“The L Word” recap (1.11): “Looking Back”



  • 100-footer: We all know ’em, and love ’em.
  • Represented: What I didn’t expect to feel.
  • T-shirts: Where can I get one?
  • Toxic: More than one person named Tonya.
  • Triangle of expectation: Strangely familiar.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST-BIANS: Anne Archer is back as Alice’s hilarious mother; Anne Ramsay falls victim to Jenny’s weird wiles; Ion Overman tempts Bette.

The Prelude — It’s another episode of the Pervy Man show! This time we’re in L.A. in 1979, at one of those parties where everyone’s snorting and smoking and having sex. A couple of women are in the pool, topless and eyeing each other; the men watching on the sidelines start to cheer them on. Suddenly, Wonder Woman swoops down with her invisible jet, lassos up all the men, and drowns them in the pool. Okay, no, that’s not what happens, but wouldn’t that be more interesting? Instead, we get yet another soft porn scene in which the women kiss and the men hoot and holler, and a third woman paddles over to join the fun. Yawn.

The Planet — Bette tells Tina that she’s thinking about asking Yolanda’s ex-girlfriend (Candace, the one she was checking out in the last episode) to bid on the Provocations job at the C.A.C. Tina is idly curious, and is supportive when Bette tells her that Candace has an all-woman crew. That’s right, Tina: this is all about feminism.

Inside, Marina is making coffee: apparently it’s the wee hours of the morning, considering how dark it is outside. Dana is giving Kit instructions on how to take care of Mr. Piddles, who is howling in a cat carrier. Well, actually, Mr. Piddles is just meowing: I’m thinking of my cat, who screams at the top of her lungs when I put her in that thing, and who is not happy with the meowing that’s coming from the TV at the moment. Dana, meanwhile, is making adorable kissy goo-goo noises to her cat. Awww.

Tina laments the fact that — although she’s up early with the rest of them — Bette is not going on “the trip.” Bette says it’s okay, because Tina is ready to party for the both of them. Well, I suppose a distraction is a welcome thing. Shane asks whether Jenny’s latte is a regular one. Somehow I doubt it. Marina stops in her tracks: “Is Jenny going with you?” Tina, looking nervous, explains that she invited Jenny because she felt bad for her. Marina pretends to think it’s all good.

Dana talks some more hilarious baby talk to Mr. Piddles. Everybody’s sort of tolerating it, except of course Kit, who is just plain nice about it and says “Yes, Mr. P., Auntie Kit will watch your back.” (I had to type that because Kit’s not going to say anything else in this episode, dammit.)

Alice tells her mom to congratulate her because she got her period. Alice’s mom is thrilled, as am I, but Bette wants to know why congratulations are in order.

Alice: “Huh? Because I love getting my period.”

Lenore: “She does. Ever since she was a kid.”

Alice: “Right. Yeah, no, ’cause it reaffirms my womanhood. I like to celebrate it to, you know, show women everywhere it’s a blessing, it’s not a curse. Okay. You guys, road trip?”

Tina doesn’t look like she’s buying this story, but she might be slightly amused like the rest of us. Bette and Tina kiss their goodbyes; Bette says: “Have a slippery nipple for me.”

On the way out, Lenore tells Bette that she was amazing on the TV show and that Fae Buckley is a bitch. Bette says thanks, and then tears well up in her eyes again. Kit and Mr. Piddles look on.

On the road — Jenny’s trying to figure out exactly where they’re going. Alice explains that it’s the Kraft-Nabisco Professional Women’s Golf Tournament, otherwise known as the Dinah Shore weekend. Jenny asks whether Dinah is gay; Alice says, “No, Dinah Shore’s dead.” Bwah ha! She tells everyone that there are supposed to be “like 10,000” women there. Shane says, “Oh, god,” like the very thought of it is exhausting.

Alice says she’s doing a story on this whole thing for her magazine or paper or whatever. Tina points out that Dana’s also getting an HRC award. Jenny, of course, has no idea what that means, so they explain. Good, maybe now Jenny won’t be like an ex-co-worker of mine, who once asked me what the HRC bumper sticker was all about — she thought it was “some sort of military insignia.” Well, yeah, sort of.

The scene changes, but we’re still on the road, and suddenly everyone’s singing “Closer to Fine.” Now that looks like my life! Even Jenny knows the words, although everyone sort of stumbles over that tricky “source for some definitive” line. Alice even throws in the Amy Ray harmony on the chorus. I hope Amy and Emily are watching.

The scene changes again, but we’re still on the road, and the sun’s coming up and everyone’s still singing the same song, but in a slightly different key, and then everyone proceeds to try (and fail) to whistle the penny whistle solo. It’s funny and fun and fabulous and exactly what’s great about this show.

Lenore (Alice’s mom) looks like she’s wishing she were dead, or at least deaf. She explains that she had to listen to that song way too many times when Alice was first coming out. “It was a nightmare: it was all about Annie Flaherty.” She giggles and begs Alice to tell her coming-out story because “it’s so hilarious.” I want Alice’s mom to adopt me — except then I couldn’t date Alice, or at least not without it being weird, so I take it back.

Alice says that the “drunk high school grope” was not her coming-out story, so Lenore tells it instead. It seems Alice and Annie got drunk, snuck under the bleachers, and were going to kiss when Annie vomited all over Alice. Ah, young love!

Alice tells her “real” coming out story: when she was in college, she and her boyfriend where in a band called “Butter.” One night the bass player didn’t show up, so they had to hold auditions, and were unimpressed until Tayo walked in. Alice ended up making out with her on stage. The flashback is hilarious: Leisha Hailey knows how to act 19, all petulant with her pierced nose, smoking and screaming and spitting at the slightest provocation. And the whole thing makes me think of All Over Me, which is a great flick. Hey, let’s get Alison Folland to do a guest spot on this show.

Sad ending: Alice and Tayo only lasted about two months, after which Tayo worked her way through the rest of the queer women at their college and totally broke Alice’s heart. Sniffle.

Dana says, “That’s why you’re a dirty bisexual, huh?” and I want to slap her. Alice tells Dana to tell her own story. Dana says she can’t do that, but does anyway.

It was at tennis camp: Dana was 16, and her counselor, who’s now famous and thus can’t be mentioned, was 17. They were completely in love. This flashback is hilarious too, because the counselor’s face is fuzzed to protect her identity, and when Dana says “I love you Stephanie,” the “Stephanie”is bleeped out. Apparently She Who Cannot Be Named ended up telling her best friend about the love affair, and of course the best friend told the counselor’s parents, who of course yanked her out of tennis camp and put an end to Dana’s steamy summer.

Lenore sums up the whole thing very nicely: “Tennis players are like girls in college: gay until graduation.”

The C.A.C. — Bette’s assistant tells her that Candace is there to see her. Bette takes a deep breath and heads to the conference room. She and Candace discuss plans for the exhibit while checking each other out. At one point Candace bends over and shows some fairy impressive cleavage; Bette sneaks a peek but then pretends to find something interesting on the ceiling.

On the road — Lenore starts to tell her coming out story. Jenny mouths, “She’s gay?”to Tina, who mouths back, “No.” Lenore tells a story of going to parties at “the mansion” — yep, you guessed it, here’s our reference back to the prelude. Lenore’s tale includes these choice lines:

Lenore: “So, one night, there was an ex of mine that I hadn’t seen in years, and he was sitting right there in the living room. And all I could think of to say to him was, ‘I thought I told you to wait in the car.'”

Alice: “Mom, that is straight out of Tallulah Bankhead‘s biography.”

Lenore: “That doesn’t mean that I didn’t say it.”

Lenore continues to explain how she decided to “join in” with the two girls in the pool, and “it was hot.” Shane giggles, so Alice tells Shane to tell her own story.

Shane’s big moment took place in the park, when she was about 10. It’s short and sweet: “That girl took my sunshine meal toy, and then she took my heart.” Shane, you adorable little baby dyke!

Lenore starts to tell another story about a lesbian who was passed out on the floor when John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands came by; but the gang has arrived at Lenore’s vacation house or something, where Alice is happy to unceremoniously leave her mother in the dust. She tries to make everyone agree with her that Lenore was driving them all crazy, but, well, they all sorta like her. And what’s not to like?

The Dinah Shore weekend — Everyone gapes at the women — and yeah, there really are a lot of women there. Also, I think this episode is brought to us by Olivia Cruises, because they have a big display in the lobby. Alice takes pictures. Dana is ambushed by Tonya, the “guest liaison,” who’s there to take care of all her needs. Dana’s flattered in her dorky way. After she leaves, Alice asks Dana whether “that thing comes with batteries.” Hee hee!

They make their way to their hotel room. Jenny stands on the balcony and ogles the crowd. She looks like she feels a little bit giddy: well, good. Maybe you can have sex with someone in a much less awkward way than you tried to have it with Dana last week.

Tonya, Dana’s guest liaison — I think we should call her Dana’s “handler” — shows up and gives everyone some passes to some of the events and “a chance to win an Olivia cruise.” Nice product placement. Tonya tells Dana she’d look great in anything and that it’s going to be difficult to keep her fans away from her. I’m sure you’ll do your best, Tonya. Now’s a good time to mention that I used to know someone with the same name and about the same level of toxicity, although in an entirely different way. Beware, Dana!

The C.A.C. — Candace knocks on Bette’s door; she’s there with her estimate. Bette complains that it’s $50 higher than the next highest bid — hey, you’re not supposed to tell contractors about other contractors’ bids — and Candace proceeds to draw a triangle on a piece of paper. She tells Bette that she can have any two sides of the triangle — which are fast, good, and cheap — but not all three. Bette wants the “cheap and good” option. Candace says, “But you’ll probably be bumping up against that carpenter for the better part of a year.” Wooo! Bette gets a little flustered at this, of course. Candace offers to go down the street to get some lunch so they can talk some more; Bette looks uncertain but agrees. Wait: did I just type “Candace offers to go down?” Whoops.

I’m not doing the scene justice, but it’s all about the looks and pauses and delivery, not the words or the plot. It’s quite sexy: Jennifer Beals and Ion Overman definitely have some chemistry. But, well, if it seems a little familiar, that’s because they did almost the same thing on Queer as Folk during season 2. Melanie’s handy ex-girlfriend Leda drew that triangle for Melanie and Lindsay, who were experiencing lesbian bed death at the time and also renovating their attic — and of course the storyline culminated in a threesome. Yes, I realize the “triangle of expectation” is sort of a standard thing in construction and home improvement, but when two shows on the same network use it in such similar contexts — well, it’s a rehash at best and plagiarism at worst. And you know what? Even though I love Bette — a lot — the QAF thing was hotter and more fun. Guin Turner, I’m onto you.

The Dinah Shore weekend — Shane spies some cool T-shirts that say “Lesbians wanted” and “She’s my bitch” — she suggests that Tina buy the latter as a present for Bette. Okay, but it would be even better if they had one that says “If you can read this, the bitch fell off.” The shirts are near a Hpnotiq sign — that stuff is not tasty, and is too damn blue.

The C.A.C. — Candace is explaining why she and Yolanda broke up: “She isn’t happy unless she’s ranting about something; she can’t abide you if you disagree with her; she won’t respect you if you don’t challenge her.” Um, Candace? Meet Bette.

Right on cue, Bette’s phone rings: it’s Tina, calling from all the noise of all the women. Bette tries to admit that she’s “having some food with Candace,” but all of the noise on Tina’s end makes the entire conversation incomprehensible, and, if you ask me, just gives Bette more reason to be glad she’s having Cuban food with Candace rather than slamming jello shots with Tina.

Candace wonders who was on the phone:

Bette: “It was my girlfriend.”

Candace: “Oh. I didn’t know you had one.”

Bette: “Why would you?”

Oh, the conflict on Bette’s face: she wonders why, and yet knows exactly why, she hasn’t told Candace that she’s not really available for the good and cheap bumping.

The Dinah Shore weekend — Tina celebrates the fact that “at least [she] can drink now.” Whatever gets you through the night, Tina, but you might want to talk to Kit about the better-living-through-chemistry thing. Alice points out a “100-footer”; Tina explains that “it means you can tell she’s a lesbian from a hundred feet away.” Jenny stands up and wants to know what she looks like from a distance, but Alice says it’s impossible; Jenny needs a guy or a girl with her to “tip”her one way or the other. Actually, she just needs a slight breeze, but okay.

To be fair (although I don’t know why I keep trying to do so), Jenny seems like she’s having fun, which is kind of cool. She says “fuck” in a hilarious way, in response to Alice’s comment that she’s “in transition.”

The C.A.C. — Bette mumbles about needing to get back to work; she has a phone call with New York at 7:00 the next morning. It turns out Candace is from “old school” Brooklyn; Bette divulges that she’s a North Philly girl herself. Is this really what you two want to be discussing right now?

The Dinah Shore weekend — Our heroines stumble upon a white party. Jenny decides to go have another drink and ends up telling her tale of woe to some random lesbians who — don’t ask me why — find her fascinating. Jenny rambles on about hurting Tim and about how Marina managed to keep her own relationship intact; she has some weird echo-y flashbacks to her first encounters with Marina, and makes a big show of “the thing” Marina did: she told Jenny, “I think I could fall in love with you.” According to Jenny, this means “She wrecked my fucking life with supposition.” Yeah, but you’re wrecking your own fucking life with bad writing and too much tequila.

The other drunken lesbians convince Jenny to call Marina and tell her exactly how horrible she is. Jenny gives in to the peer pressure, wanting to “set that fucking bitch straight.” But a rather foxy Anne Ramsay (she of Mad About You fame) has been watching Jenny, and saves her from further humiliation by taking the cell phone from her and pretending to have dialed a wrong number.

Jenny is charmed by the intervention. But why is Anne Ramsay charmed by Jenny?

Elsewhere, Tonya the handler is still handling Dana, and flattering her far too much. She steers Dana away from her adoring fans, one of whom asks Dana to sign her underwear. Ha ha!

Jenny and Anne Ramsay are talking at a table; apparently Anne Ramsay is a trapeze artist. Is this a reference to that gorgeous film When Night is Falling, or am I just bored and wishing I were watching something else? Hey, let’s get both Rachael Crawford and Pascale Bussières to do guest spots on this show.

Anyway, the trapeze thing is apparently a metaphor for life, or relationships, or something, and Jenny ends up taking Anne Ramsay’s hand. Whatever.

Dana’s handler’s hotel room — Tonya slams Dana against the door and tells her she wants to make love to her. We had no idea! Dana says “oh, okay.”

The group hotel room — Tina, Alice, and Shane are having a girls night in, with old movies and room service. Jenny waltzes in and announces that she has a date on Wednesday night in L.A., presumably with Anne Ramsay. Oh, good — it’s on Wednesday, so we won’t have to watch it.

Dana’s latest awkward encounter — Dana’s cell phone rings; it’s Alice. Dana makes excuses, but after she hangs up, Alice announces to the room that “Dana’s hooking up.”

Alice: “Okay, call me a hippie, but that girl has bad fucking vibes. And Dana’s judgment sucks, right, except for Lara.”

Shane: “Look who’s talking.”

Jenny begins a drunken speech about how hard it is to find someone and how miserable love is. Shane tells Tina that it’s time for her to tell her coming out story in order to give everyone some hope. So Tina does, and it’s a sweet story about how she was dating an art collector (a guy) and thus encountered Bette — why is flashback Bette wearing so much eye makeup? and what is that hair about? — at The Bette Porter Gallery, and found Bette “smart, and tough, and unbelievably beautiful.” Later, Tina and her boyfriend went to one of Bette’s “artist dinners,” where Bette helped Tina realize something: “You’ve lost your earring in your hair.” And, well, Tina realized something else.

The C.A.C. — Candace and Bette say their goodbyes and shake hands.

The group hotel room — Jenny is curious about Bette and Tina:

Jenny: “Tina, I didn’t know that Bette was your first girlfriend.”

Tina: “Yeah, first, last, and forever.”

Jenny: “Aren’t you kind of curious, though, to be with someone else?”

Tina: “Yeah, definitely. I think, ‘God, am I gonna go to my grave and Bette will be the only woman I’ve ever slept with?’ But then I look at her, and I think ‘What more could I want?'”

Tina finishes her story: somehow Tina left the aforementioned earring at Bette’s gallery. She went back to get it, and got a kiss along with it, and they lived happily ever after. The scene is romantic, and sexy, and I want these two to work things out. Eventually.

The C.A.C. — Bette is sitting and thinking and staring at her hands. The door opens: just like Tina those many moons ago, Candace has forgotten something in Bette’s office. And something else: “I forgot… that I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t tell you that all I’ve wanted to do all day long is kiss you. Please tell me if you don’t want me to.”

But of course Bette doesn’t say a word. The kiss is hungry, and very mutual, but Bette gets overwhelmed and uncertain and Candace knows she should go. So she goes, and Bette sobs.

The group hotel room — Shane sneaks out to call Cherie. Someone (one of Dana’s fans from earlier) walks by and tells her she’s hot; Shane says “thank you.” Hee. She then starts to tell Cherie something that looks serious, but changes her mind.

The awkwardness — Toxic Tonya can’t believe she’s about to go down on Dana Fairbanks. Neither can Dana, and neither can any of us.

Morning — Jenny wakes up and announces that she slept in her clothes. Alice guzzles water. There’s the sound of a key in the lock, and then, in a display of athleticism that is beyond funny, Alice pushes Jenny back down onto her bed and then takes a flying leap onto her own bed so they can all pretend to be asleep when Dana comes in. As Dana tiptoes across the room, Alice ambushes her and demands that Dana tell her everything.

Tina calls Bette to tell her about Dana’s exploits. Bette is still sad. Tina, Alice, Bette, and Shane have a big tickle party on the bed. No, it’s not that kind of tickle party!

On the road again — Dana has brought Tonya with her. What? Based on one night? Oh, that’s right: this a show about lesbians. Dana and Tonya giggle and babble in the back seat, but then Tonya makes the major lesbian faux pas of saying she hates cats. She backtracks when she hears about Mr. Piddles, but we know this spells doom, and I don’t think any of us are sorry about it. Dana refers to Mr. Piddles as “Señor Piddles, international cat of mystery.” Dana! You’re adorable! Get away from that psycho woman! In the front seat, Alice makes faces and shakes her head.

They drop Dana off at her house; Alice wants to know what they’re going to do. Apparently Toxic Tonya also told a weird story about seeing Anne Heche in a restaurant and didn’t return the change when Alice gave her money to get gas. Toxic!

The C.A.C. — Candace stops by Bette’s office to tell her she’s “out here workin’.” Yeah. Bette doesn’t know what to do. A few beats later, she’s looking through a folder with her back to the door. Some arms snake around her waist. Bette says, “I’m sorry, I can’t,” but she ought to know that the arms around her waist are Tina’s, because we can tell, and we haven’t been living with Tina for seven years. Bette covers fairly well by pretending to be distracted about the Provocations show. Tina, who’s looking very cute in a T-shirt that doesn’t say anything, says that the party just made her want to go home and curl up with Bette. Cue Joan Armatrading’s very appropriate, very brilliant song, “The Weakness in Me.”

NEXT WEEK ON THE L WORD: Girls in prison. And something about Tim, and more protesters at the C.A.C.

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