TRANSPARENT recap: “Looking Up”

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In this episode, old and new relationships changed.  Some relationships were threatened, others were renewed, and still others might have changed irrevocably.  Two women bonded as women; one woman realized the bubble-bath stage of a relationship had ended and wondered about what she had left behind; a third woman found out about a surprising long-time lover; and a fourth virtually begged a suddenly matured Josh to father a child.

At the end of episode seven, Symbolic Exemplar, an emotionally wounded Maura had been given solace by Shelly, her ex-wife, as the episode ended.  Months later, it was Maura’s turn to comfort Shelly because Ed, her second husband, lay dying.  The transition of the relationship between the formerly married Mort and Shelly was completed to that of two women, Maura and Shelly.  And as we saw later in the episode, both were equally gifted with the ability to impose guilt on their children.

 

Shell, we have options

Shelly and Maura stood over Ed, who had oxygen tubes running out of his nose.

Maura quietly whispered, “it’s almost the end.”

Shelly somewhat stressed, “No.  They said it could be weeks or months.”

“You have to put him somewhere,” replied Maura, who was obviously thinking of the pressure on Shelly.

Shelly in a forceful whispered insisted, “No!  He doesn’t want to go somewhere.  He wants out!”

They moved into the bathroom where they felt they could speak more openly.  While sitting on the toilet lid, Maura opened with, “Shell, we have options.”

Shell forcefully spoke up, “don ‘t say it.”

“Then, you say it,” said Maura in a tone of affection.

A hesitant Shell, looking away from Maura, “I’ll Google.  Sometimes, I do some Googling.”

 

Camp Camilla is a wonderful place

This scene was confirm, Davina’s warning about family not having anything to do with you after five years.  The relationship between Mort and Shelly came to a swift end in 1994 once Maura confessed her trip to Camp Camilla.

The divorce began as soon as they sat at a table and Shelly confronted Mort with the lie about the conference.  Mort tried to make it half true.  There had been a conference; Mort just had not gone.  Mort came out to Shelly as Maura as she confessed she had gone to Camp Camellia. 

Shelly raised her pitch at the end and questioned, “it’s a roomful of straight men in dresses?”

Maura sought to make it better. “Dancing.”

A sarcastic Shelly, “OK!  Dancing together?”

A wounded Maura responded, “Wives come.”

“What?”  Replied Shelly in disbelief, “Are you saying you want me to go with you?”

Sensing an opening, Maura cheerfully added, “It’s a wonderful community and I would like to share it with you.”  That reassurance that Shelly could be a part of cross dresser camp was totally the wrong thing for Maura to say.

“Jesus Christ!”  Shelly said as her head slumped into her hands.  “That’s it!  I’m out!”

 

Maura, was that you?

Later in the episode, still in 1994, Maura all dressed in purple gave it one last try to heal their relationship.  While Maura stood in her splendor, Shelly exclaimed in disgust, “you do this in front of other people.  Oh! Fuck!”

Maura pleaded, “Shell, honey, it’s me.  Shell, I love you.  It’s me honey.”

Which only drew a harsh retort flowing from the betrayal felt by Shelly, “Was it you when we met?  Was it you on our wedding night?” 

Maura answered, “Yes.”

Shelly stood up, “I can’t!  I’m done.”

Shelly went on to marry Eddie Paskowitz, who had been asking her to come over in a prior episode, and now lay dying.  And that was why Maura sought to comfort Shelly after what apparently had been a very quick and decisive decision by Shelly to end her prior marriage.

 

Trouble in Sarah's paradise

Sarah had scored some pot, which Bianca and Josh had smoked and then got caught in the pool after Trans Got Talent.  Tammy wanted the pot gone because she was clean after having a cocaine addiction and did not want any drugs in the house.  A very hurt and reluctant Sarah flushed her stash down the commode, even as Tammy explained that Bianca was responsible for what she had done, not Sarah. 

If there was any doubt about the honeymoon being over between them, it was confirmed on Sarah’s part a bit later in the episode when she went to drop off the kids at Len’s for the weekend.  She entered Len’s house and said she missed the couch because Tammy was “making everything…Palm Springsy.  She’s very specific about how things should look and be.”  Trouble in paradise only loomed more darkly when Sarah told Len that Tammy made her flush her weed.  Len questioned when she had started getting high.  Sarah answered that it was after some guy with a knife was threatening.  Len muttered, “asshole.”  Followed by the fact that she had never gotten high with him.  Sarah said they needed a pen thingy.  Len immediately produced a vapor pen.  Soon they were upstairs in the bedroom getting high as Sarah admitted that the two of them should have told the kids about her dad.  In a matter of fact way, Len said he knew they weren’t happy, but he just did not think to do anything about it.  Len then informed Sarah he had a date with his assistant, Melanie Torres.  This prompted Sarah to inquire, “What are her tits like?”  Len responded that her tits were not their biggest problem.  Sarah exclaimed, “Tammy loves these wamma jammas.”  Len agreed that both he and Tammy loved her big tits. 

When Sarah returned home to Tammy, she asked Tammy if what they had done to Len and Barb was ok.  Tammy replied, “they are on their own path, babe.”  But, Sarah continued to whine that Len had a date with his assistant and she had a kid and what would happen to Len because of them.  Tammy observed that Sarah sounded jealous.  Then in the most amazing display of Tammy’s self concept she said, “I know something about jealous.  People have been jealous of me my entire life.”  She had to be the person that got in the checkout line for ten or fewer items with a full grocery cart and defied anyone to say anything about it, which of course would be me because I was next in line.  Yep, that made me jealous, sure.

 

Meandering Josh and his serial relationships with women

In this episode Josh seemed to finally want a full, committed relationship after sleeping with or flirting with a different woman in every episode.  He had been “involved” with Rita, his former babysitter; Kaya, the member of Glitterish; Syd, the best friend of Ali; Bianca, the stepdaughter of Tammy; and Rachel, the rabbi.  The last two he had not slept with.  For this episode the adventures of Josh started when Bianca arrived at his house looking to be taken in, as she had “no where else to go.”  A more mature Josh for the first time in the series accepted responsibility for his actions, and he was sorry that she had been kicked out.

Josh then went to make up with Rachel for standing her up the night that he had ended up in the pool with Bianca.  Rachel had prepared supper and waited patiently for Josh to come home from Trans Got Talent.  She finally gave up and left.  Now Josh had the nerve to come to the temple.  She had class in thirty minutes and what did he want?  Josh admitted he “totally fucked up.”  He also told Rachel that she was right to leave and offered to wait for her until the class ended.  He apparently waited and then they went to Josh’s house because that was where we saw them next. 

While in the midst of explaining all he needed to do was find a “break through sound” to make it big, in wandered Bianca.

An irritated Rachel, “who was that?”

“She’s crashing here,” replied Josh.

“She’s living here?”  exclaimed an agitated Rachel. 

Josh tried to explain that Bianca was his sister’s new girlfriend’s stepdaughter. 

For Rachel the game playing was all just too much.  She went directly to the heart of the matter, “ I want a family.  I could have been kicked out of the temple for fucking a congregate.”

After a weird exchange about Josh having been added to her email blast list, as apparently their most intimate connection, reality set in that they had never fucked.  So, passion abounded and just like that they were at it.  To conclude the scene, Rachel moans, “yes, come inside me.”

Next, they were shown lying in bed in the after glow of sexual fulfillment discussing what to do next.  “Order food and watch dumb movies,” was Rachel’s suggestion.  They were interrupted by the sound of Bianca singing.  Josh was immediately interested.  Obviously in a future episode, Bianca was going to be his breakthrough sound.

 

Ali and Syd sitting in a tree

The last Pfefferman kid’s relationship status to be examined was Ali, who to this point had been with her trainer and his roommate, and presumably Dale, a transman.  Now she was in deep discussion with Syd about Ali’s problems.  Syd made an analogy.  She was a tactile learner, who learned by touching things.  On the other hand, Ali was “a vaginal learner” because she “kept sticking things in there to understand them.”  Ali noticed that Syd was holding an oldrecord, which Syd said Josh gave her with the explanation, “we hang out.”  A stunned Ali just said, “ha!” 

When the scene was picked up again.  Ali announ, “oh, my God, are you fucking my brother?”

Syd answered with, “do you care?”

“This makes me feel strange, or sad, or weird,” complained Ali.

A wounded Syd replied, “You make me feel bad all the time.”

Ali got a bit huffy, “you are acting like a jealous girlfriend.”

Syd continued, “I feel terrible constantly. …Since eighth grade, I’ve had feelings for you that are confusing…friend feelings, but more…just weird you never noticed those before.”

A befuddled Ali, “I am just confused.  Why are you sleeping with my brother?"

Syd explained she was trying to feel closer to Ali by being with Josh.

Ali stood up and left.  Syd had finished coming out to Ali by admitting she had romantic feelings for Ali.  Previously, we had learned that Syd had an affair with the women studies professor, plus Josh, thus making her a bisexual character.

Now that the relationship status of Sarah, Josh and Ali had been reviewed and brought up to date; what about Maura and Shelly and their relationship in the wake of Maura’s coming out to Shelly, their divorce, and her marriage to the now dying Ed.

 

Maura and Shelly form a bond while guilt-tripping their kids

Maura and Shelly continued bonding in their new relationship at the kitchen table.  Shelly’s curiosity had been peaked, as often happens when someone transitions in gender, what about their sexuality?  What happens to it?  Generally sexual attraction does not change, though there are some people who may have been hiding from their sexual attraction and transitioning frees them to broaden or change to whom they are attracted.

So, Shelly asked, “now that you want to be a woman all the time.  Do you still date women?”

“Yes, it’s still me,” answered Maura.  Just as was revealed earlier, Mort was always Maura.

“So, you’re a lesbian.  So, we got gay married before it was fashionable,” Shelly said as she failed to contain her snickers.  But, a new level of acceptance of Maura by Shelly had been reached.  All there was, and all there ever had been was Maura.

Soon the three kids arrived at the condo and marina where Shelly and Ed lived.  After discussing that one of the attractions of Ed for their mother was that he had no other relatives, they entered the front door and

Ali exclaimed, “is he gone?”

“Not yet,” answered Shelly

Sarah chimed in with, “Moppa, what are you doing here?”

Maura called them over to the table where she sat with a pitcher of freshly made Arnold Palmers.  Ali left to go see Ed and comfort him, which left everyone else in the living room.

So, why was Maura here?  To impose guilt on her children and offer solace to Shelly, as we were about to find out.

Maura explained, “I was feeling kinda a little down.  Seems my kids abandoned me at a critical moment in my journey.”  And, she trusted Shelly, as compared to her children who had betrayed her and left.

Josh and Sarah insisted that they were there and that Maura was “amazing.” 

Maura noted, “that row was empty.”  She then put them on the spot “What did you like?”  The kids immediately started to sputter out: the wig, the eyes, and other trivial things.

Shelly cut them short, “we need to tell them.  I am done. We invited you over so you could have a chance to say goodbye.”

“What does that mean?” questioned Sarah.

With what I assumed was unintended irony, Maura explained, “He is in a lot of pain.  We are going to ease him into his next transition.”

Ali reentered the room just in time to hear what was going on.  “He’s fine….Is this about his life or yours? If you are done, that is fine.  But, I don’t think it is his time.”

Maura began guilt trip number two, “your mom’s anxiety is through the roof…you don’t notice.”

Josh tried to be the good boy,  “I call all the time.  Don’t I?”  Standup comics always make fun of mom’s complaining that son’s never called, so a lame Josh called.

By now Shelly was shaking, “I don’t want you to call!  I want you to be here,” as she angrily beat her finger into the table to drive the point home.  

She then pointed at Maura and exclaimed, “he’s the only one who comes.”

Maura quietly corrected, “she.”

Shelly continued explaining about how hard it was being there in all “the piss, the shit, the vomit and no one to talk with.  He came over to be with me.”

Maura tried again, “She.  I’m a she.  I’m a woman.”

The light went on for Shelly, “she takes care of me.”  The bond had been fastened between the two women.  Shelly finished with “I can’t, I can’t.  It’s either him or me,” as the anxiety and stress spilled out of her and on to the floor for all to see.

 

We could have a great shiva

Sarah offered the suggestion, “get the rabbi.”  We need outside help.

A recovered Shelly in an ironic voice, “What? We’re like religious Jews?”

Josh was furiously texting the rabbi.  As to why he had the rabbi’s number, Josh stated, “we’re hanging out.”

A totally engaged Shelly exclaimed, “Oh! My God! You’re fucking the rabbi,” which was quickly echoed by Sarah and Ali.

Shelly’s mouth was now totally open with surprise and joy as she said, “I love her for him…. I want to go on record that I was the one who first said…” Never underestimate a Jewish mother was the lesson in this scene.

Ali was horrified and left.  “I am not helping do it.”

As the oldest child, Sarah took charge, “OK. I’ll do it.”

Snidely, Ali answered, “yeah, you take care of it.”

Mockingly, Sarah said to Ali, “Just stay here and take care of you, as usual.”

Josh interjected to Ali, “why are you being an asshole?”

Ali answered, “oh, I don’t know.  Maybe something like you’ve been fucking Syd and didn’t tell me about that.”

Josh lamely claimed it was “no big deal.  It’s over.  Rachel and me are in love.”

Sarcastically, Ali landed the next blow, “wow! You’re in love.  Thank you for telling me that.  I’ve got to go.”  Hmm, Ali seemed to have some pretty deep feelings for Syd after all.

Shelly was explaining that she had four bottles of Percocet that they could grind up and put in Ed’s I.V.

Maura moved on to, “we could have a wonderful Shiva.”

“A great Shiva,” echoed Shelly.

 

N'chaim

While the Pfeffermans discussed the wonderful Shiva for Ed, he was shown in his bed.  He moved and staggered out of the bed and went outside, as the absorbing discussion prevented anyone from noticing.  We looked through his eyes at a blurry landscape that was the grounds of the condo.  Complete with ducks. At the end, there was a flashback to Ed meeting the three kids and telling a truly weak joke that drew flat expressions from the kids.  He then explained, “I am just here to make you happy.”  He then toasted, “N’chaim,”  (to life).  The sound track carried, “the way to say goodbye.”

 

 

 

See also:

TRANSPARENT recap: "Best New Girl" (season 1 episode 8)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Looking Up" (season 1 episode 9)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Why Do We Cover the Mirrors?" (season 1 episode 10, finale)