“Transparent” recap (1.8): Best New Girl

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The first thing you might notice about this episode is that it’s quite different from the rest of the first seven—it’s told entirely in flashback, set in 1994, and the intro music is changed from the movie piano ensemble by Dustin O’Halloran to Bob Dylan’s “Oh, Sister.” If I may be so simplistic, I’d like to offer that on several planes, “Best New Girl” is an episode about sisterhood—the relationship between sisters of all kinds. Young Ali’s (Emily Robinson) Bat Mitzvah has been cancelled. Maura packs up the station wagon for her retreat with Marcy, having Shelly believe there’s a last-minute conference she’s attending. But we know what’s really happening; this is the perfect escape for cross-dressing camp. Shelly is livid—not only is the Bat Mitzvah off, she just doesn’t see how a 13-year-old girl was able to have so much power over her parents, or how her husband was able to leave her with the messes to clean up, the people to call, without batting an eye. All of Shelly’s good time and money for this Bat Mitzvah is flushed down the drain, and she can’t help but wonder if this means her husband is lying/cheating on her.

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A teenage Sarah (Kelsey Reinhardt) is left in charge when Shelly decides to take off for the night to blow of steam and get wine drunk with friend Judy (Caroline Aaron). She confides in Judy about Maura’s kinky sex fetishes—wearing Shelly’s underwear when they get busy. Instead of sticking around to watch the younger kids, Sarah takes off for a demonstration. On the bus, a sleeping man keeps slouching onto her shoulder, but after a fellow bus rider who calls herself Cindy (Victoria Ortiz) offers Sarah the seat next to her, a smile creeps onto my face because Cindy’s giving off some serious lesbian vibes and that puts Sarah at 18-years-old, curious, and pre-Tammy.

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Maura and Marcy arrive at cross-dressing camp to a catwalk of queens cruising up and down the main drive—and after they get situated in their cabin, they enter the pavilion to a warm reception, plenty of sweet-smiling, sequin-wearing ladies, dancing and rejoicing. They find out that things have come a long way at camp, especially since they upgraded the servers from Lutheran church kids who wouldn’t look at them. Of the girls introducing themselves, M and M meet Connie (Michaela Watkins), a lovely Gemini (which Maura totally called—and also my own sign.) the wife of a cross-dresser who brought her to camp. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more from Connie. When it’s time to hit the phones the next day, Maura begins to slowly unravel something important about Marcy: With her kids, she talks tough and expects them to do well in sports like good boys should. The gender expectations are hypocritical, and Maura knows better. We get the sense that Maura feels she’d never speak to her own kids like that, that they can make up their own minds about sexuality, gender and expression.

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At lunch, some of the other girls at camp talk about a girl who was kicked out of camp last year for bringing hormones. At first, it seems a joke—who would think that’s a scandalous item to bring to cross-dressing camp? The ladies explain that while, yes—they love to dress as women, that they are 100% Grade A men, and there’s no place for “transsexuals or transvestites” at this camp. (These were the days before anyone really uttered “transgender.”) Maura’s disappointment is apparent—especially to Connie, who later spots Maura and Marcy lounging outside and asks to join in on their fun. Maura offers up a happy hour in the cabin, and Marcy reluctantly obliges, but only if they can make it in time to the important pageant. Maura and Connie have an instant connection that is hard to deny—Maura is so taken by her, comparing her to an Italian actress, the two swaying and dancing, the whole room filled with their intoxicating fantasy. After Marcy leaves without them for the pageant, the two kiss in a hazy human to human high. “No penises, no vaginas, just people.” I believe in kindred moments, and this is a huge one for Maura, and for Connie.

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