One of the best parts of Pose so far has been its absolutely amazing soundtrack full of retro radio hits and old-school homo disco bangers. But the music cues were a little bit on the nose during this episode. It starts off with Elektra and “Daddy Dick” getting it on in the apartment he keeps for her and Sade’s classic “The Sweetest Taboo” is playing. What could that taboo possibly be? Could it be a reference to what it is about Elektra that turns him on so much?
That taboo is gone now and Daddy Dick doesn’t like the idea of, in Elektra’s words, “going for a test drive in a brand-new pussy.” We know from previous episodes that he’s not even down with playing with what has been removed, it seems like what gets Dick off is being able to have complete control over another person: sexually, financially, and even bodily. He kicks her out on the spot.
This episode poses a whole lot of problems for Elektra. She goes back to the apartment she keeps for her house and shouts at them about the new rules now that she’s living there. It’s true, shit really does roll downhill, even in the ball scene. We find out that she’s months behind on her rent because she used all of her money for her operation and is about to be evicted. Lulu and Candy rebel against her and decide to move out and start their own house out of a walkup in Harlem. It is the House of Ferocity. (Good idea. Bad name.)
She can’t find another arrangement with a rich gentleman either, because it seems like just about every man wants what she got rid of. She found her freedom, but it came at a horrible price. She tumbles all the way back down to the bottom, stripping at Peep World again while listening to Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” The on-the-nose song titles come full circle.
The worst scene for Elektra though is when she shows up to Daddy Dick’s and tries to go upstairs and the doorman blocks her. This is a man who was seemingly once her friend but now that she’s out of Dick’s life says he would “love to break your freak face.” She realizes that the passage into the “straight” world that she’s always craved and thought she achieved wasn’t earned herself, it was a side effect of being with Dick. She also learned that she was easily replaced with a gorgeous Latinx half her age.
“Private Dancer” was also playing for Angel who found herself back working at the piers once Stan dumped her. She had quite a reversal of fortune with her man. Since he left his wife they were living together in her apartment like boyfriend and girlfriend, even spending a Friday night sitting home watching the proto-gay classic My Two Dads. Finally he asks her to take him to a ball because he wants to see what she’s going on about.
The night she takes him was great for viewers but bad for Stan. The theme of the runway was “bizarre” and the looks were a garish mix of Leigh Bowery, Amanda Lepore, and the weird sex monster from the first season of American Horror Story. There was even one who looked like a Cheeto that got stuck in a car’s tailpipe when it backfired. They were some of the best lewks of the series, but Stan just saw a bunch of circus freaks and didn’t feel like he belonged at all.
That’s because he didn’t, and honestly, he shouldn’t. He’s a straight white dude from the suburbs. He’s never had to feel like he didn’t belong before. Like he says, his life is in every movie, TV show, and magazine on the planet. The ball scene is a creation for people that didn’t feel like they fit in anywhere else. They made it in their image and they shouldn’t have to change it around to make some cultural tourist from New Jersey feel comfortable.
The first time he’s in a place where he feels like an outsider he completely loses his shit. Outside of the ball he thought that by living on the fringes with Angel he’d have a bit of the authenticity he thinks he lacked, but he’s not going to find that in hardship. He’s not even going to find that in someone else’s experience. He can only find that within himself and trying to buy it by buying Angel is a shortcut that was never going to work.
However, dumping her, taking all of the furniture from the apartment, and (presumably) hightailing it back to Wayne, New Jersey, (or wherever the hell he lives) doesn’t really seem like Stan’s style. Also, if he put Angel out on the street, why did she have to go back to hooking at the piers? Why couldn’t she just go back to Peep World? I was waiting for her to run into Elektra and see all of those chickens finally coming home to roost.
At least Angel has a home to go back to with the Evangelistas, something that Papi doesn’t have anymore. As soon as Blanca finds his pager she knows that he’s dealing drugs. There are only two kinds of people in the ‘80s who had pagers, doctors and drug dealers, and I don’t think Papi was writing prescriptions. She knows that he’s dealing, but doesn’t kick him out after he lies and says he isn’t. Why? Well, we needed to get Ricky in the mix.
There is this whole elaborate plot where she doesn’t just go down to the pier to catch him, she asks her “children” about it first. Angel and Damon lie about what is going on because they don’t want him kicked to the curb. Ricky rats him out though because he’s afraid he’s going to lose the only thing close to a home and a family that he’s ever known.
Papi ends up back with a friend of his mother’s who is a drug dealer and gets him from peddling weed on the piers to pushing crack rock on the street. As soon as Blanca said in the first scene that if he got arrested he shouldn’t make her his one phone call, we all know that Papi was going to get arrested before the hour was over. He has a close scrape with the law but gets off clean.
Blanca is torn up about putting Papi out on the street, but she’s kicked up an unlikely friendship with Helena, Damon’s dance teacher. She tells Blanca that if she let him stay they children would have lost all respect for her and would try to get away with everything. Helena is right, but it’s not an easy choice to make.
When Blanca sees Papi at the ball and he says that he quit dealing, she’s excited for him to come back home. But it’s too late. He’s already joined the House of Ferocity, and they want to take Blanca down. That scene was the best of Pose. It can be real and gritty featuring the stories of well-drawn characters, but it can also be an escapist melodrama at the same time. It’s best when it’s doing both things simultaneously, and that means I can’t wait for the killer ball in the season’s grand finale.