“Transparent” recap (2.1): Trouble in Paradise

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Jewish weddings are very theatrical, so a few moments into the first episode of the highly-anticipated second season, there are already buckets of honesty pouring out of Transparent. For those just tuning in, catching up or rejoining us for a whole new season of recapping, this is a magical, fucked up, extraordinary, beautiful show about a family learning and living.

“Go back to the boat, Captain!” Shelly shouts, beaming with that Jewish matriarchy glint in her eyes. Everyone is gathered behind a photographer to document the soon-to-be wedded bliss of their eldest daughter Sarah and her hot burning flame Tammy. No one will stand still. The kids are whining. Maura attempts to connect with the photographer: “Chin up, or down?” In a word, it’s total pandemonium. But it’s also family.

The Pfeffermans aren’t “fussy” people; they just kvetch a lot. It’s hot outside, they’re all dressed in white, and this photog is making dumb jokes, Ali acknowledges. It’s a pure moment where literally no one is heard, yet struggles to be heard. How familiar.

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Tammy’s family is like day and night next to the Pfeffermans. They float up to their places with ease as the photographer captures a smiley, attentive, on-point dynasty of a family. “Love wins!” they shout as their photo is snapped. Hey, look! There’s Tig Notaro—also known as Tammy’s previous and second wife Barb. Way to be a champ, Barb.

Someone else who’s winning is Josh, who decides to confide in Ali. Rabbi Raquel is pregnant, but it’s early so no one else can know yet. True to form, Ali immediately tells Sarah. As a self-identifying Ali, I can say that I’ve been in a similar boat. Sarah is completely disenchanted with this conversation, peeved that Ali has brought gossip into her wedding prep station—and is now making it all about her. The actual nagging sensation Sarah is feeling, though, is her own inability to relax. Something is beginning to take shape, and it’s not Sarah’s mahogany hued makeup.

Maura chats up Davina outside by the seated guests. Their conversation is filled with adoration—Maura milling over the word “familiar” and likening it to “family,” rolling her Ls and whispering to Davina that she especially is like family to her. But the moment is cut short by a sudden wave of dread as Maura realizes her sister Byrna (Jenny O’Hare) is in the crowd. Maura explains to Davina that her sister hated her, even when they were kids—and that Byrna caught her dressing up in her clothes. She’s anti-Maura and totally closed-minded, so Maura can’t believe Sarah invited her here.

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Ali tries to settle the guests into their seats—noticing an imbalance between the Pfefferman and Cashman sides. Tammy’s family turnout is noticeably larger, so Ali entices everyone to be fluid. “There’s no bride and groom—there’s a bride side and a bride side, sit anywhere!”

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