“Transparent” recap (2.8): Oscillate

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The episode opens with a flashback to Berlin, 1933, where we find Gittel (Hari Nef) and Rose (Emily Robinson) in a confrontation with their mother Yetta (Michaela Walkins). You may remember Michaela previously played Connie in the Season 1 episode “Best New Girl,” where Maura cancels Ali’s Bat Mitzvah to go to the cross-dressing camp in the woods and meets her, a beautiful, open-minded woman. The spirit of this character surfacing in different ways, through different incarnations, is a beautiful piece to Maura’s journey.

In similar ways, Gittel and Rose have affected Ali’s journey—Gittel appearing in the back of Ali’s thoughts, her identity evolving through Ali’s research and curiosity about her family, and Emily Robinson playing Young Ali in previous flashback episodes. Transparent has delivered beautiful episodes for two seasons, but this is the episode that takes us into the past, knowing we, the loyal audience, have spent this time collecting Pfefferman bits and pieces that seem to glue this family together. For eight minutes, we too step back in time to Berlin, where Yetta has one goal in mind: Get to America with her children safely beside her.

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Our Lady J is singing a rendition of “Someone to Watch over me” beside the piano when Gittel and Rose make their way into the Insititute where Magnus and the rest of the partygoers take shots, sing, dance and lounge. Gittel gives Rose a 100 percent Maura Pfefferman reaction when Rose hands her a shot. “No…what did you do?” She teases Rose, downing the shot—no need to twist her arm, she’ll do it with pleasure. “L’Chaim!” Gittel loudly cheers. “Don’t do that, it reminds me of Dad,” Rose complains. Ah ha. Louder then. “L’CHAIM!” Everyone joins in.

Meanwhile at home, we see Yetta collecting all of the jewelry from around the house—including Gittel’s ring she gave to Rose, now hanging on a necklace. The previous flashbacks are now clarified—Yetta is hiding their jewelry from the Gestapo. She pours hot chocolate into brick molds where the jewelry will be kept hidden in case anything happens. Now, if you’ve recently binge-watched Season 1 again, and you happen to remember some of the casual back-and-forth that didn’t seem to hold weight at the time, you might recall the Pfefferman kids griping about “that Holocaust heirloom.” It’s Gittel’s ring—the same ring Josh loaned to Raquel to wear for the purposes of impressing Colton’s religion family. All that said, now we know why Raquel high-tailed it. Regardless of their superstitious family brouhaha, it’s an heirloom with a story—it contains Gittel and Rose’s energy.

Cut to LA, present day—Josh Pfefferman puking up his kale smoothie at Cross Fit. Hey, he’s trying a new thing—and breakups bring out new things. But also, his karma is seriously fucked. Ali and Syd are doing Runyan (I’m like Carrie Brownstein and I live in Portland, so, apologies if “doing Runyan” is really uncool of me to say) and, prepare yourselves—it doesn’t go well. Ali’s continued stance about being open-ended, day-to-day is not vibing with Syd at all. Syd’s like, “I can’t do this way. I can’t do this version.” She doesn’t feel burdened by the commitment of finally being with her best friend/Ali. She says she isn’t going to go to the festival—and she isn’t going to do this thing with Ali anymore. But then she says, “Figure it out.”

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So, while everyone is labeling this an official breakup scene, I tend to wonder if this isn’t just an ultimatum of some kind that Syd hopes will end in her favor. Anyway, Ali doesn’t have time to dwell on it—by now she’s showered, fresh-faced and ready to get back on the bike. The dyke bike.

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She’s over at Leslie’s in a flash. Speaking from experience and out of obvious observation—Ali’s dressed up for Leslie and everyone knows it. Too bad neighbor lady is over investigating pepper stem rot. Too bad Leslie is busy with “Bella” who emerges from her bedroom with Leslie, eyeing Ali up and down with a dopey smile on her face. Ali’s just here to drop off her essay and potentially mention her new single status, but Leslie’s occupied, so the meeting is a bust. Neighbor lady estimates Leslie “harbors disdain for the aging female body.” Ali’s immediately takes this to heart, appearing mortified.

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Ali and Sarah go over to Shelly’s to have a cookout with her and Buzz, but Ali doesn’t even mention the fallout with Syd. Instead, she’s like “Leslie’s so extremely sexy,” relaying to Sarah her morning excursion over at Leslie’s bungalow. She describes Bella as “a baby bird excommunicated from the Mormon Church.” That totally works. Yep. She’s been on Sarah about the Idyllwild Womyn’s Festival—she wants her to come with. Sounds way better than another session with Mr. Irons. That’s a No Festival.

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