“The L Word” recap (3.8): “Latecomer”

THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:

  • Tea: Even more refreshing than you might think. Especially if it’s English.
  • Space and time: Wasted by Betty.
  • Family: Shifting and evolving and somehow surviving.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Alexandra Hedison knows just what to do with her fingers; Cynthia Stevenson has no clue what to do with her talent.

Los Angeles, seven months ago — Did I say I wanted to know what happened in between seasons? I take it back entirely. I guess I didn’t really want to witness the Dana/Alice breakup, and that’s what I’m seeing right now. It’s painful… all that silence, and the crying-gulping (crulping), and that thing where you can’t stand still but can’t move your feet either, so you just make frantic gestures whilst trying to keep yourself from flying apart — Leisha is capturing it all so perfectly. And Dana has the sad resolute face of someone who just has to leave, no matter how much it hurts.

Alice: [crulping] “I don’t know if I can… um… if I can live without you.”

And then Dana takes Alice in her arms, because of course she still cares. And Dana says “You can.” And they kiss once more, and it’s good, real kissing. Real enough for Alice: she tries to make it deeper, but Dana says “I can’t,” many times, and then she leaves as Alice cries and Tracy Bonham sings “Whether You Fall” across the street. And the lines of the chart amble across the screen from Alice to Dana; just another link, just more tracks of tears. Sniffle.

After the door closes, Alice says “Dana” and seems to go after her, and I’m especially glad I didn’t get to see that part.

A motorbike — Mange and Kit are vrooming along, but Kit needs to pull over. She’s having a bit of a panic attack because “my friends the Betty girls” have come all the way from New York to produce her record. Whoop-de-flippin-Betty-doo-doo.

Mange says “Yeah, it’s exciting,” but he says it in a really annoying condescending way — you know, the way he says things to Angelica, but I’m sure Angelica is more clued in to it than Kit is.

Kit calms down (yes, Mange’s soothing words would calm anyone down, but mostly because of the utter lack of stimulation) and says “Hi ho, silver!” as they drive off. Ugh.

Lemme hear your body talk — Bette and Tina are sleeping, or rather, waking up. Bette has just rolled over and flung an arm around Tina, but she subconsciously realizes what she’s done and wakes up fully.

Bette: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to touch you.”
Tina: “I don’t mind being touched by you.”
Bette: “Obviously you do.”
Tina: [silence]
Bette: “While I’m away, I want you to move out.”
Tina: “Where am I supposed to go?”
Bette: “I don’t know, I just… just move into the other bedroom until we figure it out. I just don’t want you in my bed anymore.”
Tina: “All right, fine, if that’s what you want.”
Bette: “That’s not what I want, Tina. I’m not the one who decided that the last eight years of her life were some meaningless little dalliance in the land of alternative lifestyles.”
Tina: “You know that’s not true. I can’t help the feelings that I’m having.”
Bette: “Well, I don’t want you to have them in my bed.”

Bette gets out of bed, saying she needs to pack and wants a little time in her own room. Angelica is fussing a little, so Bette picks her up and says “Mommy’s right here,” which apparently doesn’t sit well with the other mommy. Tina takes Angelica from Bette and makes some excuse about Angelica needing to be nursed “in my room.” Bette just stands by the crib, holding a stuffed animal and looking bereft.

Another unharmonious bed — Carmen is a restless sleeper. She’s thwapping Shane in the face and flailing and mumbling, and I wish the writers would let Sarah Shahi be funny more often because she’s pretty good at it.

Shane finally wakes her up and tells her she’s having a bad dream.

Carmen: “I had this dream that we were inside of Wax, but it was, like, really trippy, and there were all these like, paintings that were floating around, and you were there and I was there and there was this lady… it was Cherie. It was Cherie Jaffe. You were giving a tattoo to Cherie Jaffe. Like the one that we have that’s on the back of our necks. Why did you do that?”
Shane: “Do what?”
Carmen: “Give her a tattoo.”
Shane: “I didn’t.”
Carmen: “That was something that’s really sacred to us. That’s just between us.”
Shane: “But I, I didn’t give a ta–”
Carmen: “Goddammit, Shane, that’s so fucked up.”

Carmen hops out of bed, leaving Shane with her befuddlement and her bed head. Well, it might be bed head, but really, how can you tell?

Dana’s place — Alice is making a yummy-looking smoothie of some sort. I am not saying this just because Alice is yummy; it really does look good. Perhaps I’m just thirsty or hungry or something — generally I don’t consume much of anything while I watch this show because it robs me of my appetite and my optimism. But a Pieszecki smoothie might hit the spot. I didn’t mean that spot. Or maybe I did.

In the bedroom, Dana doesn’t have much of an appetite or much optimism either, because her hair has begun to fall out. She calls to Alice, who thinks she’s just calling for the smoothie. Alice can only stop and stare when she sees the swaths of hair in Dana’s hands.

Dana: “Check it out. Hot hot hot, isn’t it? Too bad Lara’s not around to see this. Maybe I’ll save it and sell it on eBay.”
Alice: “All right, can you not be so morbid? And drink this. Drink your shake.”
Dana: “I can’t. I feel nauseous.”

Okay. I let it go last week, but I can’t let it go twice: old-school prescriptivists like me still believe that “nauseous” means “inducing nausea,” and that the proper word for what one feels is “nauseated.” But it’s completely inappropriate of me to care about it at all at a moment like this, so I apologize for being nauseous.

And then Alice calls in the reinforcements, in the form of wigs, which are all horrible. Dana resists, but Alice says “just humor me,” but it’s really Alice who’s bringing the funny, and we all know it.

The phone rings; it’s Dana’s mom. Dana doesn’t want to talk to her, but Alice says Mrs. Fairbanks is just trying to help, and shutting her out won’t make Dana feel better.

Dana: “Well then, what is gonna make me feel better, Al? I mean, look at me. I’m disappearing. I’m just disappearing.”

Painful on so many levels — Moira/Max and Jenny are typing away on their respective laptops. Moira (who’s now sporting some facial hair) has written an e-mail: “This is to inform all of my friends and acquaintances that from now on I’ll be going by the name Max. Please use only the male pronoun when referring to me. Yours truly.”

Jenny says, “Why don’t you sign off like this?” and then IMs Max from two feet away: “Max, the transgender formerly known as Moira.”

Urgh. It’s an adjective, not a noun! Do you call yourself “a gay,” Jenny? Right, I must stop ranting about grammar. It’s just not worth it.

This is worth saying, though: when Jenny looks at Max, she looks like she’s indulging a little kid who has presented her with a painting that is not much more than a gloppy mess. And why does she do that? Because compared to Mia Kirshner’s, Daniela Sea’s acting skills are a gloppy mess. At best. What a way to ruin a potentially interesting storyline.

A studio — Great. There’s Betty. Oh, but seriously great, there’s Nona Hendryx! She and Kit fall all over each other and it’s all good until “the Betty girls” show up. Mange is sort of hovering in the background until Kit introduces him as her “main squeeze.” Blah.

The house of pain — Bette’s cab is waiting; she’s heading to that retreat. She says she’s going to “hike down to the lake” every day to call Angelica.

Bette: “So I expect you to put her on the phone with me.”
Tina: “Of course I’ll put her on the phone with you.”
Bette: “I wanna call her from the road this afternoon, so where will you be?”
Tina: “I was thinking of going to visit Kit and everyone in the recording studio.”
Bette: “You’re kidding me.”
Tina: “No. Is there a problem?”
Bette: “Well, the problem is that you no longer have the privileges of being my life partner.”
Tina: “Whoa! What?”
Bette: “Don’t get all galled and affronted. You’re the one who’s breaking up the family.”
Tina: “I am not breaking up — “
Bette: “Yes you are, Tina. You don’t love me. You’re changing who you are, and yes, you are breaking up this family, and it’s about time that we both just got real about it. So while I’m away meditating, I’m gonna try and –”

And then there’s the sound of someone clearing her throat; it’s Roberta, that social worker, who might have heard the whole thing. She asks how they’re doing, and though they say “fine” and “wonderful,” Roberta asks if there’s anything they want to tell her.

They say no, of course; just that they’re working some things out.

Roberta: “And you’re still intending on proceeding with this adoption.”
Bette: “Of course we are.”
Tina: “Absolutely.”
Bette: “Listen, I’ve gotta get going. My flight’s at 10:30.”
Roberta: “Where are you going? If I may ask.”
Bette: “I’m going to the Maha Bodhi Monastery in Olympia, Washington. I’m going on a meditation retreat.”
Roberta: “How long will you be gone?”
Bette: “Ten days.”
Roberta: “Well, I guess that’s fine, considering Angelica will be home and safe with her mother.”
Bette: “And her other mother will be home with her in ten days, enlightened, and better able to cope with any changes that are afoot.”

Bette says this in that tone that says “oh, you poor little confused creature, it’s a wonder you know your own name,” and it’s pretty great. Tina likes it too; she seems almost proud of Bette. I hate these little things that make me hold out hope in spite of myself.

There’s a quick and awkward goodbye kiss, and then Bette is off to higher ground. Roberta asks Tina if she’s sure she wants to go through with the adoption, because she can see that things aren’t good. Roberta wonders what will happen if Tina starts seeing someone, but Tina says it’s not relevant because Bette is Angelica’s other mother, and says Roberta wouldn’t even be saying such things if they were a heterosexual couple. Bette and Tina are great when they’re fighting their battles together, instead of against each other.

A coffee shop — Helena is picking Dylan up. And really, who wouldn’t pick Dylan up if they could?

Dylan is excited to meet Nona Hendryx. Helena says she has to make one more call, about the jet for tomorrow: she’s arranged to take Dana to a San Jose Lightning basketball game. (Never mind that when you google San Jose Lightning, it turns out to be a baseball team.) Dylan thinks it’s an amazing gesture; more importantly, she just thinks Helena is amazing. And that’s true, because it’s amazing that Helena can be so sweet now, when last season she was the devil incarnate.

Ego studio — Nona and the Betty girls and Kit are singing a song called “Transformation.” I don’t really know what else to say.

Mange interrupts and says he thinks Kit should sing the first chorus by herself. Who put you in charge? I mean, fine, question Betty all you want, but Nona? Sit down and shut up, white boy. Kit says the same thing, but much more nicely.

Wax — Shane (not just Shane; sizzly bespectacled suspendered Shane!) is about to take her next client when she notices Dana and Alice standing nearby. Dana’s all incognito in a hat and sunglasses, but Shane just smiles broadly and waves her back. And then Shane asks Dana if she’s ready, and manages to make Dana smile, and then fires up the clippers. Times like these, it’s good to have Shane around. Alice (the other one who knows exactly how to be a friend) looks on, a little bit afraid.

Selfish studio, continued — Tina and Angelica (and Dylan and Helena) have arrived to join in the Betty-rific fun. Hey, now would be a good time to use that word “nauseous” that we learned earlier in this recap.

Helena asks Kit if she can introduce Dylan to Nona, and Kit’s happy to play along. As Dylan beams at Nona, Tina whispers at Helena:

Tina: “So I thought you guys were just friends.”
Helena: “We are!”
Tina: “Oh, god. Yeah, right.”

Kit has a phone call: it’s Bette.

Bette: “Listen, Kit, can you do me a big favor?”
Kit: “Yeah, sure.”
Bette: “Can you call Tina and just let her know that she’s welcome to come visit you at the recording studio?”
Kit: “Um, Tina just walked in.”
Bette: “She what?”
Kit: “Yeah, she just walked in with Helena and her friend.”
Bette: “You’re kidding me.”

And then Bette just hangs up. Alpha Bette is back.

A doctor’s office — Max is getting the lowdown on a subcutaneous mastectomy. It runs about $7500, but Max says that’s fine because she still has her insurance from her old job.

Doctor: “I’m afraid that gender reassignment surgery isn’t yet included on any insurance policies. They see it as an elective procedure.”
Jenny: “Hey listen, I just got my advance, so why don’t I use the money the publisher gave me and I’ll pay for it.”
Max: “Jenny, I don’t want you to pay for this.”
Jenny: “I wanna pay for it.”
Max: “No, I just wouldn’t feel right about it.”
Jenny: “But I feel fine.”

The doctor interrupts to say that some of his patients hold “top surgery benefit parties”; they invite their friends from the community and raise the money. Max doesn’t look so sure, probably because he doesn’t really have any friends yet. Don’t worry, Max: it’s not about you. It’s probably just another opportunity to write Betty into the episode, or some other guestbian who’s supposed to be the star of the party but will just be sort of hanging around.

This song kinda sucks — I like Nona too, but even she can’t do much with this cheesy song. In the booth, Mange is still rambling on about tempo or whatever else is bugging him. LWordemort puts him in his place, and that’s almost enjoyable.

As Dylan and Helena and Tina listen to Nona, Dylan reaches over and takes Helena’s hand. Helena’s expression lets us know that it feels like a lot more than hand-holding.

Oh goodie — Jenny and Max have a Goodie Bag from Good Vibrations. One of the goodies is a “Pissin’ Passin’ Packer,” which pretty much does what it says.

Jenny: “But you can pee standing up, can’t you?”
Max: “Yeah, I know. But, I mean, I’ve never been able to, you know, whip it out in a men’s room.”
Jenny: “I see.”

Jenny laughs in a dorky way that’s kind of cute. Yeah, you know the season must really suck if I’m sort of wishing for more Jenny.

Extreme is the new season — Alice and Shane arrive at the studio with crazy ‘dos; something sort of like a cross between a fauxhawk and a peacock. They announce the new Dana Fairbanks, and Dana steps in with her bald pate. She has a pretty good head for it, really. There are smiles and kisses all around, and Dana seems pretty much okay with it. Kit introduces Dana to Nona: “[Dana] came by to show us her new chemotherapy coiffure.” Sigh.

The singing, or whatever that is, continues, and Nona Hendryx looks like she’s trying pretty hard to care.

Elsewhere (you know, it’s one of those studios in a big house or whatever), Shane and Alice are playing a videogame, which mostly consists of a lot of gunfire and Alice screaming “Die motherfucker!” and “Get the motherfucker!” and “Fucker!” Dana’s sort of plopped on the couch behind them, looking tired and small (and frankly alien) but saying she wants to stay and have fun and play games. Alice asks where Carmen is.

Shane: “I’m in the shithouse. Carmen had a dream in which I gave Cherie Jaffe a fucking tattoo.”
Alice: “Yeah, I’ve had that happen. I had this girl who dreamt that I fucked David Schwimmer.”
Shane: [silent; stares]
Alice: “Well, Friends was on a lot.”
Dana: “You know, Al, actually, when we were going out, I had a dream you were a midget. But I wasn’t mad at you or anything.”

Even with Dana being all sick and sad, that was one of the best scenes so far this season. Brief though it was.

Back on the couch, Helena and Dylan have slid a little lower and are breathing audibly, and Dylan’s eyes are wandering up and down Helena’s very nice body in its very nice clothes. On the other side of Helena, Tina sees what they’re up to and can only roll her eyes. They really are going to stick like that.

Helena sits up and says she’s gonna get some tea, and looks significantly at Dylan before she goes. Dylan and Tina sort of look at each other, and Dylan says, “Do you want some tea? ” in a way that makes me snort. And then I snort even more when Tina says “Um, no thanks, I’ve already had tea.”

So Dylan follows, and watches Helena stir her tea, and smiles, and waits. Finally Helena just sighs and looks at Dylan, and the next thing that should happen can’t quite happen because Alice and Shane are lumbering down the stairs, talking about their videogame. They stop when they see Dylan and Helena.

Alice: “Hey guys. Makin’ some tea?”
Helena: “Yeah.”

They talk a little about Dana, but what’s really going on is Dylan and Helena are wishing Alice and Shane would leave, and Alice and Shane are enjoying making Dylan and Helena squirm. Finally they leave, and Dylan and Helena find another room and get back to that next thing that should happen.

Dylan: “This is fucking insane.”
Helena: “C’mere. I’ll show you how fucking insane it is.”

Yee-ha! And then Helena lifts up her shirt a little and dips her fingers just inside the waistband of her trousers, and Dylan steps closer. Helena takes Dylan’s hand and pulls it down to replace her own. “You feel that? Nobody makes me wet like that. You’re the first person who’s ever done that to me.”

Hello, Helena.

Their breathing gets a little heavier, and then Dylan takes her hand away. Helena looks puzzled, but then Dylan says “Take me home.”

Helena: “You wanna go home?”
Dylan: “To your house. Now. Home.”

Can I just say yee-ha again? Thank you.

Back in the control room, Carmen shows up, but she tells Shane she’s just there for Kit and to meet Nona. “You are not to talk to me.” Heh.

Carmen: “Okay. Not only did you give Cherie Jaffe a tattoo, but there was a scary-looking, like, bird that kept flying around, right, and at one point, it was screaming your name, it was like Shane, Shane, hello Shane, and you sprouted wings and you flew off with the bird. Okay? That is unacceptable. Nuh-uh. No.”

Shane’s confusion is matched only by the confusion that is her hair. She goes and stands next to Alice.

Alice: “Latin women. Caliente.”

There is no way for me to type up the brilliance of Leisha’s comic timing. Utter. Brilliance.

As the “musicians” (I’m not mocking you, Nona) wrap up their day, Mange continues to grouse. Kit scolds him for it, so he storms out. Does anybody care? Bueller? Anyone?

Helena’s house — That is a great view. I’m not sure whether I’m talking about the ocean or Dylan. The soundtrack is perfect: Télépopmusik’s “Don’t Look Back.” Helena and Dylan begin to undress each other, but Dylan interrupts to say that she’s never done this before. “Don’t worry,” says Helena, and I don’t think anybody could possibly be worried by all of this deliciousness. If only Helena were a better kisser, I’d be a bit too distracted to write this recap.

Dylan continues to say she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and needs help undoing Helena’s bra, but it’s kind of hard to believe because nothing about Alexandra Hedison spells inexperience.

Let me clear my blissed-out mind enough to say that the scene is pretty realistic, by my standards. Helena even does the kneel-on-the-floor at-the-edge-of-the-bed thing, and we all know that that position ensures full access and a happier neck.

Pardon me.

A more difficult meeting of minds — Alice is running Dana’s bath. Dana asks Alice to leave so she can change, but then Dana can’t quite manage to undo her own bra. So she calls Alice back in, and what happens next is sad and sweet and just plain moving. Dana seems to need Alice to see her, so she takes her bra off. Alice’s face registers shock and sadness, so Dana apologizes and tries to cover herself, but Alice says “no” and really looks, knowing that that’s the best way to make Dana feel like she’s really there and not disappearing at all. She holds Dana close and says “You’re beautiful,” and it’s just about perfect.

Jenny and Max and their laptops, part two — Jenny’s writing; it’s late, so Max is surprised she’s still at it. Max wants to know which chapter she’s working on, but Jenny says she’s not working on her book; she’s writing about Max. Max freaks out and attacks Jenny’s laptop, which I guess would be sorta scary if it weren’t so dorky-looking. Shane, who was dozing on the couch, interrupts. Carmen comes out of the bedroom too, and it’s all kind of awkward, and then it’s kinda cool when Shane stares down Max, and then it’s pretty damn funny when Shane tries to follow Carmen into the bedroom and Carmen says no.

But all in all? Another scene destroyed by the Sea of bad acting.

Yes, more please — Dylan and Helena are still having sex. Dylan is on top, making good use of her hands, and looking like an expert. Helena says “You sure… you’ve never… never done this?” And when Dylan says “I want you to come,” Helena does, and really, who wouldn’t?

Getting out of the shithouse — Shane asks Carmen whether she’s had any more of those dreams. Carmen shakes her head.

Shane: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you’re having these nightmares because of that fucked-up thing I did.”
Carmen: “I know, I know that, you know, we’re doing this and we’re trying to work this out and stuff, but I guess that I’m still hurt.”
Shane: “You have every right to be.”
Carmen: “I mean, you flew off, Shane. You totally took off with this bird.”
Shane: “I’m not going anywhere.”

Tina saunters in from across the way, realizing she’s interrupting something, but probably not really caring. She’s more concerned about making her speech about Angelica having a cold, which is why she can’t go with them to the basketball game for Dana.

Jenny lopes in. When Tina and Shane ask about Max, Jenny just stares. You know, just because you’re trapped in the Damnable Sea doesn’t mean you have to mope.

Jenny goes inside to make her peace with Max, who apologizes for the testosterone. Jenny tells him that he embarrassed her and scared her, and that it’s unacceptable to yell at her like that. Right on.

Shane calls for Jenny, so Jenny asks Max if they can just forget about it and go have a great time with Dana. Max doesn’t think Dana would want him to be there.

Jenny: “I want you there. I want you to be my date.”

Afterglow — Dylan is on the phone with her boyfriend. Helena is worried, but Dylan assures her that it’s all good and he hasn’t asked any questions.

Dylan: “I’m gonna tell him.”
Helena: “You’re gonna tell him about us?”
Dylan: “Yeah. Tonight when we get back from San Jose.”
Helena: “Really?”
Dylan: “Yeah. Really.”

More smooching. How is it that they’re suddenly my favorite couple?

The plane — Dana’s thrilled about the game and the jet and all of it. Dylan and Helena show up, holding hands, and Alice mutters, “Guys, guys, walk of shame,” but everyone’s friendly. Dana thanks Helena, and there’s genuine gratitude and generosity between them, and I like it even if I can’t explain it.

Max isn’t sure whether he should board, especially when Helena says, “Are you coming, Moira?” Jenny hollers, “Everybody, Moira’s dead! Long live Max.”

The studio — Kit falters a little but finally manages to lay down her vocals. Or something like that.

The plane — Dana and Max bond over being on “medication” and having to avoid caffeine and such. I don’t know if it’s because Erin Daniels is doing a great job or what, but she just about makes Max tolerable.

Max: “Maybe I shouldn’t even say it, but it’s life and death for me too.”
Dana: “But you don’t have cancer.”

The studio — Mange and Kit are fighting while the Betty girls and Nona look on from the control room. Of course the Betty girls feel perfectly justified in turning on the mike so they can hear what’s happening. Mange confesses his love for Kit and says he wants to marry her, but of course she resists it all. Nona interrupts to say “Shut the fuck up, Kit,” and it’s pretty great. LWordemort says “Kiss the bride, fucker,” and that’s funny too. Sorta. Oh, blah.

The basketball game — Max goes to the men’s room and enjoys whipping it out. It looks a little pale (more than a little, really), but none of the guys at the neighboring urinals are interested, so it’s all okay.

Dana’s exiting the women’s room just as Max is exiting the men’s, so they walk together. Someone recognizes Dana, but she says she’s not her. Um, you know what I mean.

Dana asks Max what he meant about life and death, and Max talks about attempting suicide and “I knew this wasn’t my life,” and it makes sense.

As they make their way to their seats, the announcer says “Ladies and gentlemen, we have someone very special with us tonight,” and Dana’s name and picture hit the jumbotron. A member of the team welcomes Dana, and Dana asks Max to get her out of there. But Max says “It’s not for you, it’s for them,” so Dana embraces the limelight once more. And the look that passes between Dana and Alice is a whole lotta love.

Everyone applauds, and Dana smiles and waves and cries, as Nona Hendryx and Pam Grier sing us out.

NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: Max freaks out; Shane and Carmen face la familia; Dylan disappoints me.

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