Monday, April 11, 2005

The L Word - Loyal 

This week on The L Word: The rehabilitation of Ms. Bette Porter.

Seriously - she's finally jettisoning some of her very excess baggage, and she's doing it down deep, not just with Charles Dutton's TOE surface works. She's being considerate, she's going into therapy on her own, and she's reasserting her assets that got her where she is. Instead of falling back on being catty and domineering (skills she really could only assert after having attained a level of Hollywood power lesbian), she's relating to people as people, and discussing art projects as the objects of beauty, knowledge and revelation that drew her into the field in the first place, instead of as trophies to be lorded over lesser art centers.

This is all making Helena seethe.

Countering Bette's return to the character we all loved, Helena is losing her veneer and is displaying more and more of her controlling and vindictive interior. Her increasingly obvious displays of bad behavior are not going unnoticed by Tina, either. First there was last week's incident in which Helena put the moves on Tina under the covers while the kids were sitting atop the covers (to which Tina wisely put an immediate halt), followed by several occasions last week and this week in which it became very clear that the kids are pretty much trophies for Helena. The perfect accessory for the up and coming power lesbian. It all added up to the conclusion that Helena really is doing everything she's currently doing in order to defeat Bette in some sort of concocted competition.

Winnie Mann, Helena's ex, shows up to recruit Bette for her assistance during the upcoming custody hearing. She wants Bette to be a character witness against Helena. I'm not really sure what Bette can say that would be relevant in this sort of hearing. "Don't give Helena the kids, because she's mean to me, cut my funding, is dating my ex, and is renting the house I thought was the perfect California beach house." What? Fortunately, Bette is hesitant to take part in the proceedings, both because her opinion doesn't seem relevant to the case, and also because she's stepping out of the catfight arena.

It was also fun watching Bette dealing with the presence of kids in House of Hot Pool Parties, formerly known as House of Desolation, perhaps to be renamed House of Re-Emerging Sanity. One of the kids races over to some jars that are on display and starts to take the lid off one, but Bette rushes over to put it back on the shelf, explaining, "This is a Richard Price, and it belongs right here." (note, I'm not sure if this is the correct name of the artist, I couldn't find any confirmation online, the recording's at home and I'm not, so I'm going with "Richard Price.") She says the name really slowly, like it's going to impress upon the kid how meaningful it is. He just wants what's in the cool jar under the shiny lights. Then after they have lunch she offers the kids the use of the pool, but looks aghast when Winnie reveals that she's not much of a swimmer and asks if Bette could go in with them as lifeguard. But she ends up playing in the pool with them, looking very happy. She accidentally says the f-word in front of them, but promptly apologizes - to the kids! It was fun.

Quite a contrast in parenting styles of the feuding Peabody-Manns. Helena is all about nannies, tv, sweets and playtime, not to mention swearing, bad-mouthing Winnie and sexual exhibitionism in front of the kids and anyone else in the general vicinity, not to mention the court order flouting. Winnie is about nutrition, eating a balanced meal before having ice cream, maintaining proper adult supervision, and not swearing or bad-mouthing Helena in front of the kids. I vote Winnie for sole custody. Helena can have supervised, scheduled visitation.

On the professional front, Helena has joined the Board of Directors of the CAC, just so she can lord it over Bette. Her first appearance at the Board Meeting is accompanied by this reclusive, rarely exhibited artist. Bette's actual expertise saves the day, however, because it turned out she wrote her dissertation on this woman's work, and the artist knew the paper and felt it was the best piece ever written about her. They know lots of the same artsy people, and develop a quick camaraderie that silently infuriates Helena. Flies and honey, Helena, flies and honey and a little class.

Our last scene with Helena for the episode finds her and Tina sitting at Helena's newly rented Perfect California Beach House, with a perfect array of sushi and other such food items, and no guests. Helena invited everyone over for a rub-it-in-Bette's-face, I mean, housewarming party. Instead, everyone went over to House of Re-Emerging Sanity for "Family Night." It was really sweet. And it really bothered Helena that no one came to admire her possessions. And it seemed to bother Tina that Helena was so bothered and so hung up on pretentious displays. Good.

The episode opener seemed like another bizarre, surreal writing piece, but it didn't seem quite to fit either Jenny's or Hunter's writing styles. Then someone off-screen yells "Cut!" and we discover that this is a shooting scene from 20 years ago, for a film starring Jenny's ghost writing project guy. Tony Goldwyn plays the actor who in 20 years will be interviewing Jenny Schecter. In the flashback we see that Tony's a raging homophobe, who burst into his male co-star's trailer in order to forcibly eject the male co-star's love muffin in the middle of a rather intense baking session. Tony didn't trust the muffin to keep a secret, and "I've got too much riding on this film." Any guesses as to how the interview is going to go 20 years hence? He's either still a hopeless homophobe or he will have finally admitted that his homophobia was rooted in his own repressed same sex feelings.

Actually, the interview was going swimmingly until Jenny admitted, after being prompted, that she had only seen Tony Western Stud's cinematic ouvre over the last few days, but then she added that "my girlfriend has seen them all." Then she rambles on about how Carmen and her dad stepdad (her father died in a motorcycle accident before Carmen was born) used to go to the movies all the time to watch the westerns, and how Carmen knows every line, blah, blah, blah, all the while just beaming with this "I'm so in love" glow. Tony Western Stud called everyone out of the interview pool, and thanked her for coming. In Jenny's favor is that she immediately understood the situation, and called him on it. "Am I being fired because I'm gay?" "Well, I don't recall actually hiring you, but there are some things I prefer not to have flaunted in my face." Exit, stage homophobe.

Back at Casa di Heartbreakers, Jenny tells Carmen the sad tale, but Carmen boosts her spirits by giving her a high ten because "You outed me to Tony Western Stud? That's so cool!" No Carmen, you're just so cool we really can't stand it. Which brings me to my biggest point of confusion in this episode. Throughout, we were treated to various scenes in which Jenny and Carmen were definitely behaving girlfriend-y. Making out on the couch, making out on the street, making out on the porch. Little relationship-type conversations, and Jenny referring to her as "my girlfriend." What's up with this? In the last episode they seemed fairly well resolved to being friends. Self-tortured, mutually scratching and clawing friends, but friends nonetheless. Sigh. Who can keep up?

Certainly not Shane, who's still dealing with her own inner turmoil. When Carmen asks her who gave her the black eye and offers to return the favor, Shane lays the cop out line we saw from the previews: "You did this." In yet another demonstration of her groundedness, Carmen tells her to fuck off and that she's not taking part in these particular mind games. Shane immediately caves and apologizes. Shane insists that she wants to be friends with Carmen - but her eyes telegraph that she wants a lot more. A whole lot of relationship-type more.

Speaking of Shane and people wanting more, Shane's getting totally burnt out and is of the opinion that people only want her for sex, and she's getting tired of being the Heartbreaker. We also find out more of her troubled past via her telling the tale to the priest in the confessional. It's not happy. Addict absentee mother, foster homes, interstate runaways - you get the picture. The priest tries to get her to join a church group, and to believe that not everyone just wants her for sex, but that he's sure there are many people out there who just want to know her as a person because of who she is inside. Her soul. Not that other inside. You know what I mean.

Then there's Mark, who has fallen head over heels for her. He dances around the whole lesbian-straight man barrier by declaring himself to be her servant, due to her having provided him the ultimate warrior's gift of being able to save someone. Shane seems to find this a bit freaky, but lets him fix her a snack, and later on she invites him to tag along to Family Night next door. He hesitates, so she orders him as her servant to accompany her in case she needs defending. This scene, combined with an earlier scene in which Mark physically knocked Gruesome across the studio for being an asshole about Mark's obvious feelings for Shane, allowed Mark's rating to go up a little bit. This was sorely needed, because his rating had plunged earlier when he accepted film funding from a porn producer who doesn't give a shit about the documentary aspects and just wants lots of hot lesbo action. Only he was more explicit.

Alice and Dana, meanwhile, have spent the five days leading up to the episode at Dana's house, having lots and lots of sex and losing track of the days. They suddenly realize that it's Monday and that Alice has an audition to do a weekly radio show on KCRW (and yes, I did listen to this station when I lived in LA), so they get up so Alice can work on her piece and Dana can start training again. A little bit of tension is building up in the new relationship, however. They both freak over the hickies they inadvertently delivered to each other, and Dana keeps finding something wrong with all of Alice's ideas. There's also some edgy nerves around a sexual suggestion that Alice whispers into Dana's ear, the gist of which seems to involve some silicone and a harness. I get the feeling that Dana's a little taken aback. Alice takes off for Planet Kit to brainstorm some more, and Dana heads off to be Women's Sports and Fitness magazine's first openly lesbian cover girl.

Much to Alice's shock and horror, her psycho manipulative ex Gabby wanders over to say hi. Gabby's really friendly, and it turns out that she's in love. With Soup Chef Lara, who is the new chef at Planet Kit. Alice takes off, and I'm certain that all the way to the KCRW studios she was checking the sky to make sure it didn't squish her when it fell. In studio, she starts telling her friend who works there about the whole Gabby-Lara-Dana-Alice circle, and the Relationship Chart, instead of her planned commentary, but they love it and hire her for her own weekly spot, "The Chart," about life, love and the intersections between and among just about everybody.

Next week: It's old home week, with Sandra, Camryn, Tony Western Stud, Gabby, Lara, and... IVAN!!! Hi Ivan! We've missed you! Please inspire Kit to give Charles Dutton the old heave TOE. Dana and Alice go on a field trip for just the right silicone accessory, and Dana is indeed less than tickled. Jenny discovers Mark's video surveillance equipment just as Shane and Carmen are having a heart to heart in the kitchen, and Carmen is less than flattering in her descriptions of Jenny. Bette accompanies Tina to her ultrasound, and it must go well, because there's a kiss involved at some point.

Side Note: As Bette has been regaining her sanity, she's also been climbing in the sidebar poll (see top right, or bottom left if this post is really old by the time you're reading it). Early in this season, when Bette was just being a total controlling bitch and Shane had yet to start her psychological plummet, Shane had a solid 50% of the votes, well ahead of Bette and Carmen, the next closest. As of this moment, the results are:
  • Shane - 26%
  • Bette - 22%
  • Carmen - 16%
  • Dana - 15%
  • Alice - 11%
  • Jenny - 5%
  • Tina - 4%
  • Kit - 0%

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:37 AM