Transparent Season 1, Episode 3 Recap: Being Alive Is Being Sad


Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Beth Dubber

Everything’s changing so fast for the Pfeffermans. Maura is out to Sarah, and she’s packing up the house her family has lived in for decades. She tells Sarah she wants to come out to Joshy next and asks if Sarah is truly okay with her transition. In her own lesbian-teen-CW-drama daydream world, Sarah calls Maura “inspiring.” It’s not the compliment it might otherwise be. Sarah is, once again, only thinking of herself. She giddily talks about falling in love with Tammy, with no regard for Len’s feelings. She’s excited to have someone “moved by loving you,” which is sort of an immature thing to say, and when Maura suggests she communicate openly with Len, Sarah fires back, “You can’t tell someone that.” Maura also implies she’s never been in love, a sad admission that Sarah, of course, breezes past.

Sarah is doing this thing that gay and lesbian people maybe do where they, like everyone else, lump the trans community in with them. Sarah talks to Maura like they are co-conspirators in queerness, and it makes Maura uncomfortable. The paramours Sarah and Tammy are also leaving the dumbest digital trail of texts and calls. Sarah goes through some unopened cereal boxes and finds letters and photos from Rita to Josh, dating back years. Oh no. We learned that Josh and Rita met because Rita was their babysitter, which is called out by Sarah. This jab prompts Josh to go over to his dad’s house.

Speaking of Josh, his girlfriend is named Kaya. I literally had no idea. But anyway, she’s not calling him back. He tells Kaya’s bandmate they might get married, and she calls him “a weird, sad, old fellow” and asks if he’s living in a dream world. (He is. They all are.)

Ali and Syd (Carrie Brownstein) decide to do “moon rocks,” which is apparently just like E except you don’t need the Xanax comedown. This generation and their pills, man. Ali is planning a threeway with herself, her fuck-buddy Derek, and her fuck-buddy’s roommate, Mike. “A spit-roasting,” she explains to a grossed-out Syd. She describes Ali’s attraction to black men as “classic Ali,” which is also gross and sort of racist. Yo, Syd. Cool it.

Maura is nervous to come out to Joshy. He meets him at home, dressed as Mort, hiding his nail polish. Josh says he smells perfume and asks if Mort has a girlfriend. Mort lies. Josh says to wear perfume like that she must be a freak. Mort is defensive. Flashback to 1992: Mort is buying a trans magazine at a bookstore, and the guy beside him is eyeing him but then: SURPRISE! He’s trans, too. They banter a bit. The other man’s name is Mark, and he is also married. Mort gets back to the car where the kids are waiting. The kid playing Jay Duplass looks exactly like him. Is that actually his kid?

Ali talks her dude into doing the moon rocks. She asks her boyfriend’s roomie if he wants to get high. He says, “What you got?” in the most hilariously casual way like he’s down for whatever.

Josh is reassigned from Glitterish to a new band because Kaya told his boss she didn’t “feel safe.” He throws a chair against a window, but it doesn’t break because life isn’t always cinematic. He is so fired. Can’t imagine why Kaya was so worried, right? Throwing a chair is sure sign of stability.

Sarah comes home to Len and tells him she feels overwhelmed. He doesn’t buy it. Len wants to know if she’s feeling okay. She breaks down, and in a whiny childish voice that is embarrassingly selfish and put-on, she says, “I don’t want you to be mad at me.” She’d apparently never told him she dated Tammy throughout college and then says, “I was in love with her. I am in love with her.” Len tries to call their therapist. He blinks back tears and says, “You’re not allowed to do this, you know?” which is exactly the kind of stupid sentence you say during a breakup. Sarah calls Tammy to say she left Len, but when Sarah gets to her house Tammy’s playing with her family, and Sarah is left on the outside, looking in.

Josh sees Kaya (Alison Sudol) at her house, and he is furious. She calls his bluff, saying he doesn’t care about her. She already had the abortion anyway. Josh is, at best, mildly annoyed. This is, after all, all about him, isn’t it?

Davina helps Maura move in and says coming out to boy children, like Josh, is the hardest because they never stop seeing you as their father. I hope Davina isn’t just a 2-D sounding board for Maura’s trans problems, like the wise old queen these characters are usually portrayed as. But I have faith in Jill Soloway, and I want to see more of Davina.

Ali and Mike happily take the drugs. Derek is a bit more reluctant. They get wicked high. The dirty talk in this show’s sex scenes has been splendidly real so far. I love it. “Is that my pussy?” is a great line that sounds really good during sex and really bad any other time. She gets her threeway, sort of — until she brings up how they probably want to fuck each other like, you know, man, like, through her body as, like, a vessel. Derek kicks her out. Gaby Hoffmann has a hilarious scene of being high in a car, because look, who hasn’t been kicked out of a threesome and taken a cab back to their house super fucked up? (No one else? Really? Lame-os.)

“Being alive is being sad,” says Tigron the Uber driver, because cabbies are always sages the same way trans women are always sages. Exotic Buddhas for sad white people. Ali asks him all kinds of questions about his family and why he buys candy bars for his customers, then she apologizes for the Armenian genocide.

Josh reads letters from Rita about getting married and having his baby. He’s crying. This woman really did a number on him — maybe still is.

Sarah sleeps at her father’s empty house. Ali plays in a fountain outside her apartment. Mort calls and Ali tells him to come over right now. But instead of her father, she’s about to meet Maura.

P.S.: I see you, Ethan Kuperberg and Ethan Sandler, in the music management company scene.

Fave lines:

“Are you such a fetus you’ve never in love before?” “Yeah, like a million times.” — Josh and Glitterish.

“All I need is a safe place to rest my keppe.” — Maura, on becoming minimalist.

“She’s not a freak.” — Mort, when Josh assumes his new girlfriend is a freak because of her perfume. Get it? He’s talking about Maura. She’s talking about herself.

Watch full episodes on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

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