THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:
THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Charles S. Dutton gives a master class in how not to kiss; Sandra Bernhard knows just how to make Jenny less annoying; Melissa Rivers makes the recapper question her sexuality.
The previously: Do you hear that ridiculous pseudo-flamenco version of the theme song that’s playing? That’s right: any way you slice it, and in every language, it sucks.
The title: Don’t ask me. You can read all about it in the Television Without Pity forum, or you can just go with my interpretation, which is “I’m crying because of the theme song, and no amount of gold can quench this torturous fire.”
The prelude: Speaking of crappy versions of the theme song, now we’ve got some breezy bubbly muzak variation playing in the background, as Kit and the T.O.E. jam guy flirt and hint about having an affair. Then they assert their principles, and then they decide to just go ahead and have sex anyway. Charles S. Dutton kisses like… well, like I imagine a TOE might kiss. Stinky and misdirected and about as sensual as the fake smile Pam Grier is wearing. Kit, you had so much more chemistry with Ivan!
At least it looks like the T.O.E. dude is going down on Kit. You know she’s thinking of a certain drag king while he does.
The theme song: Okay, I’ve decided to rewrite the lyrics again. Ready? Here’s what you do: as soon as it starts, start screaming. Continue screaming until it’s over. See how well that works?
The credits: Directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who knows what he’s doing on Carnivale andSix Feet Under — and who highlighted Mary Louise Parker’s brilliance in The Five Senses. Don’t worry, I’m sure the writing will destroy whatever good stuff he might try to do. Well, maybe not: Guin Turner is a bit better with her quill than certain other writer-producer-director-diva-crazies involved with this show. Ahem.
Now that’s what I call music — Pat Benatar is singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” as Alice helps Tina unpack and decorate her new apartment. Why is Tina wearing that scary flowery shirt? Anyway. Alice cranks up the music and plays air guitar, while Tina plays drums. Alice hops up on the couch — “Tina! Hello? I’m doin’ the solo,” because she knows how to rock. She jumps off and crashes to the floor and I giggle so much, I almost miss Helena the Viper sauntering in.
Alice sees Helena first, and stops cold, because it’s obvious that Helena is already thoroughly unimpressed with this adolescent behavior. Tina, who was having a great time, gets embarrassed when she sees Helena.
Hello? Helena, meet Pat Benatar: trained to be an opera singer, born to rock, and not a cacophony in any sense of the word. In other words, why don’t you piss off, as they say in the melodious classist dentist-deficient country of your birth, or at least of your accent.
Helena just sort of smirks at Alice, and does not introduce herself, and Tina doesn’t introduce Alice either, which annoys me. I guess her old friends aren’t good enough for her new predators.
Helena wanders off, muttering something about Thursday. Alice wants to know what that means, so Tina mutters something about a Peabody dinner — but while she does so, she sits down on the couch, and it makes a noise that almost sounds like a fart. Has the poltergeist followed Tina to her new abode? Nah: if the poltergeist were a farting burping prankster poltergeist, we’d all be having a lot more fun.
The way she says “No, I haven’t” sounds just like Randy Dean in The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, when she tells Evie that she’s never had sex before. But it’s not as sweet or as cute or any of that.
Alice pelts Tina with pillows as Tina continues to protest. Tina concludes with a “Besides, she’s not even interested in me,” to which Alice can only say, “Ha.”
Breakfast — Jenny is trying to figure out whether Carmen is interested in her, so she’s asking Shane about it while Mark eavesdrops.
Well, I know I would be reticent if I were on a date with Jenny. Reticent, and clawing my own eyes out with the salad fork.
Mark leaps to conclusions about lesbians “sharing chicks.” Shane reminds Mark that she doesn’t date Carmen anymore. Mark wants to know how Shane gets girls to go home with her — “Doesn’t your reputation precede you by this point?” — and I really want Shane to say “It does. That’s how.” Instead, she asks Mark how he gets girls to go home with him, and I sing the Fraggle Rock song as loudly as I can while Mark answers.
Shane says that the most important thing (where women are concerned, not fraggles) is to listen, and to not talk too much. Mark suggests that Shane show Jenny exactly how it’s done, by having a threeway.
Jenny smiles a rather smug smile at that. Also, Mark, if there is going to be a threeway on this show, it is going to be between me, Alice, and Bette. Or me, Alice, and Dana. Or me, Bette, and Kit. No. That is wrong. It’s wrong!
The Planet — Dana is waiting anxiously for Alice. When Alice arrives, Dana reminds her that “Tonya’s meeting is only a couple of hours,” and asks if they can go back to Alice’s place — and she does so with a very very cute smile. But Alice isn’t swayed:
Dana says “happened” in a really small voice, as if she knows that of course she shouldn’t expect any of that stuff from Alice anyway. Alice explains that she wants Dana to leave Tonya, but Dana says she can’t do that right now because of the tournament tomorrow — “Tonya set up the whole thing.” Alice says “gross” and starts to leave.
Dana calls her back, and gets all cute and mushy and takes Alice’s hand and says she really, really wants to be with Alice. And because Alice is a sweet sappy romantic, she sighs and asks Dana to break up with Tonya after the tournament. Dana nods and begins to play footsie with the hottest thing in The Planet. And Dana actually has a very sweet, loving look on her face, so I’ll forgive her this time.
You don’t have to call first at my house — There’s Bette. How do I know it’s Bette? Because the way she walks is the sexiest thing anyone’s ever seen, and because she’s wearing this lacy thing under a jacket, with jeans, and the whole ensemble has made me temporarily lose the ability to breathe evenly.
Bette is visiting Tina, and hoping to talk.
Bette looks wounded. I’m sorta stuck on the fact that she asked to be invited in — as if she’s the vampire, not Helena. But yeah, it was the right thing to do, and something that she might not have considered, were she in Alpha mode.
So instead Bette asks if the apartment is okay, and Tina says it’s fine, and is there something in particular? So Bette says (incredulously) that they should talk:
And by “the whole thing,” she means the baby, and the fact that Tina kept it a secret while they were still together.
Bette just wants to work it out, but Tina says she’s not sure she wants to do that, at least not in the way that Bette wants it. But Bette points out that they searched for the sperm donor together, and that Marcus Allenwood was her friend, and that if they were husband and wife, it would be her baby. That sounds weird, but you get the drift.
And as Tina closes the door, Bette does not fly into a rage as one (or at least I) might expect; instead, she sighs in an exasperated way and simply says okay.
Huh. Is this patience I see before me? From Bette? Huh.
High and horny — Carmen is taking the last beer. She’s at Shane and Jenny’s place. Carmen is also taking my breath away, partly because she’s wearing a shirt that says “Everyone loves a Latin girl.” Shane is rolling a spliff. Well, now: have we ever seen that before on this show? I think not, but maybe I was smoking my own spliff and missed it.
Carmen pretends to drink the beer, but is really just teasing and taunting Shane, who gets up and sloshes the beer into Carmen, spilling it on her and licking some of the spilled stuff off Carmen’s neck. Yum. Carmen retaliates by spilling a lot more beer on Shane. They continue to goof around, and it’s sexy and fun, until Jenny walks in, wearing the latest in doily couture.
Jenny is reporting on Mark’s activities, which of course involve that stupid videocamera. He’s asking the lesbians (there are always several random lesbians around when Shane has a party) whether they’d make out with a guy for a million dollars. One of them says, “who wouldn’t?” and asks Mark whether he would. He says yeah, for less than that, which I suppose is one point in his favor — probably the only point he’ll ever get.
Carmen interrupts and says she would make out with a Republican for a million dollars. Everyone gives her a disgusted look.
The funny parts of this are (a) the way Jenny says her line in this I’m-stoned-and-thus-monotonic-and-leaving-weird-spaces-between-words way (which is much scarier than a Republican), and (b) the slight possibility that Carmen just called Shane stupid.
Mark is not interested in any of that; he wants to know if Carmen would make out with a friend — better yet, two friends. Carmen’s not playing along, especially because Shane has plopped on the couch and is making out with one of the random lesbians. So Carmen asks Jenny to go with her to get more beer. Shane kicks Jenny’s ass on the way out, as if to say “go get ’em, tiger,” and Jenny whines “no, don’t.”
Mark trains the camera on Shane again. She flips him off, and the symmetry of the spliff and the middle finger is quite nice — as is the dead-eyed glare. It’s almost enough to make me get the Shane thing. Almost.
A show — Bette is taking in Shirin Neshat’s “Women of Allah” series. Bette has just turned down the proffered champagne or whatever it was — could this be a sign of restored health, perhaps? She looks confident, gorgeous — and, in keeping with that vampire theme, a bit like Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger. But much, much better. That is, until Helena shows up again. Bette is standing in front of this piece when Helena starts blabbing about a fundraiser dude who’s coming to town to rescue the C.A.C.
Bette gives Helena a fake smile and leaves. She goes — in a new convertible, presumably, although we don’t really know what happened after the crash — directly to Franklin’s house and confronts him about the fundraising thing. She says that hiring the fundraiser puts Franklin in breach of contract, but Franklin says that Bette’s contract doesn’t prohibit hiring consultants. And anyway, it’s nighttime (well, how late can it be? why is Franklin already in his robe while other people are at art shows?) and Bette should talk to him in the morning.
So she goes, back to that new or repaired convertible, and who’s she gonna call? Yep: Tina. So now it’s clear that she’s still relying on Tina for emotional support. Tina is friendly, and willing to listen — that is, until Bette starts to bark about Helena:
Well. Boundaries. We need boundaries.
Masters of comic timing — Tonya and Dana are getting ready to go to the tournament. Tonya’s all hyper and chipper as usual, and Dana’s jumping out of her skin because she’s nervous about breaking up with Tonya and is also thinking about hot Alice sex every other second. While Tonya calls “Anna Kournikova and Martina’s people,” Dana’s phone rings — yep, it’s Alice, and Dana’s not very good at covering. Give these two some props: Dana’s tics and twitches and outsize gestures could not be funnier, and Tonya’s feigned concern and perky cleavage are the prototype of the lesbian Stepford wife.
I think I forgot to say that I applaud Alice for refusing to be the back-door woman. That said, if Bette wants to show up at my house without calling, and if Alice wants to sneak in my back door, they are both more than welcome. Anytime. Is now good?
Shane’s domain — There’s a knock at the door. It’s a woman with flowers. She gives Shane the flowers and a hint or two, and the next thing we know, they’re going at it in the kitchen. Can you imagine being Shane? Me neither. Well, there was that one time that I sort of confused the name of the woman I’d slept with the night before with the name of the one I’d slept with the night before that, but that was one time, not every damn week. And I was 19, not 25 or whatever Shane is.
So the flower delivery girl has a nametag that says “Betty,” and I really really hope she doesn’t start singing. Never mind; her mouth is full of Shane.
A gym — Charlotte Birch (my girlfriend Sandra Bernhard) is working out, sort of lazily, and giving Jenny some advice. She also hints that perhaps Jenny has drawn a bit too much on Charlotte’s “rodeo days” stories. Jenny says she doesn’t think she’s imitating Charlotte’s voice. Charlotte draws the line:
Jenny smiles and is nice and tries to leave, but then another Birch student — I suppose he’s sort of hunky, but I’m just not into that — shows up. He’s there to spot Charlotte on the bench press. Aha — so it’s not transference in itself, but the particular transferor who’s at issue. I don’t generally lust after Jenny, but I’d definitely choose her over this guy.
Charlotte stops Jenny and gives her an assignment: “Try not speaking for the rest of the day. Not a word. Try communicating all your needs without using audible language.”
I love the way Jenny says “Why?” in reply. Yeah, I just used the words “love” and “Jenny” in the same sentence. Feel sorry for me.
The flower delivery — So it turns out that Mark paid the delivery girl to have sex with Shane. He and Gomey are watching the whole thing. Have I mentioned that I would like to stretch Gomey’s tongue around his neck and strangle him with it?
Mark zooms in on Shane’s face because he wants to “know what she’s feeling.” Want to know what I’m feeling, Mark? It starts with “n” and rhymes with “ausea.”
La Jolla — Alice and Shane are there to convince Dana to break up with Tonya. At least, that’s why Alice is there — and she’s dragging Shane into the mess. Shane tells her to mellow out, but I think it’s a little too late for that. Shane plays along anyway.
As Tonya wanders off down the hall, Alice sneaks into Dana’s hotel room for a little snogging. I like the way they smile into each other’s kisses. And I like the fact that Alice calls Tonya a “scary robot.”
I’m trying to ignore the fact that Dana’s legs don’t really look anything like a tennis player’s. Anyway, Alice’s cell phone rings, which means that Shane is trying to warn her that Tonya is coming back:
But Alice handles it well enough by doing a “surprise!” thing and pretending that she’s there just to support “her friend.” As Dana and Alice stand with their arms around each other (as friends), Tonya turns around — giving Dana the opportunity to cop a feel. And the laughs keep on rolling:
After Alice makes her exit, Dana does this hilarious gaspy “Alice… crazy” thing, and then puts a stoic look on her face and stomps off. Erin. Gifted. Brilliant. The naysayers may roll their eyes at the “comic relief,” but I don’t think I’d be watching this show if Alice and Dana weren’t on it. They’re the only ones I’d actually want to hang out with. Well, and Carmen. And Jenny when she’s high, so I could laugh at her. And Shane when she’s rolling a spliff. And Tina when she’s playing air drums, and Bette when she’s doing anything at all, and Kit when she’s not with the toe jam guy. Um. Never mind.
Surprisingly sexy — Carmen is walking Jenny home after a date — or so we have to assume, since we didn’t actually get to see any of the date itself. Carmen is telling Jenny that she had a great time with her, but the silence assignment was weird, so she’d like to do it again when Jenny is a little bit more “verbal.” Carmen’s carrying a flower — nice move, Jenny, if you gave her that.
Jenny hangs her head, which is sort of annoying, but Carmen tucks a hand under Jenny’s chin and offers her a very sexy sweet kiss. Jenny’s breathless. I would be too. Carmen seems oddly charmed, in spite of herself. Are you sure you wouldn’t like the silence assignment to last a bit longer, Carmen? Because I really, really would. Jenny is actually sorta cute when she’s not talking.
I can’t decide whether I want Carmen to be with Jenny or Shane. Shane will break her heart, but Jenny will be… so Jenny. I just know that I want Carmen to be with somebody, because she’s hotter than the torturous fire of the theme song — speaking of which, I tried to ignore the Spanish version of it that was playing during this little scene.
Here we fucking go again — Jenny is writing again, so we get another weird scene. She turns the silence assignment into a yawny three-ring circus, in which she is a silent ballerina with a harlequin face. Charlotte Birch is the ringmaster, Carmen is the multi-armed “beautiful temptress” (think Shiva, but not) and Shane is a dorky-looking lion tamer — make that “temptress tamer.” As the tamer kisses the temptress, Jenny the silent droopy mopey harlequin ballerina falls off her highwire perch to the cold hard ground. Jeremy Podeswa must wish he were directing the real Carnivale at this point.
Some stuff I won’t recap properly — Mark gives Kelly the Delivery Girl a copy of the Shane sex tape. Kelly sorta has the hots for Shane and doesn’t want Mark to use the tape. I sorta hate Mark and don’t want him to be on this show.
The tournament — Alice and Shane and Tonya watch Dana play. Tonya notices that “Melissa Rivers is out of water and her celebrity handler is just sitting there.” While she gets up to tend to Melissa, Alice asks Shane to review the breakup script she’s written for Dana.
T.O.E. jam revisited — Bette has agreed to go to the seminar — not for herself, but to support Kit, which is a nice accompaniment to that patience she was practicing earlier.
Oh no! Bette is patient and supportive and funny! How am I supposed to defend myself against this? Also, the suit she’s wearing is damn hot. Bette is the only one who has not suffered under the new fashion regime.
As they walk in, Kit stops in front of the picture of Benjamin and says “Wait until you hear him speak. There’s somethin’ ’bout the way he moves his body on stage.” Oh, you mean sorta the way a Coke machine with arms might move? In other words, not at all, except for the flailing and gesturing? ‘Cause that’s what I’m seeing. I’m also drooling a little from the boredom.
But then Benjamin starts talking about vulnerability, which strikes a chord in Bette. So she takes some notes. Kit feels all proud about this, not knowing that Bette is thinking about Tina — not enlightenment or entrepreneurship or whatever.
Why does Charles S. Dutton pronounce everything wrong? First there was “sybaritic,” and now “invariably.” Shouldn’t a speaker be able to speak?
A pre-breakup hallway — Alice is reminding me of the Fashion Plates Activity Set I had when I was a kid — I swear I used my amazing colored pencil skills to create that exact outfit in 1978.
Alice offers Dana her script, but Dana declares it “horrible” and “hideous” because it says “I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to marry you.” C’mere, Alice. That’s not hideous: it’s hilarious.
So Alice tells Dana to “improv” instead, and Dana does, while Alice the fashion plate waits outside.
The T.O.E. aftermath — Bette confesses that the vulnerability stuff hit home. Benjamin gets all personal about the Tina and baby stuff, and tells Bette to pick some flowers herself and give them to Tina, and to say “you hold all the cards.” Hmm. It just might work.
On the way out, Bette calls Benjamin a “fuckin’ circus performer.” Even if he does sometimes say something useful:
That explains why I can find meaning in this show and still hate myself in the morning.
The locker room of doom — Dana finds a very nice way to break up with Tonya. She says that she confused gratitude with love, and the whole speech is quite believable and kind. Tonya gets a weird look on her face, and we soon find out why: Tonya and Melissa Rivers have fallen in love, and Tonya was going to break up with Dana.
Melissa Rivers. Ewww. But it’s kinda funny. Dana asks the inevitable:
Tonya the person (huh?) leaves Dana to have some “time to absorb” and goes off with Melissa. I think Tonya and Melissa probably deserve each other.
All kinds of new experiences — First, before we get to the good stuff, I must complain about the blatant Absolut product placement. Is it referenced in every episode, or does it just seem like it? Anyway, right now I’m seeing a giant glowing Absolut-shaped billboard thingy, as the camera finds its way to Helena and Tina at the swank Peabody dinner, which is on the rooftop of the Chateau Marmont. Wow.
Helena and Tina do that furtive gaze thing. Helena eventually leaves the table, and Tina’s cell phone rings shortly thereafter. Yes, it’s Helena, coaxing Tina away:
Tina thinks she needs an excuse, which makes no sense, if Helena herself thought it was fine to disappear for a bit.
Another poolside — Bette is pondering the T.O.E. vulnerability stuff, and decides she might as well try the flower thing. She’s taking it very seriously, and selecting flowers with care. My heart begins to break for her all over again. Dammit.
The pool of sex — Helena teases Tina about being timid, which Tina denies. Tina then gets foolishly honest:
This? Your first? Oh, you mean “this” as in fuck someone you don’t know, and “your first” as in your first viper vampire monster soulless thing? Never mind that the way Helena says “idear” is kinda hot. Damn those British accents.
Tina finds it hard to believe that Helena wants to sleep with her — because of her huge belly. But Helena says that’s part of what she finds so attractive.
And so do I: when Helena takes Tina’s shirt off and trails her fingers through the cleft of Tina’s breasts and down to her navel, it’s easily one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen on this show. Or any show. But wait — is the poltergeist enhancing the sounds? I think so; that’s too much breathing and mmming for two people. Wouldn’t it have been great if we could have just heard their natural sexy sounds? I’m surprised we didn’t hear POOL POOL POOL or SEDUCE SEDUCE SEDUCE or BELLY BELLY BELLY.
The sad doorstep — Bette takes the hand-picked flowers to Tina’s door. But Tina’s not there… so Bette calls Tina’s cell.
Of course, that won’t work either, because Tina and Helena are having sex in the pool. Mad, mad props to Laurel Holloman for all the sex and all the skin. And yow, the underwaterness is making this even steamier — the magnification is quite… hmm… interesting. Look at those titanic tina tits!
Meanwhile, the flowers sit on Tina’s doorstep, withering and fading like my hope for Tina and Bette.
The road home — Shane is in the back seat, smirking and then laughing, as Alice and Dana make their way home from La Jolla with stunned looks on their faces. It reminds me of Janet Leigh driving her car in Psycho, and also of Lichtenstein. Anyway, Shane’s snickering is almost diabolical. Thank you, Jeremy Podeswa and Guin Turner, for bringing a bit of darkness to this fluffy little show.
NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: The women line up for Bette (how is that new?); Helena’s ex finds Tina and Helena in a compromising position; Shane goes crazy.