Pose Recap: Jingle Balls

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A scene from Pose. Photo: FX Networks. All Rights Reserved.
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Giving and Receiving Season 1 Episode 3
Editor's Rating 4 stars

I didn’t want to make this judgment without necessary evidence but after three episodes I am confident of my first impression: Damon is the living worst. He’s either a caricature of optimism, like when he talks about how Christmas is the most important thing in his entire life, or he’s a simpering child throwing a tempter tantrum like when Blanca tells him he can’t compete in the Snow Ball because he was 30 minutes late to his dance class. There’s also something about the way he moves his limbs, all gangly and without direction, like he’s a rag doll being flushed down the toilet.

Though he’s supposed to be 17, Damon is written like he’s 7. He may be making out with Ricky, all goo-goo eyes and breakfast in bed, but he’s certainly not ready for an adult relationship because he’s certainly not an adult. I think that’s a point of his characterization — that he never got to really grow up because he was a gay man living in an oppressive household — but he needs to have at least a little bit of maturity. This is either a fault of the writers for making him way too whiny or a fault of Ryan Jamaal Swain, who plays Damon, for not giving any nuance to his cross between acting childlike and childish. Either way, Damon is annoying.

This week Damon got to throw quite a few hissy fits. When he shows up late to dance class because he was working on choreography for the upcoming Christmas-themed Snow Ball, his teacher, Helena, scolds him. Initially he’s all sass and excuses, trying to throw it back in her face, like he somehow has more authority than her. Finally, he backs down and apologizes, but she throws him out of class.

Blanca goes to meet with Helena, and I was incredulous about the whole scene. Helena is the dean of dance who is visiting her former students dying of AIDS in the hospital. She is a busy lady. She does not have time to meet with the friends of each of her classmates, which is exactly what Blanca is, though she fashions herself as a “mother.” But then it makes sense, because this did seem like a mother of a fifth grader getting called down to school because her son was misbehaving. Maybe what draws Blanca and Damon to each other is that they are able to have this mother-son relationship even though they seem to be only a few years apart.

When Blanca bans Damon from the big dance, he freaks out again, but she finds him crying in the dark staring at the Christmas tree yearning for his lost innocence and all is forgiven. God, that was the worst scene of the entire hour and every time Damon is on the screen I just want to fast-forward until I can see Elektra again.

She continues to steal the show every episode. This time we find out that she’s on the top of the list for gender reassignment surgery, as they called it then, or gender confirmation surgery, as we call it now. However, she doesn’t quite have the money. She hatches a plan and enlists her two minions in the best scam of the whole episode: to distract a fat Santa ringing the bell in front of a Salvation Army donation bucket and then run off with the cash.

It’s probably bad to laugh at how fierce they looked, in their coordinated furs, while robbing a charity organization, but as the ladies point out, they are a charity themselves. They’re disenfranchised, forgotten by the system, and just as in need as some of the people that money would go to help. And the Salvation Army has a long history of anti-LGBT discrimination. I’m not saying it’s right to steal, but if Elektra had to steal the money from someone, hitting up the Salvation Army probably wasn’t the worst choice. That she uses the $2,300 they “mopped” for the deposit on her surgery is a textbook definition of irony. I’m glad that Elektra is getting what she wants and also that we’re learning a bit more about her, rather than her just seeming like a Disney villainess in couture clothing.

Stan was also giving to a charitable cause, i.e. welcoming Angel to her alcove studio apartment, outfitted with a Pepto-Bismol-pink wraparound couch that is the first thing Jennifer Convertible ever designed and a hot-pink boom box in the kitchen that is so retro chic I would buy one for my kitchen if it were equipped with Spotify. Angel makes Stan promise to spend just an hour with her on Christmas Day because she hates Christmas. It turns out her father once beat her for stealing a pair of red patent-leather pumps while Christmas shopping and she’s hated everything Kris Kringle ever since.

The problem is that Stan is having some difficulties with his wife Patty, entirely created by his serpentine boss Matt. (In my fantasies, Matt and Elektra get married and become James Bond–type villains who want to take over the world and that is what season two of Pose is about and it’s the best show ever.) Matt is mad that Stan is doing a little too well at work so he shows up at Stan’s house when he’s not around (how did he know?) and drops some hints with Patty. He also tries to get into her pants and almost succeeds. She pushes him away but these two are going to bone, right? They’re totally going to bone.

Stan corrects all of Patty’s suspicions, but that means he can’t leave the house and Angel is left all alone singing “Santa Baby” and baking sugar cookies. She then skulks off to Blanca’s house where the two throw a burning turkey out the window and it’s like a scene from a great Friends episode except that it’s not homo- or transphobic in the slightest.

The House of Evangelista, plus Pray Tell, ends up at a Chinese restaurant where Blanca gives everyone their gifts, including a pair of red pumps for Angel and a camera for Pray Tell, because he helped her see the world in color. She even got something for dastardly Ricky, who seems choked up at being recognized. Oh, girl, that is when I lost it. Tears everywhere, all over the couch, all over my shirt, all over my DVD collection of the films of John Waters, just absolutely everywhere. Even Pray Tell joked about how she was making everyone sob and, at that moment, I loved absolutely everyone around that table. Well, except for Damon.

Pose Recap: Jingle Balls