Transparent Season 1, Episode 5 Recap: Help Me Out Here


Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars


Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Beth Dubber

Josh is at a bar, trying to meet a girl who isn’t in the music business. He zeroes in on Kristen, a pretty Asian real-estate agent in a pink top. Later, they fuck loudly. Afterwards, she says they could do a whisper listing on his dad’s house and make a ton of money. Josh is listening because it has to do with money, but then he stops because he wants to have more sex. He’s a simple creature.

Sarah and Tammy are also having sex, chanting a new mantra of “no more secrets,” but Sara wonders if now that everything’s out in the open, they’ll “lose their mojo.” Well, that seems immature. Sarah flips over and asks Tammy to “get the dick,” and Tammy starts to use it on her when the phone rings.

The only person not having sex is Ali. She’s at her mother’s because her stepfather Ed is missing. Her mother Shelley (Judith Light) says the temple is sending a rabbi to talk to her, and if Ed isn’t back, she’ll be “the talk of the temple.” Speaking as someone who grew up mega-Jewish, that is the last thing you ever want to be.

At Shangri-La, Davina (Alexandra Billings) is giving herself hormone injections. Maura has all kinds of questions about whether they make you moody. Maura pops some estrogen for the first time and, because of the placebo effect, immediately says, “Oh, my breasts are getting bigger.”

The phone call that interrupted Tammy’s dildo prowess was from her first ex-wife Quinn’s daughter, Bianca. Tammy isn’t Bianca’s mother in any way, but lesbians apparently take care of each other’s kids. Anyway, she is coming over. Sarah asks if this is what will happen when they break up. Tammy says, “We are never ever gonna break up.” Sarah says that’s good because she’s not interested in joining the “lesbian underground railroad.”

Ali goes out looking for Ed, concerned that he must be “so confused.” A security guard offers to take her around in a golf cart, but he’s not in his usual hiding spots. They meet another guard, Tiffany (Ali Liebegott, a writer for the show), a butch woman whom the other guard keeps calling “my man,” which, in a show about gender identity, is notable.

Back at lesbian headquarters, Bianca (Kiersey Clemons) is annoyed about her mother and her stubborn nature and her foray into Scientology. Sarah suggests they hire Bianca as their “summer girl” to babysit the kids. The actress playing Bianca is black, so the way Sarah says “summer girl” reminds me a bit of how my old Jewish grandmother used to call any black or Hispanic women helping in her kitchen “the girl” instead of by her name. It’s this specific Jewish-American-Princess-y snottiness that Sarah seems to really exude. (Last episode, she told Maura she shouldn’t be washing her own clothes because she should get “the girl” to do it.)

Josh shows up to give Kristen, who works for Sotheby’s, a tour of the house. He’s looking like a hipster J.Crew ad, and he stops by the pool to ask Bianca who she is and what the hell she’s doing at his house. Bianca’s unfazed. “You could be my uncle one day,” she says to him in perfect Lolita tones. “Hey, uncle.” Oh, boy. This is trouble.

Tammy and Josh immediately get into Tammy vs. Josh, Round 1, because she’s an interior designer who wants to redo the old house a bit so she and Sarah can live there, and Josh’s new — wait for it — girlfriend wants to keep everything original so they can sell it for a higher price. There’s some old, bad blood between these two, which is an interesting development.

While her children fight at her former home, Maura sits in child’s pose at trans yoga. Her instructor is a beautiful blonde trans woman named Shay (Trace Lysette). Davina shows up with flyers for “Trans Got Talent.”

Sarah and Josh have both been ignoring texts from Ali about how Ed is missing. They head over to the marina to help Ali look, but really, neither of them cares that much about Ed. Sarah and Josh laugh and gallivant about. We’ve only seen Josh relate to Ali so far, so it’s nice to have a moment showing how he and Sarah are alike. As Ali puts it, “You two are sociopaths.”

They go to a restaurant on the marina, and Ali is consumed with worry about Ed and worry about the lobsters in the tank waiting to die on dinner plates, and worried about telling Josh about Maura. She’s a mess. They all are. Over Bloody Marys, Josh tells Sarah about his girlfriend’s abortion, and all she can reply is, “Why doesn’t anyone tell me anything?” Ali starts randomly feeling badly for their mother, who had three children before she was Ali’s age. She panics, telling Sarah she needs to rat their father out to Josh. Josh is all, Whaaaaaat?

“Dad is a woman. Thinks he’s a woman. Wants to be a woman,” Ali says.

Sarah summarizes with, “He’s trans.”

Josh cracks up, laughing.

At her house, the trio’s mother answers the door for a lady rabbi named Raquel (played by Kathryn Hahn, a goddess who starred in showrunner Jill Soloway’s brilliantly moving feature Afternoon Delight). Immediately, Mom wants Rabbi Raquel to know that “her Joshy isn’t married.”

At lunch at a fancy restaurant, Maura wants to sing a duet with Davina for the talent show, but she says no. Then they notice an older man checking out Shay because Maura sighs jealously, “You’re so pretty.” She is really freakin’ pretty. The guy’s not her type, but she says, “I’m glad someone’s looking after all the work I put in to look like this.” Oh, the guy’s coming over to their table. Shit, it’s someone Maura knows.

“Hey, Gary,” Maura says, a mix of dejected and brave. Gary, a married former squash partner, blurts out, “Jesus Christ, Morty? Help me out here.” He stares, bemused. “What’s all this?”

In his typical dry fashion, Tambor responds, “Some people call this a necklace.” Maura remains measured, telling Gary to take his time processing it, and when Gary realizes Maura caught him hitting on Shay, who is decidedly not his wife, Helen, he says, “No hard feelings?”

“None,” Maura replies. It’s a big step, but it seems a lot of Maura’s steps so far have been done for her: Sarah caught her in women’s clothing, Ali was high when she came out to her, Josh didn’t even get a chance to hear it from his father, and the list goes on and on. Maura needs a win on her own terms.

The search for Ed winds down. As they walk to Shelley’s house, Josh asks if this makes their father gay. Sarah says it doesn’t because he still likes women, a question we haven’t had answered for us, the audience, yet, and an answer that is the case for many, many trans people. Ali quips, “Technically, that does make him a lesbian.”

When they arrive, Ali notices that Shelley went to get a pedicure while her husband was missing. A callous move. (GET IT?) Josh flirts with Raquel, another woman who is probably too good for him, because the next thing he does is ask if their mother knew their father was trans, you know, in front of two people he’s presumably not out to, one a total stranger. Sarah tries to be respectful, but Josh keeps pushing, and all Ali cares about is calling the cops to report Ed missing.

“Dad is a fucking transvestite,” he says. And Sarah chides him on the use of the word, which is offensive and does not apply here.

Shelley says she knew. “It’s his thing. It’s his little private kink. Everyone has one,” she says slapping an uncomfortable Rabbi Raquel on the arm so she’ll agree. Josh says it explains why their dad was never around and why his parents hired Rita to “distract me with her tits.” BURN, SON. Damn. Rabbi Raquel decides to leave, but Josh gets on his knees and begs her to stay; they have a moment similar to the one with Rita in the show’s pilot where Josh kneels before a powerful woman. He charms her with his puppy eyes and says, “Please help us?” Raquel says she will try.

Just then, Ed comes in, all smiles, holding cotton candy and a caricature drawing of himself on a surfboard. Because at least one person deserved to have had some fun today.

Fave lines:

  • “Yeah, I have plans. I’m a grown man.” —Josh, who is certainly not a grown man
  • “Are Jews more anxious than the average person, or do I just notice it more because I know more Jews?” —Josh
  • “Ew. No one goes to the Beverly Center.” —Shelley, with the most L.A. joke in Transparent so far

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Transparent Season 1, Episode 5 Recap