Emma’s got a new vibrator.
I’m nothing if not obsessively detail oriented, so I paused the show a dozen times trying to pinpoint the make and model of the brand. If your curious, I feel 99% confident that Emma’s using the We-Vibe Touch. I know a luxury vibe when I see one. Anyway, you’re welcome and now back to the story, already in progress!
She sprays the toy with cleanser (always practice good sexual health and hygiene, kids!) before getting to work. Sadly, no matter how hard she focuses, or the change in rhythm she pursues, she just can’t quite reach the mountaintop. I imagine that having all the señoras from around the block praying the rosary outside your bedroom door will do that to a girl. My condolences, Emma. The game was stacked against you.
Why are all these women gathered together praying the rosary anyway? Doña Tita has gathered her entire doña crew to help Eddy say goodbye to Vida.
There’s a perception that people of color, particularly older and religious people of color, are stridently and violently homophobic. That they are “behind the times” when it comes to gay acceptance. As a community, we know the truth. Folks of color are no different than anyone else. Sometimes there’s homophobia, sure. But, there’s homophobia everywhere. You’ll also find in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights a deep love for one another, respect for collective pain, and an understanding of what it means to face of adversity. It’s not just violence and bigotry. It’s a circle of old women who will hold your hand and pray with you when you feel alone. There’s beauty in us — one that not everyone is able to see. Vida gets that.
Sadly, Emma’s not feeling the community love at the moment. She’s raising the rent of the building’s tenets 3% at the end of the moth, and in true Emma fashion she’s going about in the coldest way possible. She’s taping impersonal and formal typed notices on to doors. Vida’s building is a community. They function together as a family. You cannot just say “give me an extra twenty bucks a month or you’re out.” This plan was never going to go over well. (Eddy’s rightfully pissed, ripping the signs off the doors before anyone can see them.)
Alone in the hallway, Emma sees a little girl crying on the floor with her knees drawn up to her face. She’s the same girl with the same pink dress from the pilot episode. The one who jumped off the building’s rooftop and gave Emma the finger. The one who is inexplicably immortalized in an old mural across from Vida’s bar. We haven’t seen her in a while, so she sticks out right away. And second Emma reaches down to ask what’s wrong, she runs away.
Emma’s day is only getting worse from there. While out buying tamales from a corner vendor, she runs into Marcos — who you might remember as the gay with the fabulous leopard print one-piece with from her night out dancing with Cruz. Marcos runs up to her, happy to a see a friend, and Emma recoils so far into herself I straight up thought she was going to start shooting out icicles like she’s Elsa in Frozen. (Elsa, it should be noted, is obviously a deeply closeted Disney princess. All I’m saying is #GiveElsaAGirlfriend 2k18! Let her be free!)
￼ Marcos compliments Emma’s outfit. She turns her head in the other direction. — BLAM! An icicle shoots out! — Marcos makes an in-joke about turning down his jotería (apparent gayness) during the daylight hours. Emma silently rolls her eyes. — BLAM! KABOOM! There goes another one! Ice to the heart! — Marcos asks when they are going dancing again. Emma tells him it was all a big mistake — She’s building the entire ice castle, ascending the stairs, she’s about to hit Idina Menzel’s infamous high note, the cold never bothered her anyway! — That’s when Marcos lowers his voice. He wonders out loud, is this why she hasn’t called Cruz yet? She’s been worried sick about her.
Now Emma’s really goes off. Why does everyone have a big mouth? Why are they in her business? And she doesn’t say it, but you know she’s thinking it — Why is Marcos standing on this corner talking to her and outing her with his presence. For Emma, queerness is for the cover of night. It’s for alcohol, for one night stands she doesn’t have to see again, and pain she can lock back inside when she’s done. It’s not for light hearted daytime gossip sessions with friends on sunny street corners. It’s not for girlfriends like Cruz who could really love her if she’d just let them.
It reminded me of last week’s arc between Lyn and Aurora. Lyn avoided Aurora at that party in the Hills because she didn’t want to be associated with her poverty (even though Lyn is the brokest member of the Hernandez tribe by a mile; she gains monetary wealth by living off rich men and essentially being a con artist, to put it mildly). Emma doesn’t want to be associated with Marcos’ jotería. When presented with a mirror, both sisters run from who they are.
Emma’s presented with another mirror this episode, this time from Mari. The two have been been dancing around each other as antagonists, and now they’re meeting head to head.
After borrowing a car from Eddy — who is 1) drinking entirely too much these days and 2) so heartbreakingly willing to come to Emma’s aide, just to be accepted as a part of her life — Emma sets off to meet a real estate agent about a weekly rental in the neighborhood.
The house she’s interested in? It’s the one Marisol made a video about earlier in the season — the family that lived there got displaced thanks to rent hikes. Mari sees Emma closing the deal and yells out to her, “Yo! Coconut!” (Get it? Brown on the outside? White on the inside?) She threatens to tag Emma’s new house the same way she tagged the Vida’s bar.
One thing I love about Emma is that she never backs down from a fight. She jumps right in Mari’s face! Insults start flying between the two, and before you know it they are pushing and shoving. The white lady real estate agent called the cops after the first raised voice, because of course she did. Mari and Emma get to spend the rest of their afternoon together in lock up.
Mishel Prada and Chelsea Rendon (Marisol) both excel at finding the softer layers of their otherwise tough shell characters. Watching them play, bottled together in a single room without distraction, is a real delight. They insult each other — Mari calling Emma a sell out, Emma calling her a phony activist and a hood rat. They needle each other and explore their tensions — Emma gives Marisol a lesson in the perils of slut shaming, Marisol reminds her that money won’t protect her from systematic racism. To the asshole gringa real estate agent, they are all the same.
Particularly touching, Marisol asks Emma about the scars on her knees. They’re the mark of a tomboy; a girl who’s fought her hard battles and won. Mari’s always been ashamed of hers, preferring to wear long pants even in LA’s heat. Emma tells her not to be. Scars are the maps of who we really are. They are the tattoos you didn’t choose.
The biggest scar on Emma’s leg comes from her first day in Texas, after Vida sent her away. She scrapped her knee on the asphalt outsider her grandmother’s house. She ran inside, bloody and crying, and her abuelita told her, “I don’t raise chilllonas (cry babies) in this house. I better never see you crying again. Never be a fucking chillona.”
Emma doesn’t cry – not ever. We all know that. Neither does Mari. They shove hurt, compress it, until they can swallow it. This is their mirror. And for once, left without any choice except to sit there and take it, Emma can’t run away. When Lyn comes to bail her out, she tells her to spring for Marisol too.
Earlier in the episode, Mari confessed to her best friend over chamoyadas that she still hasn’t been back to their organization’s weekly meetings since Tialoc leaked that sex tape. (Side note: the slow work of the camera as it pans over the chamoyadas being made on the street corner is glorious. I love us and I love how we honor and respect our food.)
Marisol’s a badass. She’s a chingona and proud of it — full stop. But, the world is fucking hard on young girls who stand tall. Men like Tialoc are waiting to strip away their power at every corner, even when you don’t see them coming. Especially when you don’t see them coming. She’s learning that lesson now. It’s painful and I hate that she’s going through it.
Spending the afternoon with Emma, a chingona in her own right, was a part the lesson. Thanks to their newly found truce, Mari finds a little extra backbone. She goes back to her weekly meeting and absolutely OWNS IT.
Meanwhile, Eddy’s out here shattering my heart. Ser Anzoategui has found such purity and tenderness in this character, and they allow it shine through at every turn. Eddy’s spiraling. And, thanks to Ser’s performance, you find deep empathy with her, so the pain is almost unbearable to watch. She spends the episode surrounded by Doña Tita and las señoras, first in prayer and then hosting a vigil with Eddy’s queer family at the bar. She even reminisces with Johnny, “Remember when I chased mi Vida when she was pretending to be straight?”
“Mi Vida” — she’s making a play on Vidalia’s name so that it also means “my life.” Vida was her life. Oh c’mon! My hand went to straight to my chest.
Eddy drunkenly blows up at Emma and Lyn during the impromptu bar vigil, accusing them both of not caring about their mother’s death. All Eddy ever wanted was for them to be a family, “that’s what Vida always wanted.”
Emma’s not having it. No one else can dictate how she mourns her difficult relationship with her mother. If Vida wanted to fix their family, she should have done so while she was still alive. She not giving her any excuses.
Doña Tita steps in. It’s time to toast Vida’s final goodbye. Then she can finally rest in peace. Everyone takes a shot of tequila in hand, except Emma. She walks out — Mishel Prada’s face, choking back tears, says it all. How can you toast a woman who only left you with pain?
But Eddy and Lyn are there, standing together. They’re unsure of the tradition, tentatively looking for comfort in each other. They raise their glass, “To the after Vida!”
To the after life. Salud!
Emma ends the episode the same way she began it, alone in bed with her vibrator.
Emma’s grief; her inherited, internalized homophobia; her sexual frustrations — they are all tangled together. And that’s real, because in life how can you tell? Where does one pain stop and another begin? There’s no easy box to check or line to draw.
My loves, that’s it for me. One last thing, this is the gentlest of small warnings, but next week’s finale has a moment that’s hard to watch if you’re a person who is sensitive to violence, etc. If that person is you, be aware going in. Then we can all come back together and hold hands in the recap. Can you believe it’s time for the finale already? Six weeks went so fast!