Transparent Episode 109 Recap: I Want You To Be Here

Elsewhere Ali, the fifth Pretty Little Liar, has put the clues together and figured out that Syd is sleeping with Josh. She is very upset about it. Syd counters Ali’s upsetness with how “you make me feel bad all the time. Like, all the time.” Without even having to think about it, she rattles off a bunch of times that Ali was a shitty friend and put everything in her life ahead of Syd, mostly in the interests of fucking other people. “I feel terrible constantly,” Syd says. I feel for her so much here, and am so aware of having been in this exact place in life — where you know you’ve fucked up and you know the way you’re approaching things is totally wrong, it’s the wrong time and the wrong place, but everything you’ve been holding back has just gotten to be too much and so you’re letting it all out now, in the worst possible scenario, and just hoping that this person you care about will see all that and forgive you and listen to you. Which Ali tries to do, to her credit — she says “I don’t know why you’re acting like a jealous girlfriend!” but she also sinks to the couch and says “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m constantly hurting you?”


I left my plaid buttondown RIGHT HERE! Where did you put it?


That was MY plaid buttondown. The red one? Yours was the blue and grey one.


I’ve been wearing yours all along and you never said anything? No one else has ever done that for me.

And then the tension in the air sort of changes, because now that Ali’s actually listening Syd has to actually explain what’s going on, and I think we all kind of knew what was coming and it’s really hard to listen to. Syd explains that she’s had feelings for Ali since the eighth grade, which is just such a long time to carry a torch for someone it kills me. And there’s so much going on here I don’t think I’ll ever be able to untangle it — there’s the trope I don’t really like about the queer girl having a secret pathetic crush on her best friend, but then there’s also the reality of that happening to queer girls all the time and how it’s part of our lives and it’s really hard; there’s my worry that this revelation might overshadow all the ways in which Ali actually is a bad friend and make her feel like she’s off the hook; there’s a feeling like while Ali really is, again, a bad friend, it’s also not really fair to be mad at someone for not returning your feelings, especially when they didn’t know you had them.

Ali asks “So, if this is how you feel, why are you sleeping with my brother?” Which Syd just doesn’t answer, really! I feel like this sort of leaves a door open for the also-overly-familiar trope of “queer girl has feelings for friend, sleeps with man close to the best friend as some convoluted way to get closer to her/get back at her for not liking her,” perhaps most recently seen in Faking It. Or maybe that’s not what’s going on here at all and I’m just grumpy because I bought the wrong kind of coffee this week and my bathroom sink isn’t draining and Drano isn’t helping. Feel free to inform me about how wrong I am in my reading of this in the comments. Anyhow, this scene ends with a time-lapsed scene of Ali growing increasingly upset while trying to process what’s going on, which is a clear takeoff of that one scene from the Words With Girls pilot. It ends when Ali gets up and walks out.

Okay, if we're being honest? I actually do know why the fish died. I forgot to feed it for two weeks.

Okay, if we’re being honest? I actually do know why the fish died. I forgot to feed it for two weeks.

Wait where are you going, we can get a new fish

Wait where are you going, we can get a new fish

We starsweep away from this scene right back into 1994, where Maura is showing Shelly one of the outfits & wigs that she wore at Camp Camellia. Shelly is really cruelly unimpressed. “You wear this in front of other people?” she asks.

Maura: Honey, it’s me. Shel, I love you. It’s me.
Shelly: And how long has it been you? Was it you when we met? Was it you on our wedding night?
Maura: Yes.
Shelly: I can’t. I’m done.


Sorry I was just thinking about the end of Where the Red Fern Grows

And so that’s that. After all the work Maura has done to be brave and to be honest and to involve her wife in her life and to be who she is and still have a family that loves her, it’s just done. Someone who loves her — loves her enough to marry her — is just incredibly cruel to her, now, just because she told the truth. It also really brings into focus the way her kids are failing her in the present; the way this is just happening for Maura over and over and over again, this extreme betrayal from people she’s supposed to be able to trust.

In the very same house in the future, Tammy has bought some chairs that look like the kind you sit on in the waiting room in a therapist’s office. Read into that association whatever you will. Sarah is lying on her uncomfortable expensive couch, still stoned, asking Tammy if she “ever thinks about Barb and Len… about what we did to them? Do you think that’s okay?” Tammy responds that “they’re on their own path,” which is like when a politician is asked how they’ll create jobs and respond with “I’ll do what’s best for the American people.” It turns out though that Len being on his own path is actually what’s bothering Sarah, as she mentions that she found out he’s now dating his assistant, and spins some stoned conspiracy theory about how the assistant and her disabled son are going to “take him away from us — I mean, the kids.”

This is just how I imagine waltzing with Gina Torres in my fantasies

This is just how I imagine waltzing with Gina Torres in my fantasies

You never waltz with ME!

You never waltz with ME!

“You sound like you might be a little bit jealous, babe!” Tammy is totally right about that but also follows it up with “I know a little bit about being jealous because people have been jealous of me my entire life!” There’s nothing I can say that will top that so we’re just going to skip gaily into the next scene.


In Josh’s Ivory Tower of Testosterone, Raquel is expressing a postcoital desire to order in food and watch bad movies. Raquel, you poetic, noble land mermaid, I would travel to the ends of the earth to bring you the finest of Thai takeout.

In the daylight you don't look like Kristen Stewart at all. This ruins everything.

In the daylight you don’t look like Kristen Stewart at all. This ruins everything.

As Josh leaves the bedroom to undoubtedly somehow fuck up fulfilling the most basic of human desires for food and bad entertainment, he finds Bianca sitting in the living room listening to a record with headphones on, singing like an angel in heaven’s choir. “I didn’t know you could sing,” he said. “You never asked,” she says. Hopefully this new discovery of musical talent in a very vulnerable young woman doesn’t coincide with Josh’s desire to make a name for himself as a discoverer of new musical talent in a way that ends up being very harmful to everyone! Because that would be awful!


Are these Beats by Dre? I’m keeping them.

Now the kids are all together at their mom’s house, to combine their powers and summon Captain Planet and also to say goodbye to Ed. Ali is very touchy, because her relationship with her best friend just exploded and also because she’s Ali. Josh and Sarah reveal to us that Ed doesn’t have any family of his own, so this is it, this is all he’s got: Shelly and Maura and these three dumb dumbs. The kids are surprised to see Maura here, but also excited for the delicious Arnold Palmers that Maura made. Is there any situation that an Arnold Palmer cannot improve? I could be trapped in a ditch with a boulder pinning my leg to the ground and I think if I saw a pitcher of Arnold Palmers I’d still think “Nice!”

Zoinks! It was the janitor all along!

Zoinks! It was the you all along, wearing a werewolf mask to scare the tourists away!

You meddling kids!

I wouldn’t have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

Ali goes into Ed’s bedroom to hang out with him and say goodbye; it’s becoming clear that Ali is very attached to Ed in a way that her sibling’s aren’t. She asks how he’s doing and he sort of nods in return, despite maybe still being asleep.

Aahhhhhh you're sitting right on my leg aahhhhhhhh

Aahhhhhh you’re sitting right on my leg aahhhhhhhh

When she comes back out into the room with the rest of her family, they’re discussing how it came to be that Maura and Shelly are hanging out like old pals. Maura says:

“I just came over here because I was feeling kind of down; seems my kids abandoned me at a critical moment in my journey. So I felt kinda down, and I thought I would visit your mom, whom I trust. I was up there on stage and I was, I think, trying to do my best… you weren’t there. That row was empty.”

Wake up, flawless; post up, flawless; ridin' round in it, flawless; flossin' on that, flawless

Wake up, flawless; post up, flawless; ridin’ round in it, flawless; flossin’ on that, flawless

YESSSS MAURA YES. I feel after that piece of dialogue like I feel after the Chimamanda Adichie passage in ***Flawless. Tell them how shitty and ungrateful they are! Tell them their actions have consequences! Tell them they have to be accountable to the people in their lives! Tell them their feelings of discomfort are less important than unconditionally supporting you! Make them uncomfortable! Unfortunately that particular thrust of the conversation ends not with the kids profusely and genuinely apologizing and throwing themselves to the floor to cry out “We’re not worthy!” like it does in my head, but with them telling Maura how good it was and how great she looked, which is good too although a bit of sidestepping the point.

Shelly nudges them to the next point, which is her dying husband. She and Maura tell the kids that they’re planning on helping Ed pass on. Ali is Not Pleased, since she loves Ed a lot and also is having a weird day in other respects, although no one else knows that. Shelly says it’s happening because “she’s done,” which, you may recall, is an echo of what she said when finding out about Maura’s gender in 1994. Shelly explains that she’s been doing the backbreaking work of caring for Ed for years, cleaning up his bodily functions and feeding and dressing him with no help from her kids. “You don’t have any idea what his life is like,” she tells Ali. Maura adds “To get one of you three to notice what’s going on here is almost impossible.” Josh protests that he calls her “all the time,” because as noted earlier, Josh is fundamentally incapable of believing that he might ever be in the wrong about anything. “I don’t want you to call me,” Shelly says, so angry she’s almost growling, “I want you to be here.”

I TOLD you all that Broad City was amazing when it was still a webseries, and  NOW suddenly you're all fans

I TOLD you all that Broad City was amazing when it was still a webseries, and NOW suddenly you’re all fans

“He’s the only one who comes!” Shelly says, pointing at Maura and misgendering her. Maura corrects her, but Shelly doesn’t really hear because she’s still talking about how shitty her kids are. She says it a second time, and this time Maura interrupts her to say “She. I’m a woman.” Shelly corrects herself, repeating “She takes care of me.” Shelly grabs Ali’s knee and says “I can’t anymore. Look at me! Look at me! It’s either him or me.”

Sarah suggests getting the rabbi, saying “this is a big decision,” mistakenly thinking that she is being invited to participate in the decision rather than just be present. Josh offers to text the rabbi, which leads to everyone wondering why he has the rabbi’s personal number, which reveals of course that they’re dating. Shelly and Sarah take a break from being really sad and angry for a second to be excited about Josh and the rabbi. This scene is a real emotional roller coaster. Or more — what’s the ride where you’re seated and in a thing that spins like an egg beater and sort of whips you from one side of the ride to the other while also spinning you around. It’s like that, whatever that is, but emotions.

Me???? I'm the prettiest princess??

Me???? I’m the prettiest princess??

Ali’s response to the emotional spinny ride is to leave, because that’s sort of Ali’s thing. Not sure how to feel about my parent being in this LGBT talent show? Leave! Not sure how to deal with my best friend’s feelings? Leave! Sad and angry about a death in the family? Leave! Sometimes that’s the right move to make, but when you do it as often as Ali does, you run the risk of just walking out of your whole life. Sarah and Josh have run after her to try to get her inside; Sarah wants her to just sit in the house and listen, and Ali feels strongly that everyone else wants to murder Ed. Sarah says maybe the only valid thing any of the three siblings have said all episode: “You know what? Everyone can’t bail all the time.” Sarah walks away saying “Ok it’s fine, I’ll just take care of it. You just stay here and relax, Als, as usual.” Ali says “Sure, you just go take care of it, take care of killing Ed.” The emotional spinny ride is making me feel sort of ill and I want to get off.

I'm just so OVER the lack of representation and misrepresentation of trans women of color in the media!

I’m just so OVER the lack of representation and misrepresentation of trans women of color in the media!

Josh sits down next to her and when he pushes her, Ali reveals that she knows about him and Syd, and in classic Josh style, he maintains that it’s not a big deal, and Ali’s personal hurt over that situation is taking the spotlight away from his great news, which is that he thinks he’s in love with Raquel. I wish I were exaggerating about Josh’s self-centeredness. Ali responds sarcastically, and then walks away before I even get to tell her about my great plan for a Weird Al cover of “Fell In Love with a Stripper” called “Fell In Love with the Rabbi.”

Can I interest you in a great deal on a pre-owned Acura?

Can I interest you in a great deal on a pre-owned Acura?

Inside, the rest of the family minus Ali sits around the table having cookies and discussing Ed’s death and the shiva following it. In the other room, Ed is in his bed, alone with his machines. As his family’s voices float in from the other room — remember, we were told specifically in the pilot that Ed can still hear and understand even if he can’t talk — about how the mourning rituals for him are going to go, he slowly climbs out of bed and staggers towards the front door and out into the world. He heads to the water that surrounds the complex and down the path surrounding it, and to the edge of the water where the ducks hang out. We already know that his favorite thing to do is to go to the water and see the ducks.


Another as of yet unnamed member of the A-Team

The last scene we get is from the past — it’s Shelly introducing younger, healthier Ed to her kids. It’s the first time we’ve ever heard him talk in the series. He tells them a mildly off-color joke about Alzheimer’s and STIs. It’s endearing because it’s such an uncle joke, the kind that only middle-aged men think is funny but they think it’s SO funny, and that totally doesn’t track well with kids but he’s telling it anyways. Josh tries to interrupt, but Ali tells him to shut up; she wants to hear this. When the joke is over, Ed says “I’m just here to make you happy,” and kisses Shelly’s hand. Then he toasts to life, and that’s it; he disappears back into the oblivion of the past.

And THAT'S how I met your mother

And THAT’S how I met your mother

Join us next time for the season finale of Transparent, in which I am sure terrible decisions will be made that will carry us boldly into Season 2.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I adore your recaps. They are nuanced and perfect and suit this show so well. I think Transparent somehow became my favourite new show of 2014 because it’s just so ridiculous and painfully real at the same time?

  2. Josh and Raquel together make me feel physically ill oh my god.

    (also, i see what you were saying with Bianca but i wanted to point out that the Pfefferman family is Jewish so there are more women of color, albeit white-passing (i am white so I’m no expert but I have Jewish friends))

    • Hey! Even though the women are Jewish, they’re still white, not white passing. Jews who are also women of colour are totally a thing (I.e. The large population of Ethiopian Jews). But just being Jewish by itself doesn’t confer WoC status.

      • I don’t mean to argue but all the Jewish people I know of who talk about this say Jewish people are PoC. At the very least they’re not white.

      • I don’t mean to argue but although some Jewish people define themselves as white or part-white, the majority are people of color (and since the characters haven’t stated what they self-identify as I didn’t think it was fair to assume)

        • Not really. To be honest the fact that you as a non-Jew (or so I gather) are making this pronouncement really rubs me the wrong way.

          As Jews, we (or at least those of us who would be considered white if not Jewish) ARE white; it’s just that our whiteness functions in the same way as Irish people: we have definitely not always been “white”–whiteness wasn’t automatic for us, never something we got the opportunity to take for granted; we had to fight for it, as it were. That said, in this day and age–although there are certainly some people who still don’t want to let us into the racial-privilege club–our ethnicity has long since been largely annexed into whiteness.

          Not that the census is the end-all be-all for determining somebody’s racial experience, but almost any Jew who wouldn’t otherwise be considered a PoC would check “white” on a racial survey. We are white. Our relationship to whiteness is far more complicated than that of most white people, but today–in 2014–we are still white. There are other ways to catalogue our privilege-disadvantages.

        • Yeah I’m actually really surprised to hear that you have friends who are Jewish who don’t consider themselves to be white? Everything Keely said is accurate, just adding my voice as another Jew who considers herself white. Maybe it’s different in different countries?

  3. Fabulous, just fabulous recap. I love reading these and picking up stuff I glossed over in my two day binge of the series originally – especially the Shelley ‘being done’ in the past and present. That was a huge theme I missed originally. Those last two scenes had me aching.

  4. “Maura tells her that wives can go, and seems hopeful that Shelly might attend and be involved in this part of his life; she is less than interested in this.”


  5. I have now talked to enough straight people about the Ali/Syd scene to know it’s not just my queer goggles being on, it’s a really good fucking scene. The most memorable of the season I think.

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