Having failed to tell her son Josh (Jay Duplass) the truth, Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) instead comes out to her youngest daughter, Ali (Gaby Hoffman).
Let’s bitch it out…
Interestingly we don’t see the actual confession, we only see the immediate aftermath as Ali comes down off of her high and disappointingly struggles to reconcile this new truth about what she coins her ‘Moppa’.
In hindsight, I feel like I should have seen this outcome coming, but I had hoped that since Ali is the youngest Pfefferman child, she would be the most open to her father’s admission. This neglects the fact that she is also the closest to “him”, however. Still it’s kinda heartbreaking to hear her ask Sarah (Amy Landecker) why Maura is “doing this now” as though the timing is such an inconvenience for her.
The scenes at the mall as Maura and the girls go for brunch is riddled with anxiety. We’re constantly waiting for something to go wrong, so it’s a credit to Jill Soloway and her writers that even when they deliver on expectations, it’s still powerful. The makeover serves several functions: as the New York Observer notes, this is the first time we’ve seen Maura treated like a normal woman in public (tellingly by a gay sales clerk). Unfortunately it also exposes how unprepared Maura is for everyday social expectations of women like make-up, as well as how susceptible she is in her desire to fit in (just say no to that expensive crap, Maura!). It’s also another example of Ali’s cunning as she uses the makeover to scam Moppa’s money by returning all of her merchandise after the fact.
This all leads to the crisis in the women’s bathroom. I’ve been waiting for some kind of public confrontation and when it comes, it is suitably heartbreaking. As soon as we see the line forming and the girl notices Maura, it’s clear what is to come. Still, that doesn’t cushion the blow of hearing the insensitive harpy mother tear into Maura and Sarah (Ali conveniently hides in the stall, refusing to engage and looking like she wants to disappear). I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with Sarah’s immaturity when it comes to her relationship with Tammy (Melora Hardin), but I was blown away at how protective she’s become of Maura. It’s a credit to the series that the characters can provoke such complex reactions.
Maura’s final scenes are pitch-perfect. Following the bathroom incident, Maura uses a port-a-potty in the middle of nowhere. The abandoned construction site is both visually reflective of her isolation and connotatively an inherently masculine environment, suggesting that the confrontation at the mall has driven her back into the masculine realm, as far from a female environment as possible. Back at the Shangri-La, she discovers that the neighbours are throwing a loud party on the terrace. Her pounding on the fence and protests that other people exist is clearly misplaced anger and frustration. After all of this time hiding inside Mort and never allowing herself to be seen, Maura has finally embraced who she is, but society is unwilling/unable to accept that. It’s crushing.
- The hints that Josh was sexually abused by his babysitter as a teen are confirmed. There’s clearly still some manipulation occurring here, evident in the power that Rita (Brett Paesel) holds over him. The fact that he’s not only still in contact with her, but apparently paying for her living expenses is highly disconcerting. Also, I’m willing to contest Rita’s assertion that Maura and Shelley (an unseen Judith Light) knew about the affair. Something tells me that they had no idea.
- As expected, Tammy is holding Sarah at arm’s length, refusing to tell her wife about the affair until Sarah literally tells her off. I hold no hope for this pairing, but it seems clear that Sarah is going to have to go through the ups and downs before she realizes that Tammy is playing her.
- Finally, in flashback, we learn that Maura originally named herself Daphne Sparkles. Props to Marcy/Mark (Bradley Whitford) for calling her out on the cheap, drag queen-ish sounding name. It’s fascinating to learn that Marcy named her because it suggests that Marcy knew/saw Maura before she saw herself.
- Sarah (explaining to Ali why they can’t tell Josh themselves): “Outing a trans person, it’s like an act of violence. It’s like stripping someone naked in the middle of the cafeteria and making them go eat by themselves”
Your turn: what did you think of Maura, Sarah and Ali’s bonding time? Were you as horrified as me by the bathroom incident? Is Josh deluded about his childhood molestation? And when will Sarah wake up and realize that Tammy is using her? Sound off below
Transparent is available in its entirety on Amazon. Since we were only able to cover episode four this week, I’ll be sure to speed things up so we’ll cover episodes 5-7 next Friday.