“The L Word” recap (1.8): “Listen Up”

THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:

  • Dressage: A fancy way of riding a horse while wishing you were riding something else entirely.
  • Royalty: A word that has everything to do with Kit’s diva-ness but nothing to do with her financial arrangements.
  • Doors: They’re everywhere, but they lead nowhere.
  • Acting on Feelings: What we don’t have to do, unless we’re Tina.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Lolita Davidovich doesn’t have to pay for affection.

The Prelude — Did you know there’s a book called The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories? Well, we’re in Santa Rosa in 1968, and apparently this is a chapter from that book. Two teenaged upper-crusty types are riding and talking about what they’ll be doing next. “Crimson and Clover” is playing, but it’s the Tommy James version, not the Joan Jett version, and that seems wrong even though I get that it’s 1968. Anyway, one of the girls has been accepted to something or other, by virtue of which she’ll get to go to Germany and Spain and France and meet some of the best dressage riders in the world, but she doesn’t want to do it because the other girl didn’t get in. But Girl Who Didn’t Get In tells Accepted Girl that she’ll meet someone else and won’t even miss Girl Who Didn’t Get In. It’s all okay, because Girl Who Didn’t Get In is going to be busy helping out the Nixon/Agnew campaign anyway. Ewwwww. They’re done with their ride now; Girl Who Didn’t Get In starts to change out of her riding clothes, and while she’s unbuttoning her shirt she tells Accepted Girl to send her a postcard every day. Accepted Girl goes in for the hug, and then goes right for the kiss and the feel. But Girl Who Didn’t Get In doesn’t get it: she says, “People have all kinds of feelings. It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to act on them.” Well said, young repressed Republican!

Some doors — Bette doesn’t want to go in. Tina says they should at least give it a try before deciding that they’re better than everyone else. Tina, have you seen Bette lately? She actually isbetter than everyone else. Look at those arms! Tina’s got her hands on her hips in a way that lets Bette know exactly who’s passing judgment on whom, and Bette concedes, but not without first kissing Tina’s belly in order to let the baby know that it’s all for her. Or him. Or whatever. So they go through the doors, and into hell — some sort of encounter group for parents to be, led by that shrink to the stars guy that Bette hated a few episodes ago.

Jenny’s studio — Jenny has a friend. This time it’s not just a drifter with shrooms, but an old friend who’s in a band called The Garanimals. Aww, that’s a cute band name. The friend is also a real estate broker, though, because “it’s cool to do something stupid and make a lot of money so you can do whatever you want.” Yeah, whatever.

Group therapy — The superstar shrink guy has apparently developed a new form of Duck Duck Goose, in which he asks a supposedly provocative question and taps someone on the head for an answer. Tina gets a question about passivity. Yep, you’re It! Bette looks like she’s ready to shoot the ducks and geese. Her body language is hilarious, actually: she’s gettin’ all butch about it. Nice camera work — anything that produces that view of Bette’s arms and attitude is okay with me.

Jenny’s studio — Jenny’s old friend wants to know what’s going on with Jenny and Tim. She reminisces about the good old days in which she was lucky enough to hear Tim and Jenny having sex all the time. Oh, so this is the college roommate — but apparently this woman didn’t learn the same kind of pretentious pathetic navel-gazy crap that Jenny has perfected and still practices.

Group therapy — The ducks and geese are taking turns in the hot seat to share their biggest fears about becoming a parent. Suddenly the chair is empty — there’s the good directing again — and we know who’s supposed to be in it. After a bit we hear people clearing their throats, and then Bette simply says, “Pass.” Hahaha!

Tina is more than happy to ramble on about her worries — well, “our” worries, because she can’t speak for herself — that Bette’s father won’t accept their baby as his grandchild. Then Bette finally starts to blurt out her fear — but instead of really saying what she’s thinking, which is probably something like “My greatest fear is that I’ll become like you babbling idiots” — she says that she’s worried about being a good enough provider. The superstar shrink sees right through it.

Jenny’s studio — Okay, enough of this. Where are Alice and Dana and Shane and Kit? Oh, but this is funny: Jenny’s friend wants to know if there’s another woman. Jenny mumbles, “Sort of.”

Group therapy — Everyone’s lying on the floor in a circle, with their heads together — you know, sorta like in Go Fish. Ack. Rose Troche, we know you’re involved with this show — you don’t need to remind us. If someone says “honeypot,” I’m switching over to the movie that Lara the soup/sous chef (Lauren Lee Smith) is in, over on CBS. Lara, come back! Wah!

Some of the other parents are talking about adoption. Tina reveals that she and Bette considered adoption. When someone asks why they decided not to adopt, a battle begins:

Bette: “Because some girl from the Midwest who hasn’t even met a lesbian and who thinks we have horns isn’t about to choose us as the adoptive parents for her baby. It’s just the way the system works right now.”
Yolanda, the Indignant African-American Mom To Be: “That’s only if you’re set on getting a newborn white baby.”
Other Mom To Be: “What’s wrong with a white person wanting a white baby?”
Bette: “I think most people want to have a family that looks like the family that they grew up in.”
Superstar shrink: “Yolanda? Do you have something you want to say to Bette?”
Yolanda: “I do. You talk so proud and forthright about being a lesbian, but you never once referred to yourself as an African-American woman. All I hear you saying is that white people should only take care of white babies.”
Bette: “I said nothing of the kind. In fact, I was just about to say that Tina and I chose an African-American donor because it was important to us to have a family that reflects who we are.”
Yolanda: “Before you can reflect who you are, you have to be who you are. I mean, look, they’re wondering what the hell we’re talking about because they didn’t even know you were a black woman. I think before you have a child you need to reflect on what it is you’re saying to the world by hiding behind the lightness of your skin.”
Bette: “You know, you know nothing about me. You don’t know how I grew up. You don’t know how I live my life.”

The therapist sort of cuts them off there. It’s interesting enough, but only if we’ll eventually get to know more of all of those details, because we don’t know enough about Bette either.

Jenny’s studio — Jenny’s friend wants to know about the “other guy,” having learned that Jenny is the one who cheated. Eventually Jenny says name of the other “guy”, and the friend understands what’s going on. The friend says that’s the “one thing” she hasn’t done yet, and then asks Jenny what she’s going to call Marina in the story, but Jenny says she didn’t sleep with Marina just for something to write about. What the fuck? Who are these people? Why does this concept even make sense to them — the idea of sleeping with someone in order to gain some sort of experience and get some artistic insight? Why isn’t Yolanda in this scene? She would have a field day with this. Finally the friend — I’m sure we’ve been told her name by now, but I was thinking about Bette’s arms — realizes that Marina has broken Jenny’s heart. No, no, no: Marina has dismantledJenny. Clearly you’re not a real artist, or you’d know that. You also wouldn’t have named your band The Garanimals.

The Planet — Look, it’s the rest of the cast! I was worried this was going to be the Bette and Jenny show. Alice, Shane, and Marina are oohing and aahhing over Dana’s “get out and stay out” Subaru ad. Marina asks Dana to sign it, and to make it out “to Francesca and I,” which of course should be “Francesca and me,” and I am not talking about myself. Anyway, Dana’s looking way too sad for all of this. Marina says that Dana’s parents must be so proud, and Dana’s face tells them that there has been no coming out to the parents. Alice tells Dana she has to come out today, but Dana says no, her mom is getting an award thingie from her women’s group. Marina thinks the fact that Dana’s Mom belongs to a women’s group is a good sign, but Alice say nuh-uh: it’s a Republican women’s group. Dressage, anyone?

Dana’s face has been slowly crumbling, and when the gang starts chuckling, Dana stomps off. Alice follows her.

Alice: “Dana, talk to me. I want to help.”
Dana: “I just… I can’t believe my life right now. You know, I fucked up so bad with Lara, and you guys are all laughing at me. I just… I can’t handle it.”
Alice: “All right. I’m sorry. I feel like an asshole. I have an idea; ready? I’m gonna come with you.”
Dana: “I can’t do it.”
Alice: “No, I’m coming. I’m gonna be with you, and you’re gonna tell your mom and dad, before your mother gets the award. Okay? Just blam, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m a lesbian.’ No big deal. Just like that. ‘Cause there’s no way your parents are gonna make a scene in front of all those people.” 
Dana: [looks uncertain]
Alice: “I can look Republican.”

Ha ha! Yeah, Alice, I’m sure Mary Cheney will show up and ask you out. And Dana, just send about 500 copies of your ad to Lara, and on each one, write “I’m sorry; I’m an idiot; please forgive me and make me blush in public again.” Sigh. I can dream.

Bette and Tina’s house — Bette is still ticked about Yolanda’s accusations. Once again we see Bette tidying herself and her world while Tina lounges on the bed and eats. It was interesting the first couple of times, but now it’s dumb. Tina has Googled Yolanda; apparently Yolanda is a writer who teaches at UCLA. Tina tries to say that she’s annoyed by the whole thing too, but Bette wants to keep this pain all to herself — this is “her life.” Um, Bette? You rock, but you’re not a rock, nor an island. I am not a big fan of the babbly pregnant lady on the bed, but maybe you could take on some of her “coupleness” so that she doesn’t overdo it so much in an effort to keep from feeling emotionally abandoned. I’m just sayin’.

Tim’s house — Jenny’s friend — whose name is Annette — wants to know whether Jenny has always been a lesbian. Jenny thinks she’s probably bisexual. Well, okay. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, Annette wants to stalk Marina to see what she’s like. Jenny says no, because of course Francesca’s coming back, an even though that little bit of news was hard on her, she would do it all the same if she had it to do over again. Huh. That’s actually kind of impressive and shows a little growth: a couple of weeks ago you would have turned it all into an eviscerating mess.

Annette is dead set on finding out more about Marina and fighting this battle properly:

Annette: “This is what I think. I’ve got to see this woman. And you’ve got to stake out the competition. I’m serious. Listen: you’re not gonna take this sitting down. If you’re really in love — “
Jenny: “I don’t know if I’m in love.”
Annette: “Whatever. You’ve gotta go out guns blazing, you know what I mean? You gotta stand up and fight for the… the…”
Jenny: “What?”
Annette: “Whatever… what… what’s the girlfriend’s name?”
Jenny: “Francesca Wolff.”
Annette: “Oh, barf.”
Jenny: “I know, right?”
Annette: “Well, fine. Francesca’s going down.”

Yeah, probably, but what does that have to do with your little scheme?

The Planet, maybe — A guy is trying to get Kit to sign a deal to let some guy named “Slim Daddy” sample a song Kit wrote in 1986. Bette shows up and takes a look at the offer; she doesn’t think $1000 and no percentage is good enough. Hell, no! She suggests that Kit take the offer to a lawyer; Kit ignores her and signs on the dotted line. Well, crap. She proceeds to scold Bette for interfering. Wait, what happened to the sisterly bonding moments? Bette turns to leave, but pauses to tell Kit that she talked to David and found out that he did show up at the hotel in the last episode, but saw Kit “drinking” and left. Kit says Bette knows she wasn’t drinking, but Bette looks disappointed and doubtful. Shut up, Bette. Kit says she deserves a little credit for making it through that difficult thing without drinking. Hell, yeah! And I think we all know what Kit will be reaching for as soon as this scene is over.

Elsewhere, Clive is rummaging through Shane’s roommate’s bag, stealing cash. What? Somebody get Shane a real storyline, and soon.

The CAC — Some freak has been calling to threaten everyone with fire and brimstone because of the “blasphemous filth” otherwise known as the Provocations exhibit. Oh, fine: let’s attack Bette from every possible angle. Speaking of angles, look at that camera work again. Note to Rose Troche: keep this director if you can. Bette stands in the doorway, looking lost. Finally she goes out, but she has no idea where to turn.

The street — The door-opening leitmotif keeps on motifing: Jenny opens her car door right into the face of an oncoming cyclist. The cyclist and Jenny and Annette scream at each other. Suddenly Francesca swoops in to flatter the guy and resolve the whole thing. Annette thanks her; Francesca says it’s all about appealing to people’s vanity. Jenny stands there and stares — don’t you recognize the delicious woman you saw in the photos at Marina’s? Hello?

The Orange County Republican Women’s meeting — Dana and Alice pull up in Dana’s new Subaru. Hee! They go over their strategy, which is a pretty crappy one — the whole “pounce in public so there’s no opportunity to react” thing. Alice is wearing pearls and pink — nice visual joke! Dana’s parents and brother greet Dana and Alice. The brother, Howie, has the ad with him and immediately starts taunting Dana behind their parents’ backs; Dana says “Shit shit shit shit shit” in an adorable, hilarious way.

The Planet — Annette is spying on Marina and admits that Marina has a nice ass. Marina turns around; Annette reacts by saying “Wow” and telling Jenny to keep her panties on. Annette is funny; why is she hanging around a dud like Jenny? She asks Jenny whether she went down on Marina, and wants to know whether “girls look pretty” at that point because “guys look so dorky when you’re giving them blow jobs.” Annette, did you see Marina? You really wonder whether she looks “pretty” when she’s feeling good? No, I didn’t think so. Speaking of feeling good, Francesca walks by and says “hello again.” What an eviscerated mess this is going to be.

At this point I pause to take off my bra because it’s getting uncomfortable. I use the through-the-sleeve method that Jennifer Beals made famous in Flashdance, and remember the time my best friend demonstrated that on the bus on the way home from a high school band trip. Ah, good times.

Francesca and Marina get reacquainted while Jenny and Annette watch. Mia Kirshner has a vast repertoire of stares.

The O.C. Republican Women — Dana is about to come out to her family when Howie interrupts to ask if Dana has a boyfriend. Shut up, Howie. Then a fan interrupts to ask Dana for an autograph. Well, not a fan so much as an O.C. Republican with a gay son who gave her a copy of The Advocate, in which Dana’s ad is featured. Dana tries to hurry up and sign before her parents can make sense of anything, but Howie says “Oh, shit” and makes Dana’s mom a little bit suspicious.

Dana’s mom: “What was that?”
Dana: “My Subaru ad.”
Dana’s dad: “Every time something wonderful happens to you, you downplay it. Now that ad was very impressive.”
Dana’s mom: “Honey… honey, when were you going to tell us? I mean, a few more surprises like that, and I could keel over from a heart attack.”
Alice: “It’s your day, you know? She didn’t want to steal your thunder; she didn’t want to take it away.”

Alice has a mouth full of cake when she starts to say her line. Alice, you’re cute as a Republican! But then Dana’s mom asks about the “get out and stay out” part of the ad.

Dana’s mom: “I’m not really sure what that means.”
Dana: “Um… it means, uh… it’s a marketing campaign Wfor women who are like me. Who, uh, who are out. Doorsy. Outside a lot. Playing tennis, you know? Things like that.”

Dammit, Dana! Alice and Dana go to the loo to discuss the situation. They’re not sure whether Sharon and Irwin (Dana’s parents) get it or not. Alice suggests that Dana practice the big announcement, and holds up her hands like little puppets to represent Sharon and Irwin. Dana tells Alice that “that’s retarded,” but Alice wants to play and proceeds to mimic Dana’s mom. This is comedy gold, with the deadpan silences lasting just long enough and the elevator music in the background. Erin Daniels, you are damn funny! Now go get Lara back.

Dana’s mom goes up to accept her woman of the year award. Behind her is a giant picture of the whole Fairbanks family, as well as a picture of Sharon as a teenager, with her horse. Yep, with her horse. She is Accepted Girl from the prelude, and she still hasn’t gotten over it.

Dana and Alice go outside to get some air. Luckily, Howie is fouling up the air with a joint; Alice is happy to partake, but Dana refrains. Howie tells Dana that he’ll still visit her after she’s been disowned. Awww. Dana celebrates the bonding moment with a toke.

The Planet — Annette gets out her super-powered binoculars to determine that Francesca is giving Marina an expensive watch, which Annette claims is proof that Francesca is just buying Marina’s affections and Jenny still has a chance.

Jenny: “Look at them, man. Look at them. There’s love in their eyes. They have that, like — “
Annette: “Twat.”
Jenny: “No more twat for me. Twat gets me into trouble.”
Annette: “Twat the night, you idiot. We go, together, you and me.”

Oh, yeah: remember that event that Shane’s roommates were planning, and decided to call “Twat”? Annette proceeds to hatch a plan to go to Twat the night and make Marina jealous; “old Fran will be getting her walking papers by the end of the night.” Haha! Fran!

The O.C. Republican Women — Look what one toke will do: Alice and Howie see from a distance that Dana has just come out, and her parents are going right out the door. On his way past Alice, Dana’s dad asks whether Alice is part of “this lifestyle” too, but Alice says no, she has a boyfriend. What the fuck, Alice? Dana doesn’t appreciate it either.

Dana tries to stop her parents; her mom rolls down the car window and says “We all have feelings for our girlfriends, Dana; it doesn’t mean you have to act on them.” Tonight’s L word is “legacy.” Dana — during yet another great bit of camera work — looks so shattered I almost start to cry. Dear writers: Things have got to get better for Dana now. Bring back the soup chef already!

The street — Shane confronts her twink friend Clive, asking why he stole from her roommates. This is supposed to be dramatic, but it feels like it’s been rehashed from a thousand average semi-edgy indie films. The scene ends with Clive asking Shane whether she’s holding, and of course she is, because she’s becoming an addict, or something. Yawn.

Tim’s house — Tim finds Annette in the bathroom. Annette (after peeing) tells Tim that she’s sorry about everything that’s happened. Tim just blinks. He’s been taking staring lessons from Jenny. Annette asks him to take care of Jenny; he starts to argue, but Annette insists, and he just sort of shakes his head. Was I yawning earlier? You should see me now.

The CAC — The Jesus freaks are trying to get people to sign a petition to rid the city of artistic filth. One of them makes the mistake of asking Bette to sign; she gives a little speech, but it feels kind of hollow.

Twat the night — Annette and Jenny arrive and make their way through the doorway that looks like… well, like the night. The place is pretty much deserted. Dana and Shane and Alice are playing with glow sticks and talking about the debacle with Dana’s mom. Shane thinks that maybe Dana’s mom had an encounter in her youth, but Alice says no way. Alice, did that Republican outfit go to your head? This is a great opportunity for you to talk about women who are straight until they’re not, and about how we’re all connected and all of that stuff. I hope Dana’s mom shows up in future episodes; there might be something to see there.

Oh, hey, is that Joan Jett tending bar? Nope. I need to stop thinking about her.

Group therapy — Bette and Yolanda are still fighting about Bette’s identity.

Yolanda: “I’m a black woman. That’s who I am. That’s how I identify. Now I get the impression that you don’t even think of yourself as African American.”
Bette: “I am half African-American. And my mother is white.”
Yolanda: “But legally you’re black. Isn’t that a fact?
Bette: “That’s the white man’s definition of me, yes — the ‘one drop’ rule. So basically what you’re saying is that you would like to see white America define me.”
Yolanda: “No, that is not what I’m saying. I’m saying it feels like you’re running from something.”
Tina: “How can you say that when you’ve only know her for what — two and a half hours?”
Bette: “Tina, I don’t need you to defend me, okay? [to Yolanda] You know, what I want to know is how do you justify pushing me so hard to come out as a black woman when all the while you’ve let us mistake you for a straight woman?”

You go, Bette! They fight a little bit more, and the whole thing sort of unravels. Bette says, “You don’t know how I’ve gone through the world” in this really low, intense voice that gets to me a little. And I think Bette is kind of craving the confrontation, because part of her wants to know who the hell Bette is too.

Twat the night — Marina and Francesca arrive, walking in slow motion. Jenny says “Oh fuck” because she forgot to wear her slow motion shoes.

Annette and Jenny walk by the gang; Annette says something raunchy-sounding in a loud voice. They all watch Jenny and Annette sit down and pretend to have a great time. Marina actually looks a little bit jealous. Annette says Jenny needs to go stand next to Francesca so that Marina can compare them.

Jenny: “She is so beautiful, and I am not beautiful.”
Annette: “You are so beautiful. What?”
Jenny: “But she is sophisticated. And I’m not.”
Annette: “Yeah, well, Jenny, you’re one hell of a tramp, honey. And I’ve seen you work that.”

Whatever. Anyway, Marina’s staring, looking like she’s ready to pick up the thrown-down gauntlet, and also looking a little bit like Xena. Check your tape: I’m right about this. Marina gets up to go to the bathroom; for a minute it looks like we’re going to have another one of those scenes, but Francesca comes over to talk to Jenny and Annette. Dana, in the background, says “Shh, watch, watch!” Ha ha! I love goofy glow-stick-wearing martini-drinking Dana.

Francesca thinks it’s time they’ve all met formally. It’s all so cordial and yet so catty. There are some cryptic comments about “the years after college”; Francesca says “everything you thought was true becomes something else.” Jenny agrees and gets a little teary-eyed. Francesca says that she and Marina would love to have Jenny and Annette over for dinner and that Marina has told her a lot about Jenny. Jenny, it’s time to say “oh fuck” again.

Group therapy — Let’s breathe in the silence. Some clever (almost too clever) ghosty overlapping stuff lets us know what each person is really thinking. One of the moms-to-be is thinking this: “therapy is for people who have enough time and money to pay to make problems.” Ha ha! But Bette, saying a lot with her expressions, is thinking: “What’s happening to me? Am I just panicking? Is this about the baby? Or am I falling out of love?” No, say it isn’t so! Tina rambles on about the truth and about saying what you feel… Bette looks like she feels small and unseen.

Twat the night — Jenny watches Francesca and Marina saunter off in their superior shoes. They’re the only ones who are going to have sex tonight, but why must they do so off camera?

NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: Shane gives her latest client something new and something more; Kit and Bette hang with a playa; Francesca catches Jenny and Marina kissing.

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