Welcome back to Transparent, where we breathlessly await finding out whether Arthur Chu’s amazing run will ever cease (no, it won’t). This week we have (mostly) returned to our present-day fictional universe, and a lot of people get righteously told off for what selfish assholes they are, which is satisfying to watch.
You may remember that episode 7, the last one set in the present, ended with Maura standing at her ex-wife’s door, sad and alone, and her ex-wife (whose name is Shelly, somehow this just didn’t really sink in for me until 90% of the way through the season) embracing her. We open with both of them in Shelly’s house, although it’s a few days later, and they’re talking about how We Need to Talk About Ed.
Ed’s health has declined; he’s now bedridden and on oxygen and an IV. Shelly is overwhelmed and exhausted, as someone is when they appear to be a full-time caretaker for a very ill person and are elderly and also not in great health themselves. Maura suggests inpatient hospice care, and Shelly says that Ed doesn’t want to be put somewhere; he wants out. Maura asks if she’s considered assisted suicide; Shelly says she’s “done some googling.” I feel sad at this juncture in the episode. Just putting that right here.
Maura and Shelly seem supremely comfortable and close to each other — you know, almost as if they were married for years — and this is helpfully contrasted and contextualized when we starsweep back to 1994, where Maura and Shelly are sitting at the farthest possible opposite ends of their dinner table while Maura tells her the truth about where she was the weekend of Ali’s bat mitzvah. Shelly is… not pleased. She asks with derision “So, it’s a room full of straight men… in dresses.” Maura adds on “Dancing!” with excitement. It is becoming clear that the issue isn’t a disconnect in communication; it’s not that Shelly doesn’t understand it, it’s that she thinks it’s awful. Maura tells her that wives can go, and seems hopeful that Shelly might attend and be involved in this part of her life; she is less than interested in this.
Back in the future of medical marijuana, Sarah has to dump her weed down the toilet. We find out that the reason Tammy doesn’t drink and (maybe) why Sarah lied to her about being high is that Tammy is a recovered addict, and while coke was her drug of choice she doesn’t wanna be around any drugs which is super fair. Sarah is very whiny about this, and also really Sarah, this was your move? “I’ll just hide this weed in the house and keep it a secret from my recovering addict partner; a flawless plan!” Sarah is like 14. Actually not even 14 because, as referenced in earlier recaps, my brother’s weed-concealment plots were way more advanced than hers when he actually was 14. In the midst of this we also find out that Bianca was kicked out of the house, apparently for smoking weed with Josh and then swimming around with him in the pool? First of all, that was Josh’s fault, not Bianca’s. She is a child. Second of all, maybe I’m working off a flawed standard of comparison but that doesn’t really seem like that big a deal? Thirdly, if smoking weed and hanging out with people she doesn’t like is a dealbreaker for Tammy as far as raising children, then I have some bad news for her about raising children.
So where is Bianca now, you ask? Well she’s at Josh’s of course! Seriously she’s staying in Josh’s apartment. Please imagine an mp3 of the stabbing sound effect from Psycho here. This is an objectively bad idea but also her one trusted adult in her life kicked her out of the house, knowing that she was a runaway from a Scientologist who I think also kicked her out, so I guess all bets are off at this point. Seriously that was a shitty thing to do, Tammy. Bianca tells Josh she’s going to make him some huevos rancheros in the morning. The show isn’t giving us much to work with as far as Bianca’s character, despite her having the most interesting life of maybe anyone on the show, but I’m going to go with believing that she’s been let down by so many adults she relied on that she’s become super savvy about instantly pinpointing what will make them like her and performing it to the letter in hopes that it will keep her safe and stable for a little while longer. This is heartbreaking and very true to life and 500% more interesting than Josh.
Speaking of things more interesting than Josh, Maura and Shelly are snacking at her kitchen table while Ed lays in his bed and breathes. Shelly asks Maura if she’s still interested in women now that she presents as one, and if that makes Maura a lesbian. “So we got gay married before it was fashionable!” she giggles. Her questions don’t seem to come from a demanding or accusatory place, but an affectionate one. This is, of course, only true in the present; past-Shelly was not quite as rad, which is important to remember because Maura really needed someone to be rad to her at that point.
Starsweep to Len’s house, where Sarah is dropping off the kids. She hangs out for a second and waxes tragic about how much she misses their couch and how the couch at her place isn’t comfy because Tammy likes modern things, not squishy things. There’s a sex joke in there somewhere but I’ll let you DIY that one. (Which is also kind of a sex joke.) It’s hard for me to watch this scene because I keep rolling my eyes so hard that I hurt myself. I’m not on Team Len in any sense but if you were that attached to the furniture, maybe you shouldn’t have imploded your marriage? Len was probably also attached to things, like his marriage.
Next in this out-of-control alternate reality version of what divorce looks like, Sarah reveals that she’s just being pouty because Tammy made her flush her weed down the toilet. To be clear, she’s complaining to her ex about a fight with her new person mere weeks after she left him. This is somehow not off-putting to Len, and his response is to offer her more weed. Where is the store that they bought their divorce from, and why didn’t anyone tell my family about it? The obvious next step is for Len and Sarah to get high together in a bedroom, while their kids are outside probably playing with the lawnmower blades and rat poison. Seriously I just cannot take these two or their marriage or their separation seriously because their lives seem SO far removed from reality.
Meanwhile, back at the Dudebro Ranch, Josh has shown up at the temple to see Raquel. Has Josh ever tried just calling, or maybe sending an Edible Arrangement? If someone I was dating did something shitty to me and then came to my home or work where I could not avoid them — as Josh has done twice now — it would not really inspire me to repair the relationship. Josh says he was a “douchebag” and got caught up in some “stupid family stuff,” which is code for “I had a manchild meltdown and made my parent’s stuff all about me instead of supporting them, and also got high with a teenager.” He wants to get food with Raquel to make things up. Possibly a personality transplant would go farther, but no one asked me. Josh says he will just sit at the temple and wait, perhaps endlessly, while Raquel does her job. Guys this is so creepy and manipulative, please don’t ever do this. Just tell them “Ok great call me when you’re done” and go home and watch Broad City or something.
Across town, Ali is telling Syd about her completely bizarre experience wherein she hallucinated some portion of a date, the exact percentage of which I’m starting to despair about ever learning. Syd guides the conversation to the fact that Ali was attempting to understand trans identity via boning the first trans person she met, which is 100% true and gross and deserves to be addressed and also at the same time I feel like no one in the world of Transparent is really realizing how fucking weird it was that Ali made up an entire date and also possibly went into a fugue state and relived her childhood for all of the last episode. Syd also reveals that the record sitting on the table — just left out, lying there, for all to see, even though it’s better to store records standing up than laying down and a diehard vinyl snob would know that — is Josh’s. HMMMM. TO WHAT COULD THIS POSSIBLY LEAD. It is perhaps worth noting that I had actually successfully repressed Syd sleeping with Josh until right now and it’s all rushing back and it feels awful.
Back in the basement with the lava lamps and blacklight posters and the nag champa incense sticks, Sarah and Len are giggling the whole day away! Sarah says there’s things she would have done differently. Yes, Sarah, there’s a lot of things I would have you do differently too; I have compiled a Powerpoint Presentation about it, if you’ll just take a seat we can get started. Len says “I knew we were unhappy, but it didn’t occur to me to do anything about it.” Len is the most self-aware man on the planet. Then it is revealed that Len has a date with his assistant tonight, because again, this is unfolding in a sci-fi universe wherein people who were married for years and raised two children together recover from their messy divorce in a matter of weeks and chitchat about who they’re dating. Sarah is clearly a little upset about this, since it reveals that Len was already attracted to his assistant while they were married, but mostly she wants to compare boob sizes? I can’t tell if this is supposed to be like a jealousy thing or a trope where like the Bisexual Cool (Ex) Girlfriend is down for locker room talk about other women with her male partner, but it is so boring! I wanna watch Maura and Judith Light eat bagels instead.
Raquel and Josh are eating at Josh’s apartment but they’re not eating bagels, which I think is a mistake. Why is Josh’s only idea for dates “hanging out at my apartment?” Oh right, because he is mentally and emotionally still stuck at age 18, where he probably tried to impress girls with the Smashing Pumpkins poster on his wall and negging their taste in music. He and Raquel are chatting about their respective ~callings~ in life and it seems like maybe Raquel is forgiving him when who walks through the apartment but Bianca! Bianca sort of sultrily compliments Josh’s shirt and walks off, because for some reason — what could that reason possibly be! what institutional system of oppression could be responsible! — we’re supposed to think of Bianca as a seductive temptress trying to draw men into her trap even though she is FIFTEEN. Seriously is there one moment of this show where Bianca, one of the only women of color, has gotten to be anything other than a plot device to enable other character’s storylines while being simultaneously tragic and hypersexual?
Anyhow now Raquel is upset, and Josh is acting like she’s nuts for being upset, and I’m honestly not sure whether it speaks to the depth of Josh’s self-absorption or whether it’s actually a flaw in the writing of his character because it doesn’t make sense for anyone, even Josh, to be this dumb. Seriously, you have a teenager that you’ve met twice living at your apartment and you didn’t even mention this to the person you invited over on a date? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that it was at least a 10-minute car ride from the temple to his apartment; in all that time you couldn’t find 10 seconds to say “Oh by the way a family friend’s kid is going through a rough time and is crashing at my place but it won’t be a big deal?” I have absolutely zero faith in Josh’s ability to make good decisions or communicate effectively with others, but this just seems like such a no-brainer.
Raquel doesn’t believe Josh when he says that it’s totally normal for Bianca to be here because she’s his sister’s girlfriend’s ex-wife’s stepdaughter, which is fair. An argument ensues in which everything Raquel says is totally on-point and 100% deserved, and she says she’s going to go and I would be SO THRILLED if she actually did that. Instead, Josh says a lot of really gross things because Josh can’t believe that anything on earth might ever be his fault — it would be super easy to say “you’re right I blindsided you with that, I’m sorry,” but instead Josh says this is really about moving too fast and how Raquel is obsessed with having kids, which is cruel and makes no goddamn sense. He points out that Raquel brought up her eggs “on our first date,” conveniently forgetting that their “first date” was him showing up unannounced at Friday services and then expecting her to hang out with him instead of the other congregants.
I can’t relate the rest of the moves made in this argument because it makes me too angry and reminds me too much of similar manipulative and gaslighting arguments I’ve had with men and so instead I’m just going to tell you how the argument ends, which is with Josh tackle-kissing Raquel and now they’re having sex. Someday I’m going to try this as a way to end a heated argument. I’ll let you know how it goes but I’m not optimistic. I feel like I’m being asked to believe that Josh’s dick has magic powers — Syd, Bianca, and Raquel, who are smart and capable and have their shit fairly together, are all supposed to be so into the idea of having sex with him that they’ll overlook his trainwreck of a personality? The important piece of information here is that Raquel allows Josh to ejaculate inside her, which plays neatly into a baby plotline. Really hoping Raquel gets pregnant and gets the baby she wants, and then peaces out and never talks to Josh again. When I was rewatching this scene to recap the video player kept freezing and repeating so I had to spend twice the amount of time in that scene, which I think is punishment from God for something I’ve done.