“Pose” Episode 201 & 202 Recap: Wintour Is Coming

Hi! Hi! And welcome to Pose recaps! That’s a lot of exclamation marks. I’m very excited. Let’s get started!


201 “Acting Up”

Pose Season Two takes place in 1990, approximately two years from the last season. The first episode, “Acting Up,” opens with Pray Tell and Blanca who arrive at Hart Island to visit the grave of Keenan Howard, Pray Tell’s ex who died of pneumonia. Quick note; Hart Island has been many things to the United States, but in 1990 it functioned as a mass graveyard for indigent people. Hart island also had a separate, desolate grave for people with AIDS, which is where Pray Tell and Blanca are directed. They pay their respects and place a heart shaped rock in memorial. Then we see Blanca at Roosevelt Hospital and a nurse, Judy, greets her and calls her family. She also tells her that her T-cell count is low. Blanca asks her — her voice breaking along with my heart — what that means, and Judy responds that it means her hospital visits are now once a month and not once every three months and that her diagnosis has been changed from being HIV positive to being diagnosed with AIDS.

Blanca doesn’t believe her, or at least doesn’t believe that she’s as sick as Judy says she is because she’s been feeling good. She didn’t get sick even when one of her kids was sick. Judy offers her AZT, which “slows the progression of the virus.” Blanca can’t afford it though, so Judy explains that “wealthy white queens” bequeath their medication to people who can’t afford it and that’s how Blanca can get her pills. Again Pose is interrogating legacy and family; what we live behind and how we care for each other. Blanca doesn’t want to take the AZT though. She’s heard through Pray Tell that it’s “as toxic as chemo” but Judy tells her that she’s in denial and without AZT she’d be dead in six months. Blanca responds that she’s worried about her kids, there’s still so much she wants to do for them. Judy says Blanca can either “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Blanca takes the bottle from her and the two hug.

Speaking of Blanca’s kids, Angel and Papi are having a photoshoot; or to be more specific, Papi is taking photos of Angel on an instant camera and it’s cute, y’all. They’re cute. Blanca watches Angel pose and later at the ball, with Madonna’s “Vogue” playing in the background, she says everything is going to change. Blanca is convinced that the popularity of “Vogue” will turn a spotlight on ballroom and they won’t be underground anymore. Blanca’s made it her personal mission to make sure that each of her kids finds their spotlight. To that effect, she takes Angel to a modeling audition where Angel fills out a form on Papi’s back! This is important information because I am Papi in this scene and representation is important. I will now take this space to say that I, a person who has been described as an Instagram boyfriend on multiple occasions, am officially giving Papi the “honorable instagram boyfriend” award. Thank you.

Anyway, Angel makes it to the next round, but the Judge tells her to replace her photographs — the ones Papi took of her — with new ones, and gives her the contact information of a guy she promises will give Angel a discount. Said guy is a terrible human being who forces/manipulates Angel into posing nude and it’s horrible. Later, after she wins a category but runs out crying instead, Blanca and Papi follow to check on her, and after asking them to promise not to be disappointed in her. Papi’s “never” is quicker than a heartbeat and Blanca doesn’t say anything because it’s not even an option. Angel tells them about the photographer. She’s scared he’s going to sell the photos and Blanca tells her that will never happen. The three of them break into his office, beat him up and take back the pictures and negatives and I hope we never see his face again.

Meanwhile, Pray Tell attends his 210th memorial with nurse Judy — she’s on her 452nd. Candy and Lulu of the House of Ferocity are also there in glorious church hats but poor attitudes. Pray Tell calls them “hard-hearted ho’s” and tells them to pay their respect before he and nurse Judy pay theirs. After, Judy takes Pray Tell to an ActUp meeting and we find out she’s a lesbian! Pray Tell is hesitant to join the meeting but he eventually finds his place with them and later he, Blanca, and the House of Evangelista (sans Ricky who’s on tour) join in their “die-in” protest of the Catholic Church pushing abstinence as the only form of protection and disavowing condoms. Angel tells them that “abstinence is the erasure of sexuality.” I agree but I’m also worried because there are camera crews there and they record Angel.

You know who’s not at the protest though? Elektra. The entire episode she flaunts new wealth in the form of high fashion and no one understands where she’s getting the money. At the ball later (category: runway, bring it like a French Revolution) Elektra shows up as Marie Antoinette, complete with a prop guillotine. Her performance — and classic “let them eat cake” moment — is brilliant and she wins the category but Pray Tell throws the trophy at her feet, shattering it. He tells her that her community needed her and she let them down. Their confrontation causes them both to leave the ball.

The next weekend, Elektra is late to Blanca’s mandatory Friday night dinner which sparks another confrontation that ends with Elektra leaving the House of Evangelista. Y’all, I don’t buy this for Elektra. I totally get her being materialistic, selfish, and down right mean, but Elektra’s at her worst when she’s projecting hurt, and right now we don’t know what hurt she’s projecting or why.

Episode one ends with an homage to Paris Dupree, who according to legend, created vogue. There are different types of legacy; crafting a world for a future we might not see like Blanca does, and honoring the histories and people that we came from. Pose is both.


202 “Worth It”

Episode two is titled “Worth It” and we watch the characters grapple with feeling “worthy.” In the first category of the episode — called Fashionable Femme Queens — Lulu Ferocity pulls off this standing dress thing that I have learnt is called a pannier (I think). Either way, it looks like magic and she wins the trophy. We find out that Ferocity’s win is due to Elektra’s help and she’s boarding with them now. After the ball, the camera follows Elektra and we finally find out where she’s getting all her money; she’s been working as a dominatrix at a leather bar. Her client takes poppers mixed with coke and Elektra is opposed at first but relents when he argues that it means more money for her since the drugs will keep him “going all night” and she charges by the hour. Elektra still keeps her other job at Indochine to “keep [her] name on the lips of the rich and famous” but it’s this job that has her heart.

At the house of Evangelista, Angel tells Blanca that her closet needs work and Blanca explains that style is a luxury she doesn’t have access to. She’s to worried about her safety to spend her time looking for clothes that fit, or even stepping into a dressing room so she just grabs whatever she sees. I think Blanca’s clothes look great but Angel makes it her mission to revamp Blanca’s closet and it’s really nice to see Blanca being taken care of. Blanca tells Angel that she’ll make a good mother and I agree. Blanca spent last episode pushing her kids and she starts this one by chasing her dreams. She dresses up in Angel-approved clothing and sets up a meeting with Ms. Frederica Norman, or as I like to call her, Evil Landlady. We know she’s Evil because she’s almost cartoonishly racist (almost because people do think like her) and talks about gentrification like it’s a good thing. Blanca pitches her and she lets Blanca rent from her but no papers are signed instead she collects cash and seals the deal with a handshake. If my alarm bells weren’t already going off, they definitely would be now.

Back at Blanca’s home, Ricky returns to a heart-shaped-confetti trail Damon placed using decorations for the upcoming Eros ball. They start making out but Blanca interrupts them to let them know that someone else, Derek, is dead. At Derek’s funeral, nurse Judy — and the audience — figures out that Blanca hasn’t been taking her pills. Blanca also tells Pray Tell, Angel, Judy and Papi about her new space but when she tells them about the handshake deal, eyebrows shoot up. No one wants to burst her bubble though, so they don’t say anything and congratulate her instead.

I specified who was at the funeral because Ricky, Damon, Cubby, and Lamar don’t show up until after the funeral at Blanca’s house and they smell of alcohol. They explain that they started voguing at a bar, and how much of a crowd pleaser it was. They got to drink for free, they felt recognized, visible. They finally see Blanca’s dream and they agree ballroom is going to go mainstream. Bianca gives them the universal “disappointed mother” glare and sends them off to their rooms with a reminder that “ballroom is not a trend.” It’s about family, and they lost sight of that.

Elektra’s time at the House of Ferocity doesn’t last long. She gets into an argument with Candy over closet space — but it’s really an argument about power — and Elektra comes to the realization that she’d become insecure post-surgery and was seeking validation in her former children. She decides to form a new house and leaves Ferocity.

At the next ball, Papi and Angel perform as Romeo and Juliet and it’s cute and hilarious at the same time. Have I told you I ship them? I ship them. Ferocity puts on Cinderella and it involves a dress turning into another dress which might as well be magic because I still don’t know how they did that. I think lots of pins. Their performance is interrupted by Elektra’s new house turning off and then taking control of the lights to make an entrance. They get pushback from the crowd for being rude and because people are still upset with Elektra and Candy is really upset because she pulls out a hammer from her purse so quickly I still have whiplash and Elektra responds with a knife. Security breaks them up so they don’t do more than insult each other. Pray Tell denies Elektra’s request to introduce her house, but she kinda does it anyway. They are the House of Wintour, and Wintour is coming.

Okay, I laughed. I haven’t seen Game of Thrones so I have zero context for this but it was so unexpected it made my day.

A second bar fight breaks out when Chris, Ricky’s tourmate, tells Damon that he and Ricky slept together on tour. At first Damon doesn’t believe him, but Chris is persistent and even repeats it to Ricky’s face so Damon lunges at him and their fight gets real physical real quick. Pray Tell is fed up and shuts down the ball because no one is acting right.

Hours later, Damon and Ricky are still arguing at home, and Blanca is playing referee while Angel and Papi watch and provide commentary — “I mean it’s a concert tour. Aren’t all the dancers gay? — like the nosy ass siblings they are. Blanca sends them both away but stays to “make sure they don’t kill each other.” Damon is hurt because Ricky told him there weren’t any gay guys on tour. He knows that Ricky lied to him so now he can’t trust anything Ricky says. Meanwhile Ricky deflects and tells Damon he’s being jealous and jumping to conclusions. Damon’s hurt and Ricky’s passive aggressive and everyone’s yelling. It’s a mess but it only gets worse when we find out that Ricky talked him out of wearing a condom. Again! Blanca is understandably upset, and I am too. What the fuck, Ricky?

My alarm bells are proven right because Evil Landlady is being interviewed — along with her dogs, Cash and Credit — because gentrification makes you a role model apparently. Midway through her interview, her executive vice president, Jonas, comes in, flashes cash, and mentions “collections.” Evil Landlady calls for a break in the interview to have a word with Jonas and he informs her that Blanca is trans. She doesn’t want to rent a space to a trans woman so she sends Jonas to Blanca’s store to return the money — which surprised me — and kick her out. What surprised me even more — since she never introduced him as her kid — is that Jonas calls Evil Landlady his mother and it makes sense that evil hangs with evil.

Blanca confides in Pray Tell; she tells him about the business and what’s going on with Damon and Ricky. She’s scared because they aren’t protecting themselves. Pray Tell reminds her that they don’t think they’re worth anything; they don’t see anything to protect, they don’t see anything worth fighting for, so she has to show them. She has to fight so they know how and she can do that by standing up to the landlord. Blanca does. She gets access to a pro bono lawyer who tells her she has a right to the space for two months while they battle it out in court.

Evil Landlady continues to live up to her name by threatening Blanca physically, but she picked the wrong woman because Blanca doesn’t back down. Then, Blanca holds dinner with her house and she tells them about her diagnosis. She tells them that she didn’t love herself but she was so wanting of love that she searched for it in risky places. She tells them to love themselves, and Papi tells her she’s brave and asks her to come to him if she feels even a little bad.

He vows to “do whatever it takes” for her health. Blanca was being really hard on herself though. Blanca didn’t have a Blanca. In the first season we saw how she was ostracized and used at Elektra’s house. Blanca’s already given her kids tools she never hard and they get to see her try. They get to see each other try and they get to feel loved. Yes, self worth is important but attaining it can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances and when the world is telling you to do the exact opposite, it can be impossible. Like Papi said, Blanca is brave.

Before the Eros ball, Damon and Ricky get tested. Both of their results are negative but Ricky’s nervousness makes me believe Chris was telling the truth. Damon believes Chris too and he says as much after the ball when he breaks up with Ricky. That’s not the only reason, though. He feels like he’s lost himself in Ricky and he wants space to rediscover his worth again. I agree with Damon’s decision. He left a home where he never got to really be himself and next thing, he was Ricky’s boyfriend. He still hasn’t had the chance to just be him, or figure out what he wants. Still, it was painful to watch because they’re both so torn and I hate that they’re hurting.

Blanca is a stunning — but wobbly — vision in feathers at the Eros ball but Elektra, dressed as a sea-inspired winged Aphrodite, takes the win. Despite that, Pray Tell takes the time to acknowledge Blanca. He calls her the “Businesswoman of the Year,” says that she’s fighting for them and tells her she’ll “always be a champion to [him]”.

I don’t know if it was fighting for her nail salon — we see Blanca get her first customer! — or sharing her diagnosis with her kids, or Pray Tell’s comment, or a combination of everything, but Blanca calls nurse Judy, and she takes her first AZT pills. She’s still fighting. Ricky’s fight is over, so he leaves Evangelista to join the house of Wintour. Damon starts teaching vogue classes and my favorite couple spend time together. Time together for them is Papi watching Angel be extra, and wonderful, and full of her muchness. I love them, and they’re learning to love them too.

The final scene of episode two is one of my favorite ways to watch the cast interact; as a family over dinner. The screen fades to black and we’re left with a quote by the legendary Hector Xtravaganza, “Blood does not family make. Those are relatives. Family are those with whom you share your good, bad, and ugly, and still love one another in the end. Those are the ones you select” so don’t ever let anyone tell you anything different.

Nel is a Nigerian-American Texan and soon-to-be Long Beach resident and English Graduate Student. They’re super interested in stories and narrative and they hope to write a queer, afrofuturist fantasy epic that’s years in the making.

Nel has written 10 articles for us.

17 Comments

    • I always loved Papi but this season he’s really challenging Bianca’s spot in my heart as a favourite character. I love him so much.
      He’s incredibly gentle with Angel and Blanca this season and I love it!!

      And yes! May it live on.

  1. I love Pose so much and I love these recaps SO MUCH!! Papi as honorable Instagram boyfriend is just perfect.

    I’m also glad I’m not the only one who was really into all of Blanca’s old clothes. When Angel said that I was like… okay I get what she’s saying but I spent all season one obsessed with Blanca’s fashion. haha

  2. I’m so excited for the new season, and I’m all the more elated that you’re writing these recaps, Nel!

    I’ll admit that I haven’t started S2 yet and thus haven’t read the recaps, but I hope to catch up really soon 😊

  3. Great review Nel…can’t wait to read your takes on Pose throughout the season.

    A few thoughts:

    The opening to the season, with Blanca and Pray Tell going to Hart Island, was just so harrowing and heartbreaking. One of the real difficulties of this season is going to be balancing the heaviness of all these AIDS deaths with lightness from the balls or from the family, in general. Blanca’s going to be central in maintaining that balance I think and I can’t wait to see what MJ Rodriguez has in store.

    After being one of the most frustrating characters in Season One, Lil’ Papi has quickly become one of my favorites this season. I love his flirtation with Angel and I hope it leads somewhere because Angel deserves all the good things. I love his defense of her with that shady photographer. I love how he promised to take care of Blanca like she took care of him. 😭😭😭

    I’m happy about the Ricky/Damon break-up…I was never as interested in them as a couple as the show seemed to be. I hope we get to see Damon doing more than teaching people how to Vogue, though. I was surprised to see Ricky defect to the House of Wintour…why would he want to compete against the House of Evangelista at the balls?

    • Thank you Natalie!!

      Harrowing is the right word. I think the balance is central to telling a story about queerness and I think it’s true to being queer. I feel like I’m dealing with horrible things that make me want to give up -like most qtpoc – but I also have such joy and family and laughter and I don’t know if I would believe this story if it did otherwise. It’s definitely a challenge though. Some of the scene transitions, like Angels photoshoot switching to the ball, were rough cus I wasn’t prepared emotionally.

      I’ve wanted to like Papi since s1 and I’m glad they’re making it easier. Angel is an Angel.

      I’m happy about it too because Damon is kind of lost and I want him to have more. I think, if Ricky lied about cheating and is still lying about it then it makes sense that he went to Wintour because maybe that means he’s manipulative enough to say he feels like part of the family when the only thing keeping him there was Damon? Then again I’m thinking about how Ricky is more invested in accessibility and being visible and living the “celebrity life” which is more like Elektra’s train of thought so maybe this is him figuring out where family is for him?

  4. Episode one really brought the tears. This season really went hard on all the feels. I saw episode 2 last night(on demand) and really wanted to slap evil lady due to all her racism, and stereotyping. Fuck evil lady.

  5. I feel like the Pose writers took a master class from Shonda Rhimes on how to destroy my heart. If Blanca does not get every good thing in life (a beautiful significant other, a thriving career, and whatever else her heart desires), I will riot. Blanca is just the most gorgeous soul! Ughhhh. But also, TRACE LYSETTE. When she appeared on the screen, I shrieked.

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