THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:
- Undervalued: Erin Daniels.
- Misunderstood: Dana.
- Betrayed: The viewers.
THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Meredith McGeachie makes us miss crazier happier days; Steven Eckholdt continues to grate; Alexandra Hedison goes out with a whimper; Eric Mabius apparently has nothing better to do; Holland Taylor (thank you, god) graces the show with her presence.
First, the title — So it’s called “Losing the Light,” even though my interactive DVR guide said “Loosing.” Anyway, if it’s “losing,” that implies that the powers that be didn’t want Erin Daniels to leave the show, but since that’s not true, perhaps it should have been called “Kicking the Light to the Curb.” Or, better yet, “Snuffing the Light.” Or “Unjustifiably Killing Off the Most Relatable Character We Had.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mosque de Paris — Lara’s all muddy. She’s at a spa/salon/whatever, and I’m a little confused by the name of it (mosque? really?) but never mind. The woman next to her in the mud treatment room announces that they look “pretty cute.” The chart line begins to snake across the screen from Lara to the mud woman, but they’re interrupted by another woman who’s walking through the room topless: she’s had a mastectomy.
Mud woman: “Does that bother you seeing her like that?
Mud woman: “I think if it happened to you, you’d think differently.”
And of course it has happened to someone Lara loves, so the chart line stops in its tracks and Lara gets up and goes right to the lockers to get her cell phone. She calls Dana and tells her she can’t stop thinking about her and wishes she were with her and wants to talk about coming home, but Dana doesn’t answer. We see Dana’s house: it’s empty; the mail is piling up. Dana doesn’t live there anymore.
Is there anything more jarring than the rat-a-tat-tat of the theme song after a moving moment like that?
The hospital — Tina is offering to do laundry and bring mail and help Alice however she can. Alice sort of shrugs at all of it; after all, there’s not much anyone can do to help her if it doesn’t involve healing Dana.
Tina gives Dana a kiss on the forehead and tells her she loves her. She asks Alice whether Shane is coming next; Alice says no, Max and Jenny are next, and then Shane and Carmen at 5. And then Kit’s bringing dinner. And Alice? Alice is always there.
Tina asks whether she looks okay: “Am I too dressed up?” Too dressed up for what, Tina? For whatever will allow you to focus on your new boy toy and forget all about Dana, who’s dying in the bed right next to you?
After Tina leaves, Alice leans in and says what Dana’s thinking:
Alice: “You’re right. Bisexuality is gross. I see it now.”
Dana sort of twitches, and Alice says “Did I make you laugh? I think I made you laugh.” You did, Alice, and we all thank you for it. (And no, bisexuality isn’t gross, and I’m pretty sure neither Alice nor Dana really thinks it is; what’s gross is for Tina to be concerned about her wardrobe instead of her friend.)
Outside, Tina gets into a car with Henry and Mikey and Angelica, and pretends Dana is getting better.
Dirge, verse one — I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it had some great ensemble scenes of friends supporting each other and making the most of life and drinking coffee as the morning sun slanted in and made them all glow.
The great outdoors — Bette is done with the retreat. A monk looks on disapprovingly as she leaves, so apparently she’s not exactly supposed to be retreating from the retreat. As Bette walks down a snowy path (Bette and snow?? I may swoon), she lets out a few whoops. Not just whoops: really good fucking whoo-hoo-whoop-whoop-whoops.
The flophouse — Carmen is putting stuff on Dana’s iPod. Shane says she didn’t know Carmen liked classical music.
Carmen: “Well, there are a lot of little things you don’t know about me.”
Shane: “Oh yeah? I bet there is. Like what?”
Carmen: “Um, like… I shot a gun once. It was my cousin’s and it was very loud.”
Shane: “I know what you mean. I shot one once too. All right, go on: tell me some more.”
Carmen: “I cheated on you.”
Carmen: “I said I cheated—”
Shane: “I heard you.” [more silence] “When?”
Carmen: “After you fucked Cherie Jaffe.”
A parking lot — Jenny and Max are walking determinedly, holding hands. They’re meeting Tim. Yes, I said Tim, as in Jenny’s ex-husband. He looks pretty much the same. As he and Jenny hug, Max hangs back and squeezes his own arm, apparently thinking “I wish I had Tim’s biceps.” Yeah, I know we’re all self-involved when we’re in the midst of big personal changes, but are you really thinking about your muscles while your girlfriend and her ex are having what must be a rather awkward moment?
Tim’s wife, Becky, shows up. She’s pregnant. Max says “right on,” even though nobody’s really talking to him.
Tim introduces himself to Max, and Jenny says “This is Max, my boyfriend.” Tim looks a little confused. Tim and Randy (that other coach who was always fairly amusing) go off to check on their teams.
Randy [to Tim]: “Hey, not that you’re asking me, but I think you should be happy you got out when you did.”
Max puts his hand on Becky’s belly and asks when she’s due. I don’t intend to ever get pregnant, but if I do, I will be slapping away uninvited belly-feeling hands.
Mediating — Helena and her lawyer meet with Dylan and her man and their lawyer. Helena doesn’t want to go into the meeting room, but her lawyer tells her that if she doesn’t, it’s going to look like “an admonition of guilt.” An admonition? I hope your legal skills are better than your vocabulary. Way, way better.
Never mind: guess who’s coming to the rescue? Peggy Peabody, in the glorious flesh.
Helena: “Mother, what are you doing here?”
Peggy: “What does it look like I’m doing? Taking care of my company.”
Peggy. Marry me. Please. Or if you won’t do that, could you please take the helm of this show and fix everything?
Chit-chat — Max and Tim talk. Well, Max talks, about his swimming days, and Tim gets a little confused when Max talks about his best time. Tim asks, “For the men’s 400 freestyle?”
Jenny: “He’s transitioning. He’s a pre-op transsexual and he was talking about the women’s swim team time.”
Tim laughs and walks away. Becky’s not impressed; when she gets to the car, she scolds Tim for his attitude.
Tim: “Becky, the next time we see Jenny, she might be with a German shepherd. Just brace yourself.”
Becky: “What are you even talking about?”
Tim: “Jenny. This is classic Jenny bullshit. It’s not enough for her to be gay; she’s gotta have a girlfriend who’s a boyfriend. It’s just too fucking much.”
Tim, it’s kind of cool that you don’t just let Jenny get away with her passive-aggressive crap, but you’re still kind of being a jerk by essentially comparing Max to a dog. And Becky, may I borrow your line? I could say “What are you even talking about?” at least five times per episode.
Jenny tries to rejoin her boyfriend, but Max doesn’t want to unlock the door of the pickup. I can’t say I really blame him. Becky and Tim sort of watch the scene from their car:
Becky: “I guess he doesn’t like it when Jenny tells people.”
Tim: “As if it wasn’t obvious.”
Becky: “Well, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t obvious to me.”
Becky. Please join Peggy in the boardroom and fix the show.
The hospital — Alice and a nurse give Dana a sponge bath. The nurse encourages Alice to get out of the room, take a walk, go outside, get out of the air conditioning. It seems Alice has been in the room for five days, but she obviously doesn’t really want to be anywhere else. And who would?
After the nurse leaves, Alice puts lotion on Dana’s arms and asks Dana if she thinks she could do without her for a while. And she talks about the M & M’s in Dana’s “incentive pile,” and puts chapstick on Dana’s lips, and just generally banters and cares and does what Alice does best.
Dana: “I love you.”
Alice says “I love you too,” but in a way that reveals that she totally didn’t get what Dana was saying. I hope she realizes it later. Or maybe I don’t.
The Planet — Kit is worried about Mange; he was supposed to stop by after breakfast but it’s now 2:00. A girl can get worried, she says. That’s true. A girl can also get bored.
The flophouse — Shane wants to know the name of the woman Carmen slept with. Carmen says it’s not anyone Shane knows, but Shane still wants to know her name. It’s Robin somebody; Carmen doesn’t remember her last name.
Shane: “Did you fuck her more than once?”
Carmen: “Well, why does that matter, Sh—”
Shane: “Did you?”
Shane: “Who said that I fucked her?”
Still whooping — Bette has gone right past whooping and on to sounds that are barely human. It’s pretty great.
She whoops on over to the bus stop, where a guy is standing, looking nonplussed. He asks if someone’s chasing her or if he’s missing something. Bette explains that it just feels so good to use her voice because she’s been silent for ten days.
Bus stop guy: “Someone have you locked up?”
Bette: “No, it was entirely voluntary. I just escaped from a silent retreat. I couldn’t do it. I could not reach a higher plane no matter how hard I tried. I mean, sometimes I would start to feel like it was going to happen, but then it just never did. So you know what, I left. I’m a meditation retreat dropout.”
And she ain’t a bit sorry about it either!
The guy says “maybe sometimes words are the best thing we can give other people.” And he asks whether she’s breaking up with her husband or boyfriend or…? And Bette pauses for a moment, and then says yeah. You can’t really fault her for that, because no matter how out you are, it’s probably not just a coincidence that most bus shelters are about the size of a walk-in closet.
Bus stop guy: “How long you been together?”
Bette: “Eight years.”
Bus stop guy: “Kids?”
Bette: “One. She’s beautiful.”
There’s a hell of a lot of joy on Bette’s face when she says that.
Dirge, verse two — I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it was about people making their own families and giving everything they knew how to give and keeping things together when the world around them got mean.
Mediocre mediation, continued — Dylan’s lawyer is offering a litany of evidence against Helena: how dare she make phone calls and visit Dylan? Helena doesn’t care about the lawsuit; she just cares about losing Dylan. Peggy senses this, and tries to get Helena to “share,” but the lawyer just goes on, noting that there have been other harassment suits and restraining orders and custody issues in Helena’s past. Peggy, would you please slap that guy around a little?
Unfortunately, there’s also the videotape. Peggy finds it rather interesting, and watches Helena and Dylan as the lawyer plays the tape. Helena’s lawyer finally tells the other guy to shut it off.
Peggy: “Can I ask, why is it that we were made to see this?”
Dylan’s lawyer: “Because it shows your daughter for what she is: a predator.”
Peggy: [chuckling] “Have you seduced many women in your life, Mr. Shepard?”
Dylan’s lawyer: “That has no relevance to what’s going on here.”
Peggy: “Maybe. But if you want my opinion, I don’t think you have very much knowledge of the ways of seduction. What I saw was a rather moist sexual game — in the worst possible taste, to be sure, but certainly not harassment.”
Danny: “It was blatant coercion.”
Peggy: “And you say that because you know Dylan very well?”
Danny: “Uh, yeah, I do.”
Peggy: “And you know she would never fall in love with a woman.”
Danny: “Your daughter got her hooks into Dylan. Dylan was afraid if she didn’t do what she wanted, she was gonna pull her funding. You saw the tape, right?”
Peggy: “Yes, I did. I’m frankly not convinced.”
Danny: “Oh, you’re not convinced. Well, that’s too bad, because this time your money and your privilege — you know, you’re not gonna be able to twist what happened to your advantage, okay?”
Peggy: “Goodness, you’re resentful.”
And then it all comes out: it seems Danny has applied for five Peabody grants and was turned down every time. His stuff was considered “rambling, trite, and exploitative.” Wait, did he send in an L Word episode, passing it off as his own?
Peggy: “You’ve got quite a taste for revenge, haven’t you, Mr. Wilson? Here you have a chance to stick it to the establishment. I don’t think you gave a fig if you had to use your girlfriend to do it. You saw a Peabody off-balance, needing something, and you’re going to make her pay for it.”
Peggy. I’ll say it again: marry me.
The hospital — Alice buys more M &M’s, and energy drinks and whatever else she can grab to keep going. She sees some of those silly singing flower things, and she likes the fact that they sing “You Are My Sunshine,” so she buys one. Wait, isn’t there a movie where someone sings that when someone’s dying? Is it Beaches? Yeah, I’m old.
The flophouse — Shane is getting drunk, even though Carmen has just pointed out that it’s only 2:00. Shane can’t find the bottle opener. Doesn’t she seem like the sort of person who would just slam the bottlecap on the edge of the countertop, rather than making a big show of “where’s the opener”? Blah.
Carmen: “You seem upset.”
Shane: “That’s you projecting, Carmen.”
A yuppie dinner — Tina is having dinner with Henry, Mikey, and Henry’s friends. And Angelica is there too, of course, looking like nothing has ever bothered her or ever will. She’s gonna need that inner strength later on in life (like in, oh, about ten minutes or so).
Kit the stalker — Kit goes to Angus’s place, trying to figure out why he hasn’t called. She even looks under the covers and smells the pillow, which is pretty damn weird — and she seems to kind of realize that when she looks in the mirror, as if she’s thinking “who am I and what am I doing?” On the other hand, she usually has reason to think that, since the writers still haven’t really bothered to write her.
Back at the bus stop — An elderly woman shows up. I think I’ll call her the Crone — this would have been a perfect Maiden, Mother, and Crone setup, but instead I’ll have to go with Hobo, Mother, and Crone. Yes, I know I’m being lookist, but the guy does seem a little scruffy and even kinda twitchy, wouldn’t you say?
Anyway, the nice Hobo helps the Crone with her bags. He tells the Crone that Bette has escaped from a silent retreat, and the Crone says silence its not good; you can’t release anything if you’re just keeping everything in. The Crone decides they should all have a good scream, so they do. I think maybe the Crone is supposed to be sorta like Maude in Harold & Maude, but there really is only one Maude, and even if there weren’t, this woman isn’t even close.
The hospital — Alice sits outside for a bit, trying to breathe. As she stares up at the sun, a face comes into view: it’s Tonya. To quote the Hobo, the Mother, and the Crone, “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Pink’s hot dogs — If you weren’t screaming with the bus stop gang, you’ll probably scream at this:
Max: “You work out?”
Tim: “Yeah, I have to.”
Max: “Why, because you’re the coach?”
Tim: “No, because I’d probably go nuts if I didn’t.”
Max: “Yeah, I know what you mean. I feel like if I didn’t work out, I’d wanna break someone’s face, you know? I know it sounds harsh, but that’s just how it is.”
Tim looks like he’s thinking “Kill me. Now.” But that might just be me projecting.
Nearby, Jenny has a brief flashback to her old self. Becky is talking about how much she’s always wanted to go to Pink’s because Tim says they have the best hot dogs in L.A. — but it becomes a flashback to Jenny saying it. I might be getting it wrong, because it’s a strange flashback and happens completely without warning. So, you know: par for Jenny, I guess.
The flophouse — Shane is lying on the bed, reading, or maybe pretending to. Carmen straddles her and says “I’m sorry. It was so stupid and it’s not like me. Can’t we just start again? Clean slate?” Shane appears to consider it, but then gets right in Carmen’s face and says “Do you feel better now? Do you feel good now that we’re even?”
Carmen starts to leave, but Shane pulls her back and kisses her. It’s either breakup sex or makeup sex; I’m not quite sure which.
Dirge, verse three — I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it had some great sex scenes in which gorgeous women got real with each other and told their truths and came hard.
Not-quite-as-toxic Tonya — Tonya and Alice sit in the sun and chat a bit. Well, Tonya talks, and Alice just sort of sits there looking uncertain and frail. Tonya says she’s realized she really threw away a good thing with Dana, and also announces that she’s having a baby.
Tonya: “I decided I wanted someone who would always be with me. Okay, I know that may sound like not a very good reason to have a baby, but you know what, there are worse.”
Alice: “Yeah. Yup.”
Are there? Sheesh, maybe having a kid in order to sell it to somebody.
Pink’s — Becky asks Jenny about her writing. Max tells them Jenny’s memoir is going to be published; Tim is kind of amazed. No, not kind of.
Tim: “That’s amazing.”
Jenny [sarcastically]: “I know you always thought I could do it.”
Tim: “What are you trying to say, Jenny?”
Jenny: “Tim. I know you. You don’t have to say everything out loud all the time, right?”
Tim: “You don’t know me. Oh, what, Jenny? What private thoughts are you having?”
Tim: “Oh, maybe you’re right. Maybe I didn’t think you could do it. Maybe I didn’t think you could commit to anything long enough to see it through.”
Jenny: “Oh, I committed. I became a self-mutilator, went on medication, did a short stint in a psychiatric hospital. I spent six months with my parents in Skokie. Everything that I know you would want to happen to me.”
I could use another good bus-stop scream about now. Tim may be a jerk sometimes, Jenny, but I think you just beat him at that game.
Tim says he never wanted any of that for Jenny, but she says she doesn’t believe him. He says he’s not going to forgive her or wish her well, and that it pisses him off when she acts like a victim. Jenny starts to tell Becky about their revenge fuck, and Becky decides it’s time to go.
Dirge, verse four — I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it had some honest scenes of real openness that weren’t forced or false or manipulative or melodramatic, and just said what they needed to say.
The bus stop — The unholy trinity talk about their coping mechanisms. The Crone says she used to drink ice-cold water to calm herself down, cold enough so she could feel like she was freezing inside. The Hobo says he drives until he gets tired and can go home and kiss his kids goodnight and actually look at his wife again. They both look expectantly at Bette, who finally admits that she used to bury herself in her work, but she was just running away.
The Crone — “Don’t do that. You can’t blame yourself for everything. None of us do much in this world alone, except die.”
I agree on the blame point; it’s very rarely just one person’s fault. But the whole statement is empty fortune-cookie wisdom, at best, and downright insulting at worst. Also? The way the Crone says her lines makes me think her suitcase is full of empty gin bottles.
The yuppie dinner — The shiny happy straight people have finished their meal. An older couple stops by the table on their way out, to say they’ve been admiring Henry and Tina’s family, and to commend them for adopting. Yeah, they mean Angelica. “There are so many needy children.” Tina just sort of hangs her head and doesn’t say anything. I guess she’s probably sort of shocked, but I can’t help but wish her maternal instinct would kick in and she’d tell that racist bitch to get the fuck away from her daughter. At the very least.
Mange’s place — Mange is surprised to see Kit at his place. She explains that she’s been imagining all sorts of horrible things, and he points out that he just happened to forget his cell phone.
Kit: “I can’t worry like this every time you’re late. I can’t.”
Mange: “Kit. That’s love. Sorry, that’s how it works. I mean, you worry, you get a little crazy.”
Kit: “I don’t wanna be crazy.”
Mange: “Well, it’s too late for you. Because you, you love me.”
Speaking of crazy — Carmen and Shane are still having sex, but it still seems weird. Maybe because there’s no music, not even a poltergeist; nothing to make it less raw, I guess.
The bus stop — The unholy trinity sit quietly, closing their eyes and breathing the snowy air. Wouldn’t it be funny if somebody suddenly farted?
Dirge, verse five — I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it had some funny and memorable scenes in which fabulous actors got to shine and show their incredible comedic timing and were set free by scripts that made sense.
Extortion via heartbreak — The Peabodys’ lawyer advises Peggy to sign on the dotted line.
Peggy: “But they’re extortionists. And they’ve preyed on my daughter. And now I’m going to punish them. They’ll have their lawsuit the way I do it: in court.”
The Peabody counsel: “Yes, but in the end, you are going to be the one who pays.”
Peggy: “But Whit, I’m always the one who pays.”
And she says that with a smirky smile. Swoon.
So Dylan and Danny and their lawyer come back in, and Peggy and her lawyer announce that they’re not going to settle. Dylan’s lawyer says he can’t guarantee that his clients will continue to be reasonable.
Peggy: “Continue to be reasonable. [thumbing through the paperwork]Reasonable… Three million dollars P & A. 250 screens to start. And two thousand in the fourth week? This is a documentary. Not Finding fucking Nemo.”
Dylan and Danny and their lawyer start to leave, but Helena stops Dylan. She picks up a pen and gets ready to sign.
Helena: “Tell me you never want to see me again. Tell me you were never in love with me. I need to hear you say it.”
Dylan: “I never want to see you again.”
So Helena signs. Notice that Dylan didn’t say the other thing.
Peggy just sort of smiles sadly.
Finally, the bus is here — As the three board the bus, the Crone and the Hobo offer some last gems:
The Crone: “Life is a strange, fast trip. I’m just glad we all have seats.”
The Hobo: “Don’t forget to scream.”
Dude. That totally makes me think you’re going to blow up the bus or something. I mean, “Don’t forget to scream” could be a tag line for a horror film. Or for this show, I guess, now that they’ve written it right in.
A post-dinner proclamation — Tina’s just been to the loo, or somewhere. Henry pulls her aside and says “I just want you to know that I do not feel that way at all. I don’t have a problem with your life or the way you’ve lived it.”
Well, thanks; it was vague, but at least you’re heartfelt in your vagueness. Tina doesn’t seem all that impressed, but again, that could just be me projecting.
Another post-dinner discussion — Max and Jenny talk about the fiasco at Pink’s. Max doesn’t think Tim is such a bad guy, and wonders if Jenny misses her life with Tim. Or, well, specifically, “being with a man.”
Jenny: “I would have killed myself if that were my life.”
Max: “They seem happy though. I mean, you know, he’s got a good job, a wife, a kid on the way. Doesn’t seem so bad to me.”
Jenny: “Max, would you wanna be some oblivious guy that lives in the suburbs and has a wife and kids, and an SUV, who just lets all the rotten shit in the world go by, trying not to let it touch him?”
Max: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to be happy.”
You’re both right. And entirely wrong for each other.
Dirge, verse six —I used to watch a cool show; I can’t remember what it was called, but it didn’t have a mission or a motive and didn’t make statements just for the sake of making a statement; it seemed to know its own mind.
Outside the hospital — Throughout the whole conversation with Tonya, Alice hasn’t revealed that Dana is inside the hospital and on her deathbed. My guess is that maybe she just can’t really say it, especially not to someone who’s not really listening.
Tonya: “You know, I was always a little jealous of you, Alice.”
Tonya: “Because Dana loves you so much. It was actually kind of hard to deal with when we were together, knowing that there was ultimately this other person that was so much more important than me.”
No, I mean really, dammit, because Dana has just flatlined. The nurses are panicking and there’s a crash cart and all of that stuff that goes on, but the point is that nobody’s with Dana: not Alice, not Dana’s parents, not the family of friends she loves and needs. And as she dies, we hear the nurses and the doctor and the beeps of the machines, but we see what everyone else is doing: Shane and Carmen are fucking; Tina is holding Angelica close at the restaurant; Peggy is holding Helena’s hand; Kit and Mange are making out; Jenny is resting a hand on Max’s shoulder.
And Bette is on the bus, feeling and knowing that something’s wrong somewhere, and closing her eyes against the loss.
And Alice is going back into the hospital, at just the wrong time, just in time for them to tell her that Dana is gone.
She crumbles to the floor, and wails, and says no. No.
And that should have been the end of it — But instead we get a postscript, in the form of a little pseudo-educational mostly-promotional film about breast cancer and about how The L Word has tackled this difficult subject with such grace and skill. Never mind that Kate Moennig freely admits that she hates the whole storyline, and Erin Daniels intends to cry for weeks, and nobody thinks the show will be the same. Ilene Chaiken says she had no control over any of it because, you know, these things just write themselves. Yeah, so do the recaps: I don’t actually think you’ve cheated your viewers and lost one of the best characters on the show. I had no idea I was going to say that; it just fell on me from above, and who am I to argue with creative vision?
Dirge, chorus — I used to watch a cool show that made me happy; I can’t remember what it was called, and it’s possible that I imagined the whole thing. But I do miss it. I always will.
NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: The funeral. Also, Max gets a job, and Bette worries that Angelica is going to feel out of place with the shiny happy people.