Welcome back to Transparent, where we find out who among this lovable family of misfits gets to work for Diddy. Let’s dive in!
We open in a thrift shop? I think? where Ali and Syd are coppin’ it, washin’ it, bout to go and get some compliments. I was really hoping for an adorable shopping montage because I’m obsessed with montages, but no dice. Instead, Syd helps Ali pick out a dress that says “high femme,” because she wants to appeal to Dale, and nothing says “I’ve really taken my gender studies class to heart” than “I’m going to change my entire appearance to appeal to a man.”
The high point of this scene is when Syd informs Ali that while Syd is “low femme,” Ali is more of a “mole-people femme.” Stay tuned for the upcoming A-Camp workshop on this. Also, there’s a moment where Ali uncaps a lipstick to apply it in the mirror while Syd stands behind her in the dressing room, and I had looked away from the screen for a moment and really thought the lipstick-noise was the sound of Syd kissing Ali on the shoulder, because probably there is something wrong with me, and I almost died.
Back in the past, we meet Baby Ali so we can see some context for this scene. Baby Ali is having a rough day because she’s supposed to wear a dress for her bat mitzvah, and to her this is “torture.” She also finds out that Maura occasionally has “doubts” about God, and I have to agree with her that when you combine these elements, her bat mitzvah seems very undesirable.
Maura does her best to champion Ali to her mom, and says that maybe they should just cancel Ali’s bat mitzvah even though it’s a week away. If we look back into our crystal ball of the past, we will recall that Maura also has a horse in this race; she wants to go to a gender getaway camp on the same weekend as the bat mitzvah in question. Unfortunately, Judith Light isn’t having it; she tells Maura that “I want you to be a man and save the goddamn day.” That’s painful to hear.
Back in the present, Tammy is speaking Spanish poorly and directing some workers who are remodeling the inside of the house. Sarah comes home to find this and clearly feels a little saddened by it, but Tammy doesn’t care because the Lesbian Interior Design Train has left the station! Seriously Tammy was destined to be in an HGTV series about redoing people’s houses while they’re out at the store, how can we make this happen for her.
Sarah finds a bunch of old items from the kids’ childhood and has a nostalgic moment about them, to which Tammy pays the barest minimum of attention because she’s really excited about the house. Clearly the seeds for conflict are being planted here, and it’s sort of valid — like making huge and really expensive plans for remodeling without even consulting Sarah is definitely weird. But also the level of attachment these kids have to this house seems irrational? Maybe it’s just because I’ve lived in like a million places, but guys, it’s just a house. You’re in your twenties and thirties now, ⅔ of you have your own adult homes with your own families, maybe let it go?
Speaking of weird, starsweep back to Ali’s date! Ali is waiting for Dale to come pick her up looking like a queer music video remake of a Dolly Parton song, and he comes to get her in a beat-up pickup because of course that’s what he drives. He clearly takes note of her drastic appearance change, and tells her she looks good, “little lady.”
He drives her to his place, which has a very distinctive Twin-Peaks-Set-in-1970s-Alabama vibe, which Ali stands and takes in for a long beat. This turns into a sudden kink thing when Dale is all “Who told you you could sit down?” So that’s the turn this is taking!
Elsewhere, Sarah and Josh are on some sort of adventure together. Josh says the person they’re going to meet is his “homeboy,” because Josh is the kind of white guy who describes people as his homeboys. The dude in question is Jason Mantzoukas, which I really did not see coming. I admit that I mostly know Mantzoukas from The League, and his character on that show makes it very difficult to think of Mantzoukas as anyone else ever again. But in this particular fictional universe, Jason Mantzoukas is… a weed doctor! Named Dr. Steve. Sarah wants some medical marijuana, and tells Dr. Steve that she’s very anxious, even though she’s “the happiest she’s ever been!” She says this last part while laughing sort of manically and not making eye contact, which is definitely super convincing when you’re telling someone how happy you are. Either way, Dr. Steve is happy to give her some weed.
Outside in the car, Sarah is getting stoned while Josh whines about how hard it is on him that Maura is transitioning and how he doesn’t know if he can possibly handle going to Trans Got Talent, he might just die. I know everyone’s feelings are valid and important, but actually Josh’s feelings are just not valid or important, they are dumb. If I have to spend one more minute of my life thinking about Josh’s feelings I’m gonna climb into a rocket ship and set that rocket ship on a course to the moon and then once I get to the moon live inside a system of underground caves so I don’t even have to see earth from afar because I know that Josh and his feelings live there.
Back at Ali’s surprise kink date, I am like watching through my fingers here as I cover my face in horror. I don’t want to be a downer about anyone’s thing that they’re into, but this is like my absolute worst nightmare: getting to know someone that I want to do sex with and then having them try to nudge me into being submissive and also I am at their house in the middle of nowhere and they have the only car. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall this situation being negotiated or agreed upon? Which, it would be fine if this was explicitly agreed upon, but it’s not! It is weird! Dale is being weird! I feel weird! Anyhow he says that Ali should end every sentence with “Daddy,” and also has to shave her pubic hair. Like right now, this evening. Wheeee! I miss Derek. He was my favorite man on this show. How can we get him back in here.
Anyhow, now I am feeling slightly more comfortable because they have relocated to a public space, and so this seems less likely to turn into an episode of SVU. Dale and Ali are shopping for a dick, and trying to compromise on something that will work for both of them. This is also reassuring because it involves Ali exercising some form of agency and makes me feel like she’s actually enjoying herself and wants to be here, maybe. Ali chooses a sparkly glitter dick which I’m like 80% sure contains phtalates, so be careful there, kiddos.
Josh is also on a date — with Rabbi Raquel. They’re joking around and taking her kippah off and putting it back on and taking it off and I think it’s supposed to be cute, but it’s hard not to think about Arrested Development when watching this show because Jeffrey Tambor, and so all I could think about was “Hair up, glasses off. No, hair down. No, up. Glasses on.” Somehow that scene doesn’t seem to be on youtube, which is bananas, but ok. Also, how did I never realize before what a Gob Josh is? He is such a Gob. Anyhow, Josh is having some problems with Little Josh during his sexytime encounter with Raquel, and tells her that it’s just because he’s so stressed out about all this stuff that’s going on right now, like Maura’s talent show. Look, dude, you got yourself fired for being a menacing misogynist, and I’m actually not sure how you’re paying the rent right now; seems like if anything, that’s what you should be stressed out about. But Raquel saves the day by telling Josh to go to the talent show, and while he’s gone she’ll rummage through his pantry and make dinner for them both. Real theme this episode of women going way above and beyond on first dates. I usually just, like, offer to pay for the drinks. How come everyone on this show gets to have sex besides Maura?
Back in the family home, Sarah is putting away all the weed goodies she got from Dr. Steve, and is using Josh’s childhood treasure box to store them in. She is also continuing to smoke more weed, which will definitely only help her later interactions in this episode.
It’s time for Trans Got Talent! It’s all really happening! I hope Lindsay Lohan can remember all the moves to the Jingle Bell Rock dance!
When Sarah and Tammy arrive, a small butch person is practicing spoken word poetry. They are also wearing a maroon jacket with leather sleeves, which I choose to believe was a conscious in-joke on the part of the costuming department.
Maura is gathering her things and setting up VIP seats for her kids in the audience. Tammy is wearing a nice two-toned buttondown, I like it a lot and if it goes on sale at Uniqlo I’m gonna buy it. Maura says hello to them and then says she has to go put her “show garment” on, at which Sarah giggles for hours because she is BLAZED, y’all. She denies being blazed to Tammy, and goes to get a drink. Why do TV characters always lie to their partners about being high? It’s so — forgive me here — transparent. Like I can always tell when my partner is high because when we go to the store he only wants to go to the pet section so he can stare at the fish tanks. It’s not hard to tell.
Sarah is giggling and talking to a very bored-looking person that looks EXACTLY like Friend of the Site Mal Blum, but is somehow not Mal Blum, which I guess is fair because let’s be honest, at every queer event there’s at least one person that you could mistake for Mal Blum. Sarah sees Josh across the room, whom she was apparently supposed to meet out in the parking lot. Josh for some reason chooses to shoulder his way through a group of performers instead of walking around them, which he could very easily have done, which feels like an analogy for something.
Ali and Dale are also here, and Ali apologizes that they have to go to this but Dale says it’s ok, these are his people. As weird as I still feel about Ali’s date, i have to say that interrupting a kinky first date mid sex toy shopping in order to attend an LGBT center talent show that no one in the audience really wants to go to is the most accurate representation of queer dating life I’ve basically ever seen on television, so congrats on that, Transparent.
Ali and Josh and Sarah all meet up and ditch their respective dates for a second while they weirdly lock themselves into a tiny room to smoke weed from Sarah’s vape pen. Ali tells them that she’s on a date with Dale and that he’s trans and they spend a minute talking about what surgey he has or hasn’t have. Speaking of accurate representation of queer events: cis people sequestering themselves away to speculate about trans people’s genitals! Gross, guys!
Now that we’ve left the bizarre little sibling oasis, the talent show is beginning in earnest. It’s time for Maura to perform with Davina! Both of them are wearing these amazing sort of mod 60’s diva outfits, it’s super impressive. I feel so nervous it’s making me nauseated. Maura and Davina perform that Gotye song, you know the one with this cover that you liked. Davina is singing the first vocal part, and if Josh makes a scene I’m going to find the actor who plays him and make him buy me a vegan poutine.
It’s mostly fine until Maura’s part starts, at which point stoned Sarah starts laughing, which Maura can definitely hear from the stage. Then all the kids are laughing, and Dale and Tammy are both, like, Jesus Christ. I share your feelings, Tammy and Dale.
Dale asks Ali, who I think might be laugh-crying at this point, if she wants to leave, and she says yes. They go to the bathroom, where Dale whips out the sparkly unicorn dick and Ali is like sure, ok. To Dale’s credit, he does at least ask this time if Ali wants to have sex, but to Dale’s not-credit, he does not seem to take note of the lack of enthusiasm when Ali agrees.
The next kid to peace out is Josh, because Josh. Sarah’s stoned little fishbowl brain can’t handle this, and she’s talking loudly with Tammy, and the woman in front of her shushes her, and then Sarah peaces out too. Good lord in heaven, this is SO hard to watch. Maura is literally singing “YOU DIDN’T NEED TO CUT ME OFF, TREAT ME LIKE A STRANGER.” What is it gonna take for the wizard behind the curtain to grant you kids a heart?
Dale and Ali have run into a snag because Dale can’t get the sparkly unicorn dick out of its packaging. To be fair, that stuff is really hard to open. When he finally does, Ali — who seems to me like she’s having some reservations about this encounter! — asks if they can use some more lube, and as Dale tries to apply the lube to the dick, it slips out of his hands and up into the air and onto the restroom floor. Oops! He reassures Ali that he’ll wash it off, but this window has closed, dude. Ali says no and sort of looks like maybe she wants to dive into an active volcano.
Back on stage, Maura can see very clearly that her kids are gone from their seats, and could not even stay there long enough for a song that cannot be longer than four minutes. Even under the stage makeup she’s wearing, you can tell that she’s heartbroken.
Josh is out in the parking lot, feeling all of his man feelings, which are so complex and so important! Where’s Ernest Hemingway, he’s gonna be really sorry he missed this. Sarah arrives and asks him for a ride home because Tammy is being “a total asshole” (in the sense that she is correctly assessing that Sarah is being a total asshole). Josh doesn’t want to, but this does lead to him realizing that the truck with all of the parts of his childhood home hanging out in the bed is Tammy’s, and that she’s remodeling the house. (Why did she hire workers if she was going to be transporting all the wood herself anyway?) Now Josh is EXTRA pouty!
Josh goes to the family home by himself, without giving Sarah a ride even though he totally could have, because he’s an asshole. He is also able to walk right in because no one has ever locked the doors of this house, ever. Seriously how different would this show be if someone just locked this goddamn door once in a while? He throws a temper tantrum in front of Bianca, which is neat. Come on, Josh, you’re just yelling at a 15-year-old girl because you’re upset about your own life. Who do you think you are, my dad? Then he sort of calms down and sits next to Bianca on the couch as she packs a bowl and talks about how he used to keep dirty pictures in the treasure box where Sarah is now keeping her weed. Josh I swear to God if you lay one hand on Bianca I will leap through the screen and murder you.
“But wait,” I hear you ask. “Aren’t we forgetting something? Wasn’t there another subplot in this episode?” Yes, yes there was. It was Raquel. She has made dinner for Josh and even found a bottle of wine, and now she is just sitting alone in his stupid apartment looking at her phone while Josh postures for a teenager and swims around in the pool with her. Run don’t walk, Raquel, take this as the sign of terrible, terrible things that it probably is.
Back at the LGBT center, the talent show is over. Even though Sarah didn’t get a ride from Josh, she still didn’t stick around to talk to Maura? Jesus. Davina and Shea want Maura to go out for drinks with them, and reminder her that she’d been warned not to really expect anything from her kids, but Maura is too sad, which is just totally 100% fair.
Tammy and Sarah have arrived home, and I bet they are gonna be THRILLED with what they find. Tammy also sees the box full of weed laying open, although I’m not sure she realizes it’s Sarah’s, so I bet that’s going to help matters. She walks out to the back of the house to find Josh and Bianca in the pool and yells at Bianca to get out, while Sarah gives Josh a shrug that seems to be a combination of “sorry” and “seriously?”
Dale is driving Ali home and explaining to her what a chaser is. Ali is offended that Dale thinks she could be fetishizing him, but also, come on, Ali. You’re the one who told your siblings “He’s trans!” like he was a rare Beanie Baby you were gonna buy on eBay. And as Dale says, “the timing’s interesting.” Ali is really sick of wearing her prairie corset, and sort of tears it apart in the car, rolling down the windows so she can get some air.
Elsewhere, Maura is also driving, and we hear a little piano refrain of Gotye again. She’s not going to her apartment, though — instead, she’s going to visit her ex-wife. Judith Light opens the door looking shocked, and Maura says nothing, just stands there. Judith Light looks like she might cry, and hugs Maura tightly on the doorstep.
The Dalemobile has arrived back at his house, and Ali says she thinks she just wants to grab her stuff and go home. She should probably try to pitch a New York Magazine Sex Diary because this was one heck of a first date. As Ali steps out of Dale’s car, we see that now he’s driving a sensible, compact sedan rather than a beat-up country song truck. His house is also completely different — it’s not a cite log cabin but a regular suburban-ish structure. Inside, there aren’t any of the neon signs or ugly-chic retro furniture and decorations that Ali noticed before. It’s a completely different residence. “This is your house?” Ali asks. Dale says it is, and offers to make her some tea — again, in a completely different kitchen. What?
Join us next time on Transparent where we will continue to investigate whether there are further depths of callous self-absorption these kids can sink to, and also whether Ali just hallucinated like an entire day or what.