Top 12 Best “L Word” Episodes Ever

L Word 1013We would not be here today if it wasn’t for The L Wordbecause it was various online communities developed around that show that eventually evolved into this website! Every now and again, it seems important to revisit our roots, and today we will do so via my Top Twelve Favorite L Word episodes ever. My qualifications to write this list include that I was the L Word recapper for The L Word Online for Seasons 3-5 and hosted Showtime’s L Word vlog Lezberado for Season Six. Also, Ilene Chaiken hates me.

This list was incredibly difficult to put together, especially because so many of my favorite scenes took place in so many terrible episodes. Worse still was the abysmal situation known as “Season Four,” a sprawling mess of nonsense which managed to corrupt one of the series’ best scenes ever — the basketball scene. We popped in 404 (Layup) to screencap it for this top ten, and suddenly I was met with an onslaught of terribleness — Jenny’s bizarre dog adoption to get back at Stacey Merkin situation, a Mount Holyoke student telling Max he’s a freak and storming out of the restaurant, the random Russian Nanny Natasha telling Angus he’s “too hot to be a papa” and then giving him a beejer, Alice’s pursuit of Papi’s solar system, Jodi’s weird art situation and just really so much terribleness I can’t even. So we had to strike it from the list. Luckily we already have a Top 15 L Word Sex Scenes list, so those choices have been made.

I also wanted to include at least one episode per season, otherwise I just would’ve listed all of Season One and included a few photos of Shane’s nipples. These are the important decisions I have to make every day in this job!

Oh, one more thing! Apparently not everybody has seen this show because sometimes people ask me “where to start” with The L Word if you’re watching it for the first time. Honestly, I’d say you should watch every episode of every season, just like your foremothers before you. If you insist upon an easier way that will require less hours because you’re v. busy and important, my suggestion is below. [Also, some of the recaps from my old recap site have been moved to this site. The formatting is probs weird from the transfer and I was younger/stupider then, but they sure are funny!]

So, for L Word Virgins Who Don’t Want To Watch Every Episode Seventeen Times Like I Did…

Watching The L Word For the First Time – The Fast/Easy Way:

Season One: Season One from start to finish.

Season Two: 201 (Life, Loss, Leaving) for continuity’s sake and to meet Carmen. 205 (Labyrinth), 206 (Lagrimas de Oro), 210 (Land Ahoy!) and 211 (Loud & Proud) ’cause they’re fun, and 213 for continuity’s sake and to meet Sharmen.

Season Three: 301 because obvs, 302 (Lost Weekend), 305 (Lifeline) because sex, 311 (Last Dance) because although it’s pretty terrible, it’s also chock-full of relevant and necessary flashbacks to the early days of Dana Fairbanks, which you must see. Then 312 (Left Hand of the Goddess) because it’s the finale and you always have to watch the finale.

Season Four: I think you could watch the entirety of Season Four while doing other things, like housecleaning, sex, raising children or planning a dinner party. You could also skip it altogether. Or you could just watch the premiere, 406 and the finale. The reason I suggest watching Season Four while washing your vagina or the coffee table is because there are lots of good scenes in it, but only one good episode (406: Luck Be A Lady) and one pretty-good episode (405: Lez Girls). So if you’re watching Season Four while Henry clips his toenails, start out with the premiere, 401 (Legend in the Making), watch 404 (Layup) starting at the 39 minute mark (you only need to see the basketball scene, the rest is terrible), 405 (Lez Girls), 406 (Luck Be A Lady), 408 (Lexington & Concord) for Talice, the parts of 409 (Lacy Lilting Lyrics) where all the girls are in Alice’s bed and 412 (Long Time Coming) because it’s the finale.

Season Five: Start to finish. (The finale is probs the season’s weakest episode, but you need to watch it anyhow.)

Season Six: Let’s just pretend like it never happened!

Now for the list!


 

My Favorite 12 “L Word” Episodes Ever

12. 607 – Last Couple Standing

[watch]

written by Ilene Chaiken, directed by Rose Troche (Go Fish)

L Word 607

Season Six, better known as Season SUCKS, was an exercise in slow water torture from which nobody emerged unscathed. Actually I’m not sure if you heard, but Jenny actually died as well. Anyhow, before collectively dying in a metaphorical fire, everybody danced one last time and we all pretended like 607 was the end of the season because 608 was the worst 59 minutes in the history of television for real.

 

11. 305 – Lifeline

[watch]

written by Ilene Chaiken, directed by Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry)

L Word 305

Season Three was a heedless and usually sexless march towards The Untimely Death of Dana Fairbanks, cluttered with other situations such as Bette’s sudden appreciation for flowy tunic frock shirt things. But in 305, the following things happened: Alice had sex with a Vampire, Shane and Cherie Jaffe had reunion pool strap-on sex and I believe also Dylan and Helena took a train to tuna-town.

10. 502 – Look Out, Here They Come!

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written by Cherien Dabis (Amreeka), directed by Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader, Itty Bitty Titty Committe)

L Word 502

After Season Four I was pretty sure The L Word was gonna suck forever, but then Season Five happened! The premiere wasn’t thrilling, so 502 was like the unicorn who comes into the forest on a rainbow of lightbeams and says “there is hope for this show to be good and fun again!” It was funny, is the thing, and opened with the theoretical sex conversation that was probs like a shipper’s dream come true. Also so much sex!

 

9. 406 – Luck Be A Lady

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written & directed by Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S, Girltrash)

L Word 406

Praise goddess for Angela Robinson and her ever-loving light of mercy for shining upon our hapless cast for one brief hour in Season Four, is all I can say about this one. It was fun, Papi’s rules of poker are the best rules of poker ever, Tasha and Alice meet and everybody looks very Shane today. I tend to prefer episodes that involve most of the characters convening in the same room and stories about their friendships. We found the opening phone chain so amusing that we filmed our own version of it for funsies/because we’re weird.

8. 210 – Land Ahoy

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written by Ilene Chaiken, directed by Tricia Brock

L-Word-210

Despite fairly consistent decency and a lack of Absolute Suckage, Season Two failed to deliver a flawless episode. It’s actually chock-full of great scenes stuck in lackluster episodes, which’s difficult for me to handle re: this Top 12. The problem with every single Season Two episode is that it inevitably involves a creepy Jenny strangewhisperyintensefeelings carnival/holocaust/sexual assault flashback/dreamscape/short story/The Mourner’s Kaddish. Also; Mark and his “rapey cameras” hang like a dark cloud all season long, but in 210 and 211, Jenny’s reaction to his revelation was some really tough but well-done stuff. Anyhow I haven’t even begun speaking about this episode! I picked Episode 210 for this list because of the cast commentary on the DVD. Real talk: Erin Daniels also hated those pants.

8. 205 - Labyrinth

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written by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) directed by Rose Troche

L-Word-205

Unfortunately I couldn’t actually decide whether 205, 210 or 211 should be chosen as tribute to represent their season, but it’s possible 205 is slightly better than 210 (above), especially because it’s much lighter on the BETTY and it’s super-heavy on the Dana-Alice, and by heavy I mean “HOT AND HEAVY.” The serious stuff played well here too — like when Bette’s forced to get emotional comfort from Jenny of all people and it kinda works, and it’s tender and both characters grow a little from it.

 

7. 302 – Lost Weekend

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written by A.M. Homes (author, The Safety of Objects, The End of Alice), directed by Bille Eltringham

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If I ever lost a weekend, I’d go find it. Or I’d watch “Lost Weekend” and witness Helena hosting a private intervention with Alice’s psychotic Dana-Shrine (she wasn’t even dead yet you guys), Jenny going badass with a stun-gun on the homophobes (“we’re dykes, not faggots you assholes!”) and Shane’s opportunity to explore her softer side via Quinceañera and a giant doily. Jenny’s evolving relationship with Max was still pretty compelling and not-absurdly-problematic at this point, and Dana hadn’t started dying. Also, Carmen’s sexy dance. Also, Alice’s cute bisexual love addict glasses.

 

6. 103 – Let’s Do It

written by Susan Miller (Anyone But Me), directed by Rose Troche

L Word 1011-001

The Mission To Ascertain The Disposition and Intent of One Miss Lara Perkins. The beginning of The Chart. So everything.

 

5. 509 – Liquid Heat

[watch]

written by Ilene Chaiken, directed by Rose Troche

L Word 509

The best part of Episode 509 is the part where everybody had sex, and the second-best part is the mafia showdown meeting between SheBar and The Planet.

4. 112 – Looking Back

written by Guinevere Turner (Go Fish), directed by Rose Troche

L Word 1012

Watching the Dinah Shore episode will inspire you to think either “I love my lesbian friends so much!” or “I wish I had a fun group of lesbian friends!” Worth it for the flashbacks alone, honestly.

3. 101 – Pilot

teleplay by Ilene Chaiken, story by Ilene Chaiken & Kathy Greenberg & Michelle Abbott, directed by Rose Troche

L Word 101

If you overlook the fact that the show’s first line is, I believe, “I’m ovulating!”, the pilot will always be the ultimate L Word episode. In two well-paced hours, we meet the girls for the first time, Jenny and Marina have passionate ladysex, Bette and Tina rekindle their flame and everybody falls in love with Dana. Also I met Shane and would never be the same again.

 

2. 510 – Lifecycle

[watch]

written & directed by Angela Robinson

L Word 510

I’d argue that, outside of Season One, Episode 510 is the best overall episode of The L Word ever produced. It’s mercilessly free of ridiculous sub-plots — there’s some Adele nonsense brewing, but nothing too hard to handle — and the overall composition of the episode feels more deliberate and artistic than we usually see. Plus, so much happens in this episode, from Bette’s big reveal to Molly and Shane’s reunion to what’s probably the peak of Jenny’s romance with Nikki, replete with a hot strap-on sex scene. Also the music was good.

1. 114 – Limb From Limb

[buy]

written by Ilene Chaiken, directed by Tony Goldwyn

L-Word-114

This episode actually ripped my heart out of my chest, and it did so in such an authentic, honest way. Also contains one of the best sex scenes in the history of television.


Related:

The L Word Vaults (links to recaps, episode guides, quotes, etc.)

Top Ten “L Word” Guest Stars: From Tegan & Sara to Alan Cumming

Autostraddle Presents “The L Word: WTF!!?” Video Part #2

Autostraddle Presents: “The L Word WTF?!” Video Part #1

The L Word Top Ten (okay, 15) Best Sex Scenes Of All Time

100 Pictures of Shane

Live From Australia: Ten Things I Don’t Understand About “The L Word”

As per ushe, if I’ve left out your favorite episode, be sure to comment as if I have just burned down your house and use lots of punctuation, no punctuation, and as much all-caps as possible! xoxoxo

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1680 articles for us.

86 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    I’m currently rewatching the entire series with my (straight) roommate, and it’s been a lot of fun, like seeing old friends after a few years away. We are, however, having a conflict about it, and it would be great if I could poll the lovely-ass(ed) readers of this wonderful website to help reach a resolution. (I personally think this question is a no-brainer, but I need to provide more evidence)

    Who do you like better — Bette or Tina?

  2. Thumb up 4

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    well there goes twelve hours of my life now that I have to rewatch all these. and I’ll probably just end up rewatching the whole series because what the hell, why not. I do agree we need to revisit our roots every now and then.

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      KC and Elka? OMG, they brought me so much joy! Do you remember the episode when KC revealed that her spanish teacher (that she had the hots for) had been listening to their podcast? I think that day was the highlight of my year, and I had a really good year!

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      once upon a time i posted a link to my recaps in the Planet Forums, and i’d never commented in the Planet Forums before, I was just a podcast fan who wasn’t super-good at the internet yet, so the forum moderator, grrreen, AKA LANEIA was gonna remove the link because it was against the rules i guess, shameless self-promotion, but KC&Elka told her not to remove the link because they’d read my recaps and they were actually really good and funny, and so then Laneia read my recaps and didn’t delete the link and eventually laneia and i became internet friends and NOW LOOK HERE WE ALL ARE TOGETHER AS A FAMILY

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    205, 210, and that episode in S1 where Dana and Alice and Dana’s brother go to pride. And definitely the episode where Dana comes out to her parents (So basically, all the episodes where Dana is perfect and alive).

    Also the S5(?) episode where Bette makes stirfry and then has sex with Tina (I’m really not even a major fan of Bette/Tina tbh, but that’s my favorite sex scene hands down, right down to the music). I honestly don’t really remember much else from that episode, but whatevs.

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      YES 506 (Lights Camera Action). Bette and Tina have sex TWICE and it is done so well.

      I am a major Tibette fan though, so that episode (being the turning point where they pretty much decide to get back together) will always be one of my favourites regardless of what all the other characters are doing.

      TIBETTE 4EVA <3

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlQ0En_4zzU&t=1m5s
    Do we think the opening of Lacy Lilting Lyrics was just Ilene Chaiken brainstorming title ideas?

    When I watched Lacy Lilting Lyrics for the first time I wanted to be hanging out and chatting in a bed with lesbian friends someday and now that is a thing that has happened. #lifeimitatesart

    I was glad to see this article because I keep feeling like I want to re-watch The L Word but there’s no one season or episode I really want to watch; I just want to kind of absorb all the gayness. And when I have re-watched it I had to skip through the theme song (you know you can stop fast-forwarding when you see Shane take a lady into the men’s room) and all the crazy Jenny parts, and then suddenly it doesn’t seem like I even like it any more. But it was so important!

  5. Thumb up 0

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    I stopped watching when Dana died, so my pool of shows to choose from is limited, but I agree with most of your list Riese. Season one as a whole is really important to me. I was kind of obsessed with it at the time.

    I don’t have a long list of favorite episodes, but a few that have stayed with me are definitely the pilot, and the last episode of the first season just like on your list.

    I’ll always remember Dana and Alice’s kiss at the end. It’s in the running for my pick for sweetest, most fulfilling TV kiss ever and made me more excited for the next season than anything I’ve seen on a TV show. Season two was a little bit of a let down for me but it still had it’s moments.

    • Thumb up 23

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      that’s why i decided to spin off from that community to make this website, actually. i was like, if a bunch of seemingly intelligent people can develop a community around something like this, then just imagine what we could do if it was centered around something that didn’t suck, and run by somebody who actually listened? that’s the thought i was always having. i think it’s possible.

  6. Thumb up 6

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    Hey Riese, I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank you for painstakingly putting together all those recaps. I found them during the tail end of the series when I had recently come out to myself and my friends, and I was desperately, DESPERATELY, looking for some kind of gay outlet for myself, or a way to sum up what the mess was that was going through my head.

    The L Word was as crucial to forming my gay identity as Tegan and Sara’s The Con, Autostraddle in it’s infant state, and I am going to get real with you Riese, I do not think I could have made it through the last few episodes of The L Word without your recaps. All these things are going to be eternally linked in my brain: Tegan and Sara, The L Word, and you. These are the things that taught me how to be gay, and on top of that, your recaps were some of the first things I read that made me look at television critically.

    So thank you Riese. Your affect on my life has been profound, even if L Word Recaps seem trivial (they are not). I am so grateful.

  7. Thumb up 3

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    I love Dana, just like everyone else. But Tasha + Alice really meant something special to me (ok, really, just Tasha had a lot to do with me accepting how much I loved women). Still, 4×08 and 5×10 might be some of my favorite episodes of all time. TALICE!!

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    OMG that Jenny and Niki scene. I can’t listen to ‘Just Like Heaven’ now without associating it with all that fun. ‘The Pink Ride’ (both a bike event and a bedroom event for Jenny and Niki in that ep lol) was one of the most fun eps for sure. I went to the L8 L Word convention and couldn’t resist telling Angela Robinson that that tent scene was amazing. (I have no shame haha). The Cherie/Shane scene was hot, too. Something I noticed on a re-watch not long ago with the Jenny and Niki tent scene…Niki, while dominant in some ways, was very attentive to Jenny. As she was prepping herself she says to Jenny quietly but firmly “You have to tell me if I’m hurting you ok?” and asks her more than once for guidance. Obviously, for Jenny, trust in that scene was so very important and upon the re-watch that scene is 10x hotter because of the communication between the two of them.

    Angela Robinson did group scenes so well. I’d add Lookin’ At You Kid to the list if it was my list.

    All in all, a list that I pretty much agree with.

  9. Thumb up 4

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    I’ve been rewatching the series with my mom, because she’s awesome like that, and about half the times we watch it we get stoned (because she’s awesome like that), and I’m pretty sure the L word was meant to be watched while stoned. All of the nonsensical elements just stop bothering you.

    Has anybody else tried this?

  10. Thumb up 3

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    I recently finished watching The L Word for the first time and just… it was really terrible a lot of the time but there was something so great about watching hours and hours and hours of a show that was all about gay ladies. It felt really great, even when I spent 90% of an episode WTFing.

    Now if only someone would make a really long show about lesbians that didn’t suck.

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      i LOVE that scene, when i watched it in the press screener i got so excited i emailed all my friends and was like “the show is gonna be good again! the opening scene to LMFAO is one of my favorite scenes of all time!” but it turned out to be uh, a one-shot deal

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    I still haven’t watched beyond the first season, even though I really want to, even though The L Word was the thing that made me bisexual.

    In fact, how many of us are in The L Word Made Me Gay/Bi/Queer/Whatever Club? I’d be interested to find out. For reasons.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    i am with everyone with bette as the succulent power femme.

    HAVE YOU SEEN VERBOTENE LIEBE (forbidden love in german). it’s a german soap feature claudia hiersche as carla, a lesbian countess. just youtube carla and hanna. thank me later :)

  13. Thumb up 1

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    I really really love 5×05 Lookin’ at You Kid, which I believe was another Angela Robinson directed episode if only because there are so many hilarious lines in it, including, but not limited to:

    Shane: Hey Cammie, you want some brownies? They’re not gay, I promise.
    Alice: Oh my god! What if the brownies were gay?!
    Shane: And they just started fucking each other!

    Jenny (to Nikki when they’re practicing the bathroom scene): You have a fiance named Jim…..who likes to swim.

    Nikki: We’re about to fuck in a closet.
    Jenny: The irony hasn’t escaped me.

  14. Thumb up 1

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    Its funny to see this today. Last night I started another marathon of The L Word. It is truly a terrible show (after the first season of course) but I can’t help it. I love it. It helped me immensely as I was starting to come out. I don’t consider it realistic by a long shot but it was nice knowing there were other women out there just like me.

    Hands down, my favorite episode Lost Weekend for the Carmen strip ALONE.

    *fans self*

    Also, Shane in a dress never fails to crack me up.

  15. Thumb up 1

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    Helpful tip of the day: Every season is available free to stream if you have Amazon Prime! Also, I totally just learned an Amazon Primer can add you to THEIR account through email and boom! Free Amazon Prime! Ish!

    Now if only this was a thing a few years ago when I was just coming out and desperately attempting to find episodes through really crappy, ad ridden sites that would take approximately 57 years to buffer…

  16. Thumb up 2

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    Bless you. I still can’t bear to watch this mess again for any reason.

    What I like best about this post:

    “Also, Ilene Chaiken hates me.” Yes. [the highlight of my IFC interaction was being invited to vancouver as a ruse to get us to stop doing TLWO. that was fun.]

    Also, your recommendation to skip entire seasons. That’s really the only way to go.

    I would recommend watching Season 1, watching some YouTube compilations of greatest moments from the other season, and then dreaming of how TLW would have happened from Seasons 2-6 if you had been in charge of writing the series. Anything someone can think up on their own will be much more gratifying than what we actually had to watch.

  17. Thumb up 4

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    RIESE! I can’t believe how much I’ve missed working with you!! Your recaps on our site (www.thelwordonline.com) always made watching the episodes worthwhile. You are and always will be my hero!

    And yes the original scripted version of LOCKED UP, as Slicey mentioned above, had it been made the way it was written, would have been an AMAZING episode. But I think IFC thought it was too fun and not enough Jenny, so she canned it.

    BTW if anyone is interested, I think I can dig out the scripts of the prison scenes the way they were originally written, so you can judge its potential awesomeness for yourselves.

    In fact, I feel like I should go through all my scripts and leak them. Because at the time, Slicey and I were scared into submission when IFC and Rose Lam cornered us in Vancouver that time (see Slicey’s post above). So SCREW IT.

    You heard it here first, Im going to leak all the things!!!

    I think I even still have some of the scripts from the canned spin off to TLW; THE FARM…in which Alice is in prison for the presumable murder of Jenny.

    And to quote Slicey regarding TLW, she sums up what TLW was all about in the most accurate and beautiful sentence ever;

    “It became a demented love letter from Ilene to herself at various stages in her life.”

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      HELLO OZ!!! I miss working with you guys too!

      i totally still have the scripts to THE FARM i think somewhere…

      I am totally into the idea of leaking some scripts. i mean she already hates me.

      and yes, that quote from Slicey is prefect!

      I want to read Locked Up

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        Yeah I mean what can she do about it now? Im almost tempted to write all book about what went on. Do you think it would sell? LOL

        I have scripts dating back as far as Season 1 or 2 I think. Sometimes its sad to read because some of it was perfect…so I cant for the life of me understand why it didnt make it to the screen. Oh wait, yeah I do. Its called IFC.

        Ive been thinking Riese that we need to work together in some form or another again. Maybe I can come guest blog or vlog or something? I would love to join team Autostraddle?? Whats the best way to contact you?

  18. Thumb up 1

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    I’ll rewatch these!

    As terrible as it was, it was still amazing to see people (sort of) like me on TV every week. I watched the first episode a month after coming out and watched the last while in college. It was something..: special…?

  19. Thumb up 1

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    i think my favorite character on the show (other than everyone except jenny) was ivan… i love how he treated kit when he was just getting into her i wish i could be as cool, forward and confident as he was!! he used the best lines on her.

  20. Thumb up 0

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    Three from season 5! Yes. The best season far and away. If only Angela Robinson would have been allowed to take over from Chaiken for season 6. Plus the Jenny/Nikki lovemaking sequences were the best the series ever had. Season 4 and season 6 were fails. It makes sense both get only 1 episode each. The loss of Dana and Carmen after season 3 hung over season 4.

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    I’m rewatching The L Word right now and after the first couple of episodes I wasn’t sure if I’d make it through the rewatch. This post, coupled with the decision that I was allowed to skip every scene in which Jenny featured, is is getting me through. Thanks!

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    Aw, I feel like 209 should have been on here just for the “Oh my fucking God” Tibette backsliding sex. Though I confess I remember nothing else about the episode. Tibette was the best part of the show. No, Bette was the best part of the show. Anytime I get to look at Jennifer Beals is a good time.

    I think of season 5 as the best season just because of the Tibette gems therein. And “Liquid Heat”. And the Cycle episodes.

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