THIS WEEK’S L WORD VOCABULARY:
- Pronouns: A salient sign of Tina’s confusion.
- Fire extinguisher: The best way to get your point across.
- Family: Better when redefined.
THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Alexandra Hedison continues to smolder; Lauren Lee Smith tries to be strong.
A question — What’s with the episode titles lately? Last week we had “Lifeline”; this week, “Lifesize” — two titles that tell us nothing and aren’t even clever. It would be cooler to just use random words that start with L, because it would keep people talking. You know, like Laminate and Lepidoptera. Or not-so-random words, like Lobotomize and Laughable.
New Haven, CT, 1985 — Siouxsie and the Banshees are singing Christine — why don’t we just make this the theme song? It’s surprisingly appropriate, now that I think about the lyrics. Anyway, Bette and her college boyfriend are looking at a Mapplethorpe photo. Bette is wearing a Flashdancey sweatshirt (off the shoulder and everything), and she sounds just like Bette, and she looks like Bette might have looked in 1985 (don’t make me think too hard about the sweatshirt; it’s making my head spin), but she’s not Bette. I mean, she’s not Jennifer Beals. Her voice is, though, right? Could anyone really sound that much like Ms. Beals? It’s possible that I just hear Bette’s voice all the time in my head. I can’t watch non-Bette’s lips carefully enough to figure it out, because her hair is in her face and because I’m still distracted by that sweatshirt. What a feeling.
The Mapplethorpe is powerfully suggestive: soon Bette and her boyfriend (Coleman; recognize the name?) are shagging. Great: so is this the only Bette Porter sex we’ll see this season? With a man, and not even with the real Bette? Thanks.
Non-Bette stops Coleman because she can tell he’s thinking about the guy in the photo. But then she says she does it too: she thinks about her professor (whose name is Danica). Coleman looks a little shocked or offended or something. Just go back to looking at the Mapplethorpe, Coley Buffoon.
The morning after — Shane is home. Carmen is half-sleeping on the couch.
Carmen: “Did you fuck her?”
Shane just sort of looks at her shoes.
The other morning after — Bette is wide awake. Tina is still sorta waking up.
Bette: “Have you fucked him yet?”
Tina: “Did I fuck who?”
Whom. But, well, Tina’s not so clear about objects of fucking these days.
Tina says she hasn’t slept with anyone. They talk about what Tina feels and about DaddyOf2, and just in case you were wondering, Bette and Tina are very far apart: I mean literally. Edge-of-the-bed and edge-of-the-screen far apart. I could just sort of stretch out between them and take a nap, and it’s a sad day if all I want to do on a bed between Tina and Bette is take a nap.
Tina finally says a little about Josh, the bland guy she works with. Bette recognizes the name; she’s heard them flirting on the phone. Oh, nice, Tina: flirting on the phone? Go ahead and have cybersex in the bed too — I’ll try to snore while I’m napping, so that Bette won’t hear your pants and moans.
Yet another morning after — Angus tells Kit he loves her. She’s heard that before, and doesn’t believe that Mange is any different from the rest of the guys who went out to get coffee or put gas in the car and just never came back.
Angus: “Okay, if you don’t feel the same way, you don’t feel the same way.”
I really don’t. Oh, he was talking to Kit. And he doesn’t believe that she doesn’t feel the same way (sorry, too many negatives), because she had four orgasms.
Angus: “So, what, am I just your boy toy? Is that it?”
Kit: “Would that be bad?”
Angus: “Yeah, that’d be bad. I’m definitely not that guy.”
Definitely not: if you were, you’d be cuter.
Alice’s new attitude — Alice has bite marks on her neck, but she also has a bounce in her step. She’s feeling so free, she asks Janice the cleaning lady (er, cleaning lesbian?) to throw out the Dana standie.
Dana’s bad attitude — Lara’s helping Dana pack for the hospital. Dana’s being morose and morbid, but then who can blame her? Lara just continues to be helpful and kind, and holds a now-sobbing Dana. I do still kinda like you, soup chef.
The Planet — Jenny’s waiting tables, or rather, making the tables wait, as she walks gingerly and tries not to drop anything. But then someone arrives to rescue her: a publisher, who seems to be the mother of someone Jenny met while she was getting some help. So that’s what I need to do to get my novel published? Make connections in a treatment facility? Well, that and actually write a novel.
Anyway, the publisher, Jan Martin, wants to put Jenny’s book against some of the “big hitters” and “make the critics really take notice,” but she also wants it to be a “survivor memoir,” rather than fiction. I blame Oprah.
The publisher: “Not since Bastard Out of Carolina have I been so thoroughly convinced.”
Oh, don’t do that. Bastard Out of Carolina is a great book, and comparing Jenny to Dorothy Allison is just a bastardy thing to do.
And then the publisher gives Jenny half of her advance. Jenny very calmly says “would you excuse me for a minute,” and then walks about three steps away and starts shrieking and jumping up and down and turning in a circle. “I’m so happy!” she says, in case you thought perhaps she was just doing her Tasmanian Devil impression.
The hospital — A nurse asks Dana to put on a hospital gown and “mark which breast it is.” Whoa. Dana puts a little x on her breast. I’d be tempted to write “cut here.”
Breakfast — Shane and Carmen are talking things out; or rather, Carmen is talking and Shane is grunting:
Carmen: “Are you in love with her?”
Carmen: “Are you sure?”
But then Shane gets all polysyllabic on Carmen’s fine ass:
Shane: “Please, Carmen, I don’t want to make this into a big deal.”
Carmen: “You go all the way over to someone’s beach house and fuck them ’til the sun comes up and you’re asking me not to make it into a big fucking deal?!”
Shane: “You were practically coming all over those two Def Jam guys.”
And they holler and Shane says she wasn’t jealous; it just made her sad.
Carmen: “Oh, you were so fucking sad that you go off and you fuck Cherie Jaffe? Shane, what kind of a psychotic response is that?”
Shane: “I guess I’m really fucked up in that way.”
I don’t know why I typed that out. Yes I do: to prove that whatever these two have together, it’s not based on deep communication.
Carmen asks Shane if she’s hungry, and when Shane says yes, Carmen seems to go into helpful mode, but then she decides to throw the pizza at Shane instead of giving it to her to eat. They shriek some more, and Shane says sometimes sex really is meaningless, so Carmen points out that if that’s true, Shane shouldn’t care if Carmen fucks other people. This seems to stop Shane in her tracks, probably because at this point in this kind of fight, Shane would normally say “you’re right, I don’t care.”
Being practical — Bette tells Tina to sleep with Josh. Just to see what happens. Bette also says “I can’t promise that I’ll still be here once you’ve got your answers.” Yeah, and I can’t promise I’ll transcribe them, whatever they are.
The hospital — Lara gives Dana a kiss and promises her everything’s going to be fine and says she’ll be right there when Dana wakes up. Dammit.
Shaolin Studios — Dylan and her man are there for a meeting with Tina and Helena. Helena says yes to everything Dylan asks for, which annoys Diva-Tina. Alexandra Hedison is just really damn foxy. And of course Helena agrees with me: when Dylan starts to leave but then goes back to get her jacket, Helena goes back with her and tries to talk to her about this thing between them. But Dylan’s not playing. She makes some excuse about getting caught up in her work. And when she says “I’m straight,” it seems like Alexandra stumbles on the line, because, well, how ridiculous is that notion?
The Planet, where an old computer needs fixin’ — Max is the cutest boy Billie has ever seen. Billie asks Max whether he’s taking hormones, and then says his friend Tom can get Max some hormones without the pesky visits to the doctor’s office. Right, Max — that’d be fucking genius. I mean, it’s not like you’re trying to do something life-altering; I’m sure it’s no big deal and shouldn’t really be regulated in the first place. Stupid “big government” is always curtailing our individual freedoms.
Flame retardant — Shane is trying to have a cigarette and read the paper. Can’t a girl get some peace? No, Carmen is there with a vocabulary lesson:
Carmen: “Okay, we’re talking monogamy. It is a noun, and it is ‘the condition or practice of having a single mate during a period of time.’”
Shane: “I get it, Carmen.”
Carmen: “Wait a minute, I just want to make sure that you and I both know what we’re talking about here. Oh, listen to this: monogamy is common among birds.”
Shane: “That’s great, because I love birds.”
Does it look funny in print? Because it’s pretty damn funny. And then it gets funnier: Carmen picks up a fire extinguisher.
Carmen: “Really? Don’t do it? I shouldn’t do it. It’s wrong. It’s completely irresponsible.”
And then she does. Frosted Fraggle!
Alice arrives just in time to see the show: “Hey weirdos.” She stares at Shane for a few beats, and then says (to Carmen) “Still tryin’ to get her to quit smokin’?”
Alice. Funny, sweet, hilarious, fabulous Alice. Sarah Shahi looks like she’s about to crack up any second.
Shane just sits back down to her paper and a new cigarette, clearly willing to take her lumps. “Did you know birds mate for life?” she asks Alice.
Alice [to Carmen]: “Hey, do you know anything about bats?”
Carmen: “Bats. Bats, bats, bats, no.”
Alice: “Too bad, because I got bitten.”
As Alice shows Carmen the bite marks on her neck, we get that great psycho screechy horror film sound again.
Alice: “Okay, but don’t laugh, because I could really be one of the undead. In like two days.”
Alice: “Do my eyes look a little black? I’m serious.”
Carmen: “No. Come on, Al, you got embraced.”
Alice: “I sure did.”
Carmen: “No, it’s called a vampire’s embrace. There’s like these lesbian vampire goth cults. So what they do is they pick a victim, they like take them home, seduce them, fuck them blind…”
Alice: “You don’t even know.”
Carmen: “… and then they bite your neck.”
Alice: “It was the best sex I’ve ever had. In my whole life. I came like 9,000 times. Did you hear that, Shane? Nine thousand orgasms.”
Shane: [deadpan] “That’s fantastic, Alice.”
Alice wants to know whether Carmen and Shane are going to the Sleater-Kinney show. If they’re not, can I have their tickets?
Shane takes a shower, and it works like a truth serum:
Shane: “Carmen, I made a mistake. And I can’t say that it won’t happen again. I’d rather be a fuck-up than a liar. But I want to try. You’re the first person I want to make that promise to.”
And Shane cries, so Carmen strips, and they shower and cry together. Shane’s so skinny, it suddenly reminds me of the shower scene in Gia. You know, girl next door saves heroin addict’s life. Not so different.
The hospital — Dana’s in recovery, but Lara’s not allowed to see her because Lara isn’t family. Yes, please, let’s make this whole thing as hellish and horrible as we possibly can.
When Dana wakes up, the first face she sees is not Lara’s, but the x-marks-the-spot nurse’s. Why does Ilene Chaiken hate Dana?
So Lara calls Alice, to tell her what’s going on and to ask her to call Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks. Alice’s expression is a masterful mix of fear and shock and trying to keep it all together.
Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks arrive at the hospital and tell Lara she can go home now; they’ll take care of everything. I officially loathe them. The go in to see Dana, who, of course, asks for Lara.
Mr. Fairbanks: “She went home.”
Dana: “She did? Why’d she go home?”
Mrs. Fairbanks: “We are your family, honey.”
If only Howie were there too. He’d give them a piece of his out and proud mind.
The doctor finally gives them all the bad news: the cancer has metastasized to the lymph nodes.
Shaolin Studios — Helena is sort of moping. Tina storms into her office and grouses about Helena “undermining” her in the meeting with Dylan. Helena’s not interested in fighting about it; she wants to figure out what to do about falling for a straight woman. So she tells Tina to talk to her “as a straight woman.”
Helena: “What went through your mind when you first had those feelings?”
Tina: “It was terrifying. The falling in love part feels good. But there’s so much to wrap your head around.”
Helena: “But why? Isn’t love just love?”
Tina: “No, it isn’t. It’s not the life that most straight women want. Most of us — uh, most straight women — they spend so much time preparing for the husband and the kids and the house… it’s too much to undo.”
I don’t even know what that means. Not only have you just over-generalized to the point of being perverse, you’ve also reduced straight women to some sort of list-making, stockpiling, kegeling, waxing, day-spa-ing throng of zombies. Also, did you forget that you have a kid and a house with Bette? Doesn’t seem like you’re unwilling to undo that.
Helena: “I just don’t understand, you know? How can someone be so there, and then…”
Tina: “Helena, can I give you some advice?”
Tina: “Just let it go. It almost never turns out like you want it to.”
She could be talking about straight women falling in love with lesbians, or vice versa, but I like to think she’s making a general comment about Chaiken’s world view.
And anyway, there’s Dylan to prove Tina wrong; she says she wants to talk to Helena, but what she really wants to do is have an office couch make-out session. Tina leaves, making a “go for it” face on her way out.
I still don’t like the way Helena kisses, but I do like the way she and Dylan sort of breathe each other in and stretch out the anticipation of the kiss, as long as they can. That’s delicious.
The hospital — Alice arrives and doesn’t let Dana’s parents get away with the shit they’re trying to pull:
Alice: “Listen, I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re going through right now, but Lara’s Dana’s partner. We really need to respect that. She loves your daughter very much. Dana needs her right now; I’m sorry.”
And then Alice and Lara go in, and Dana needs them both.
Strategic grocery bag placement — Jennifer Beals covers her belly with two grocery bags and is generally mopey. I mean, she really is kind of mopey lately, and I wouldn’t say that unless I really really had to.
Tina arrives home and offers to help Bette with the groceries, but Bette’s more interested in this thing Tina’s going through; she thinks maybe it could be hormonal. Tina barks that she only dated men before she met Bette.
Bette: “So what was I — some kind of eight-and-a-half-year aberration?”
They go inside to find Angus and Kit making out while they babysit Angelica. Bette says “Oh my fucking god.” Tina just gets all happy and congratulates them — yay for straightness! hooray for heterosexuality! — and even gives them each a kiss on the cheek.
Bette: “Oh, great, okay, hug hug, that’s fantastic. But you know what, we need some rules.”
I take back the mopey comment: that line was vintage Bette. So is her “ugh” expression when she says “no sex in our bed” and Angus and Kit make the appropriate faces to let her know they’ve already broken that rule.
The Sleater-Kinney show — Sleater-Kinney will always rock my world. Interesting song choice: Jumpers. They’re just so so good.
Max and Billie go to the back room to talk about hormones. Billie notices that Max is packing, and proceeds to unpack him. Jenny finds them, with Billie’s lips firmly planted on Max’s strap-on.
Wait. We’ve been hearing there would be something shocking this season, something you’ve never seen on TV. This is it? This is the big event? Okay, I guess I’ve never seen this on TV, but I wouldn’t call it shocking. One might even call it obvious.
Max tells Jenny that Billie made him feel like a real guy, not just “some girl with this thing in her pants.” And no matter what you think of Jenny, you have to admit that she does work hard to keep her mind open. So she sort of ponders Max’s statement, and gets it, and tells Max “It’s okay. Don’t hide.” And then she gives Billie what is supposed to be a mean look, but is really more of a blank stare. But it makes Billie a little nervous anyway.
Jenny’s going to be a nightmare on her book tour, isn’t she? Lots of platitudes and seemingly profound revelations and random challenges to people who weren’t really looking for a challenge. Sort of like Dr. Phil, only more like Madame Pseudo-Philologist.
Not a nightmare at all — At the Sleater-Kinney show, Carmen does a little booty dance. Yow, again.
Shane’s cell phone rings; it’s Alice with bad news. Shane puts her head in her hands. Everyone else gathers around, waiting to find out what’s wrong.
The hospital — Everyone (well, including Carmen, but not including Helena, who’s busy, and not including Moira, who had the good sense not to go along) files into Dana’s room. At first they all stand back, not knowing what to do or say or think. And then Bette quietly steps forward, with all that strength and calm that she can still exude. She takes Dana’s hand, and says “We love you. Do you know that? Do you know we love you?”
“Yeah,” says Dana.
NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: Alice tells Dana to get a grip; Jenny’s editor has a problem with the Jenny journey; Kit rips Billie a new one; Josh and Tina get naked.