R29 Binge Club: Transparent Season 2 Recaps

Image: Courtesy of Amazon.
Admit it, you missed those self-centered Pfeffermans. But they’re back and just as beautifully flawed as ever in season 2 of this award-winning series. (Trying to recall what’s happened so far in Transparent before embarking on the show’s return? No problem — we’ve got you covered here. Binge Club: Commence!

Season 2, Episode 1: "Kina Hora"

Is it ever a good idea to ask everyone in attendance at your wedding to wear white? Probably not. But Sarah (Amy Landecker) and Tammy (Melora Hardin) apparently made that a stipulation of attending their outdoor nuptials, and that's where season two begins: with the photographer asking everyone in the Pfefferman family (plus some stragglers) to smile for a family portrait. Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) is really concerned about the angle of her chin. Sarah looks altogether pretty dazed. Josh (Jay Duplass) and Raquel (Kathryn Hahn) are sublimely happy, and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) is one big rolling eyeball in a weird ‘80s suit. The camera time comes to a quick close when the photographer calls Maura “sir,” and then Tammy’s very sunny family — ex-wives included — files in. Blondness abounds. End opening scene.

Ali lets it be known that she’s ticked that Raquel is included in the family photograph, so Josh pulls his sister away to talk, confessing that Raquel is pregnant, and then swearing her to secrecy. As we established time and time again in season one, none of the Pfefferman kids knows how to keep sensitive information to themselves, so Ali pretty much immediately spills the baby beans to Sarah, who is getting dolled in the bridal suite. So far, Sarah's wedding day seems to be anything but blissful, and then the kids want to know why their dad hasn’t been invited, which just multiplies the misery.

Sidenote: Maura and Shelly (Judith Light) are getting along really well these days. (More on that later!)

Maura notices that her estranged aunt (Jenny O'Hara) is at the wedding, and approaches her for the very first time fully transitioned. (Turns out, Ali invited her aunt to help balance out the number of wedding guests there to represent Sarah’s side, since she lost a lot of friends after the divorce from Len.) Maura and her sister's relationship is tense, not just because of Maura’s gender identity, but she hasn’t been to see their mother, Rose, for several years. They end the interaction on a terse note, and Maura retreats to Shelly for comfort.

Off to the side of the pre-wedding festivities, Josh and his teenage son, Colton (Alex MacNicoll), are talking, and Josh is trying out said dad-like things. (Poor Colton. He is clearly an outsider at this family affair.)

As Sarah begins her walk down the aisle, it becomes pretty clear that she’s second-guessing this whole wedding shenanigan. She’s only seeing snatches of the ceremony, in erratic snippets: flashes of Tammy’s family, bits and pieces from the vows, Tammy’s beaming smile. At one point, Sarah looks up into the clear blue sky and notices a plane flying overhead, trailing an advertisement that reads “we buy ugly houses.” When the time comes to break the glass, Sarah stomps on it with gusto — it seems like the only part of the day she has any control over.

Then suddenly, we’re at the reception, where Sarah almost immediately tells her mom that Josh got Raquel pregnant. (Shelly is ecstatic and can barely contain herself). Hora music begins playing in the background, and rather than getting sucked up into the circle, Sarah makes a beeline for the bathroom. She’s gone long enough for Tammy and her siblings to start wondering where she is, and Ali eventually finds her crying on the toilet, regretting that she married Tammy.
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Image: Courtesy of Amazon.
They have a sisterly moment before Ali goes to grab Josh, and then Josh brings Raquel into the bathroom mix. But she's not pleased with him: During the brief time that Josh has been gone from the reception, Shelly has announced to the crowd that Raquel is pregnant. And Raquel is understandably ticked that Josh violated their agreement to keep the news to themselves for now.

When the quarreling couple reaches the bathroom, Raquel tells Sarah that while, on a religious front, she’s married to Tammy, on a legal front she’s still not married because the forms haven’t been filed yet. Sarah whoops with joy and then heads back out to the ceremony, but Tammy realizes that something is very wrong when Sarah rejoins the party.

There’s an ancillary plot line threaded through this season that centers on Pfefferman ancestors who lived in Berlin during the '30s: The scene shifts from the wedding reception to a dreamy salon full of beautiful men and women twirling around in lingerie — including a dark-haired trans woman named Gittel (newcomer Hari Nef). Everyone at this party looks happy and carefree, but there’s something markedly vulnerable about the whimsy contained within the room.

The episode closes after the reception is over, with carefully constructed moments between each of the key characters, back in their rooms. First we see Josh and Raquel talking over what happened that night, particularly in regards to Josh revealing their baby news to his family. Next, we watch Sarah and Tammy through the glass of their hotel suite, in profile: Sarah is breaking the news to Tammy that their relationship is over. In the room over, we hear Shelly tell Maura how beautiful she looks, and they share a prolonged kiss.

Finally, the camera lingers on Ali, standing alone on her balcony, staring out into the distance. In the background, Gittel — a flash of ‘30s Berlin — is seated, looking equally lost and forlorn.

Season 2, Episode 2: Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump

We kick things off with Len and Sarah sitting in a mediation session together that isn’t going very well. The mediator recommends that they start to employ a “bird’s nesting” strategy for their kids’ sake, which means letting the kids stay in their Los Feliz family home while the parents trade off time there. Sarah agrees to get an apartment nearby the house, which she’s not happy about.

Skip to: Ali sitting in a college class, looking up at a planetarium view of the astros, followed by a quick look at Josh and Raquel in their Ob/Gyn office, watching their baby on the ultrasound screen. From there, we’re dropped into a moment between Maura and Shelly, who are standing in Maura’s storage trailer — which is parked in front of Shelly’s garage — hunting through dresses. Apparently, Shelly has been getting flack from the neighbors, either for Maura’s presence generally or the storage box itself. “I like you and the box right here,” Shelly tells Maura. They hug.

Meanwhile, Ali pops by Syd’s apartment to clear the air after their falling out in season one; Syd forgives her and invites her to come to a party later. Josh is dealing with his own awkward relationship situation, picking up Colton from his ex-lover Rita’s house. Colton tells Josh that he’s considering remaining in Los Angeles during his senior year. Josh is clearly ruffled by the idea of his son living with Rita; when they get out to the car, he tells Raquel about Colton’s plan to stay. She seems apprehensive about this turn of events. (Reasonable: Adding a new baby and a long lost adopted son into their lives seems like more than their already-fragile relationship can handle.)

We return to Shelly’s house, where she’s taking a bath while Maura tries on bathing suits. Shelly steers the conversation to their pre-transition sex life, and ignores the signals that Maura is sending about how uncomfortable it makes her to discuss it. Nevertheless, Maura ends up seated on the edge of the bathtub, reaching in the water to get Shelly off with a move from their marriage that they call the “flicky-flicky thump-thump.” After Shelly finishes, she offers to pleasure Maura, and Maura declines, leaving the bathroom and firmly shutting the door.

Whatever is going on between Maura and Shelly doesn’t seem to be working for Maura; it seems like the idea of sliding back into something so familiar when she’s re-learning her own identity is treacherous territory that she wants to avoid. In fact, in the next scene, when they arrive at the Pfefferman family house in the Pacific Palisades for a pool party Josh is throwing that afternoon, Maura balks when the kids ask if they’re back together.

The pool party is meant to be a launch event for Fussy Puss, featuring the two female band members from Glitterish plus Tammy’s former stepdaughter Bianca. Ali and Sarah arrive together; Sarah is already sort of a mess, but when Fussy Puss starts to play Tammy barges into the party and makes things much, much worse — especially when she notices that Sarah has put the remnants of their wedding cake out on the buffet. Tammy chucks the cake in the pool, ultimately ruining the party.

Later that night, after everyone has left, Josh and Raquel are talking in their bedroom, and he tells her that he wants Colton to come live with them in the Palisades house. (Further proof that Josh is possibly the most selfish character on this entire show and has absolutely no ability to empathize with anyone else’s feelings — or, more specifically, Raquel’s feelings. These two are just never aligned on anything emotionally.)

That night, instead of going home, Maura goes to an LGBTQ club. When her friend Davina beckons her to come dance with the group, she declines. But at the end of the episode she’s standing in front of a mirrored wall, moving to the beat and watching her own reflection.


Season 2, Episode 3: New World Coming


Maura and Davina are having coffee the night after the party and club adventure, in the kitchen at Davina’s boyfriend Sal’s house. Shea, another gorgeous friend joins them. They’re recapping the night before when Shea mentions that she slept with a marine last night and reveals that she’s had full genital reconstruction surgery, piquing Maura’s interest. Shea tries to teach Maura how to say “YAS Queen,” but Maura can’t quite nail the delivery: She’s trying to fit in with the gals, but struggling to adapt and truly blend in.

Cue opening credits.

That same morning, Sarah is dropping the kids off at school and comes across Tammy’s ex-partner, Barb. Sarah is trying to be friendly, but Barb rebuffs her, saying that she can’t join the committee that Barb chairs. Sarah is confused and embarrassed, so she leaves.

In the Palisades, Colton is in the process of moving in with Josh and Raquel. During a touching moment, Colton asks Josh if he can call him dad, and Josh mulls it over, as though he’s not quite sure how he feels about being lumped into that category. Ultimately, he says yes, and then takes Colton to enroll for his senior year of high school. Colton asks the school administrator if he can have Josh’s old locker, emphasizing how much he wants to identify with Josh as his dad.

At lunchtime, Maura takes Ali to UCLA to meet a few colleagues and introduce her to a professor in the Women’s Studies department, Leslie Mackinaw, a famous feminist poet. Turns out Leslie and Maura have beef from their Berkeley days: Maura, who was Mort at the time, blocked Leslie from achieving success in the department. Maura is taken aback by the accusations, but eventually concedes to the fact that she may have done some awful things back then but that she doesn’t recall them now. “Why would you,” Leslie asks as Ali watches the whole conversation, slightly awed. In this moment, we’re forced to recognize that — though Maura suffered deeply due to her gender identity — she was also privileged as a white man while rising through the ranks of her chosen career.

Around the same time, Sarah makes an unannounced stop at the Los Feliz house. Len and Barb are hanging out in the backyard while the kids play; Len is clearly not happy that Sarah showed up without letting him know. Sarah says that she was intending to grab her yoga mat and then goes upstairs and discover’s Len’s girlfriend Melanie’s overnight bag in the bedroom. She starts going through it and discovers a makeup case containing dozens of eyeshadows. She slams it shut and makes a huge mess on the carpet, pulling Melanie’s suitcase over the top of the stain. She quickly leaves the house.

Next, we see Maura at her trans support group, where a woman is telling a story about having sex with men who are specifically attracted to trans women. The leader of the group pushes Maura to participate; Maura brings up the interaction with Leslie from that afternoon and admits that it really upset her to realize the wrongs she had perpetrated on other women without thinking. “We held them back,” she confesses. “That’s the truth. I hurt people.”

That evening, Raquel and Josh are hanging out at home in the Palisades house, and she reminds him that she’s waiting for him to propose properly; he assures her that he’s got a plan in the works (though he doesn’t, for now). Later, when Josh is at the music studio with the Fussy Puss girls and Colton, who came to watch them record, the group discusses how Josh should ask Raquel to marry him. After a bunch of cheesy suggestions, he decides what he’s going to do — but won’t tell anyone else in the room. For a second, it seems like he truly understands that to make the proposal special he needs it to stay between himself and Raquel.

Meanwhile, Ali and Syd are hanging out with a group of friends. Ali clearly left the UCLA meet-up impressed by Leslie and her accomplishments as a radical feminist poet. The group is reading Leslie’s erotically charged work aloud, and along the way Ali and Syd’s chemistry begins to spark. Later, they end up making out, marking a new phase in their relationship.

Back at her new, bare apartment, Sarah is having a fantasy about a man slapping her with a paddle; specifically, she’s transported back to high school, where an old school administrator named Mr. Irons used to call her out for walking the halls without a pass. In the fantasy, Mr. Irons is hitting her bare butt with a wooden paddle.

That night, Josh returns to the Palisades house to find Raquel nervously about to propose to him. She has a beautiful spread laid out, but Josh gets really angry because he thinks that her unwillingness to wait for him to propose translates to a lack of trust. (He’s right about that. He also hasn’t given her compelling reasons to trust him.) They argue about it and the conversation drops off.

Syd and Ali have gone from the bowling alley to bed. Syd wants to know what Ali likes sexually; Ali tells Syd that eventually she’ll tell her, but for now to just let it happen. The warmth between them is the opposite of what we just witnessed between Raquel and Josh.
Season 2, Episode 4: Cherry Blossoms

Maura is brushing her teeth in the bathroom of Shelly’s condo when Shelly comes bustling in, asking Maura about her dreams and if she’s happy. Though Maura says yes, she looks deeply unhappy. The scene ends and the opening credits begin.

The same morning, Sarah is dropping the kids off at school: It’s Spirit Week and today is “wacky hair day.” No one is in a good mood; the kids are especially mad at Sarah, who takes out her frustration on Poppy, a teacher at the school who reminds Sarah about a fundraising gala that she agreed to participate in later in the week.

Back at the Palisades house, Josh has walked in on Colton saying his prayers and then scampered off to tell Raquel, expecting she’ll be as weirded out as he is. She’s not, clearly, being a rabbi and all. Colton walks in on them talking and, for a second, everyone is really uncomfortable; Raquel assures Colton that it’s wonderful that he has a spiritual practice and that she does, too. Josh calls himself a heathen, which upsets Raquel (probably because she’s expecting a baby with him and doesn’t want to think of Colton as a bad person, though he often is). Colton confesses that he’s been praying a lot about his birth mother, Rita, and that he feels like he needs to mend their relationship somehow. Josh take Colton to the beach to surf and tells him that they could have Rita over for dinner, adding that they can make her a part of their “bigger family.” Colton is relieved; Raquel ultimately won’t be happy about this.

Later, Maura visits the doctor to discuss hormone therapy and finds herself put off by how personal the questions are. The doctor wants to know if Maura is sexually active and also assumes that she’s gay, adding that hormone therapy could impede Maura from sustaining an erection. Maura explains that she wants breasts, but isn’t certain about gender reassignment surgery. The doctor tells her that she should “do herself a favor and get to know your body.”

Meanwhile, Ali and Syd are on a train, en route to visit Ali’s grandma, Rose. When they get to the care facility, Rose is staring out the window, looking despondent. She doesn’t say anything or seem to recognize Ali, who hasn’t seen her in years. However, for a moment she seems to come to, her eyes resting just beyond Ali’s face. “You’re here!” Rose exclaims. It’s unclear who she means.

After leaving the school, Sarah stops by temple to talk to Raquel, admitting that she’s in need of some help. She explains what’s going on with school and the kids and then inquires about how things are going with Raquel, who confesses that she’s not as happy as she might seem. Raquel also explains that while she wants Colton in their lives, she’s not happy that Rita is part of the package.

Fast-forward to the night of the school gala: Sarah gets there and immediately gets tasked with selling raffle tickets. She runs into Melanie and Len; he calls her out about going through Melanie’s things and asks her to pay them for the eyeshadow palette. Sarah denies that she touched it. Tammy shows up with a neck tattoo and is clearly smashed; she ushers Sarah into a classroom and tries to initiate sex, but she declines. When she tries to get out of raffle ticket duty, Poppy tells her that she has to sell at least 25; Sarah ends up buying the rest of the tickets she hasn’t sold, and for that reason ends up winning a giant flat screen television along with life coaching sessions, which she tries to reject.

Syd and Ali spend the evening in the library, researching topics for Ali’s grad school essay. While paging through books, Ali’s mind shifts back to 1930s Berlin again, this time to the Institute of Sexual Research, a place that embraces the idea of gender fluidity and non-binary sexuality. A young woman — Rose — is seeking her brother, a trans woman named Gittel — who is a centerpiece of the institute. Gittel is luxuriating on a couch with friends, having fully adopted a female persona — when Rose explains that she needs money. Their father has abandoned their mother and she wants to secure visas and tickets for herself, Rose, and Gittel to leave for America. Ali’s mind exits her reverie and she starts explaining to Syd that family trauma is actually inheritable: She reads about an experiment in which rabbits were shocked with electricity while smelling cherry blossoms. Future generations of those rabbits were afraid of cherry blossoms.

In the Palisades house, Raquel and Josh have invited Rita over to have dinner. While they eat pizza, Rita keeps trying to persuade Josh to come over and have a look at what she thinks is mold growing in her kitchen. (It’s pretty obvious that this is a ploy to both rankle Rita and coerce Josh into coming over.) Out of nowhere, Rita starts singing Sly and the Family Stone’s “It’s A Family Affair,” making things even more awkward. Josh and Raquel escape into the kitchen together briefly and Raquel tells Josh that she doesn’t want Rita in their home. Josh seems torn between doing right by Colton and keeping Raquel happy.

Maura has decided not to join Shelly for dinner and is having a glass of wine at the bar instead. A woman sidles up to the bar and Maura buys her a glass of wine. The woman refuses Maura’s offer to share some tapas and Maura decides to leave the bar, because she’s afraid she’s making the woman uncomfortable. When she returns to Shelly’s condo so they can close out the day watching television together, Maura is troubled and distracted. Shelly wants to know what Maura wants to watch on television. Maura tells Shelly that it doesn’t matter what they watch; she should just make herself happy and stop worrying about what Maura wants.


Season 2, Episode 5: Mee-Maw


Ali and Sarah go to a Korean spa and get scrubbed down during a little sister bonding time: They talk about their own sexuality, and settle on the idea that queerness isn’t defined by who you’re thinking of when you orgasm. Sarah also confesses the Mr. Irons paddling fantasy. Later, Sarah attends her first life coaching seminar, with a woman who doesn’t really understand what Sarah is going through. They aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on goals or whether or not Sarah actually needs coaching sessions.

At home, Colton tells Josh that his adoptive parents have decided to drive out from Utah to check in on him. Colton is clearly afraid that this is going to upset Josh, who plays it cool, but Raquel worries that this isn’t going to end well. (Spoiler: She’s right.) Josh tries to get Raquel to wear a faux engagement ring for the visit — a family heirloom ring with a giant pearl — but Raquel is upset that Josh thinks that he has to pander to Colton’s parents. The Utah family arrives in an RV so that all of the adults can talk.

Meanwhile, Maura is hanging out at Davina’s house when Davina shows her photos of herself from childhood that she’s had doctored to reflect her gender identity. Maura loves the idea and immediately takes off to the Palisades house to search for her own childhood photos so that she can do the same. When she gets there, she interrupts the family time with Colton’s parents and siblings and puts Josh on edge.

Cut to Ali, wandering around Syd’s apartment, wearing a strap-on penis and talking about how she’s going to write about how Jewish women used to be forced to wear red and white shoes with little bells on them so that people can hear them coming. Sarah is also having an interesting afternoon, in her own way, buying weed from Josh’s dealer (played by Jason Mantzoukas). He asks her out, but she declines, though he presses her to tell him if she’s gay. “I mean, how do you even know, really?” she asks him, but also herself.

While Maura is looking for photos, Colton and his family are chatting with Raquel and Josh. When Colton reveals that Raquel is a rabbi, his adopted parents — the father is a pastor — get a little weird about it, especially when Josh says that Colton is Jewish. Colton also accidentally spills about Raquel’s pregnancy, at which point Colton’s adoptive dad goes after Josh for being irresponsible as a teenage father. Josh insists that he had no idea about Colton until recently, which is true; Maura interrupts while the pastor is grilling Josh and explains that while he and Shelly knew about the baby, Josh never did.

Josh had no idea that his parents knew about the pregnancy or the baby, or that they had donated money to Colton’s adoptive parents’ church. He is furious with Maura and Shelly; Raquel, overhearing all of this, tries to calm him down by telling him that his parents were just trying to protect him and encouraging him to consider how very different his life would have been had he known about Colton for the last two decades — her point is clearly that, without Maura and Shelly’s lie, Josh and Raquel might never have found one another. Josh misses what she’s getting at and tells her that he loved Rita. Raquel reminds him that, technically, Rita is a predator who molested him.

Ultimately, Josh talks things over with Colton and Raquel and it’s unclear if Colton will go back with his family to Utah. Colton puts the decision to Josh: "If you want me to stay, just say something." Josh says nothing. The RV drives off, leaving Josh and Raquel alone.

Meanwhile, Ali and Syd go to a party at Leslie’s house and discover her lying in a pile of women. Together, they all watch for the Hunter’s Moon to rise in the sky. Syd catches a meaningful look between Leslie and Ali, planting the seed that there’s something more between them than just academic interest.

Maura goes home to Shelly’s condo and confesses that Josh knows about the fact that they lied to him about the baby. Shelly doesn’t feel bad about lying, but she is worried about Maura. Ultimately, Maura decides that she can’t live with Shelly anymore. “This doesn’t work,” she explains before walking out. “We’re broken.” But when she tries to pull out of the complex in her car, she is trapped behind the locked gate.

Season 2, Episode 6: Bulnerable

Josh arrives at Sarah’s Los Feliz house to confront Shelly, who has been avoiding him. He tells her that he knows all about the fact that she lied to him about Rita’s pregnancy and Colton’s existence; Shelly tells him frankly that she thought it was the best decision at the time. "I put Colton out of my mind. I put him out of our world. To protect you." Both Sarah and Josh are at a loss for words.

Raquel and Josh’s relationship has regained some of its lightness since Colton moved out of the house. While they’re folding laundry together in the living room, Josh notices that she has a rash all over her body. Panicked, Raquel goes to call the doctor, worried that something could be wrong with the baby.

The next time we see Raquel and Josh, they are at the doctor’s office for an ultrasound. The nurse can’t find the heartbeat. Later, we find out that the pregnancy is no longer viable. Raquel and Josh return home. It’s clear that while they’re sad, Raquel explains that she wants to start trying to get pregnant again as soon as possible. Josh suggests that they take some time to just “breathe” and think about their next steps as a couple. Josh admits that while he wants to have a baby, he’s not sure that he wants one with any sort of immediacy.

Later on, Josh is getting ready to go out to a music industry party, leaving Raquel on the couch to recover. He overdoes it at the party and comes home late. When he gets there, he realizes that Raquel has packed all her things and left him.

Now that she’s officially left Shelly, Maura is staying with Davina, in the turret bedroom at Sal’s house. To ingratiate her host, Maura — along with Shea — make a lasagna for Sal. When he and Davina arrive home that evening together, Maura feels rebuffed when they decide to go upstairs and eat by themselves. This is the beginning of Maura’s skepticism.

Ali continues to prepare for her graduate school applications, using Syd as her sounding board. Eventually, she goes to visit Lesley to talk about her topic, but when she gets to her house, she is all caught up in reviewing pornography clips to play in the background of an upcoming poetry reading. Ali is uncomfortable and relieved when Lesley tells her to go downstairs and get some wine. Later that evening, they end up in Lesley’s hot tub together, naked. There’s a clear attraction to one another, though Ali attempts to keep the conversation focused on her essay: She tells Lesley that she’s considering focusing on the inherited trauma angle. Later, Lesley begins asking Ali questions about when she came out as queer; when Ali admits that it was recent, Lesley makes an interesting point about how coming out late must be a family trait. At that point, she climbs out of the tub, leaving Ali confused about their connection. Ali stays the night at Lesley’s, but sleeps on the couch.

Sarah — ever prone to escapism — has started sleeping with the drug dealer. She leaves the kids at home with Shelly and goes over to his apartment to smoke weed and have sex. But when she tries to get him to play into her Mr. Irons fantasy, he doesn’t seem to get it and in the midst of their interlude, Shelly calls, crying. Sarah rushes home.

There, she finds out that Shelly is crying because Sarah’s daughter said something unkind to her. But while that may have been the tipping point, Shelly is really crying because Maura left her. Sarah seems numb to this news, even as Shelly begins to cry in her lap.


Season 2, Episode 7: The Book Of Life

It’s Yom Kippur, and the Pfeffermans are getting geared up to make their amends and wipe the slate clean — not that they actually do.

Sarah goes to see Tammy and say that she’s sorry about what she put her through. But (understandably) Tammy isn’t feeling it, and tells Sarah she does not forgive her.

Meanwhile, Syd and Ali are setting up Syd’s apartment to host dinner with both of their families in honor of the holiday. Syd is angry with Ali for staying at Lesley’s; Ali is trying to convince Syd that they should reject traditional rules about what it means to be a relationship and embrace more fluidity in their commitment to one another. Guess how Syd feels about that plan?

Maura is laying in bed that morning when Sal comes up to put an air conditioner into her bedroom. They get to talking about hormones and surgical transitions, and Sal makes a handful of recommendations about the different types of surgeries that Maura could have that would make her look more feminine; Sal also tells Maura that she has a “couple good years” left, presumably to attract men.

Maura is taken aback and offended by Sal’s comments: Later in the day, she makes the mistake of telling Davina what Sal said and insinuating that Davina could do better. “I’m a 53-year-old HIV-positive ex-prostitute,” Davina reminds her, adding that she knows better than Maura what she wants and needs; and that if Maura doesn’t like Sal, then she can find another place to stay. Maura leaves the house and goes to feed the ducks alone, thinking over what Davina has said and tossing challah into a pond.

Before heading over to Syd’s for dinner, Josh and Sally head to temple for holiday services. On the way in, a volunteer greeter named Buzz compliments Shelly, who pretty quickly becomes enamored of him and invites him to the family dinner. Before the services begin, Josh goes to Raquel’s offices in the temple and asks her what he should be telling his family about the status of their relationship: He hasn’t yet come to terms with the fact that they’ve broken up. She very plainly says that they are officially over, and he returns to the congregation, devastated. During the service, when Raquel is leading the prayers (and Shelly is making googly eyes at Buzz), Josh starts to have a panic attack. He leaves the temple, yanking off his yarmulke and staring up at the sky before collapsing on the front steps.

After the Tammy apology fails, Sarah goes to the drug dealer’s medical dispensary office; she smokes a lot of weed and they start getting busy on the couch. Sarah tries to get him to play into her Mr. Irons fantasy again, but he’s not getting it. “I want you to rape me, but I don’t want it to hurt,” she explains — it’s one of those moments where she can’t hear how crazy she is, but she obviously wants to have her cake and eat it, too. He gets offended and she leaves the office.

While Ali and Syd are putting the final touches on dinner, Syd gives Ali an ultimatum, asking if she’s all in or out of the relationship. Before they can discuss it any further, Syd’s mom and dad arrive. (Frenchy! From Grease!)

At the end of the day, everyone meets up at Syd’s apartment. Josh arrives first, not mentioning that Raquel won’t be joining them. Then, Shelly arrives with Buzz in tow and they end up on the elevator with Maura, who asks how Maura and Shelly know one another. (He’s such a damned delight, that Buzz.) Sarah is the last to arrive, straight off her sexscapade in the medical marijuana dispensary.

At the head of the table, Ali begins to deliver a blessing that sounds an awful lot like an apology directly meant for Syd, but Sarah interrupts her and derails the good intentions. Buzz ends up finishing the blessing and people begin to pass the food. Maura notices that something is off with Josh when people start asking about when Raquel will arrive. Josh blurts out that they broke up and that they lost the baby; Shelly starts wailing and talking about how it’s her fault, because she told people about the baby, and Buzz tries to calm her down. Josh is pretty stoic, and Maura tells him that it’s okay to be sad. But Josh rebels against the comfort, telling Maura that he doesn’t need anyone’s permission to be sad. It’s all downhill from there: The evening comes to a close with Ali and Syd finishing the dishes alone together, not speaking.

Here’s the kicker: After he leaves, Josh winds up at the grocery store. In a moment of mania, he starts ripping open forbidden food products — ham and Jell-O — and eating them underneath the glare of fluorescent light. No kosher fucks were given.


Season 2, Episode 8: Oscillate

We begin this episode back in 1930s Berlin. Rose and Gittel enter their mother’s kitchen; she wants them to stay at home with her, but they go out in the same salon from episode 1 to dance, listen to music, and drink. Rose has become more liberated right before our eyes. Together, the girls play the night away. As they are going to sleep at the institute, Gittel places a long chain around Rose’s neck; the pearl ring that Josh gave Raquel as an engagement ring placeholder is hanging from the strand — it is a Pfefferman family heirloom.

Soon thereafter, the mother discovers the ring among Rose’s things. She places it in an iron cast and pours what appears to be chocolate over the top of it one night when Rose is out with Gittel at the institute. That night, at a glorious party and performance with Gittel is performing and Rose is in the audience, their mother arrives unexpectedly, telling her children that their visas have arrived and they have to get their things together to leave Germany. Gittel refuses, saying she wants to stay at the institute, despite the fact that her mother begs the institute director to convince her to go. (The reason she won’t leave is because the passport identities her as male and she doesn’t want to return to that identity, no matter the sacrifices that may entail.)

Sid and Ali still haven’t resolved their conversation from Yom Kippur. During a hike together, Syd is pushing Ali to explain her commitment to their relationship. Ultimately, she tells Ali that she won’t be going to the Idyllwild women’s festival with her and issues an ultimatum about their relationship. Later, Ali stops by Lesley’s house to drop off her application essay and discovers that she is dating a very young woman named Bella. According to Lesley’s friend who is in the house when Ali arrives, Lesley has always liked her partners to be very young.

Maura is at the center looking for a way to volunteer and comes across Davina, who's ignoring her and still pissed. She hasn't moved out yet, but Maura wants to know if they can work on their friendship. Davina seems skeptical, but is game to try.

Josh is definitely manic after the Raquel breakup and not owning up to it on the surface. He decides that now is the time to purchase a Mercedes van so that he can chauffeur FUSSY PUSS around during an upcoming tour. At the dealership, he’s super aggressive with the salesperson — and creepily refers to himself as “daddy” more than once — before talking the guy down on the van’s price. Later, he’s got the band members in the car, cruising down the road, when another driver cuts him off without a blinker. Josh freaks out, screaming and swearing at the driver, and terrifying the women. Margaux, the lead guitarist, convinces him to pull off on to the shoulder. Josh practically jumps out of the car and starts hyperventilating.

In the midst of all this drama, Ali convinces Sarah to join her at Idyllwild Festival. The girls are en route to Shelley’s house, where Buzz is cooking up food on the grill for an island-themed brunch that is pretty un-Shelley-like. Buzz and Shelley seem super happy together and chilled out. In fact, Shelley confesses to the girls that while she was finally elected to the condo board, she attended the first meeting and decided to quit — so she can take an Alaskan cruise with Buzz instead. The Pfefferman daughters seem totally taken aback by their mom’s newfound sense of adventure. They sneak off to the bathroom together to discuss the budding Buzz-Shelley relationship. While they are in there, they realize that Shelley is happy for the first time in a long time — and that she’s thrown away all their childhood artwork. Ali is especially incensed about that last part and drags Sarah to a thrift store, where their mom donated their things, to track her old paintings down.

In another part of town, Shea and Maura are sitting in Davina’s kitchen: Shea is helping Maura prep to become a volunteer for a trans suicide-prevention hotline. Maura is having a hard time wrapping her head around what a real call would be like, so they role play. Along the way, Shea admits that, in real life, she has had suicidal thoughts, even now. Maura becomes immediately protective and caring, and we get a glimpse at the kind of parent she might have been to her own children when they were hurting.

Later, Maura heads over to Ali’s apartment, where Sarah and Ali are going through their camping supplies. Sarah has decided to join Ali on the Idyllwild trip, and invite Maura along, too. In the final scene, they sit together and page through photographs of Maura as a child that have been edited to reflect her true gender identity.

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Season 2, Episode 9: Man On The Land

Sarah, Ali, and Maura set off for Idyllwild in the car — they’re having a grand old time, listening to lady rock and just hanging out together. When they arrive to make camp, the Indigo Girls are playing onstage and the fest seems like the most female-friendly and fun place ever. But there’s something a little off for Maura: While she’s wandering around on her own, she meets a gorgeous woman named Vicky (played by Anjelica Huston) that says only “born women” are technically allowed on the grounds. From that moment on, Maura, who was enjoying being a part of the community, is a little on edge and clearly worried about being outed.

Ali and Sarah aren’t paying much attention to what Maura’s up to, though — they’re on their own missions. Ali hunts down Leslie’s poetry reading and casually reveals to her that she’s split up with Syd. Leslie mentions that she and her super-young girlfriend Bella have called it quits, too. But before they can really get anything romantic going, Ali brings up the fact that Maura is also at the festival and Leslie insists they go look for her because of an anti-trans attitude among some attendees. They set off to search for Maura together.

In another part of the woods, Sarah runs into a woman she knows from the kid’s school, Jocelyn, who lays down a harsh (but much-needed) life lesson. She’s also a lesbian who left her male partner for another woman. But when Sarah revels in the fact that she’s found a fellow “outcast,” Jocelyn corrects her: “Nobody cares what you do,” she says — kindly but firmly, as if she knows that someone needed to say just that to Sarah. “Forgive yourself. It’s okay. Move on, man.” It’s powerful stuff that catalyzes the next scene: Sarah happening upon a dominant-submissive scene, in which one woman is being lead around on a leash by another. She decides to explore some light S&M for herself.

While Sarah’s getting smacked on the buns with a wooden paddle and Ali and Leslie are off getting to know one another better, Maura is waiting in line for the bathroom at the porta-potties. As men come to change out the water supply, the women in line begin to chant “man on the land” aggressively. Another woman in line explains to her that this chant happens whenever a man is spotted on the premises; Maura starts to get scared and beelines back to her tent to find Ali. But even after the sun goes down, none of the Pfeffermans have reconnected.

Turns out, that’s in part because Ali stopped looking for her. (Why didn’t anyone think to establish a meeting spot at the tents?!) When Maura finally tracks down her younger daughter, she’s sitting in a circle with Leslie’s friends. Maura — clearly anxious — tells Ali that they need to leave. But Ali convinces Maura to stick around for one beer. Of course, that turns into a mess, because the women in the circle get into a debate about what “women born women” means. The original festival founders set the criteria for who was allowed to attend and intentionally discluded trans women. The definition is limited to people who were “born with a vagina and a uterus.” (This story thread was lifted from real life: This year, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival closed its doors, in part because of controversial attitudes about the exclusion of trans women.)

The conversation about what constitutes womanhood — and the right to be at the festival — continues and Maura gets increasingly worked up. Ultimately, Ali partially sides with the women who think that trans women shouldn’t be allowed on the grounds, causing Maura to get even more upset and leave. When Maura gets back to her tent to pack her things, she can’t seem to get it unzipped. In a culminating moment of stress and fear, she begins yelling “man on the land!” over and over again, outing herself before anyone else can call her out for not fitting in.

Ali goes in search of Maura in the darkness. But along the way, her imagination takes over: She looks down and realizes that suddenly, she’s wearing one red shoe and one white, each with a tinkling bell on the toe — a link back to an earlier episode in which she explained that Jewish women were once forced to wear shoes like these so that people could hear them coming.

The present-day scene shifts to ‘30s Berlin, the day both Rose and Gittel are at the institute together. Nazis arrive and begin rounding up all the texts and papers, effectively erasing the history and scientific exploration into trans issues. The trans men and women are rounded up and taken away; Gittel is dragged off along with them. Rose watches, weeping, but can do nothing to stop what’s happening. Ali stands in the background, watching it all unfold.

When she returns to reality, she makes her way to Leslie’s tent, where the poet begins undressing her. They kiss for the first time and then the scene fades to darkness. The camera shifts to Maura, who is walking out of the festival alone in the darkness — until her new friend Vicky drives up behind her and offers a lift. Maura gets into the car, and together, they leave the Idyllwild grounds.


Season 2, Episode 10: Grey Green Brown & Copper

Apparently, there’s more between Vicky and Maura than just platonic friendship (we definitely saw that coming). When they left the festival, they stopped at a motel for the night. After some discussion, they decide to spoon in bed, Vicky’s arm looped around Maura as they fall asleep.

Next, we shift from present day to passenger ship out at sea: Rose and her mother — Pfefferman ancestors, we know now — are on their way to America. Gittel is obviously missing, and the mom knows how much this is hurting Rose, so she hands her what appears to be a brick of chocolate. When Rose breaks it, the ring Gittel gave her (which their mother saved from the apartment) is inside. In this moment, it becomes crystal clear that Rose is actually Maura’s mother.

Sarah and Ali have also returned from the festival. They’re spending some quality sibling time at the Palisades house’s pool. Josh is in the kitchen, making breakfast, when he cracks an egg and discovers that it has a bloody yoke (possibly a reference to the loss of the baby he wanted to have with Raquel?), so he pours himself a bowl of cereal and joins his sisters on the patio. All the Pfefferman kids end up in the pool for a little swim sesh and have an underwater tea party together, trying to channel some of their own childhood innocence.

Back at the hotel, Vicky and Maura are lying in bed together and decide to have sex. But Maura isn’t totally sure how all of this is going to work with her new gender identity. Vicky takes charge and is careful to treat Maura like a woman (for example, by calling her penis an over-sized clit, which seems like a thoughtful way of going about it). When Vicky takes her shirt off and reveals her double mastectomy scars, the sex becomes somehow more meaningful. What happens in this sex scene is that we go from thinking about sex as pertaining to certain body parts — and what we think they should look like — to two people enjoying one another’s bodies in a moment. It’s really beautiful and Maura seems relieved and relaxed. Come to think of it: This might be the first time she’s slept with anyone but Shelley in a long, long time.

In the Palisades, the trio of adult siblings climb out of the pool. They’re hanging out at the house, watching television, and snuggling together in the bedroom. Ali notices that the pearl ring is on a chain, hanging on the bed post. She asks if she can have it, and Josh says yes.

After their sexual encounter, Maura and Vicky head to a coffeeshop to talk. Maura reveals to Vicky that she hasn’t seen her mother in three years and comes around to the idea that she needs to break that cycle. But when she asks Vicky to go with her, her new lover declines: Vicky says that she needs to keep certain boundaries up. But they end on a good note. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of this character in upcoming seasons.

In the next scene, we find out that Sarah has a new weekly appointment with the S&M woman from Idyllwild. Once a week, she goes there to get spanked, pays an hourly rate, and heads out. It’s like therapy — and it maybe seems to be helping her work out some issues.

In the meantime, Ali heads over to UCLA to talk to Leslie and inform her that she’s officially received her undergraduate diploma. Leslie tells Ali that she’d like her to be one of her teaching assistants for the following year — but if they’re going to be romantically involved, it’s an either-or situation. Ali’s got a lot to think about. But later, on the train to go see her grandmother, she tells Maura that she’s considering “studying” with Leslie, leaving us to wonder if she’s just testing the waters or she’s truly decided to pursue an academic path.

Also on the train: Ali apologies to Maura about siding with the Idyllwild circle during the discussion about including trans women at the festival, adding that she wouldn’t have brought Maura had she’s known about the policy. But, of course, what Maura really wants to know is if Ali indeed known the rule, would she still have attended the festival? Ali evades the question; Maura confesses that she’s nervous about going to see her mother, Rose, for the first time in so long.

In Marina del Rey, Josh is having a beer with Buzz at Shelley’s condo. They hear a noise and Buzz wants to go investigate. They find a duck who is clearly hurt. Buzz swaddles the bird in a jacket and then hands it over to Josh to hold; it lays its head on Josh’s shoulder, quiets down and looks like a resting child against his chest. Together, they bring the bird into the bathroom, sitting side-by-side on the edge of the tub. Josh confesses to Buzz that he’s going through a rocky time on a personal front and Buzz suggests to Josh that at least part of that has to do with the fact that he recently lost his father — meaning Maura.

Josh says that his dad hasn’t died. But Buzz points out that “Maura isn’t Mort” and that Josh needs to take some time to mourn the loss. Josh says that it’s not “politically correct to say you miss someone who has transitioned,” to which buzz responds that this isn’t about being P.C., it’s about saying goodbye. Josh begins to cry. Buzz hugs him and the bird swims in the tub behind them.

Ali and Maura arrive at the nursing home, where Maura sits down beside her mother and tries to explain her transition. For a moment, Rose seems to recognize Maura — but then, her sister bursts into the room. She’s not happy to see Maura sitting with their mother. Before things can get ugly though, Rose notices that Ali is wearing Gittel’s pearl ring. She reaches for it, reuniting with a long-lost heirloom.

The scene shifts to Los Angeles. It’s 1934 in a neighborhood called Boyle Heights; Rose and her mother are walking purposefully to Rose’s father’s house. A young woman answers the door. Apparently, the father has a new wife and child. We find out that the father abandoned them and began a new life in America — but he wants to know where Gershon, a.k.a. Gittel — is. The parents begin to argue about visas and their children. Rose’s father lies and pretends that he has been looking for her. Rose and her mother stalk out of the house, their arms around one another, clearly upset. They spit in the doorway as the father cries and his new wife stares after them, frightened.

Back in modern-day Los Angeles, Sarah goes to visit Len and finally cops to the fact that she’s the one who got into Melanie’s makeup kit. She presents him with a new one and he confesses that they broke up. Len tells Sarah that Melanie thought he was boring, and in what might be the most sincere moment of the entire second season, Sarah kindly assures him that he is absolutely not. She’s apparently made a breakthrough when it comes to the constant selfishness thing: In addition to dropping in on Len, Sarah goes to see Raquel at the temple and finally talk.

Maura, Ali, and Maura’s sister pack up Rose and take her to a beach to look out at the ocean. The scene quickly shifts to 1930s Los Angeles one more time. A still very-young Rose is having a baby; her husband and mother sit talking in the waiting room. The husband insists that the baby will be a girl and that she will be named Faye. But Rose ends up delivering a baby boy — we can only assume he will grow up to be Mort, who is actually Maura all along.

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