“Transparent” recap (1.7): Symbolic Exemplar

Josh is having a date with Rabbi Raquel, but I’m bored. I like Raquel, I think she’s totally lovely, but she’s getting caught up with the likes of Josh and that’s disconcerting. They start going into sex-mode but Josh can’t quite get his mojo going, so he stops and apologizes to Raquel, who emphatically proclaims that it’s OK. He admits that he’s upset about the “Trans Got Talent” show and Raquel suggests that she stay at his place and cook him a nice meal that’ll be waiting for him when he gets back. I’d much rather see how Ali’s date is progressing, which has now relocated to a sexy shop where Ali and Dale are picking out a dildo. Will it be pink? Will it be realistic? Will it be big or small? Dale suggests, “You have to let the dick choose you.” She goes for a big red one.


Everyone has arrived for the big event—”Trans Got Talent!” Tammy and Sarah are in high spirits, but what Tammy doesn’t know is that Sarah is especially, especially high. We’re aware of Tammy’s sobriety, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how she’s going to handle this. Sarah is explaining why she’s there to someone else, to see her Dad—er, her mom—her “Moppa,” she finally explains. (In this episode, Sarah has taken to calling Maura “Moppa” on such an adorable level; I can’t help but giggle when she says it—because she’s so boisterous.) Speaking of, she then spots Josh in a sea of queens, and she’s like, “My brotha! Ova heeya!” I love when she does that thing with her voice.

The two find Ali and they sneak off to a room to puff, puff pass off Sarah’s new vaporizer pen. Ali points out her date for the evening, Dale the trans TA, and Josh is like, “Um, I just realized something. That means now four out of five Pfeffermans prefer pussy.” Smartest thing the kid’s ever pointed out. As the talent show begins, Tammy is picking up on Sarah’s free-feelin’ tipsiness. Ali leans over to Josh and proclaims Maura looks just like their Aunt Lily, but Maura is a total stunner in her showgirl diva stage costume alongside Davina. They do their rendition of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” and the Pfefferman gang starts laugh profusely at the display. Which sucks.


Then, to make matters even worse, Dale asks Ali if she wants to get out of there to go fuck in the bathroom with the new red dildo they just got. The whole sexy tryst is broken into pauses when they can’t get the dildo box open, and then Dale drops a now lubed up dildo on the bathroom floor and expects Ali to be wet, ready and willing to get down and dirty right then and there, after he washes it off. Ali finally gives up.


Meanwhile Sarah spills her drink and some of it gets on Tammy, who has a major freak out and Sarah to walk out on her. Sarah finds Josh already in the parking lot, and he sees Tammy’s truck—it’s filled with broken down pieces of wood from their house, and he’s pissed. He goes back solo to the house to find Tammy’s stepdaughter Bianca there. He can’t believe what he’s seeing—the whole house is different. Bianca seems less concerned and asks him if he wants to join her, she’s packing a bowl. Josh takes kindly to that idea, but the wheels are turning now, because there’s a new, mysterious girl sitting next to him—and just maybe he can seek a little revenge on Tammy. They get in the pool together and they’re splashing around when in walks Sarah and Tammy. Uh oh.

Tammy spots Sarah’s secret stash—now better known as Bianca’s Saturday night, previously Josh’s childhood keepsake pirate box, and she races out to the patio to yell down at the pool buddies—teenage Bianca with adult Josh. Shit, I do not want to be on the receiving end of a Tam Tantrum. I’d also like to point out that there’s a very lonely Rabbi Raquel still waiting at Josh’s place with cold dinner and half empty wine glasses. Needless to say, this night hasn’t been the smoothest for anyone, especially Maura, poor thing. She’s left alone after the talent show wondering why her family rejected her so deeply and left without saying a word. Davina and Shea try getting her to come out for a drink, but she insists she wants to be alone.


Ali gets a ride home from Dale who calls her a “chaser” because he assumes she just wanted to get to know him because he’s trans. I have to wonder if that’s because she gave up on the unsexiness of the dildo incident in the bathroom. Hey, haven’t we all been there? Sometimes chemistry is sustainable in the heat of a moment, but when you’re washing things and taking bits of the bathroom floor off of the sexual toy you’re about to enjoy—when you have a gut feeling that you are involved in something that isn’t mutual, that maybe you took something too far, it’s fair to exit yourself out of that situation. She rips off her tightly laced corset in a moment of combined abandonment and sudden regard for her self.

Back at Dale’s house, Ali has a rude awakening—his house is not the man cave she thought it was. There’s a flat screen TV, candles in the fireplace, and Dale in the kitchen, offering her a cup of tea. Ali looks stunned. It’s not the only late-night house visit. Maura surprises Shelly at the front door of her house, and the look on her face says it all, Shelly gives Maura a deep and meaningful hug. They come together in a moment of mutual understanding.


A symbolic exemplar is a person who has to struggle with the knowledge that there is an inner life different from the one outwardly being seen or treated in a certain way, where they are expected to be a symbolic model for something—a woman, a man, a trans man, a trans woman, a lesbian, a dyke, a gay man, a low femme, a high femme, a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a lover—“It is vulnerable to their very humanness,” so says The Rabbi As Symbolic Exemplar, a book by Rabbi Jack H. Bloom. This episode was a true lesson in learning that we are human beings, not symbolic exemplars of the people others expect us to be, or of the people we expect ourselves to be seen as, but still, what examples of ourselves should we give?