“The L Word” recap (3.9): “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” 

THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:

  • Painful: Really the only word you need for this episode.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Alexandra Hedison reminds Helena what it’s like to be a predator; Steven Eckholdt reminds Tina what it’s like to be straight; Irene Lopez is back on the Chane gang.

Los Angeles, seven months ago — Yes, we’re still stuck in this awful Dana/Alice breakup scene, continued from last week. Alice starts to go after Dana, but stops herself, and they’re both crulping and Tracy Bonham’s still singing and the chart lines are going from Alice to Dana to Lara, who’s waiting in the car. But Dana’s not ready to do very much with that chart line just yet. She pulls back as Lara tries to kiss her.

Dana: “I didn’t break up with her for you. I broke up because it wasn’t working.” 
Lara: “It’s okay. I can wait. I’ve waited this long. We have all the time in the world.”

That’s right, all the time in the world, until the world (or at least the writer) fucks you over and steals your last shred of hope and stomps all over it.

Also, Dear Soup Chef, Do not try to kiss your girlfriend when she’s just dumped her old girlfriend. Show a little class. Gah.

The retreat — It’s silent, and peaceful, and Bette is silent, but not quite peaceful. She looks exhausted, irritated, at war with herself. Just like I look most Sunday nights.

Chaya Brasserie — Helena, Dylan, and Helena’s kids are having a meal. Helena’s daughter wants to know if Dylan can go with them to their swimming lesson.

Helena: “Pumpkin, Dylan can come anywhere she wants with us.”

You know she didn’t really want to include the “with us.”

Helena gives Dylan’s shoulder a squeeze and says “Anywhere in the world.”

Dylan: “Don’t do that.”
Helena: “What?”
Dylan: “Nothing; it’s just…”
Helena: “The kids are fine with it.”
Dylan: “I know, but we’re in public, and I’m not.”

Well. Ain’t she precious. You’re hot, Dylan, but you need to get over yourself.

A sidewalk — Dana and Alice are window-shopping and bantering and being cute as usual. They stop to stare at a mannequin; Dana says it’s like looking in a mirror.

Alice: “Well, bald is beautiful.”
Dana: “I think so. Thanks for coming with me.”
Alice: “Sure. I mean, I’m excited to meet Dr. Love. I want her to sign my book and stuff.”
Dana: “I like doin’ stuff with you. You’re, like, my favorite person to do stuff with.”
Alice: [after a long smiley pause] “Do you miss Lara?”
Dana: “Yeah… I do. I don’t know, it’s different with you.”
Alice: “Well, we’re best friends, that’s why.”
Dana: “Yeah. Yeah.”
Alice: “I mean, it took me a long time to get here, but you’re my best friend; you know, I wasn’t gonna let you go.”
Dana: “Yeah, I know, I’m glad. I’m glad we’re back, together… as friends… that’s good.”

Quit shilly-shallying, you two, and get back to shagging already!

The Planet — Jenny and Max are decorating for an “’80s Trans Prom,” to raise money for Max’s surgery. I’m the first to admit that I’m not an expert on the subject, but is it really just a matter of raising the money? Isn’t Max supposed to live as a man for a while? Last I heard, most American surgeons adhered to those “standards of care” that consist of several steps… but go ahead, bring on the e-mail; I’m sure I’m ignorant as usual.

Anyway, an ’80s prom; I’m all for that. I went to two actual ’80s proms and they were kinda fun, even though I was pretending to be straight. My date was prettier than a lot of the girls and wore eyeliner, so it wasn’t hard to pretend.

Kit shows up and wants to talk to Max.

Kit: “I understand some of your struggle. And I respect the choice you’re making in your life.”
Max: “But you have a problem with it.”
Kit: “No, I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just worried about you.”
Max: “Can’t you understand? I’ve never felt comfortable in a girl’s body.”
Kit: “So removing your breasts and changing yourself into a man is gonna solve all your problems?”
Max: “No. I know that won’t happen. But people will start to see me for who I am.”
Kit: “You know, it just… it just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch girls giving up their womanhood to be a man. You know, we’re losing our warriors, our greatest women. And I don’t wanna lose you.”
Max: “I’m not following some trend.”
Kit: “What if I lived my life feeling white inside? And then the next day I woke up and I could change the color of my skin, the features on my face, to become white? Would you encourage me to do that?”
Max: “I don’t know. I mean, do you feel white inside?”
Kit: “What’s ‘white inside’? What’s ‘male inside’? What’s ‘female inside’? Why can’t you be the butchest butch in the world and keep your body?”
Max: “Because I want to feel whole. I want the outside of me to match the inside of me.”
Kit: “You’ll be giving up the most precious thing in the world.”
Max: “What, my tits?”
Kit: “No. Being a woman.”

I agree with Kit, and I agree with Max. There, I’ve covered all my bases. Maybe. One thing I do know is that Max’s facial hair is not quite right; it seems like the makeup artists have based his look on one of those Woolly Willy toys, which allowed you to “draw” a beard on a face with iron filings and a magnetic pen. Don’t blame me for the name; that’s what it was called!

Also, I can’t quite tell: was Pam Grier really impressive in that scene, or was it just because Daniela Sea is about as talented as a clump of iron filings? Either way, Kit seemed to show up for the first time this season.

A public service announcement — Alice and Dana are talking to Dr. Susan Love. I would tell you more about it, but I can’t, because it’s not actually part of the episode and therefore shouldn’t be recapped. Yes, it’s masquerading as part of the episode, but it’s really just a random PSA that can’t even get its message across because everyone who sees it will think “what the hell am I watching? I thought this was The L Word?”

Prepping for the prom — Alice’s contribution to the prom is six huge cupcakes that look like breasts. Only six? Maybe the rest are still out in the Mini Cooper.

Elsewhere, Shane tries to help Carmen set up the kissing both, but Carmen doesn’t want help.

Shane: “What is your problem? You’ve been like this for days.”
Carmen: “What are you talking about? I’m fine.”
Shane: “Oh really.”
Carmen: “Okay, fine. You wanna know what it is? How would you feel if you were making love to me, and then all of a sudden, I just check out in the middle of it? I’m gone. I’m not there.”
Shane: “I haven’t checked out.”
Carmen: “Yeah, you’re there, you’re like lying next to me and stuff, but I try and touch you, I try to kiss you, I try and do all these things to make you feel good, and you’re completely gone.”
Shane: “No.”
Carmen: “Yes.”
Shane: “No, I’m there.”
Carmen: “Okay, when was the last time you came?”
Shane: “Oh, come on, that has nothing to do with it.”
Carmen: “Really? I think that somewhere deep down, you’ve realized that all of a sudden you’re in this nice, little committed relationship now, and it pisses you off, and now you’re punishing me.”

And then Carmen just walks off, leaving Shane speechless, because Carmen’s good at that.

Carmen tells Jenny that the place looks great, and if her prom had looked that good, she would have attended. Jenny wants to know why Carmen didn’t go to her prom; turns out she was too busy attending a porn festival with Eva Torres, who taught her how to sixty-nine.

Alice: “That’s, like, the coolest prom night. I’m so jealous. I mean, I went, but it sucked. [to Shane] Did you go to prom?”
Jenny: “No, she didn’t finish high school.”
Alice: “You didn’t finish high school.”
Shane: “No.”
Alice: “It’s all right. The G.E.D.”

Max tells his prom story (he went with Buck Thornton, the captain of the football team), and then gets upset because one of the decorations is a big pin-the-whatever-on-the-tranny, and of course one of the whatever pieces is a penis. Max says “Jenny, you can’t do this. It’s disrespectful.”

Jenny: “But… but it goes… inside the pants.”

That was adorable. Again, possibly only in contrast to the un-adorableness of Max’s bad attitude and Sea’s bad acting.

The retreat — One of the monks (monks? spiritual guides? beautiful bald robed women?) is asking Bette whether she’s having any trouble with the silence or the meditation or anything. Bette just shakes her head, but it’s pretty clear that things are not even a little bit fine.

A swimming lesson — Tina and Helena are at the swimming lesson with their kids. There’s a guy there; his name is Henry, and Tina likes him immediately. I temporarily (mercifully) get distracted from the flirtation because I’m trying to figure out who that guy is: then I realize it’s the guy who played Ellen’s old boyfriend (the news anchor or whatever he was) in The Puppy Episode. Steven Eckholdt, guest-bian extraordinaire. As in extraordinarily annoying.

So yeah, Tina’s giving him all these lusty looks and he’s doing the boy-next-door thing and I’m feeling sick. The only bright spot is Angelica’s eyebrows; that is a cute kid.

Tina says Angelica loves being around men, but Angelica looks at her like “No, I’m Angelica; your name is Tina. Don’t pretend you’re talking about me when you’re talking about you. And hey, where did the cooler mommy go?”

Carmen’s mom’s house — Shane likes being part of the family. She brings Abuela her cigars and gets a hug in return. Abuela notices Chane’s tattoo, and I think Abuela says something about “matrimonio,” and then Carmen’s mom notices that Shane and Carmen have matching tattoos. Ooh, busted!

The ’80s Trans Prom — Alice and Tina and Helena are sporting ’80s clothes and hair. Helena looks pretty gorgeous — she’s wearing one of those skinny ties and generally has that ’80s “mannish” look that wasn’t really all that mannish (see my eyeliner reference above). Tina looks awful: I guess it’s sort of Debbie Gibson hair, but it’s not cute or funny in the slightest. Alice, of course, is adorable. She looks like she stepped right out of the “Love is a Battlefield” video, and that’s a good thing in my world.

They talk about how much they’ve already learned at the tranny prom.

Helena: “I didn’t know it was possible to go through life using gender-neutral pronouns.”
Alice: “Do you know what I heard today? ‘Ze doesn’t like my new genitals, so I told hir to fuck hirself.’ I also learned that a vagina is a ‘bonus hole.’”
Tina: “Or a ‘cockpit.’”

Shut up, Debbie Gibson’s ugly stepsister.

Alice tosses a grin to the woman at the kissing booth, and of course Tina and Helena notice. The woman’s name is Chandra, and she has already asked Alice out. Tina and Helena tell Alice to go on the date, but Alice is unsure. Tina tells her Dana will be fine.

So they all stare at Dana, who’s talking with a transman about the scars from his top surgery.

Dana: “So when did you know?”
Transman: “From the first moment I started growing breasts, I knew I wanted them gone. I even prayed to god for this chest.”
Dana: “Really? I used to thank god for my boobs. They were really nice.”
Transman: “Really?”
Dana: “Yeah.”
Transman: “Huh.”

It doesn’t look cute and funny typed out, which is a shame. Because it’s cute and funny.

Dana, by the way, has the worst ’80s costume ever. I don’t even know how to describe it; possibly Carol Channing meets Molly Ringwald. Anyway, Dana goes over to Alice and Helena and gets clued in to the Chandra situation. She encourages Alice to go out with Chandra, but far too excitedly.

As the dulcet tones of the Cocteau Twins begin to float through the air (I love that, “Heaven or Las Vegas,” but was that even released in the ’80s?), we see the belle of the ball; Jenny, in a curly wig (think Nancy McKeon during that mercifully brief poodle-perm phase) and also sporting her Tootsie-Pop-owl glasses. And a tiara. And angel wings. Oh, I can’t help myself: I totally dig it.

Max sees Jenny dancing with someone else and freaks out; he starts hollering at her and calling her “my girlfriend.” Poor Mia Kirshner: she must wish she were actually filming a Tootsie Pop commercial, instead of this crap.

Jenny stomps off (who wouldn’t?) and as Max starts to follow her, Shane interrupts: “Don’t hurt her. Or I’ll fuckin’ cut your tits off.”

But Max goes after Jenny anyway and apologizes. In a completely unconvincing way. I’m Sea-sick again.

I would like to applaud Jenny for this statement: “When I realized that I might be gay, I didn’t rule out men. But if I’m going to be with a guy, I’m not going to be with some aggressive macho male pig who has different standards of behavior for himself than he does for me.”

And (she should add) at the very least, he has to be able to act!

Speaking of not ruling out men, Tina’s phone is ringing. It’s Henry. You’re shocked, I know. They make plans to see each other the next day.

The music changes again, this time to “I Know What Boys Like” by The Waitresses (R.I.P. Patty Donahue). And we get a montage of tranny prom photos, which are mostly pretty cute. Alice and Dana look great together, even in their weird clothes (Alice does the bored-teenager thing so perfectly). And as Shane and Carmen pose, Shane announces she’s going to take Spanish lessons, and it’s sweet.

The Planet — Angus wants Kit to marry him. She says she loves him and wants to be with him and if she were going to marry anyone, she’d marry him. But then she says she can’t because until gay people can get married, she can’t either. It’s nice, but Debbie Novotny got there first on QAF, and said it with more conviction.

Jenny’s house — Max has $3452, which is not enough for the surgery. So he acts like an asshole again, and Jenny says she doesn’t know him.

Max: “You don’t understand.”
Jenny: “No, I don’t understand. I really don’t understand.”

I feel very close to you right now, Jenny.

The beach of betrayal — Tina tells Henry that she loves Bette, but can’t help the way she’s feeling. You just met the guy and you’re telling him your life story? I liked you better as Debbie Gibson.

The retreat — Bette looks like she’s going to jump out of her own skin or scratch her own eyes out.

And now I’m going to scratch my own eyes out — Dylan is filming Helena. They start to play a game in which Helena seems to be insisting that Dylan sleep with her or Dylan will get no more funding for her project. Note to Helena: in no universe is the word “game” compatible with the word “videocamera.” It’s fine that you’re less evil this season, but why are you also less intelligent?

I don’t even get to enjoy the sex because it’s obviously such a set up. Remember earlier when I said I was feeling sick? I long for that slightly queasy feeling now.

After Helena leaves, Dylan’s boyfriend Danny emerges from another room, asking “Well?” Dylan says “I think I got it.” She looks like she feels kinda sick too.

Carmen’s casa — Carmen’s mom tries to hook Chane up with some carpet-cleaning guy. Carmen loses her temper (gee, she’s never done that before) and blurts out that she’s Shane’s girlfriend.

Carmen’s mom tells Carmen and Shane to get out of her house. Abuela tries to intervene, but Carmen’s mom says “Mejor puta que lesbiana,” I think. Whoa.

Dana’s place — Alice is on her way out for her date with Chandra. She’s brought Dana some DVDs.

Alice: “I got you the complete Dirk Bogarde collection and, like, the whole John Hughes collection, so whatever you’re in the mood for.”
Dana: “All right. No mistaking what you’re in the mood for tonight, is there?”
Alice: “What?”
Dana: “Huh? Nothing. Nothing!”

Ooh, passive-aggressive much, Dana? Alice immediately feels guilty and says she’ll stay, but Dana plays nice and tells her to go. But not before making Alice come back long enough to get her a blanket. And then as the door closes, Dana looks sad and lost.

Sigh. Damn this storyline.

And damn this one even more — Henry and his kid Mikey (annoying kid Mikey) have been hanging out with Tina and Angelica. Next thing you know, they’re kissing (um, I mean Henry and Tina) and Tina is inviting Henry and Mikey to stay for dinner. Hold on; this is gonna get rough.

The retreat — Stillness and quiet and resolve and peace are entirely eluding Bette.

The beach — Helena is leaving a voice mail for Dylan; it’s not the first. Just as she hangs up, a guy shows up to give her a “sexual harassment subpoena” that looks about as authentic as the I.O.U. I typed up for my sixth grade social studies teacher when he kept betting me I couldn’t get 100% on the pop quizzes and then wouldn’t pay me all the Mountain Dew he owed me.

All Helen can say is “God.” Helena, oh Helena, why are you so stunned? You picked a hell of a time to start trusting your lovers.

Dinner — Chandra and Alice are having a good time and talking about the funny (ha ha) phenomenon that is lesbian exes — “Where we maintain deep, intimate, sexless relationships with our past lovers.” Yes, it’s one of the perks.

Right on cue, Alice’s cell chirps: it’s Dana. Alice tells Dana she’ll be right there after dinner. Chandra asks whether Dana wants to get back together with Alice; I yell “YES!” at the screen, but Alice just says it’s a loaded question and it’s hard to tell. And then Dana calls again, but this time it’s urgent and Alice has to leave.

When Alice arrives, Dana is a shivering quivering mess — not of passive-aggression. She’s genuinely sick.

The kitchen of gloom — Chane and Carmen talk about the familial outing.

Shane: “I don’t wanna lose your family. Okay? I don’t want them to hate me. I think it would be really fucked if they sat there and they blamed me for this, which I am so sure they already have.”
Carmen: “What do you know about family?”

Carmen. You have got to learn to control that caliente stuff. But for now, she’s saved by the bell: Alice is calling to tell Shane that Dana’s in the hospital with an infection.

From infection to invasion — Tina and Henry fuck. Against the door. Of Bette’s bedroom. In Bette’s house. Near Bette’s bed.

And when Henry tries to go down on Tina, she says “That’s not what I want,” because no, that’s too gay, and everyone knows a real woman prefers a good poke against the door of her not-quite-ex-girlfriend’s bedroom while her daughter is sleeping soundly, dreaming of her other mommy.

The first time The L Word made me cry — At the retreat, Bette sneaks away to make a phone call. She leaves a message:

Bette: “Hello Angelica, it’s your Mama B. calling. I just wanted to call you to tell you that I love you and I miss you. I just…I can’t stand this anymore. I mean, I’m supposed to be on this silent retreat, and everything just seems so loud. My loneliness is just so loud, and I can’t stand it. I just want to come home. I want my art, I want my books, I want my things, I want my house. I just want to be able to kiss you good night. I just… I want my life back. I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want…”

The hospital — As she gets wheeled away on a gurney, Dana reaches for Alice and says “Don’t go.”

NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: I don’t think I want to know.

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