We see a dimpled dyke a few seats in front of her laughing at her misfortune. When she makes eye contact, she gives Sarah the international lesbian sign for “Fair maiden, there is an available seat right next to me. Would you care to join me for the remainder of this journey?” which is quick head jerk to the side in understood beckoning. Her name is Cindy.

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In another vehicle, Amazonian Rita is driving while Josh makes puppy dog eyes at her. He hooks his finger around hers.

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Ali gets out of a van and thanks Jules for the ride. She’s now at the beach. We see her walk by the shore and lie in the sand. She sees a remote control plane and follows it to the remote, which is in the hands of a mutton chopped young man in overalls sitting on the back of his truck. I should know what that part of the truck is called, shouldn’t I? Well, I’m not that kind of lesbian. Back of the truck it is.

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It’s been a while since I’ve been in the presence of a man in dungarees, and so I don’t know what to make of him. A middle-aged, Jewish girl from the Midwest like me reads hillbilly, but maybe he’s more rockabilly. I am all too aware that I am not fluent in hip or cool or Californian, so I apologize if my suburban mom lens is misreading.

Ali may be afraid to chant torah, but she’s pretty confident with strange men in trucks flying model planes. She opens with a line about not being able to tell how big something is from far away, which is another way of saying, “Is that a remote control in your hands or are you just glad to see me?” Then she delivers a compliment. “I thought your plane was real.” He chuckles, but she insists that she did. But her flattery gets her nowhere. She asks to fly his plane, but he refuses because it cost $300.

An Nabk Ali: That’s dumb.

Meudon Chops (whose name is Patrick on the show but no one calls him by his name, so…): Maybe you’re dumb.

Ali: Maybe you’re too old to play with toys.

Chops: Oh and you’re not?

Ali: I’m 17.

Uh oh, Ali. We don’t know if Chops is decent or Deliverance. If you hear banjo music, RUN!


Ali jumps on that back part of the truck and sits next to him. She asks again to fly his plane. He reiterates that she may not but that she can have a beer. “I love beer,” she says as she helps herself. He watches her with curiosity. Or does he just smell something funny? Hard to tell.

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Maura and Connie are feeling no pain but Marcy is increasingly annoyed. Marcy wants to go to the pageant instead of sitting around drinking with Connie, but Maura is infatuated.

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Connie tells them that she had a nervous breakdown before Jackie came out as a cross-dresser. She was screaming in the front yard, and the neighbors were laughing and loving it because “Jack does really well, and they’re envious.” Then she apologizes as she peels off the wet bathing suit from under her sundress. “Gotta air it out – doesn’t it feel good?” Maura is besotted with panty-less Connie. Maura tells her that she looks like an Italian movie star. Marcy is not enjoying the party. Peccato.

For the next few minutes, we toggle back and forth between Maura, Connie, and Marcy and Chops and Ali. Tube Sock Tango by Mucca Pazza is playing on the radio in the cabin, and the song follows us from scene to scene.

ALI & CHOPS walk under a bridge on the beach and circle each other as if engaged in a dance of their own.

CONNIE & MAURA dance and whisper. “You’re so beautiful,” says CONNIE, and it’s more like they’re on ecstasy than a martini buzz. MARCY tells them to get a room and then realizes they’re in her room. She wants to get out of there and go to the pageant, but MAURA says they’ll go after a drink. MARCY is visibly annoyed like a petulant child. MAURA reacts with “What are you, my wife?!?” Maura is clearly trying to break away from more than her assigned gender.

ALI & CHOPS wrestle in the sand like puppies. He lets her pin him down. Next thing we know, CHOPS is walking away from ALI who is still lying in the sand. What happened?? Everything seems in order. No tears. No yelling. Clothes are in tact. Both overall straps are on shoulders. And what’s this?? GROWN UP ALI is sitting against the wall watching CHOPS walk away from YOUNG ALI. Is she happy? Is she filled with regret?

MARCY shows a dress to MAURA and CONNIE for approval. “Gorgeous,” says CONNIE. “She’s very needy,” MAURA says to CONNIE.

GROWN UP ALI looks up at CHOPS. YOUNG ALI crawls on all fours to CHOPS but he is now kissing GROWN UP ALI–tongue and all. YOUNG ALI grabs hold of an overall strap and pulls him towards her.

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MARCY TURNS OFF THE RADIO – “Ok, let’s go.” And that’s the end of the Tango at cross-dressing camp and at the beach. That Marcy. Such a party pooper. Connie and Maura send Marcy ahead to the pageant so that Connie can help Maura “pick out a dress,” which may be cross-dresser code for make whoopee.

Marcy leaves and Connie turns the music back on! ENCORE!!

CHOPS is driving the truck while YOUNG ALI lies down in the back yelling “FASTER!!!” and she yells over the rumbling noise of the speeding truck. So, I guess they’re fine and nothing happened which is probably why GROWN UP ALI returned to the scene to get some overdue kisses. Maybe he’s not a hillbilly.

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Mark is saying his goodbyes at Camp Camellia. He’s “manned up” and is ready to head home. Maura, on the other hand, is still Maura. Mark tells her to get changed, but Maura insists that she wants to drive as Maura. Mark tries to tell her that it’s not safe, but Maura doesn’t think anyone gives a shit. Mark gives a shit, though. “Hey Mark,” Maura says. “It makes me happy. I want to be happy for two more hours.” They get in the car, but they have had enough of each other.

Maura: You know Mark? You’re a cunt.

Mark: You’re a cunt.

Maura: You’re a cunt!

Mark: You’re a cuuu uuunt!

And with that, the two cunts drive away leaving Camp Camellia behind them.

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Ali wakes up in a parked truck to see men walking towards the truck. They are fruit pickers, and they pass Chops who is peeing on the side of the road. Ali asks if they slept there all night. He responds with a simple “Yup,” and I put a tally mark in the Deliverance Hillbilly column. Then Ali wants to know why he didn’t try anything, so I have to put a tally in the Decent Rockabilly column. He tells her that he doesn’t think she’s 17 and suddenly, I think he’s beautiful.

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“You’re right. I’m 16.” He smiles and nods. “Ok 15. … I’m really 14 … I’m 13.” And then she opens her mouth wide and moves in on Chops, and we can only assume she gets a little tongue because her mouth takes up the entire screen.

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And that’s it. For Chops and Ali and for the episode–each girl, Maura and Ali, leaving behind bittersweet memories on their way to womanhood.





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  1. Vikki Reich says:

    I prefer twat like pot.

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