“Vida” Episode 104 Recap: You Can’t F*ck the Pain Away

Emma is conducting business in Chicago with a bunch of idiotic white dude bros via Skype. They want her back in the Midwest immediately, but she needs more time. Says Dude Bro #1 to Dude Bro #2 when they think Emma isn’t paying attention: “Hasn’t it been a week already since her mom died?”

Emma: “Just six days, actually.” She’s never taken her vacation days from this whack ass financial company in the years before, but she’s damn sure going to take them now. She has no other choice. They’re going to have to deal.

Yep. It’s gotta go.

Her main project for the day involves working with Eddy to update the bar. The first thing that has to be dealt with is the name itself:

“It’s racist”

“It’s historic. It… like… honors the Japanese culture.”

“So why does it say La Chinita?”

“What’d you mean?”

“Why does it say ‘Little Chinese Girl’?”

“Well… ummm… it’s a Japanese Chinita

Yeaaaaah Eddy, I think we can all agree that you are on the wrong side of history here. You’ve definitely lost this battle. Lyn suggests they rename the establishment “Vida’s”, in honor of their mom, because that’s what everyone in neighborhood calls it anyway. Personally I think that’s a solid suggestion, but for whatever reason (I assume because she doesn’t trust her little sister not to fuck things up), Emma brushes her off.

Lyn’s started the episode cutting up a t-shirt. And now it’s her dress. Where’s that creative energy in my life?

Mari has other concerns about the bar’s name change and face lift. She doesn’t want it to become another haven for gentrifiers and Chipsters (read: Chicanx Hipsters). Eddy’s not about that life either; she promises Mari that over her dead body would the bar turn its back on the community. We’re at the halfway point of the season, and Mari’s crusade to save Boyle Heights is coming into sharp focus with Vida’s main plot of the Hernandez sisters, Eddy, and their family drama surrounding Vidalia’s bar.

Emma refuses to sell her family legacy to racist developers like Nelson, who nickel and dime his own community into further poverty and sees proximity to whiteness as wealth. She’s gone as far as sinking her own money into the building just to keep it from his clutches. Now she needs to turn a profit quickly before her entire family, Eddy included, goes asunder.

Perhaps ironically, in order to do that she may have to cater to a “Chipster” clientele (though I’d argue that the changing the name of “La Chinita’s” is the obviously right thing to do because it’s out of touch and racist, regardless of which clientele you’re trying to reach). Mari and Eddy want to keep the bar from gentrifying, but doing so might come with financial cost for the Hernandezes and put them back in Nelson’s crosshairs. The intersections of race and class woven by Vida are nuanced and not easily pulled apart. That’s true in life, but not often reflected back as carefully in our media. Kudos to Vida’s writing room for pulling it off.

It’s literally called an “Instagram Wall”. WHAT ARE YALL DOING, LA??

Meanwhile, Lyn takes her stolen credit card (which I will remind you comes from her dead mother because Lyn’s level of self-centered vapid “look at me” syndrome has no limits) on a Beverly Hills shopping spree. With arms full of bags and a new yellow dress paid for with the stolen money draping her body, she runs into her next mark — a new rich white boy who’s totally her type. She bats her eyes and sucks her the straw of her ice coffee slow and suggestive, so of course that means he invites her to this house party in the Hills. ICK ICK ICK.

Speaking of, ICK. We haven’t had the chance to get into this earlier, but it’s time to talk about Tialoc — the cute organizer that Mari’s had a crush on for a while now. This guy is sleeze. There are men who you know are trouble when you first lay eyes on them, and then there are those when you think to yourself, oh maybe this one’s ok. He’s cares for his community, he has an activist’s heart, his ponytail flops in the wind, whatever. Then the paint starts to peel at the edges. You notice that he cuts off all the women in his life mid-sentence. He runs meetings as if his is the only voice that matters. And your antennas slowly but surely start ringing their alarm bells.

Last episode, when Tialoc started flirting heavily with Mari, who is obviously much too young for him, my alarm starting dinging like its life depended on it. When he coaxed her into giving him oral sex, the ding turned into a blaring horn. While she went down on him, he snuck his camera phone and started recording her in the act — without her fucking permission! Sexual assault. My heart broke for Mari. She had no idea of the hurricane brewing her way.

I told you to only interrupt me like that if Demi Lovato has started dating Selena Gomez.

That hurricane broke shore this week, when Mari was at her weekly activist meeting — Tilaoc presiding like the entitled ass that he is. Her bestie motions for her to come outside. She shows her the video. At first Mari won’t believe it. She can’t. Not her Tialoc.

Her face breaks as her friend implores her, “Don’t be that girl Mari.” Embarrassed and betrayed, she runs from the meeting. Not even going back inside to grab her phone, still charging in the corner. Tialoc waits at her home later, crying his apologies. She doesn’t take him back — yet. And I can only pray that she never does.

Emma, under the guise of “checking out the competition”, is spending her night scoping out a Boyle Heights neighborhood bar. It’s the kind of bar that Mari would definitely label as “Chipster trash”, but is also a safe space for queer Latinxs and other QTPOC’s in the neighborhood. Once again we’re complicating Vida’s narrative.

Gente-fication (the gentrification of Chicanx and Latinx neighborhoods by younger, and often upwardly mobile Latinxs) is stickier than gentrification in a lot of ways, mostly because it’s more intimate. The pain is deeper. It’s the pricing out of long time residents from a neighborhood by people who look like them, people who in many respects are the metaphorical children of those they are replacing (look at Emma and Lyn, and the role they play in within this show).

At the same time, fighting for more QTPOC inclusive spaces in POC communities is life saving in many regards. It’s pretty clear by now that that Emma didn’t grow up feeling safe in her sexuality. Would spaces like this bar have helped change that for her? She’s also part of a socio-economic class that’s actively displacing her mother’s neighbors and peers. By using Emma as it’s central protagonist, Vida seems to question, where’s the balance between the two?

Get you a girl who looks at you the way Cruz looks at Emma when she’s not looking.

One of the queer folks frequenting the bar that night? None other than Cruz, looking sexier than ever in a bandana and a white tank showing off her tattoos. Usually so well composed, Emma gets one one look at her and she’s adorably stumbling over her words. Cruz takes her by the hand and introduces her to the rest of the queer crew.

The episode interlaces with Emma’s night on the town in Boyle Heights with Lyn’s night crashing that party in the Hills. When she walks up to the mansion, she’s greeted by Aurora, a Latina maid who takes her bags. The white asshole she’s with overhears Lyn greeting Aurora in Spanish and says, “there’s nothing sexier that when you guys roll your R’s”. Later, one of the white girls in attendance hangs over Lyn in a drug haze and drawls, “I’m obsessed with your eyebrows.” She basically fucking calls her Frida Kahlo. GAG ME.

During the party, Lyn’s date scoops her up into his arms so that he can throw her into the pool, causing her feet to knock over a few champagne glasses and make a terrible mess. Everyone at the party laughs in revelry, but the camera lingers on Aurora, who has to clean it up. Lyn averts her eyes. It’s as if she’s afraid of having her own brownness associated with “the help”. That this woman cleaning the floors will ruin the façade of Lyn’s privilege. She’ll do whatever it takes to overcompensate.

The Gayest TM

Meanwhile, Emma is trying her hardest to fit in with Cruz’s friends. She’s laughing at all their jokes, throwing around words like “power bottom” as if they aren’t choking coming out of her. Emma’s pain — man, she really works so hard to cover it up, but it’s palpable. She relaxes more after a few drinks, grinding with Cruz on the dance floor beneath florescent blue lights.

Cruz teases her; see, it’s not so bad in Boyle Heights after all. Emma stops cold in her tracks, the momentary drunken joy of the night wiped from her face. Here it is. She can’t outrun it anymore.

“Do you think I don’t like it here? That I hate where I grew up??

I never wanted to leave. Vidalia sent me away. Did you know that? One day she found me with Lucy, this little girl who lived in the building. And we were, I don’t know, touching, I guess. Kissing. And we were like 11. And Vida freaked the fuck out. And then I went to go live with Abuelita in South Texas.

That’s the kind of shit I had to put together later, after she sent me back there the second time. That time she found fucking poems and journal entries. And fuck, why did I ever keep a journal! Stupid!… They were all about you.

And there went Vida, freaking the fuck out again. By then it was undeniable what she was freaking out about.”

She’s shattering, right there on the dance floor. Cumbia still playing loudly around her and Cruz. All the hurt that’s been bottled up inside of Emma, Mishel Prada’s letting it pour and there’s no way to stop it. Vida was in the closet. She took out her internalized homophobia on her daughter. And now as an adult, Emma’s being forced rip open the scar tissue. Hate spans generations. Boyle Heights is an open wound.

“Don’t feel bad for me. I lived happily ever after,” she quips because she can’t allow herself to cry.

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

She fucks Cruz that night, hard and fast. She’s fucking the pain away, just like we saw with Sam last week. Cruz takes it for a while before slowing the pace. She doesn’t want to just fuck Emma. They mean more to each other than that.

The minute Cruz slows things down, Emma collapses into a panic attack on the floor. She runs away from her apartment, clothing haphazard and face full of tears.

Marisol, still broken up over Tialoc, rides her bike to Vida’s bar. She spray paints “Chipster” across the front. A scarlet letter, marking the Hernandezes as sellouts.


And Lyn? She leaves the party in the Hills on the same bus as Aurora, a woman she spent her entire night trying to avoid. The two of them, alone. Going back to the same home.

You can’t escape who you are. It will always find you.

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen Phillips is Autostraddle's former editor in chief. She began at Autostraddle in 2017 as a freelance team writer and worked her way up through the company, eventually becoming the EIC from 2021-2024. A Black Puerto Rican feminist writer with a PhD in American Studies from New York University, Carmen specializes in writing about Blackness, race, queerness, politics, culture, and the many ways we find community and connection with each other.  During her time at Autostraddle, Carmen focused on pop culture, TV and film reviews, criticism, interviews, and news analysis. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. And there were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. To reach out, you can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram, or her website.

Carmen has written 716 articles for us.


  1. That song in the final scene was so fucking powerful.

    I know the name of the song, María Landó, but I’m not sure who is singning it, is it Peruvian singer Susana Baca?

    I love this show so much but I’m in love with the soundtracks. Every single episode so far has been amazing is that aspect.

  2. I didn’t get the impression that Emma was against Lyn’s idea because of Lyn… I think the reason why Emma doesn’t want to name the bar Vida’s, although it is obviously a good idea, is because she doesn’t want to “honour” the mother that sent her away.

    • Oooooh excellent point! That also makes a lot of sense, given the obvious family dynamics.

  3. What an excellent episode! It’s such shame it’s not an hour?

    Really feel for Emma! Intimacy is so hard for her, she was literally avoiding kissing Cruz on the mouth!
    I hope she can work through the pain and get better. Coz the chemistry between her and Cruz is electric.

  4. Someone pour water over me because every time Cruz comes on and then smiles at her I just can’t. Damn. Can we please talk about that sex scene? 2 power tops and Cruz wasn’t going to let her just fuck and control the situation. And you can see how much she loves and cares about Emma. I hope Emma lets the love in.

    And that last scene was so powerful ?

    This episode is my favorite so far. It was deep. With every woman you could see all the pain and rejection. It was tugging at my heart.

  5. I think my favourite moment of this episode was the LOOK Emma gave Cruz just as the friend tries to get them up to dance, and Cruz says, “Ah in a little bit” but Emma says “I’ll come”.

    It said so much. I felt like it was almost like a challenge to Cruz – “So are you going to dance with me or what?” – and also a message – “Just so you know… I’d be into that”. Asserting herself after the “adorable stumbling” (as you perfectly put it, Carmen) at the bar.

    And it was also like Emma stepping over a boundary she had set in her own head – like she’s saying to herself, you know what, I’m going to relax and go dance and drink and have an amazing night with these queer people in my own damn neighbourhood where I’ve never been able to feel out and happy and safe before, because of the shit I went through.

    Of course, you can’t just flick away the past in a moment – as we see from how she reacts to Cruz’s suggestion that she doesn’t like where she grew up, and then her panic attack. But I liked that she had that moment, and those hours of plain old fun, before it caught up with her.

    Anyway MAYBE I AM OVER-ANALYSING those literal two seconds but also… if anyone can put that much in a look it’s Mishel Prada. My god, her acting is superb.

    Also, the drunken “You have so much potential” line made me laugh so much. Who among us has not offered that to a friend in the early hours of the morning?!

    And adding my voice to the many here and elsewhere praising the power of the final bus scene. Just, wow.

  6. There’s a lot I like about this show, but as a latin american person that has always lived in Latin America and not the US, the spanglish to me just sounds annoying and a bit ridiculous and fake. The fact that they just throw a world in spanish every 15 words in english, almost like with a manual is absurd. It’s never a full conversation -or a full conversation in english either- and it’s always the same words… I don’t know, maybe it’s just aiming for a US audience, and I don’t pretend to know how the latinx community speaks in the US but I’d bet it’s not like this.

    • It annoys me greatly when people throw in a word in Spanish for no reason.
      The one that annoys me the most is when people say “pero, like”

      • Confession: I’m a US born Latina who definitely uses “pero,like” in my everyday conversations. And in certain contexts or around certain people, I use it a lot. Whoops! LOL

        And it’s a habit I picked up from a LA-based Chicana friend of mine back in my early 20s.

        So, in that way, I’m gonna have to side with Vida on “this is reflective of how Latinx people speak” (though not all of us, because we are not singular or a monolith).

        All that said, I can totally understand how the habit is bothersome to folks from Latin America or people who grew up monolingual. And the type of “in and out” Spanglish highlighted in Vida, while it’s reflective of my friendship circles, is not the exact same way that Spanglish is used or spoken in my household or immediate family (we tend to be English prominent, and use a Spanish word when a) it’s shorter/quicker or b) we can’t remember the word in English). My mom and her sisters sometimes hold entire conversations in Spanish, especially when we were younger and they were trying to keep “young ears” from spying on them. The church my family attends is all in Spanish. My cousins rarely speak the language outside of a religious context or talking to family members who don’t know English. My Latinx friends and I pepper throughout as it suits us.

        I guess that’s my way of saying, I think that the way we encounter the language varies greatly from person to person, you know? No single version represents everybody. I think Vida represents it’s specific East LA location/ community well, and they have a 100% Latinx writers room to boast those bonafide credentials, but also it’s perfectly ok to recognize that language is personal and works differently for everyone.

        • Yeah, I can understand that and, of course, my comment is completely personal and not representative of what other people might think. Also, it’s cool to read that it does represent a way of speaking in a specific place and community, because to me it sounds like a bit of a caricature, but I guess that’s because it’s a world I don’t know.

          For me it doesn’t feel like a believable “in and out of spanish”. It just feels like they said “we’ll throw in a ‘chingada’ or a ‘cabrón’ or a ‘puta’ every two sentences”, like I can almost predict it and that feels fake. I’ll just have to get used to it cause I do like the show and I’m gonna keep on watching.

    • I know what you mean being also a Latin living Latin America.

      The thing is this show is totally centered in Mexican-American people, not us. One thing I’m grateful is that although Latin Americans shared a lot of cultural traits, we’re not all the same, and this show seems to know that and doesn’t make, at leats for now, the mistakes I’ve seen all over the place in US TV when dealing with Latins.

      I lived in the US for two years and I had to adapt to living there, picking some cultutal shit that was dropped once my family and I were deported. Adapting is a thing Latin Americans know how to do, we been emigrating for years, either for political reasons, economic reasons or violence. But we never totally forget our culture and I think this show also picks that and shows it everywhere.

      • Even as a mexican-american thing, the language feels so forced, like they have to fill a quota of words in spanish even if it messes up the flow of the dialogue…and when they use words in spanish you can tell they’re trying really hard to get the pronunciation right, with no accent or anything. As someone who lives on the mexican side of the border I appreciate the effort, but that is not how pochos talk.

        And about the “pero, like”, that’s 100% pocho right there. That’s what they need more of.

        • I did an experiment this weekend and maybe is not the right approach but I think it gave me a better understanding of this issue.

          Ok, this is a long story to tell but here we go: in 2004 we had a TV show in Argentina that was called “Epitafios” (Epitaphs). It was one of the first co-productions between an Argentinian company and HBO and it was a big deal: the story, the cast, all of it was awesome.

          But, in my opinion, it had one big problem: the language used was neutral spanish because the idea was to sell the show to the rest of Latin America and beyond. I did watch it, but crinching all the way through; I was always waiting for the characters to speak in “Argentino” and, of course, that never happened.

          So, now it’s the year 2018 and I have the blu-ray, still in the complete packaging because I’ve never tried to watch it again, I will watch it.

          Well, I couldn’t. After 2 episodes I couldn’t stand the language anymore. I even try to use the subtitles and muting the sound, but no, neutral spanish was following around like a plague. I gave up.

          In conlusion, I have a better understanding of the issue reflected here but I also think that the matters that Vida is showing us, things that you can’t find in other TV shows, and I’m not talking just about latin issues, makes it possible to bear up the “american neutral spanish”.

    • I also love this show, but I’m right there with you… the Spanglish feels too forced sometimes. I’m Mexican and I’ve lived in Mexico my whole life, but I also have a lot of family living in the US and even my aunts who have been living there for decades don’t speak like that at all. However, I do understand that they’re trying to reflect a very specific experience here, and I also recognize that it’s groundbreaking to have a show that is basically bilingual telling these stories in such a raw way so after 4 episodes and a lot of reflecting, I think I’m used to it.

  7. Carmen, I just had to comment to let you know that if I see your name on an article, it’s an automatic click for me. I have to read it. I always come away with feelings about what I just read and having learned something new.

    I love a recap that does more than just recap. One that pushes through the dialogue and the plot and points out the nuance in the storytelling and gives meaning and depth to all the little pieces. You’re a master at that, and I so appreciate the skill you have. I’m really loving Vida, but your recaps definitely make me love it more. Thank you!

    • This really did make my day! In every way. Thank YOUUUUUUU!

      I’m just out here trying to become a better, smarter, funnier writer with each assignment so that we can all feel a little more at home at autostraddle-dot-com, you know?

  8. Just popping back in to say that, while on the phone with a client at work, I had the revelation that Emma (seemingly unattached and unfeeling) was writing POETRY! about Cruz as a kid… And now she can’t even handle kissing her on the mouth without having a panic attack. Poor Emma.

    Anyway, I hope starz renews this show.

  9. I just saw this episode and when they show Emma fucking Cruz in the same way she did with her hook up from the earlier episode I was like, ‘Oh my, this is how Emma fucks, should I know this about my friend Emma?’ Really feeling Emma and Cruz (and Vidalia and Eddy, too). I’m feeling this show in general.

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