Monday, January 09, 2006

The L Word - Labia Majora 

The theme for the day is set out in the opening clip, set in a 1973 Palo Alto suburban living room where a group of apparent housewives are doing the mirror vaginal exam as part of their empowering women's group effort to reclaim their sexuality and hopefully improve their sex lives. The women are embracing this concept with varying levels of enthusiasm and squeeged-out-ness, and at one point they employ a few vaginal euphamisms. This will become important (or perhaps simply annoying) later on. We then have a little 30+ year old chart-making as one particularly young housewife who is apparently so unsatisfied sexually by her husband that she wasn't even aware there was the possibility of satisfaction to be had. She flees to the kitchen, where she is followed by a much taller, much more confident companion who proceeds to show her how women are doing it for themselves. During this, a small chart entry is written on the screen, drawing a line between the two women, who remind me of Nixon-era Jenny and Marina.

Flash forward to 2006 and the studios of KCRW where Alice is broadcasting her latest installment of The Chart, which appears to have been expanded from a weekly three-minute segment to a complete show. We discover that six months have passed since last season's finale, and in the interim Dana has gone back to Lara, and they are living a blissful existence while leaving Alice far behind in their wake. She's not taking it all well, although why she's surprised, I'm not sure. Dana really loved Lara and only broke up with her because of her own now-conquered closet issues, and Dana had no problem cheating on Tonya with Alice, so it's no big shocker that she would dump Alice for her newly re-available love of her life. Anyway, Alice it seems has become very skilled at wallowing, fuming, being bitter and spiteful, as well as self-medicating her way through any number of anti-depressant meds with no rhyme nor reason. Because that always works out so well. A little later we see Alice engage in a car chase with Dana, screaming at her first through the open windows and then over the phone, finally losing her when Dana makes a desperate swerve to avoid an oncoming car.

At Planet Kit, Alice pops in while the girls are all chatting about their favorite vaginal euphamisms (here's the annoying tie to the opening sequence). She inserts herself between Lara and Dana and proceeds to regale the group with the euphamisms Dana used in sex conversations with Alice, and it's all very humiliating and alienating, and Dana and Lara wisely depart.

Helena is still on scene, and by some bizarre twist of fate has become Alice's new best friend. Unfortunately, Helena has also been seeing a tarot card reader, which seems very out of character for Helena since she seems only to do things that involve her being in complete and total control. The tarot reader points out that Helena has just made a big purchase, which Helena confirms that she is just closing a big deal, but can't reveal the details. The reader looks knowingly, flips a few cards and reveals, "Oh, you just bought a movie studio!" Helena is completely shocked and demands to know how the reader knew this, and closely examines the tell tale card for signs of a hidden camera from the National Enquirer or perhaps some sort of two-way communication device from the breaking news desk at Variety.

But back to the hijinx portion. The reader tells Helena that her new love interest will be a brunette bisexual artist who drives a blue car, and with whom Helena will stand back to back and then face to face. Over the course of the episode Helena is shocked to find that Alice (apparently her natural hair color in certain lights is "a pale brunette") might be her new love interest. Given that Alice is currently a sobbing, weeping, raging, unkempt, bitter mess, Helena isn't incredibly pleased, and is seeking any sign that it's not so. Silly Helena - you can't seek out the fates - they'll just find you. But again, yielding that sort of control isn't really in her character. I do fall in love with Helena's ocean-view pool, though. It's got an infiniti edge, which is the bomb!

Bette and Tina, aka Mama B and Mama T, meanwhile, are undergoing a social worker home visit as part of their second parent adoption process, and they are also trying to rekindle the spark in their sex life. Their sex therapist is none other than Kate Clinton, who's looking marvelous, by the way. She immediately nixes the Mama nicknames when there's no child in the room, since people named Mama B and Mama T don't have sex, they bake cookies.

On the social work front, their caseworker is a raging right wing nut job who disdains their being progressive lesbians who condone questioning of the government and provocative art. She also questions them on whether Angelica will have a steady man in her life, then proceeds to wax a little innapropriately dreamy as she wonders whether the child will ever know the feel of a stubbly chin or wind her fingers in the curly chest hair of a man... She then snaps out of it at the sound of Alice crashing into the wheelchair accessible van of the social worker, which is parked in the driveway. Crazy Alice, who is the Earth Mother (she'd be the godmother, but doesn't believe in god) of Angelica, then storms into the house to rage and storm some more about Dana and their car chase through the streets of LA moments ago, then proceeds to blame the social worker for driving such a big vehicle instead of something "normal." This all goes over well, along with the fact that the house isn't child-proofed AT ALL, and there are apparently no mass-marketed toys around the house, and that Bette is of the school that Angelica will learn not to touch the artwork when she impales her little hand on the sharp spikes of a particular sculpture. Well, she didn't say it quite like that, but that's the basic theory she's using. Social Worker Lady shall return for a second visit, an opportunity for Bette and Tina to make a better impression.

Shane and Carmen are still a cuddly item, and Shane's added some waves to her hair, which disturbed The Girl to no end. Shane's about to take the big step of meeting Carmen's very large family who don't talk about certain things like homosexuality. Shane is to play it straight for the day. How awful. Carmen's mother just loves Shane, worries that she's too thin, but assures her that Carmen will land a boyfriend soon. When she learns of Shane's foster background, she immediately tells her that "We are your family now!!!" and hustles her of to another room to give her a dress that looks like an adult size first communion dress, for Shane to wear to the upcoming celebration for the 15th birthday of some female family member. Carmen actually gets Shane to try it on, and she looks about as comfortable in it as I did when I briefly toyed with the idea of wearing a cocktail length dress at our wedding last year. This whole "just don't talk about it" isn't going to end well for anyone. I predict that Shane will really embrace the idea of family, then be rejected when someone talks or can't avoid it anymore and she'll relive the rejection of her own mother all those years ago. But hopefully it will work out by the end of the season, because we love Shane.

Kit has a big drama in which she goes to her son David the Doctor about symptoms she's been ignoring, but which she's sure she's now let slide too long and she'll be heading off to follow Melvin at any time. Turns out she's entered menopause, so when she finally spills this news to the gang at Planet Kit, they change from their (again) discussion of vaginal euphamisms to a discussion of sex euphamisms to cheer her up and assure her that the Kit Juices will once again flow and life is not over after all.

In a throwaway foreplay scene with Dana and Lara (with Alice spying through the window - yuck!), we learn that Lara feels a lump in Dana's breast, but Dana assures her that it's been checked and she simply has lots of benign fibrous lumps. Who believes that's going to be it for this storyline? They wouldn't have even scripted it if that's all it was going to be.

Halfway across the country, we find a much healthier Ms. Jenny Schecter, who has been undergoing therapy with an apparently good therapist who has been helping her with her various childhood traumas without trying to simultaneously attack her lesbianism. This particular aspect galls Jenny's downtrodden mother, played by Lois Lane herself, the fabulous Margot Kidder. Jenny must have had to return to her home in Skokie, Illinios in order to receive mental health care, because I can think of no other reason that she would have chosen to return to her disapproving mother and her creepy stepfather, Warren.

Jenny also has apparently been spending time at a local women's bar, and has become friends with one of the locals, Moira, played by new cast member Daniela Sea. Jenny's been working on a new book as well as her issues, and before we know it she and Moira are sealing their plans to head off to LA together. Moira is a the new token butch for the cast, and she's got this oddly tiny voice and intense eyes that are very often covered with her long bangs. She's also a web designer/overall computer wiz/geek. Jenny leaves her mother's house with the final parting shot of Warren walking in on her and Moira who are for the first time in the act, on Jenny's bed. Warren is pissed that Jenny would bring a man into the bedroom (at least one who isn't the nice Jewish MIT grad student he wants her to fall in love with), but Jenny replies, "I would never do that to you Warren. I'd like you to meet Moira."

With that Warren tries to lecture her, but newly spined and confident Jenny calmly reads him the riot act and departs. She pauses long enough to have a brief intense talk with her mother on the front step, during which Margot acknowledges that Jenny was indeed attacked as a child, and it wasn't Jenny's fault, and she apologizes for not comforting her at the time and instead brushing it under the rug of normalcy.

And off they go to LA and the rest of the fabulous girls.

We end with a montage, but the piece that sticks most uncomfortably is that Alice has constructed a shrine to Dana in her apartment, complete with photos, candles and a 6 foot Dana Olivia Cruise promotional cardboard standup figure. This is very bad.

They included Ivan in the previouslies, but I don't know if we'll see him again. There was brief interaction with a dad from the baby play class that might turn into something with Tina, but I'm not sure. No Mark sightings.

I'm hoping that now that we've used this episode to get all caught up on the last six months, the show can get back to its regular storytelling, because this one sort of felt like the set up and filler that it was.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:29 PM