“The L Word” recap (3.4): “Light My Fire”

THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:

  • Politics: The thing this show was missing.
  • Playing with fire: What everybody does, but nobody quite does right.
  • Ms. Porter: She’s back.
  • Googling: Foreplay.
  • Fingertip: The incredibly erogenous zone.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Alan Cumming tells it like it is; Dana Delany gets so so close to the holy grail; Alexandra Hedison makes me say “Portia who?”; Billie Jean King represents.

The warnings — Have you noticed that we almost never get all the warnings? It’s always TV-MA, but usually for just a few reasons. Queer as Folk managed to hit four most of the time, and sometimes five. Three is just kind of mediocre. This show is all mouth and no trousers.

The circle of anti-life — Some Catholics are talking about the eternal fire of damnation that is the special province of homosexuals. I dunno; I’ve always wondered about that. I mean, everything gets old eventually, and pain tends to dull the longer you bear it. If you were stuck in eternal flames, wouldn’t you eventually shrug and roast marshmallows? The same goes for the heavenly chorus: all that lightness and joy would become so much wallpaper and you’d dream of an earthly night with a Ramones album and a nice big spliff.

Anyway, one of the women (with her 1984 hair that actually isn’t even cool by 1984 standards) is in the Catholic circle because she wants to get over her gay-ness. I guess I didn’t realize there were “ex-gay” groups in 1984; I thought that was a more recent monstrosity. And I thought maybe the Baptists would be the first ones to form the anti-gay circles, not the Catholics. Never mind: the point is that now we’re in a bed, and the one with the hair (Agatha) is the nun from last week, and is now making out with a rather pretty young thing, as well as a guy named Frank who seems to have gone from gay to omnivorous. “It’s better than hell’s fire,” says the pretty young thing. What kind of a recommendation is that? I mean, you could say that about sex with a beet. Or, since it’s a threesome, a beet and a parsnip.

A shocking admission — There’s something I like about the theme song. One thing. Or two. The drums and the bass. Okay, I’m done.

The bonfire of the vanities — Jenny is burning her book. Yes. Pages and pages of Schecter synecdoche are succumbing to the sweet sizzly flames. Listen to them crackle and crinkle! Oh, and the title of the book is Some of Her Parts, which is sorta clever but mostly not.

Look at Jenny’s glasses. She’s the queen of the uncool oculars. These are not as bad as those owl things she used to wear, but they’re still off-putting.

Moira shows up and says “I hope you backed that up on your hard drive.” Now we know she’s not really a geek: a geek would just say “I hope you backed that up.” Or “good thing you, like most wise computer users, do a weekly backup.” I mean, really, who says “hard drive” nowadays? So uncool.

Apparently Moira has been gone all night. Jenny’s not happy about it.

Jenny: “Where the fuck were you?”
Moira: “I was hangin’ out at the beach. Look, I was like sleeping in my truck; you know, trying to figure out what I’m doing here in L.A.”
Jenny: “What are you doing here in L.A.?”
Moira: “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing anywhere. I don’t know who I am anymore, actually.”
Jenny: “You know what? Nobody knows who they are. You know? That’s what life is about. You walk through life, and you try to figure it out. And you probably won’t figure it out. 
Moira: “Seems like you know who you are.”
Jenny: “Absolutely. I’m, like, I’m the picture of togetherness and sanity. You know, I thought that I was supposed to be a writer. And I’m this fuckin’ loser that can’t even get a publisher to call them back about a stupid manuscript.”

Oh no. Did Jenny just mock herself?! I don’t know what I’m doing anywhere or who I am anymore.

Moira says you don’t have to get published to be a good writer. From your mouth to God’s ears, S/he-Ra (see footnote). Jenny’s glad to hear it, because she’s going to be serving coffee at The Planet. Great: would you like some pretentiousness with your praline latte?

Ooh, pause for the director credit: Lynne Stopkewich did Kissed, which is one of the best and most unsettling films I’ve ever seen. It’s even got Peter Outerbridge in it: he was “not a fucking drag queen” in Better Than Chocolate, which brings us back to a season 3 guestbian, Anne-Marie MacDonald. This show is like a chart of Canadian film connections.

And a pause for the writer credit: Cherien Dabis had a hand in The D Word, which just goes to show that snark rules.

Moira shows her support by throwing another page on the fire. You really are my hero, S/he-Ra.

The pool of loneliness — Bette and Angelica are cooling their tooties. Do you see how cute they are together? Ms. Beals’s maternal instinct is clearly going strong. And Tina’s type-A instinct is in overdrive: she wants to know what they’re doing and why and whether she’ll have time to pump before her meeting and whether everyone will bow down and kiss her feet.

Bette: “I’m sure they’ll hold the meeting for you. You’re the boss now, aren’t ya?”
Tina: “That might be how you treated your subordinates, but I don’t like to keep people waiting.”
Bette: [to Angelica, as Tina walks in and out of the scene]: “Well, I never called my colleagues my subordinates. But you know what, your Mama T is a little stressed right now. She has her very first big staff meeting.”
Tina: “I don’t even have time to pump now. I’ll just do it later. Can you, umm, pick up my dry cleaning, please?”
Bette: [to Angelica, as Tina stomps off again] “And now she thinks that just because, for this once, she’s the one to bring home the bacon, that we should jump through burning hoops.”
Angelica: “Grr gah ggrrrgle.”
Bette: “I know. I feel the same way.”

So, in case you’re not keeping track, let me count for you: that’s three, three, three fire references in the first ten minutes. And because you probably couldn’t tell from the dialogue, let me just tell you again that Jennifer Beals and the baby who’s playing Angelica are simply adorable together. And how ’bout that dry cleaning nod to last season? Mama B and Mama T are doomed.

The Planet — Kit has some news for Carmen. Carmen is listening, but not without keeping her face forward, being fully aware of the camera at all times. If someone’s giving you good news, would you not possibly look them in the eye, instead of making them talk to the back of your head as you sip your café?

When she finally gets the good news, Carmen turns to face Kit and the camera that’s behind Kit. Let’s face it: by the end of this season, this just might be the Sarah Shahi show, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.

So the good news is that Carmen has been asked to DJ a Russell Simmons party. The bad news is that the party is the same night as Shane’s opening — as in the opening of Shane’s new job at Wax. Shane tells Carmen not to pass it up.

Heroes — Dana is on a sports show. It’s hosted by Billie Jean King, who is Dana’s hero. Hey, she was everybody’s hero when she beat Bobby Riggs, but that doesn’t mean she should take up acting. No worries about that, actually: clearly she hasn’t.

Why is Billie Jean talking about Dana’s “comeback?” What comeback? Where did Dana go, and where exactly had she arrived before that, in order to have something to come back to? Damn those missing six months between seasons.

The Planet — Billie Blaikie is eyeing up some fresh meat. He wonders if the guy is a vegan, because “you know what they say about vegans: their cum tastes really sweet.” Hmm, perhaps I ought to take up veganism again. I did embrace it for a while, but I missed cheese. Let me apologize: it’s really wrong to put the words “cum” and “cheese” in the same paragraph.

Anyway, Billie seems to be sort of teasing Bette, who says the possibly-vegan guy would not make a good waiter.

Kit: “Billie’s just tryin’ to give him a chance.”
Bette: “Billie just wants to know what he eats.”
Billie: [after a suitably respectful pause] “Okay, darlin’. I do not need to give people jobs to find out about their culinary habits. And talkin’ of which, when’s the last time you ate out?”

Bette pretends to be shocked, but she’s thinking “far, far too long ago, Billie boy.”

Bette’s cell phone saves her; it’s Julia the important art person. Julia’s in the hospital and needs someone to fill in for her in Washington (or “Warshington,” as Kit says, having spent time in my home state). There’s some sort of Senate hearing about NEA grants. Yeah, Bette can just do that with no preparation. Sure.

Kit worries that Billie’s going to provoke a lawsuit if he keeps playing with the waiter, but Billie says the boy holds no mystery for him. And then he sees Moira, and thinks Moira’s a he, or hopes so. I just hope Moira never ever wears that stupid hat again.

So Billie is surprised when Jenny introduces Moira as Moira (and Alan Cumming is brilliant in this scene: fascinated and kind). Moira shakes his hand and warms to him right away. No, not like that. Or at least not yet.

Billie invites S/he-Ra to a party of “people like us: some people who’ve changed their bodies to match up to their brains; and a few who’ve changed their brains to match up to their bodies.” Moira pretends she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so he calls her “Handsome” and tells her they’re good people. I like you, Billie Blaikie.

Alice’s downward spiral — Alice’s producer is not thrilled about Alice’s show ideas. None of them have anything to do with The Chart. Alice says one of them does: the one about Angelica’s favorite book, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. The whole thing is a bit painful, but I still like the fact that Alice is Angelica’s earth mother. With such intense mommies, Angelica’s going to need someone in her life who can see the funny in all the crap.

Missing — Bette is packing. Tina arrives home and is surprised to see Mange there. Bette explains that she asked him to come over because she knew Tina was going out, and that she herself is going to Washington. I am momentarily distracted by the fact that Tina is wearing a black (or at least dark) bra under her see-through-ish white shirt, but that doesn’t bother me half as much as the way Mama B and Mama T are talking to each other.

Tina: “When I took this job, you told me that you would take care of things at home. You said you’d be more than happy to do all the things for me that I did for you when you worked at the C.A.C.”
Bette: “Yeah, and I am. Do you even know what’s going on, Tina? I mean, we have to fight to preserve government support for the arts. PBS is up for grabs, for Christ’s sake.”
Tina: “And while I’m working, I’d like to know that my daughter is at home with her mother. Otherwise, I can’t do it, Bette.”
Bette: “Then don’t. Really, don’t.”
Tina: “Are you getting paid for this?”

They have a brief moment of connection, in which they talk about politics (Tina is especially interested in the dyke Senator from Massachusetts) and it seems like they’re still right for each other, at least intellectually and ideologically. But when Bette says “I’ll miss you” — twice — Tina doesn’t reply. And to that I can only say fuck you. Twice.

Well, hang on a minute. As someone who has been in Bette’s position — and I do mean as someone who’s had a girlfriend who reverted to the boy-loving ways — I have to give Laurel some credit. She’s playing this in that detached way that becomes your modus operandi when everything about you turns upside down.

Nah, let’s go back to “fuck you.”

Nesting — Carmen is cleaning. Shane says it’s not her mess, but Carmen says someone’s gotta do it. Actually, yeah, it would be good if someone would actually clean it, rather than ineffectually pushing around dry paper towels the way you are.

They talk about Shane’s opening at Wax; Shane thinks Carmen should do the Russell Simmons party, but Carmen’s not happy that Shane doesn’t seem to care whether Carmen is at the opening or not. Carmen’s pretty good at the blank stare thing.

A screening — Helena and Tina are checking out a documentary they’re interested in funding. The woman at the helm (Dylan) is none other than Alexandra Hedison, who’s looking especially fine — especially to Helena. They sort of have a moment, as Helena essentially offers to fund the entire film and then some, but then Dylan excuses herself to find someone she’d like them to meet.

Helena: “Who is that, do you know?”
Tina: “That is Danny Wilson. Her producer. And, I think, her boyfriend.”
Helena: “Oh.”

I should be saying “bwa ha ha, serves you right, Helena,” but look at her: she’s just a girl, standing in front of a girl, asking to finance a documentary. Umm.

Tina! You smirked.

Getting her groove back — Kit and Mange babysit Angelica and sort of flirt with each other. I say “sort of” because there’s just no chemistry between these two; and I’m not just being homosexist. It makes sense that they’d be a little nervous at this point, but they’ve gone beyond nervous and right into strained. That might be because Mange generally looks like he’s trying to pass something.

Kit says Mange is just a child — really? He doesn’t look that young to me, but that might be the passing-something-face. Mange brings up several examples of women who have been with older men: Susan Sarandon, Joan Collins, Mary Kay LeTourneau (haha). But Kit says he doesn’t know anything about her. He disagrees, and lists a lot of things he does know about her, and it’s supposed to be sweet but it sounds like he’s reading the phone book. And then he sort of doesn’t know what to say when Kit says “And I’m going through menopause.”

Speaking of that, Mange’s “hello” song has settled into my brain: I find myself singing it at the oddest of times. The other day I was in the loo and heard myself singing “Hello to the towels, so glad to see you. Hello to my bowels, so glad to see you.”

Welcome home — Jenny and Moira go to Billie Blaikie’s party. As they step inside, Billie tells Moira “welcome home.” He introduces them to everyone, and in doing so, asks Moira whether she goes by any other names. Jenny says “She sometimes goes by Max.” Everyone seems much more interested in Max than they do in Jenny. Talk about a good crowd.

A tranny named Ginger Vitus asks Jenny what her novel is about. “My novel is about some bullshit about my childhood.” Again, how am I supposed to do my thang if she’s going to do it for me?

Max says Jenny’s novel has some cool carnival stuff in it. Never mind that last week Max hinted that she hadn’t read Jenny’s stuff.

One of Billie’s other guests, Tom, is a writer too; he writes non-fiction, mostly, and is working on a screenplay.

Billie: “Oh, god, like everybody else in Hell A.”
Jenny: “No, not me. I don’t do it. I don’t wanna ever write a screenplay.”

Oh, crap. It was bad enough not being able to mock Jenny; now I even have to say “me too.” Or me neither. Whatever.

Tom says some more about his screenplay; it’s about a girl becoming a boy, getting top surgery, etc. S/he-Ra says “So it’s about your life?” and Billie suggests it might be about Max’s life too. Max admits she’s thought about it. Jenny wants to know when, and why she didn’t know about it. Maybe you were too busy writing some bullshit about your childhood, Jenny dear.

But again I have to give Jenny some props: she seems to be genuinely supportive of Max, and that’s cool.

The main event — Shane (who’s at Wax) wants to know what time it is; apparently Dana’s game is on. Elsewhere, Tina does a funny type A “mm hmm mm hmm mm hmm” thing on the phone before tuning in to the tennis. There is a rather interesting painting on the wall behind Tina; it looks almost like a Bette-and-Tina-making-out painting. Helena shows up to ask about the meeting with Dylan, and whines that it’s too far away — so Tina suggests she just call Dylan up and ask her out. But then they both get distracted by Dana’s match. At one point, Dana looks tired or like she’s in pain. But then of course she pulls through and wins, and plants a nice big kiss on Lara in full view of the cameras. It reminds me of that Tracey Ullmann episode (Tracey Takes On) where all the lesbian golfers were kissing. Only that was funny, whereas this is just sort of stagey. Okay, there are brief moments of hotness. But very brief.

The Senate hearing — The dyke senator, Senator Grisham (Dana Delany), makes a grand entrance and promptly gives Bette her full attention. ‘Cause, well, who wouldn’t? Another senator has a fit about the “eating pussy is the ultimate patriot act” piece, and sets a photo of it on fire. (Have you lost track of the fire references yet?) And that sets Bette on fire.

Senator Homophobe: “This is un-American filth.”
Bette: “Senator, what do you think you’re doing?” [tossing the photo to the floor and stamping out the flame] Un-American. Not as un-American as what you just did. You oughtta be ashamed of yourself. You know what you are? You’re just the latest reigning vigilante self-appointed culture watchdogs of the moment. Devoting countless hours and enviable resources to this bogus mission of stifling creative expression in the name of patriotism.”
Senator Homophobe: “Miss Porter —”
Bette: “And you know what it is, Senator? It’s a distraction. It is a wanton distraction. Because let’s just be forthright and honest about what is truly unpatriotic. Abject poverty is unpatriotic. The failure of our education system is unpatriotic. Lies told by presidents as justification for war is unpatriotic. It is unpatriotic that elected lawmakers fail to acknowledge, let alone address, real desperation.”

As this magnificence unfolds, Senator Grisham keeps leaning forward and showing all kinds of fascination on her face. And as Bette storms out, the Senator follows her out, and again, who wouldn’t? She says “that was rather fiery” (groan) and invites Bette to a cocktail party. At first Bette declines, but the Senator says it will get her the votes she needs. I think maybe there are some other needs to consider here.

Big, big props to Jennifer Beals. Somehow, when she points the finger (and she did, literally), it’s not bratty or fake. How is that possible?

If you give a dyke a microphone — Alice has just played a song called “All Fired Up,” by the Tra La La’s. What can I call this? Trope abuse? Anyway, in order to keep herself from talking about Dana, Alice talks about George W. Bush’s penis. It’s almost as bad as it sounds, but at the same time, it’s hilarious (and too visual for me to make it meaningful in print), and it’s nice to hear Alice ranting about something pseudo-political.

But at some point during these meanderings, Alice’s producer holds up a sign that says “You are dead to me.” Oops.

It’s a new car! — Dana and Lara are checking out Dana’s new Mercedes-Benz (oh, right, I neglected to mention that the match was the final in an imaginary Mercedes-Benz championship). How cute is it that Dana’s way of checking out the car is to read the driver’s manual?

Dana also wants to check out the sound system, and of course she tunes right in to Alice’s show. Lara quickly changes the station, but Dana changes it back. And even though Dana decides that Alice has lost her mind, it’s kinda clear that Dana still cares about her friend.

A fork in the road — Senator Grisham offers Bette a ride to her hotel.

Bette: “Well, I don’t know where else.”
Senator Grisham: “My place. I do have a rather good collection.”
Bette: “Abstract expressionists.”
Senator Grisham: “Oh, very good. You do your homework.”

Next thing you know, they’re in the cab. “Do you always get people to do what you want them to?” says Bette, and Senator Grisham’s expression says “God, I hope so.”

Getting ready for bed — I’m sure it’s wrong of me to say so, but if the lump in Dana’s breast turns out to be malignant, it will be easy to make Dana look the part. Do you see how skinny she is? Quelle horreur.

Lara is worried; she says Dana looks really tired.

Dana: “I am really tired. I played my ass off today.”
Lara: “I know you did.”
Dana: “Look, Lara, you’re overreacting. Really. Okay? I’m going in for a needle biopsy on Tuesday. We’ll find out then if there’s anything to worry about. But right now, in this minute, I’m a huge fuckin’ tennis star.”
Lara: “Yes you are.”
Dana: “Yes I am.”

The lighting is too harsh: it hurts me. I suppose that’s the point. And for the first time so far this season, I like Lara and Dana together, and hope against hope that they’ll stay that way.

Discomfort — Jenny and Moira/Max/S/he-Ra are getting ready to go out. Hear that music in the background? It’s Ember Swift, doing “Elle Est La.” Très fabuleux.

Moira (suddenly I want to call her Mothra) says she doesn’t feel comfortable with “those girls.”

Jenny: “Why don’t you give it another try?”
Mothra: “Why?”
Jenny: “Because those people are my friends.”
Mothra: “Your friends weren’t very friendly to me.”

She’s right about that. Whatever you want to say about a clash of lifestyles or Mothra’s bad acting or weird voice or whatever, she is absolutely right that those girls were unfriendly.

Look at Jenny’s glasses. Again.

Mothra is too busy looking at a suit that’s hanging in Jenny’s closet (how prominently displayed it is). Yes, Mothra: go toward the flame of the suit.

Speaking of suits — At the Shane for Wax opening, Shane is wearing a suit too, but in that way that doesn’t really count as wearing a suit. And everyone’s congratulating Dana — including Moira, who’s wearing a suit in that way that really counts as wearing a suit — prompting Dana to say “Look how handsome you look. You look good.” And including Alice, who’s really quite sweet, prompting an “I still like her” reaction from Dana. But then Alice goes a bit too far and says “It was a great kiss.” Awkwardness, thy name is Pieszecki.

Is that Le Tigre in the background? Or am I just getting strangely optimistic?

The fork in the road, continued — Bette and the Senator (call her Barbara, if you’re Bette) are flirting in that wonderfully subtle cultured way. Bette says she can only stay for one sip of the bottle of really fabulous Scotch that Barbara has just opened. Barbara sees this as a reason to shift a little closer to Bette on the sofa.

Barbara: “Let me ask you something. Why did you get fired from the C.A.C.? Is it because you’re a lesbian?”
Bette: “What, did you google me or something?”
Barbara: “This afternoon. After your pyrotechnics.”

And there’s more flirting and subtlety and hesitant delicious touches, and then Bette says, “Well, then, if you googled me, then you know that I have a partner named Tina and a six-month-old daughter.” But as she says it, she dips her finger into that glass of fabulous Scotch, and then circles her fingers along the rim of the glass, and I’m certain I’ve never seen anything so erotic.

Neither has Barbara:

Barbara: “Is Tina [taking Bette's hand] as intense [taking Bette's finger into her mouth] as you are?”
Bette: “Is your husband as fluid as you are?”
Barbara: “My husband and I have an arrangement. It works out well for both of us.”

And then Barbara is stroking Bette’s cheek and I’m falling prey once again to the deceptive innocence of Dana Delany (hello Exit to Eden) and it all seems so perfect.

Barbara: “Come to bed with me.”
Bette: [as their lips zero in] “I can’t.”
Barbara: “That does not sound like a Bette Porter statement.”
Bette: “Tina and I don’t have an arrangement.”

No, I suppose you don’t. But guess what? Tina doesn’t have your commitment to the actual relationship. So I say again: fuck her, and please, please, fuck Barbara.

But Bette just walks away.

Shane’s debut — Shane is wielding her clippers with a little too much gusto. One hapless victim ends up with a Flock of Seagulls-ish haircut. I ran, I ran so far away. Down at Fraggle Rock.

Let’s pause for an interesting aside from a dancing odd couple:

Alice: “Have you seen Moira?”
Helena: “She looks amazing.”
Alice: “I know, she looks like a hot guy. I like it.”

Yeah. She kinda does. I’m holding at “kinda,” but I’m getting there.

Jenny interrupts to ask where Carmen is, and to flail her arms around in a Kermit-y way. Alice says (in a reading-from-a-script way) that it sucks that Carmen’s not there for Shane’s big day.

The moment of truth and trial — Bette calls Tina, to talk to her about the whole situation (you know lesbians and their processing), and Tina assumes she’s asking permission.

Tina: “So you wanna have sex with her. And she’s in the other room and you’re asking my permission?”
Bette: “I’m not asking your permission to… I don’t know.”
Tina: “Well, you better hurry, because I don’t think Senator Grisham’s gonna wait around for you for very long.”

Tina. Have you seen Bette? Some of us would wait centuries.

Bette: “So it would be fine with you if I just went back in the living room and fucked her on her $50,000 carpet?”

Yes. Yes it would.

Tina: “If that’s what you wanna do, Bette.”
Bette: “That’s not what I wanna do, Tina. I just… I just want you to care.”
Tina: [silence]
Bette: “Do you?”
Tina: [silence]
Bette: [as Barbara asks whether she's okay in there] “I’ve gotta go.”

Tina hangs up, looking irritated and having no leg to stand on.

Meanwhile, Barbara is still there with the Scotch and the slight smile and the seductive patience. But Bette can’t play.

Barbara: “Thought you could use some encouragement.”
Bette: “I’m sorry. I really don’t need any encouragement. You… you are an exquisite woman. And the only thing I want more than you right now is for my girlfriend to want me like you do.”

Love hurts.

Barbara: “It would have been good though.”
Bette: [with a soft kiss on the cheek] “I’m sure it would’ve.”

And they both saunter off in that strong way that women of their kind will saunter.

You call that a stunt? — Shane drifts back and forth on a skateboard, as slowly as she can and with no tricks whatsoever. Gimme that thing: I flew out of the hayloft on a skateboard when I was 12 and landed in a pile of ensilage. Tasty.

And suddenly there’s Carmen, and Shane is thrilled to see her. Carmen has Russell Simmons with her. He says hello and sings Carmen’s praise, and says she has her priorities straight: Carmen’s there for Shane.

Russell Simmons: [as Shane and Carmen kiss] “Well, straight, I don’t…”

Lame.

And what’s lame yet cute? The fact that Carmen has mixed something just for Shane. So she spins it, and it’s good, because it’s all about “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. And Chrissie Hynde rocks. And are Alice and Jenny dancing together? Bring on the crazy! And let’s all try to ignore the fact that Tina can’t dance. It’s a good group scene and a good groove, even though it fades into a troperific flaming trash can tended by a homeless person. Sigh.

NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: Alice explores her dark side; Tina explores her straight side; Shane revisits her past; Dana confronts her mortality. You know, boring average stuff.

A footnote — Mothra’s “S/he-Ra” moniker is brought to you by Ceri Lloyd.

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