It’s been ten years since The L Word premiered, and we’ve got lots to talk about. Welcome to The L Word week!
Welcome to the twelfth recap of the first season of The L Word, a supernatural drama about a precocious dolphin trainer with shiny hair who enjoys riding her vespa, doing cartwheels, reading the Delia*s catalog, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, trying on strapless bras, sledding in the summertime and collecting band-aids. This episode promises hijinks and madness, including a race to the top of a mountain, nipple confidence, and tiny robots that can can give alternative lifestyle haircuts.
Yes it’s true, I’m recapping an episode from Season One in honor of L Word week. Previously, I have recapped the pilot episode as well as all of Seasons Four, Five and Six, back when I had a giant hole through my brain and said a lot of strange things on the internet. I used to pepper these recaps with quotes from my pals/viewing partners and photographs of said pals, but alas now I live on the dock of The Bay far away from most of my pals, so instead I g-chatted Laneia while watching it and included some of that here! Anyhow, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOSBALL????
We open at a poolside party in Los Angeles, California in 1979, where free spirits are listening to disco music, snorting cocaine, and probably celebrating the recent return of NASA’s first orbiting space station Skylab to earth. A few douchey guys in unfortunate fashion situations with brawny chest hair have gathered ’round the pool to encourage three naked ladies to stick their tongues down each other’s throats. Because free love!
The camera cuts out before we see what really goes down, but I hope it doesn’t involve someone going down on somebody else, because then that somebody would probably drown.
Laneia: i’m making a face
Riese: welp, i already hate men
jk i hated men before i started watching this show
Cut to the present day circa the buttcrack of dawn, where the ladies are prepping to drive out to the Dinah Shore Sexy Slut Partyathon, Bette’s considering hiring The Carpenter for the Provocations Project and Dana’s presenting Kit with her 56-page thesis entitled “How To Take Care of Mr. Piddles.”
Marina’s employing her one and only facial expression, “Serious and Smarter Than You,” to subtly disapprove of Jenny joining the lezzies on this sultry vacation.
Also, somehow Alice’s Mom Lenore has invited herself on this road trip! Oh, Lenore. You are a permanent reminder to us all of the missed opportunity to name an L Word episode “Lenore’d.”
En route to Palm Springs in the dead of night, Alice exposits the history of Dinah Shore — used to be a golf tournament, now is lesbian spring break — and then Tina exposits the history and greatness of the Human Rights Campaign, who we’re told will be giving Dana Fairbanks an award, probs for Best Female Ejaculation ever.
Because this show is sometimes adorable and Alice’s breasts look amazing in that shirt, everything is perfect. The carload erratically sings along to “Closer to Fine” as dawn breaks, because I guess these girls left at 4 AM to make the 2.5 hour drive to Palm Springs, or something.
Alice’s Mom, continuing on her quest to be a Cool Mom, is inspired by The Indigo Girls to tell everybody Alice’s “coming out story.” Apparently, back in high school, Alice snuck behind the bleachers to get drunk and smoke cancer sticks with her hot friend and then her hot friend threw up in Alice’s mouth. Alice is like, that is not my coming out story, my coming out story is way more punk than that.
Once upon a time, Alice chewed a lot of gum and played in a band in her pajamas with her boyfriend Greg. Then she met a hot chick named Tayo who played bass and they played tonsil hockey together all over Oberlin or wherever but then Tayo broke her heart and now Alice is eating Burger King in a car with a bunch of lunatics who will probs kill Jenny some day.
Next up is Dana, who’s reluctant to share ’cause her Patient Zero Lady-Love is a famous tennis player, maybe the one whose girlfriend submitted this really g-dawful manuscript to us in 2010. Mystery Tennis Homo was Dana’s counselor at Tennis Camp and they were in love and liked to suck face until MTH confessed to her best best friend and her best best friend did the worst worst thing and called her parents, thus getting MTH kicked out of Tennis Camp, leaving Dana to spend the rest of the summer with her Hitachi Magic Wand.
Lenore, a sudden expert on the lingo, moans, “tennis players are like girls in college, gay until graduation,” and the girls politely chuckle.
Back in WeHo, Bette’s trying to register for A-Camp when JAMES (a member of my short list entitled “men I don’t hate”) arrives to inform her that Candace “The Hottie” Carpenter is here to ruin her life I MEAN TALK ABOUT BUILDING THINGS. The Carpenter has big ideas about wall mounting and scaffolding and how to make the space “more dynamic.”
We then strap jetpacks onto our tank tops and rocket on back to The Longest Drive to Palm Springs In The History of the Automobile, where Lenore’s got a coming out story to tell because why the hell not. Her story, which we now recognize was the intro scene, takes place at “one of those Hollywood parties” in the ’70s “full of swingers and orgies and drugs.” Lenore claims she got busy with four melons in a pool, but our visual flashback reveals that the other two wild children went for it but Lenore didn’t, she just treaded water and looked timid. If only she’d known that one day she’d grow up and kiss Shane.
Next up is Shane’s “coming out story,” except it’s not really about coming out but also none of these stories are so whatever. Shane shares the touching tale of tiny Shane watching Tiffany Gardner play in the park all day until one day she was like, “You know what? Fuck this, I’m gonna talk to this girl.”
Laneia: Baby shane just hopped up like she was putting out a cigarette
Riese: She was practicing for when she would grow up to be Shane
Tiny Shane’s already wearing Shane pants.
Shane: “So I pack up my Sunshine Meal, and I walk over to her, and she’s just sitting there in the sand playing hard to get, and I knew I was hooked. That girl took my Sunshine meal toy, and then she took my heart.”
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU TIFFANY GARDNER.
Then they drop Lenore off on the curb and zoom into balmly Palm Springs, California, where thousands of lesbians are preparing to give each other yeast infections.
Cut to The Palm Springs Hotelscape Center of Lesbolife, where the girls skulk in with their luggage and their tiny goth friend Jenny Schecter, queen of the underworld.
Before anybody can look around and wonder who was in charge of casting these extras because they aren’t repping the Pussy Juice and Creamed Corn Contingent accurately, Tonya the Guest Liaison sweeps in.
Riese: everyone is so grown up
and wearing such clothes
Laneia: yes they really are overdressed. way too many spaghetti strap tanks
Riese: everybody seems really polite and there are no tattoos or crazy hair
Laneia: no one’s passing out from axe
Tonya is here to steal Famous Dana Fairbanks from her darling friends and protect her from Rabid Lesbian Fandoms with strong feelings about the Soup Chef.
The best part of this scene is that Jenny looks like she just walked into a morgue and isn’t sure who killed all those innocent people.
Starsweep to the Grand Pool Party, otherwise known as the innermost circle of hell.
Jenny: I’ve never seen so many women in one place in my whole life.
Alice: And every one of them is greased up and ready to go!
When I went to Dinah Shore for the first time and stepped out of our room to overlook the pool party, I felt and looked exactly like Jenny does right there. If Jenny is anything like me, she will turn around immediately, open the top dresser drawer, snag a slice of psychedelic banana bread, and trip her balls off until Sunday.
Riese: this is how i felt when we went to dinah
Laneia: yes, complete with jeans and long sleeve shirt
and the feeling of never leaving that deck
Riese: i like how jenny stays dressed like emily the strange the whole time, she was my Dinahspiration
The camera pans down to reveal small gaggles of moderately aged women gently tossing beach balls, neatly teasing one another with towels, enjoying many varieties of sarong and sipping on POM juice while floating listlessly upon inflatable sharks.
Riese: this is really low-key
where are the Go-Go’s
where are the F-list celesbians
Laneia: where is the screaming
i remember trying to walk to get a burger with palmer and it took like 20 minutes to get to the other side of the pool
it was actually god awful
Riese: yeah and you had to buy tickets and then buy the burger with tickets.
Laneia: OMG SHARK
Riese: when i felt weird i just thought “if jenny could do this then i can too”
Dinah Shore, according to The L Word:
Dinah Shore, according to The Real L Word:
[Sidenote: This L Word episode was actually filmed in Vancouver, according to The New York Times, but its impact on the Palm Springs Dinah Shore weekend was monumental :
After the Dinah party — or a simulacrum of it, filmed in Vancouver — was depicted in the show’s first season in 2004, attendance at the real thing promptly doubled, to 2,500 people from 1,200 at the splashy Saturday night party alone.
Over 10,000 women now attend Dinah Shore Weekend events, which are now exclusively hosted by Club Skirts. According to NewNow Next, “while the Dinah Shore weekend of events has existed for decades, when Showtime’s hit show The L Word filmed an episode there, it pushed the weekend into notoriety.” Robin Gans of Girlbar (whose logos can be seen on the wall of the White Party in this episode) told The Bay City Reporter that “The L Word really helped kind of skyrocket [Dinah Shore].” In 2007, Ilene Chaiken visited Dinah Shore for the first time when The L Word and OurChart (its companion social network) did live events at Club Skirts. Ilene Chaiken told Curve Magazine, “I’m all in favor of any excuse for tens of thousands of gay women to get together and have a good time.”]
Before Dana can settle in and realize her true feelings for Alice or worry that she might sit on some placenta and ruin her white pantsuit, Tonya swoops in to yank her back into Ton-Ton-Town, after being supper inappropriate and flirtatious regarding Dana’s physical appearance at this juncture.
Back at The Art House of Sin, The Carpenter has dared to charge $50 more than the highest bidder for her project, because oral is extra. This is a big deal to Bette despite the fact that her left sock probably costs $50.
The Carpenter kindly draws Bette a Project Management Triangle just in case Bette literally just got born, but Bette’s distracted by The Carpenter’s gams, jaws, facemeat, hipspace, buttpad, et al.
The Carpenter and Bette have sex with their eyeballs and then The Carpenter jets to that Cuban place to get some Cuban food to eat while having sex with their eyeballs later in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Tina, Shane, Jenny and Alice weave through the crowd with all their clothes on, stopping to heavily pet a booth selling tacky t-shirts and, apparently, Hpnotiq.
Back at Cuban Sexy Food Time, Bette and Candance are talking about how Candace and Yolanda are splitsville when Tina calls. Tina’s like Dinah is WILD I wish you could see it! You guys, HER WISH CAME TRUE, because now when you go to Dinah Shore you can send people pictures on your phonepiece.
Tina can barely hear Bette over the sounds of Celesbians in the Wild.
Back in La-La Land, Bette hangs up the phone and Candace is all like, “I didn’t know you had a girlfriend,” and Bette’s like, “why would you?” and I’m like, “I don’t know, maybe Candace saw the pilot.”
Laneia: bette just wants someone to boss her around
Laneia: poor thing
Here’s a secret: What The L Word really did for lesbiankind was to cover all the lingo and bad jokes right off the bat, thus protecting Senior Lesbians from having to school Baby Dykes every other minute because they’ve all already seen The L Word and therefore already know about 100-footers, U-Hauling and nipple confidence. JUST KIDDING NIPPLE CONFIDENCE ISN’T A THING. That one is there just to make sure you’re paying attention. Anyhow this is when Alice explains 100-footers to Jenny.
Jenny wants them to tell her what she is — femme? 50-footer? really weird? — and they’re like, just You do You.
What the girls DON’T KNOW is that Whitney Mixter has her eye on Jenny because does Whitney love crazy-ass bitches? Yes, yes she does, not gonna lie.
We then canoe all the way back to Los Angeles Artscene, where Candace and Bette are packing up their Cuban Sexy feast and giving each other sexy danger-eyes.
We then build a river out of pudding and swim on back to Palm Springs, California, home of my $8,000 medical bill, where the ladies, still wearing the same clothes they’ve had on since fleeing Los Angeles in the dead of night, are hitting up the White Party.
Jenny gets drunk with some Canadian extras and recaps the first ten episodes for them so they don’t have to go look it up on TWOP.
Jenny explains how Marina lied to her and destroyed her relationship with Timothy while keeping hers completely intact and then she realizes she’s telling her coming out story. The party lezzers chant TELL IT TELL IT like a bunch of over-grape-juiced pre-schoolers at storytelling time, what is going on here.
Riese: Um, no, they’d be more like TAKE IT OFF TAKE IT OFF
Laneia: literally no one wants to hear this story
Riese: except me in 2004
Laneia: ok valid
but not the people at the white party!
Thus Jenny launches in to her big story, which let’s just be grateful she’s telling it out loud instead of whispering it via EZ Girl.
Jenny: “I’m at the party, and there she is. I see Marina. She was possibly the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Later on that night, she followed me into the bathroom, and then she does it, the thing— am I crazy? am i drunk? am I hallucinating? And then she does it… the thing that would go on to confuse me and fuck with all the things stable in my life…”
Jenny says they had the best sex in the history of sex, because this was before The Real L Word came out, so.
The other lezbians get really into it, especially when Jenny notes that Marina told her “I think I could fall in love with you.” Some fierce bitch downing a pint in a plastic cup and sporting a scoop-neck and an enormous white belt is like FUCK THAT BITCH .
JENNY MOMENT: “She wrecked my fucking life with supposition.”
Everyone demands Jenny call her ex-girlfriend, because it’s time they had the talk. Say you hate her, say it’s all her fault. But you, will soon meet someone newwww, and her name is Robin!
NO! Not that Robyn! This Robin:
Robin saves the day by saving Jenny from herself — before Jenny can place the call and tell Marina to go to fucking hellllll, Robin snatches the phone from Jenny’s fragile paws. You know Robin is a serious person ’cause she’s wearing TWO white shirts to The White Party.
Jenny gazes at Robin like a lunatic and goes, ‘That was very nice of you. That was very kind.”
Elsewhere in Palm Springs, Ton-Ton is celebrity handling Dana Fairbanks, steering her away from adoring fans with wet sharpies and wetter vaginas, hoping for a scoop on Dana’s present relationship status.
Back at the White party, Shane creeps around giving everybody sexy eyes, eventually spotting Jenny chatting with Robin. She gives the pair a secret smile.
Turns out that Robin is a trapeeze artist, so she can probably have sex upside-down and orgasm on a tight rope and shit like that.
Jenny: If I was a trapeeze artist, I don’t think that anybody would catch me, I think that I would need like, this massive net or something.
Robin: You know that’s like the third time you’ve referred to yourself as worthless? Is this your big Leaving Las Vegas moment, did you come to Dinah Shore to get alcohol poisoning and die?
Jenny: No. I’m not — I’m not suicidal. I’ve just fucked up my life just a little bit. You know?
Robin delivers a litany of love/light mumbo-jumbo about flying in the air, taking risks, life and death and how Jenny needs to give life another try and become a unicorn pony of the stars. Yup, Robin will be playing the role of “stable and reliable girlfriend to soothe rebounding pains from unstable and unreliable ex-girlfriend heartbreaker,” which inevitably will transform into “boring girlfriend” versus “exciting heartbreaker,” because this is Jenny, and once upon a time I was Jenny, and I don’t think Jenny’s seen the light quite yet, and won’t for some time.
After a long hard day at the Nabisco-Whathaveyou Tennis Tournament, Tonya takes Dana back to her hotel room for a little bump ‘n grind.
Lesbian Sexy Moment: A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Players: Ton-Ton and Dana Fairbanks
The Pick Up: “Dana, I want to make love to you.”
Hot or Not? NOT. Horrible, actually.
Meanwhile in the Palm Springs Hotspot Superhotel, my three best friends are hanging out in bed with their room service and their beer and their potato chips watching movies and wondering when I’m gonna show up and hang out because this scene embodies all 567 reasons I wanted lesbian friends of my own. AND NOW I HAVE SOME! AND WE HUNG OUT ON BEDS IN PALM SPRINGS!
Then Jenny stumbles in, attesting that she’s imbibed too much tequila and witnessed so much debauchery! And now here she is with all that hair on her head and her silly shirt and her jeans being all adorable and brand new.
Laneia: it’s sweet how they’re still a group, even at this place — how they had them come back to the room to watch an old movie and drink canned heineken and talk
Riese: yes, this is what i liked best about the show
i liked their friendships so much, like this show made me want queer friends more than it made me want a girlfriend
Laneia: i agree with this 100%
Also! Jenny’s got a date with Robin on Wednesday night! Everybody approves.
Meanwhile Ton-Ton continues crawling all over Dana’s bod ’cause Tonya is the ALL TIME WORST. Alice calls her bestbest friend for an update on her life situation and can tell right away that Dana is hooking up with that “weird hospitality chick.”
Alice laments that Ton-Ton’s got super bad vibes, and then kinda apropos of nothing, Jenny notes that it’s “so difficult to meet the right person,” noting that everybody’s “coming out stories” are “about confusion and unfulfilled desire and disappointment.”
Shane demands Tina give ’em hope they can believe in by telling the story about how she met Bette and her Severe Bob at an art gallery opening, back when Bette and Alice had just broken up.
Firstly, Catherine Opie is there, which is badass, but more importantly, Tina and Bette share an instant sexyeyes connection, because Bette’s got magical eyeballs.
Shane and Jenny listen, Shenny-style.
Tina explains that Bette invited her to one of her “famous “artists dinners,” which involves a lot of glassware and art critics. Tina could’ve felt super weird at the artsy party, but instead she didn’t ’cause Bette was “so warm and gracious.” IN HER VAGINA.
Tina accidentally left her earring behind at The Fancy Art Party, so she had to come back to pick it up. This is when Bette and Tina shared their first kiss!
Back in La La Land, Bette and Candace have been working late and now they have to stand together in a hallway experiencing sexual tension.
Jenny asks Tina if she’s worried about never sleeping with another woman besides Bette, and Tina is like, have you seen Jennifer Beals naked? No you haven’t, have you, because she has a no-nudity clause in her contract. But guess who has seen Jennifer Beals naked? I HAVE ‘CAUSE I’M TINA BITCHES!!!!
Tina: “I think God am I gonna go to my grave and and Bette will be the only women I’ve ever slept with? But then I look at her and think, well, what more could I want?”
Back at The Art Club, Candace returns to Bette’s office to pick up the bag she left behind on purpose. Oh yeah and also she has a message:
Candace: “I forgot that I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t tell you that all I’ve wanted to do all day long is kiss you. Please tell me if you don’t want me to.”
Laneia: This is the cuntiest move
Riese: argh poor bette
i mean, aghgh bette! don’t do it!!
but also i feel like if you’re not in a relationship and the other person is, it’s their call whether or not you’re gonna actually cross that line
They start kissing super juicy-like and Bette pushes her away and looks like she’s gonna cry and all our little hearts wilt and die, including Bette’s. The closed captioning says “[SOBBING].”
At some point between then, now and the entire expanse of our tiny lives on this strange planet, Shane awakens, kindly leaves a bottle of water next to a still-slumbering Jenny, and dips into the hallway to call Cherie Jaffe.
A girl walks by Shane and tells her that she’s cute and Shane’s like “thanks, but it’s okay, I’ve got my coug on the line.”
Back in Ton-Ton Town, Tonya is like, “I can’t believe I’m about to go down on Dana Fairbanks!” FYI, Haviland always said that she wanted somebody to say that to her one day, so just a heads-up for Haviland’s girlfriend Ashley.
The next morning, the ladies are supes hungover from their all-nighter eating Cheetos and watching The O.C. and Alice is skulking about until she hears a noise in the hallway, identifies it as Dana returning from her walk of shame, and leaps back into her bed. I also noticed a Dolphin was leaping with Alice at the time:
Thus Dana, who somehow made it all the way there in only a bra, is quickly and adorably tackled by her BFF Alice who wants all the dirty details.
Back in Chez Portard, Bette fields a call from Tina who says Bette sounds tired which is true, because she’s been up all night FILLED WITH GUILT.
Tina says they’ll be heading out that afternoon and then she runs back into the hotel room and leaps onto the bed, so all of them can form a cuddle puddle and make our hearts melt. Sometimes that’s what a long-term relationship needs — time away, spent with friends who give you life and make you laugh and talk to you about trivial things in a trivial place — to make your relationship and your sense of self feel special and alive again. It’s really fucking unfortunate when one member of that relationship uses that time to MAKE OUT WITH CARPENTERS, you know?
The lesbians are about to pack it in and head back to sunny Los Angeles, California, home of the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant, when Dana shows up with a special guest: Ton-Ton.
Sorry, I think that picture is the photoshopped version. here’s the un-photoshopped version:
Riese: i feel like tonya didn’t ask for consent re: this relationship
Riese: i hate this whole thing
tonya was the WORST
Ton-Ton stinks up the car with her words / thoughts / ideas while everybody stabs themselves in the eyeball.
Does Dana just want somebody to boss her around? Something she can’t fuck up because she’s never allowed to think for herself or talk?
Tonya has 100 questions for Dana to fill out her fanfic, like for example is Dana a cat or a dog person, because Tonya really wants her to say dogs because she really hates cats. Yeah, I don’t think Mr. Piddles is gonna go for that.
When Tonya gets out of the car, Alice (who is #1 Mean Cunt for life, I love her) is like, wow that bitch is crazy. Alice notes that Tonya took $50 for gas money and the gas was only $32.50 but she didn’t give Alice any change, and Tina says Tonya told a stupid story about meeting Anne Heche, and Riese says that they should plow that van right over Tonya while they still have a chance.
Candace shows up at the Art Center in a tank top trying to tempt Bette / do carpenter things. Bette is like, I am wearing a sweater set from Sears today, this is my no-sex outfit, you are not entering these trousers.
Bette’s staring into the great beyond when somebody comes up behind her and embraces her around the waist. Bette, thinking it’s The Carpenter somehow, is like, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” BUT SURPRISE IT’S TINA!
Riese: wait for real
how would she confuse them
Riese: she would know tina’s body shape and hair and smell
i would never confuse somebody’s smell for somebody else
Laneia: or you’d at least like, turn around? abruptly?
it’s weird that she’s 100% ready to be touched from behind like that
Bette covers her tracks, claiming she just meant that she can’t get the show ready in three weeks.
Tina: “That party was so crazy. God it just made me want to go home and curl into bed with you.”
That is an authentic post-Dinah Shore feeling. And with that, the episode is over!
Lesbian Sexy Moments: 1
Lesbian Squabbles: 0
Quote of the Week: Shane, for “That girl took my Sunshine meal toy, and then she took my heart.”
On a Scale of 1 to 10: An 8-footer
I picked this episode to recap ’cause it’s one of my favorites — because what I loved most about this show was the friend-moments. See, prior to The L Word, we’d never seen ourselves represented in this way on mainstream television, and it sadly remains one of the few television programs focused completely on a group of female friends, let alone a group of gay female friends. There’s a scene in Sex and the City when the girls are analyzing yet another guy and another date and Miranda is suddenly like, “How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It’s like seventh grade with bank accounts.” That’s how other shows about women usually made me feel, and SATC is another show heavily praised for its focus on female friendships.
So this was a thing we needed, this show, because it was a whole entire life, not just a girl you kissed secretly or your aunt who lives with her partner. We’d seen three-episode romantic story arcs between a main character and a three-episode guest star, replete with varied reactions from heterosexual friends/family and some chaste kissing. We’d seen brand-new queers take tentative forays into lesbian bars buffered by their straight best friend or relative, who is subsequently delighted by improbably high levels of sapphic attention. We’d seen coming out stories. So many coming out stories. But this was a model for a life. A life with other people who were like you.
Although I know that for many gay ladies, lesbianism really is just about who they fuck and date, for me, “the lifestyle” really is a lifestyle. It’s about how we live and love all the time — where we work, who our friends are, what parties we go to, what vacations we road trip to, and the stories we tell each other that straight people don’t always understand. Television didn’t want us to see that. Then this show did, and my whole head exploded, just thinking of people like me living like this — without men, and happier for it.
And that’s what made the ending of this series so tragic — it was poorly written, for sure, but it also ripped all the characters apart, made Jenny into a sociopath and somebody-but-really-nobody into a murderer and then pitted these friends against each other in ensuing “interrogation tapes.” But by that point I didn’t need the show like I did in 2004, because I had my own friends, and we made this website together, and now here we all are, skipping parties to drink beer in a hotel room and having very mixed feelings about “Closer to Fine.”