Transparent Season 1, Episode 9 Recap: No Extreme Measures


Looking Up
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


Looking Up
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Amazon

Ed is in a coma, and he’s going to die. Maura and Shelley talk about Ed’s end-of-life directives, in which he asked for “no extreme measures.” Shelley is very stressed about taking care of him, and Maura suggests they “put him somewhere,” but Shelley won’t hear it.

Back in 1994, Mort tells Shelley he lied about the conference. He tells her the truth about cross-dressing camp, explaining a room full of straight men in dresses. “Wives come,” he says. “I’d love to share it with you.” It’s so adorable and earnest, and God, Tambor, stop breaking my heart.

Did we know this already? Apparently, Tammy is sober after being addicted to cocaine, so she wants Sarah to flush her weed because drugs are drugs, man. She does. Tammy, putting up with no bad influences, has also kicked Bianca out of the house, and OH, GREAT, she’s staying with Josh. Perfect. Just perfect. Josh is actually an idiot. Bianca does some teenagery thing, and Josh is like, “Oh, this is a child.” But he will probably have sex with her anyway because he can’t not.

In 2014, Shelley asks Maura, “Now that you want to be a woman all the time, do you still want to date women?” Maura says she’s still herself, so yes. Shelley giggles that she’s a lesbian. The contrast between younger Shelley and older Shelley is one I think a lot of older people, and certainly my own parents, experienced, which is the concept of becoming more liberal as you age. You’d think it’d be the opposite, but actually, getting older allows you to stop worrying so much about what other people think of you or of anyone else. While 1994 Shelley is devastated by Mort as Maura, present-day Shelley is like, “So, what, who cares?”

At Sarah and Len’s old place, the kids run to greet their dad. Because Sarah is the worst, she immediately starts bitching about Tammy and her remodeling to Len. You know that person who goes on the reality dating show and is like, “I don’t want any drama,” and then proceeds to cause the most drama? That person is Sarah.

She makes fun of him a bit, saying she needs to smoke weed now because some guy came to Shabbat and pulled a knife. Len looks sheepish, then whines, “You never got high with me.” They flirt. Sarah starts to explain a vape pen to him and he’s all, “Oh, like this?” and pulls out his own vape. If Len wasn’t played by Rob Huebel, whom I personally find hot as hell, I would have no use for him.

At synagogue, Josh waits outside for Rabbi Raquel and apologizes. She’s like, “Nope. Bye.” Josh wants to wait while she teaches her class. She is reluctant, as she should be, because he sucks. I hate how his emotional manipulation of Raquel is totally going to work, isn’t it?

Ali tells Syd about how she walked into Dale’s house and it looked totally different — no longer a cabin, now just a regular house. Syd doesn’t really think much of it. She says when she was a kid, her mom made her learn the alphabet with cutouts of letters because she’s a tactile learner. Ali, she decides, is a vaginal learner. She learns through putting things in her vag. Syd by-accident-on-purpose lets slip to Ali that she and Josh hang out and trade records.

Sarah and Len smoke together and continue to flirt. Len has a date with his assistant Melanie, and Sarah is like, “Ew, you wanted to hit that for four years while we were together!” (Bitch, you cheated on him!) Len says the important thing is that he didn’t until they were broken up. (Unlike you, Sarah!) Sarah asks what Melanie’s tits are like. She worries they’re better than hers. “Yeah,” Len jokes, “our main problem was your tits were too big for me.” Sarah rolls around on the bed, knowing exactly what she’s doing and loving the power she still holds over her ex-husband. “Tammy and I agree on two things,” Len says. “Both of your tits.”

Josh and Raquel hang out at his house when Bianca comes in. Josh is like, “No big deal, she’s living here.” Raquel freaks out. She is not into Josh’s loosey-goosey lifestyle. She is, as Beyoncé says, a grown woman. “I don’t know how to play games. I’m not into games,” she says.

Josh has the response of a college senior trying to get laid by a freshman girl and says, “Why are we in a rush?” He throws in her face that she brought up her dying eggs on their first date. Raquel is pissed. She could get fired for fucking a congregant, does he even care about that? Josh says, “I’m not a congregant.” Raquel counters that he’s on the temple newsletter, so he is. Josh yells back that he will gladly unsubscribe. Also they haven’t even had sex, so …

And now they’re having sex.

I want to get a cake that says “Congrats on All Your Healthy Decisions!” and then smash it in Josh’s face.

At the same time, Ali is finding out about Syd and Josh’s hookup, and Ali is bewildered that Syd could do this without considering Ali’s feelings. Syd breaks down and, with tears in her eyes, says, “You make me feel bad all the time.”

Syd brings up the time she drove to visit Ali at college because Ali invited her and then Syd just hung out with Ali’s roommate while she fucked some guy, or the time she just bought Ali drugs and Ali chose to do them with some guy.

“I feel terrible constantly, constantly,” Syd says. “I like don’t even exist in this. You’re not listening to me.” Carrie Brownstein is acting out of her head in this scene. I am so used to seeing her in comedic roles on Portlandia, so to watch her play this super-sad part is really startling. She’s good. She’s really good.

Ali apologizes. Then Syd drops the real bomb. Since eighth grade, she’s had feelings for Ali, and Ali hurts her all the time. Ali is confused. Syd says if she’s feeling possessive about Syd and Josh, doesn’t that mean she likes Syd — even just a little? Ali can’t handle it and she leaves. Okay, this I did not seeing coming. I don’t really know that the show has given us a compelling reason why Syd would be in love with someone as selfish as Ali is towards her. I’m not sure I buy that Syd would sleep with Josh because she’s been into Ali. Does she just want to be a Pfefferman by any means necessary? This sudden Syd-loves-Ali story line doesn’t sit right with me.

In 1994, Maura shows herself to Shelley for the first time and says, “It’s me. I love you.” Shelley is unmoved. “Was it you when we met? Was it you on our wedding night?” Maura, very vulnerably, says it was. Shelley can’t. She’s done. They’re getting divorced.

Tammy is psyched for burnt-orange chairs. She’s tearing up the inside of the Pfefferman’s old home even though Josh told her not to. Sarah asks her if she ever thinks about Barb and Len. Oh, just those two people whose lives you ruined? How flippant. “They’re on their own path,” Tammy says. Sarah complains to Tammy about Len’s date. Tammy says she sounds jealous. Then, because she’s unflappable, Tammy says, “I know something about being jealous because people have been jealous of me my entire life.” It is so funny, and Melora Hardin delivers it with effortless confidence. Even when she sucks, she rules.

Josh and Raquel are lounging and Bianca is back, but Raquel’s cool with it. Turns out Bianca can sing, and guess what? JOSH IS IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS. Well, isn’t that just super convenient?

Josh, Sarah, and Ali head to their mother’s, and they’re surprised “Moppa” is also there. Ali sits with Ed, still comatose.

Maura is perfecting her Jewish-mother guilt trip when she finally brings up how they ditched her on the night of her big performance. “Seems my kids abandoned me at a critical moment,” Maura says. It reminds me of that old Jewish joke: How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Never mind that, I’ll just sit here in the dark.

The kids start complimenting her and apologizing. Maura’s over it. (Not really.) Anyway, they called them to Shelley’s house because they wanted to give the kids the chance to say good-bye to Ed. They’ve made the choice to let him die. Ali is furious. “You don’t get to decide when he’s done,” she screams. But her mother’s anxiety is through the roof. She can’t keep caring for him alone. Shelley starts crying.

Josh says he calls her. “I don’t want you to call me,” she wails. “I want you to be here.” Judith Light is also killing this scene. Did someone put stellar acting in the water over on the set that day?

Josh offers to text the rabbi. Everyone is like, “Why do you have the rabbi’s number?” Josh, trying to win back his mother’s favor, coyly alludes to them dating. Because it’s been, like, 24 hours since they fucked, so Josh wants to make sure everyone knows. Ali’s eyes bulge in such a way I’m surprised the veins don’t spell F-U.

Josh insists that this girl is different, because men like him always insist this girl is different. He says he’s never felt like this before. Sarah and Shelley are ecstatic, declaring, “I love her for him!” Shelley takes full credit. Ali is so worked up that she has to leave. Josh comes out to ask her what’s up and she confronts him about how he’s been fucking Syd.

Josh says he’s in love with Raquel. Oh, fuck you, Josh. You wouldn’t know what love was if it straddled your stupid face. Maybe I’m being too hard on Josh because of his traumatic sexual past, which gives him some leeway in terms of feeling badly for him. But I have dated way too many Joshes to really extend any more empathy to guys like this.

Sarah, Shelley, and Maura talk about using an overdose of Percocet to kill Ed. They talk about what a great shiva they could have. Tammy has been dying to have people over. (Pun intended.)

As they’re talking, we see from Ed’s point of view. Suddenly, he gets up and tries to leave the house. He wanders blurrily along. Is he really moving, or is this a metaphor for death? Is he “leaving” his body, or physically leaving? It’s unclear because the next scene we see flashes back to 1994.

The kids meet Ed for the first time. (As does the audience; we’ve only ever seen him incapacitated, but now he seems so lively.) He tells a silly dad-joke and the kids look unimpressed. Shelley dotes on him and he says simply, “I’m just here to make you happy.” He’s a much simpler creature than Mort turned out to be, and at the time, he seems like just what Shelley needed.

Ed lifts his glass and cheers, “L’chaim!” which means “to life” in Hebrew. And now we know Ed is dead.

Fave lines:

  • “Please don’t put the Statue of Liberty in my vagina.” —Ali to Syd
  • “You can take a second or two and get your story straight.” —Raquel, who deserves so much better than Josh
  • “We got gay-married before it was fashionable.” —Shelley to Maura

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Transparent Season 1, Episode 9 Recap