THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:
THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Lauren Lee Smith continues to taunt me; Ossie Davis takes his leave, and we bid him a fond farewell.
The recapper’s mailbag (for the second and probably the last time) — A whole lotta love this week. Thank you, you wonderful fabulous delicious people. If I were Jenny, I’d print out all the lovely e-mails and put them on my wall — except for me it would be a wall o’ love instead of a wall o’ rejection. Wait… wall… wall o’ love… you’re thinking of Bette, aren’t you? Admit it.
Three other mailbag highlights: (1) “Dominique” rocked my (in)box with that whip of hers. Heh. (2) I got a few more soup chef “corrections.” Stop it stop it stop it!! Go watch the soup chef episode (1.02, “Let’s Do It“) and let me slurp my fucking soup in peace. (3) Some of you have been informing me that ezgirl, who’s responsible for the incessant theme song variations and the jarring poltergeist noises, is Elizabeth Ziff of Betty. Yeah, I know — I called her “the Betty who wields the poltergeist” in the recap of the lez boat episode. I haven’t mentioned her by name because, well, it seems sort of dangerous, like saying Voldemort. Or L-Wordemort, I guess. And now that I have said all of her names in one paragraph, I’ll probably be plagued by bongo-thumping breathing screaming crying moaning lesbian poltergeists in the middle of the night. You informative helpful types have cursed me!! Anyway, for those of you who didn’t know and want to know more (why??), go readthis, courtesy of Kathy Belge at Lesbian Life.
Breathing — The damn poltergeist is breathing down my neck as Jenny gets out of her little Mazda. I used to drive something a lot like that, but I bet I drove it a lot more expertly. She’s going to some sort of dodgy bar called the Howling Coyote, in “Los Angeles – Present Day,” but dammit if the light doesn’t look exceptionally Canadian. Wait, the Howling Coyote? Is she going to jump up on the bar with Piper Perabo? And what the hell are those shoes she’s wearing? Ugh.
The poltergeist sounds like it’s about to pass out. Simmah down now and step outside for some oxygen, you fool!
Never mind: there’s Dominique. Er, that’s what I call her. You know, the dominatrix from the Seven Stations of the Cross, at Pride. Last week. It seems eons ago, I know — that’s because we’ve all been slightly brain-damaged by the inanity. Stay with me a little longer: it’s almost over.
Dominique (still hot, thank you) has apparently roped Jenny into this:
Jenny is standing in front of a poster that says “Topless Boxers,” and that’s why I thought that would be her shtick this week. Remember this when I turn out to be wrong.
Jenny smiles a bit… well, a bit demonically, in response to the “sick girl” comment. Back off, Jenny: Dominique is mine.
The theme song — Lately I’ve been playing Taiko Drum Master on my Playstation 2. I think maybe I could get 100% if the theme song were part of that game. And that is the only good thing I will ever say about the theme song.
But it’s not the only thing in general: How many of you got that e-mail from sho.com with the subject line “New Original Music” and thought “FINALLY! They’ve replaced the fucking theme song!”? No? That was just me? Sigh. Anyway, the e-mail was actually advertising the “score” for season 2, which is brought to us by L-Wordemort. But I think Jane Siberry might get some small bit of cash from the sales of the CD, so I’m telling you to buy it. Ouch: I almost gritted my teeth into gravel when I typed that.
Oh, right, mailbag highlights I forgot: some of you thought I was serious last week when I said that I now love the theme song and have been singing it to my plants. Do I need to start putting sarcasm tags around this stuff? Oh, and those of you who “informed” me of the similarity to “My Favorite Things”: go read 2.01 (which includes a somewhat subtle reference) and 2.02 (which makes a decidedly unsubtle statement). And you wonder why I’m so repetitive?
Now, wouldn’t it be great if I would shut up and recap the fucking show already? Yeah.
More herstory — Jenny is still perfecting her dark arts, and it’s getting very grim. She’s singing in Hebrew and looking at drawings of hateful crowds shouting at shackled people. One of the drawings says “Skokie, Illinois, 1989” — if this were a video game, I’d click on that and it would reveal a clue. And I’d be having so much more fun.
The next stage — Bette is welcoming a hospital bed into her living room. Kit, who’s looking rather fine in her black turtleneck, tells Bette it’s “not a good decorating choice” and that she’ll be sorry. But Bette says she had to get Melvin out of the hospital. As they talk about all of it, Kit continues to be the reasonable one:
Word. And Bette’s knows she’s right.
The edge of everything — As Jenny continues to delve into all that darkness, Shane decides it’s best to interrupt this sort of thing. She presents Jenny with coffee and a muffin. (No, not that kind of muffin.)
As Shane sits there in that chair and gives Jenny a “you’re crazy” look, I almost — almost — get the attraction. Speaking of looks, why is Shane starting every sentence with “Look”? Last season she was always using the cool lingo, but this season she’s having trouble forming average sentences.
On her way out, Shane can’t help but mention the rent. Jenny says she’ll pay her own way, without help from Shane or Mark or anybody else — and certainly not from Ilene Chaiken. Yeah, again the last part was just me.
Random stuff — As someone knocks on Bette’s door, Mark is scraping something on the outside of Jenny’s house. Huh? Is he trying to be super wonderful housemate or something? Yeah, probably.
The person at Bette’s door is Melvin’s nurse. She wants to know where to stash her stuff, so Bette directs her to the spare bedroom. The nurse sees the crib and the mortiferous mobile hanging over it. Talk about bad decorating choices.
As Bette puts a picture of herself and Tina on Melvin’s nightstand, the nurse says “I see you have a baby.” Bette explains the situation, and the nurse is a bit concerned:
Well. Maybe, but birth and death impending at the same time? I think maybe that’s new to just about everyone.
The nurse wants to know what Bette will do if Melvin is still alive when the baby’s born. Bette says “he will be.” And that’s how we know he won’t. Then they chat about Melvin’s medication; he’s on prednisone for mental clarity.
You’re telling me! What do you generally prescribe for recappers? ‘Cause I think my brain is swelling a bit with each letter I type.
The Planet — That’s the name of the place, but it would also be a good nickname for Tina at this point. Yow. She and Dana and Alice try to walk by Helena and Leigh Ostin, who are canoodling at a table. But it’s hard to walk by unnoticed when you’re Titan Tina. Helena introduces them all to Leigh.
That’s funny. I mean, it sounds like Bette is the baby daddy. And yet somehow it also sounds perfectly natural, because Bette is such a force of nature. Tina just says “it’s our baby.”
Helena looks even more smug than usual. There would be a teapot flyin’ at The Planet right now if I were there.
As Tina tries to go sit down, Helena stops her to ask whether they’re still on for tonight. Tina thinks a hot bath and her own bed sound preferable. Yeah, I think maybe hot coals and a bed of nails sound preferable.
I love the way Tina says “We’ll see.” It looks more like “If you’re lucky.” And I’m done feeling sorry for Helena.
Alice and Dana and Tina finally get to sit down.
Let me translate a couple of things: Tina’s really thinking “Oh. Yeah, I’ve been seeing Bette lately, so I don’t give a shit,” and Alice is really talking about Lara, who has just approached them. That is, Lara has just approached Dana — I don’t think she cares about anyone else at the moment.
She and Dana hug, and are obviously very happy to see each other. Lara says she’s waiting for Kit so they can plan the lunch menu. Dana, of course, didn’t even know Lara was working there, because Alice decided to keep that little secret. Alice pretends to be happy that Lara will be at The Planet so much, and also not-to-subtly asks whether Gabby will be around more too, but Lara interrupts and says they’re not together.
These two still have some great chemistry. But I hate the sad scared look on Alice’s face. It turns into an “I can’t fucking believe this” look when Lara asks Dana if they can have dinner.
Alice knows it doesn’t matter what she says, because Dana and Lara are all grinny and goofy toward each other. I think this whole situation is turning me into Sybil. “Can I talk to the part of you that likes Dana and Lara? No? Is the other personality there right now? What did that monster Ilene Chaiken do to you?”
Home at last — Melvin comes home. He’s not entirely pleased with the surroundings; he’s just sort of on display in the middle of the room. And at first he doesn’t recognize Shelly, his nurse.
Shelly suggests hospital curtains so Melvin can have some privacy, but Bette thinks those are ugly and depressing.
You can take the director out of the museum, but you can’t keep from her bossing people around and prettying up her environment. Hey, remember the last time Bette was talking about Japanese screens? Shoji screens. Candace. Ah, good times.
Next door — Mark is still playing handyman and is also trying to offer to cover the rent, but Jenny’s not listening.
Geez, Jenny. I don’t like Mark much at all, but if he wants to fix things around my house and pay my mortgage, that’s okay by me. But, hey, this is your grudge — kinda like the horror movie, but not as cool — and you can be as scary as you wanna be. Too bad you cut your hair; it used to be scarier.
Back at Bette’s — Franklin wants to know how Bette’s going to handle things at the C.A.C while she’s taking care of Melvin. At first Bette thinks he’s being nice about it all, but then he suggests a temporary leave of absence. Bette wasn’t planning on that, of course, and starts to protest, but then Shelly says she needs Bette’s help. Shelly teaches Bette how to turn Melvin every few hours. Franklin sees no reason to respect such a moment, so he interrupts and say he has to go. Bette makes him wait, and then asks if she can have the weekend to think about the leave of absence. Franklin, I hope your daughter decides to put her work first when you end up like Melvin.
The Planet — Helena’s ordering for herself and some blonde woman — and no, I don’t mean Tina. It seems Helena has two blondes tonight. Anyway, Helena tells the server to ask Lara to send out “a selection of small tastes,” and in doing so, she asks Dana, “It is Lara, isn’t it? Your chef?” — which makes Alice squirm, of course.
I can’t believe it’s possible for that much smugness and arrogance to be concentrated in one person. I mean Helena, in case you were wondering.
Tina’s feeling like a bit of a third wheel as Helena flirts with the other blonde, so she decides to go. Tina finds Helena’s fake solicitude rather irritating:
Helena can’t just leave it at that, of course, so as Tina tries to go, Helena pulls her into a hug and pretends to apologize. But what she really does is continue to irritate the hell out of Tina, and me: she whispers “You won’t be alone, but you’ll still get lonely.” Whatever. If that’s going to be Tina’s drama in season 3, we’re all in trouble. ‘Cause that sounds boring.
Tina just gives her a “you’re crazy” look and leaves. There’s a lot of that going around.
Bette is reading Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” to Melvin. That’s lovely, and has stuck in my brain since I first read it in my 20th Century Black Literature class. Oh, I’m so old.
She gets up to try to turn Melvin over by herself, but suddenly Tina is there to help, and she’s even brought dinner. She says hi to Melvin and says “It’s Tina. Ms. Kennard.” Melvin says he knows who she is.
Ugh. And ouch.
Bette gets Melvin a glass of water while Tina takes off that damn shawl and gets Bette some dinner. She also apologizes for being selfish the other night. It’s nice how these two are sort of settling back into being around each other, but shouldn’t they talk? Like really talk? And could we please see that?
They sit next to Melvin’s bed and talk quietly. Bette leans back against Tina.
But he’s not. And what happens next is very hard to watch; Melvin asks Tina to take good care of his girl, which at first seems very nice, but then it becomes clear that he thinks Tina is Bette’s mom, Maxine. He talks about how he let Maxine down and how much he needs her to stay. Sigh.
The Planet — Dana and Alice are mumbling about something and looking a bit angsty. Shane shows up and says “Carmen called me: is she really here?”
Um, okay. I’m not enjoying this much. I’m all for the blender thing, but this is just kinda tired. But I do like the way Shane and Carmen are sort of leering at each other in the crowd, like 12-year-olds. They’re starting to seem like the only bit of “fun” left in this show, which is saying a lot.
Peaches tries to get Shane to go up on stage, but Shane did that with Betty and is probably still recovering. Carmen looks surprised that Shane didn’t jump at the chance to be that girl, while Helena just sort of stands alone in the crowd, probably wondering what the hell she’s watching.
Aww. Shane gives Carmen a cute flirty look. Okay, my confusion is complete: I’m even finding Shane cute. This season has given me lapses of the synapses ((c) Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner).
Too much — Bette tells Tina she just can’t face it, and starts to cry. Tina shuffles Bette off to bed and gives her a sweet kiss.
Bette whimpers into her pillow and Tina curls herself against Bette. Spooning never looked so good.
Morning — Jenny is picking dry cereal (Life, oh — L’Chaim) out of a bowl. Mark offers her some coffee but she ignores him. I’ll take some, Mark: this is putting me to sleep.
A better yet worse morning — Bette wakes up, still spooned with Tina. She blinks at the harsh sun and takes in a slow, unsteady breath. She’s known rivers.
Kit is on the floor; she slept there, next to Melvin. She says he had a rough night and was in a lot of pain.
Melvin, you sly old fox. You were pretending to be asleep while you listened to your daughters sigh and be sad and be a family. Anyway, he’s insisting that he’s perfectly capable of bathing himself, which Bette doesn’t seem to be able to do these days. And he tells both of them that they can’t compromise their careers just to “mope around here and watch an old man die.” Sniffle.
It’s gonna matter forever to these two, Melvin.
Tina walks in, apologizing for what she can see is a rather significant moment.
Bette and Kit nearly snap their own necks as they whirl around to look at Melvin. Tina says hello back, kinda proudly. And Bette looks back at Tina like, “Holy fuck, did you hear that?”
Tina says she has to go, so Bette walks her the few steps to the door. They hold hands and kiss as Melvin watches with an inscrutable look on his face. Well, maybe there’s a tiny bit of acceptance there.
Kit and Bette help Melvin to the bathroom, where he pretty much slams the door in Bette’s face ’cause he wants his privacy. Kit is concerned, but Bette thinks he’ll be okay. She and Kit listen at the door.
The doorbell rings; the nurse is there. She asks where Melvin is, and right on cue, there’s a thud. They run to the bathroom, where Melvin is lying on the floor. Shelly tells him to stay still, and he says “no more hospitals.” Bette runs off.
Next door — Jenny is still picking at Life… I mean, picking at the Life cereal in her bowl, and she’s chomping it kind of grotesquely. She’s also reading a Penguin Classic, but I can’t quite see what it is. Jane Eyre seems appropriate, especially if she’s reading about the madwoman in the attic. But it’s probably Anais Nin or something equally obvious.
Shane asks Jenny where she was last night and why she missed Peaches. Jenny just shrugs. Mark is hiding behind a newspaper. You know, Jenny, this would all be fine if you were actually a brooding, distracted, consumed artist, but what you really are is a self-conscious selfish wannabe who shrugs and chomps and puts herself in the middle of the room so everyone will ask what’s wrong. Eventually they’ll get tired and stop asking.
Never mind; Bette is there, saying “I need your help.” And they all jump and run. I could say it’s because Bette is so commanding and fierce, but I know it’s because they’re all there for each other when it comes down to it, and I love that. More of that in season 3, please. And less of everything else.
Shane, Kit, Bette, Mark, and Shelly carry Melvin back to bed. Jenny stands to the side and watches, probably because if she tried to lift so much as an arm or a leg, she’d collapse into a weepy pile of clacking bones.
Paranoia — Dana is shaving her legs. Stop scraping them like that, Dana: you’re making me twitch! Alice peeks around the corner with a carrot stick in her mouth and suspicion in her eyes.
Well, hell. What happened to my sweet snarky Alice? You know, the one who would say that it’s just so lesbian to watch your girlfriend like a hawk and be suspicious of her ex? Sigh. Only Bette and Kit have kept it real for me this season.
The surreal sidewalk — Shane is talking to Alice on her cell phone and strolling along with Mark, who’s inspecting a can of Melvin’s “liquid food.” Shane is all happy and chatty and hey I’m the new Shane, I’m all stable and cheerful and Zen and you won’t see me jumping onto the stage to mack with a pseudo rock star or snorting some random chemicals and sleeping in my truck. I’m just this regular guy hangin’ with my homey Mark, and once I get that Carmen girl I’m gonna buy us a little bungalow and bring her breakfast in bed.
How is it fucking possible that Shane is suddenly the light character? Hello?? Fine, she’s had a rough time of it and some rather eye-opening experiences, but if they turn her into grateful awakened Stepford lesbian, she’ll become even more annoying than Jenny. And I’ll have to sue Showtime for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Mark gets a text message from Lola — the one who actually did gyrate onstage with Peaches. See, Shane? Even Mark’s gonna dump you if you lose your slutty cool thang. Anyway, she and Mark banter about the hot Lola chick and I start to drool in utter apathy.
Bette’s struggle — Bette is on the phone, trying to get an extra nurse to help out. Alice and Dana show up with flowers, beer, and solemn looks. Next thing we know, Bette, Mark, Shane, Alice, and Dana are hanging out on the back porch, drinking beer and describing their dads in one word:
The way Bette says this is so open and vulnerable and strong and… well, so Emmy-rific. I actually emit a little audible “oh.”
Bette goes in to give Melvin some water via eyedropper (sniffle). Shane says maybe they should let her be, and Bette agrees. She tells them thanks, and Shane says to call if she needs anything. Alice blows Bette a kiss and Dana offers a little wave.
That was a wonderful scene. Again, more of that, please.
I must mention that when Alice said “distant,” she seemed very unsure and hurting, and gave Dana quite a look. I don’t know if it was an attempt to convey that Dana doesn’t know Alice as well as she might think, or if it was Alice’s way of saying that she needs people to stay close. Dana tried to get the message, but just kind of blinked.
Everything’s fine, dammit — That is not the same Mini Cooper Alice was driving last season. Never mind, she’s dropping Dana off, and they’re talking about getting together after Dana has dinner with Lara. Dana tries to give Alice a kiss, but Alice makes it a kiss on the cheek.
After Dana gets out, Alice mutters “Goddammit.” Yeah, you need to reel it in, Alice, and I say that as someone who adores you.
Memories — Bette unpacks some of Melvin’s pictures, of Melvin and Bette’s mom, and of Bette with both her parents, and of Bette and her mom. And there’s a shell from Acapulco and one of Bette’s mom’s watercolors. The painting reminds me of something; I wanna say Matisse, but I don’t know anything about art. I’ll leave that to the fabulous Bette Porters of the world.
Melvin seems to be enjoying the picture show, even if he can’t express that very well.
Dinner — What are Dana and Lara eating? Something messy: Lara says she should have worn her latex jumpsuit. Okay, somebody call Dominique and let’s film that scene!
Lara just kind of nods; she doesn’t apologize, and nor should she, because of that chemistry thing. Dana’s cell phone buzzes, but she ignores it.
Can I go to the Peruvian restaurant with you, Lara? I love an authentic pisco sour.
The Howling Coyote — Alice is leaving a message for Dana, telling her to get there a little early because the place is crowded. Carmen sees Al and says hey as she goes in. Alice hangs up and says “goddammit” again.
Inside, Carmen says “Jesus Christ” as she sees the burly crazy crowd and the stripper on stage. She finds Shane.
“Why” is always the question with Jenny, isn’t it?
Carmen soon finds herself in the middle of a group of guys, and Shane gets wind of it. Shane rescues her, sort of, although we all know Shane’s not exactly a threat to a bunch of bulky dudes. But she and Carmen laugh at it all in spite of themselves.
Carmen just kind of stares. Yeah, okay, this is the couple that causes me the fewest freak-outs, and therefore I’m happy for them.
Still deep — Bette is reading the Langston Hughes poem again.
I love the way Kit says that under her breath and the way Bette half-grins with a big love for her big sis.
Melvin starts to call for his mama. Gah.
Bette and Kit sing Rusty Old Halo, just like sisters would, and they cry, and I’ll admit I get a little verklempt. Goddammit.
Please, god, no — Dana arrives at the Howling Coyote as Jenny is announced as “The Yeshiva Girl.”
Yeah, unfortunately, it is. That’s right, Jenny, take your troubled past and your profound history and reduce them to this ridiculous act of stripping in front of a crowd of brutes. I know you think it’s about control or power or whatever the fuck, but I’m telling you it’s a nightmare, and I still wish I could whisk you away and shelter you from all this. Including the deranged klezmer version of the theme song.
Also, if you’re gonna strip, try to tantalize a little, okay? There’s no method to your madness.
Meanwhile, Alice has thrown herself on Dana’s bed, thinking that Dana is still with Lara. Ack. Dana finds her there:
The morning after — Mark is doing something with eggs.
Again, I am beside myself, because I like Mark a lot more than I like Jenny right now.
A different bed — Tina’s sleeping and pregnant and naked, but I don’t think she’s in Bette’s bed this time. Well, wherever she is, I’m certainly delighted with the abundance of her glory. Amen.
Time — Bette makes some tea and hums Rusty Old Halo while Melvin groans in the background. He looks at the picture of Bette and Tina on his nightstand, and then the groaning stops and the humming stops and Melvin is gone.
Bette calls for Kit, and then they both keen for their father, each in her own way. Jennifer Beals and Pam Grier offer an authentic, profound portrayal of grief, the likes of which I’ve never seen on my TV and don’t expect to see again.
NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: L is for labor. Tina’s labor, my labor, every viewer’s labor in getting through this helenish/hellish season. The one good thing? Heart. Right on. See them live before you die, and e-mail me if you have front row seats for their show at theOrange County Fair.