[For Transparent “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump Josh holds a pool party for his new band Fussy Puss; the Pfefferman siblings are caught off guard when Maura and Shelly arrive at the party together; Ali reconnects with her old friend Syd; Sarah’s past catches up with her.
This episode circles around the power of couples along with the backlash when pairs break off into two solo singletons. Sometimes duos reunite, even if just temporarily, and create a new stronger pair. Sometimes not. It’s clear from the exchanges in “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” that these relative magnetized and wet mop relations among the Pfeffermans and their loves are either about mutuality or lack thereof. Whether a couple are in loving or fighting mode the phrase, it takes two to tango isn’t just a cliché, it’s also some serious truth, baby.
The most interesting duos in the episode are more parallel than couple, though. For instance, Shelly and Sarah. Suddenly single, the two are mirror images in some ways, even if just in the terrified recesses of Sarah’s deepest fearful brain folds. It’s an age old story, a middle-aged woman afraid of becoming her mother. But because it’s part of such a fresh narrative, it somehow resonates like all new territory here. Another interesting parallel lies between Ali and Maura. Both seek their greatest expression of self and struggle with how far the landscape reaches before them. The possibilities seem endless and nether is sure where they belong but both seem determined to unravel some sort of authentic self – if there really is such a thing.
The episode opens on a depressed Sarah, her eyes eclipsed into shadow, unkempt middle-age lady hair, and the pouting posture of adolescence. She listens to Len’s recriminations and new rules from the divorce mediation advisor for splitting custody of the kids. Though she’s checked out and he’s still pissed, they agree to the terms and afterward Sarah looks for a new apartment to keep her side of the deal.
Next we see a trio of scenes that capture key moments in the other Pfefferman family members’ lives right then. Ali gazes at a planetarium galaxy of stars and learns that they are a map of the past and our multitudinous origins. It’s a beautiful, simple and true insight. Perfect. Raquel and Josh see the heartbeat of their baby on sonogram and snuggle in excitement. Meanwhile at Shelly’s pond-side condo, Maura digs through her storage truck parked outside to pick what she can wear to Josh’s imminent pool party. Shelly helps her with warmth and love. Outward appearances point to a happy couple. Bug what we’re really seeing is a happy Shelly and a grateful Maura, who simply feels indebted to Shelly.
Next Ali visits her buddy Syd (Carrie Brownstein), the one she pushed aside in season one when Syd declared amorous feeling for an uninterested Ali. It was platonic or nothing in Ali/Syd town back then but things have changed. Ali has an amusing new hairstyle and wants to be friends again. Syd’s happy to oblige as long as she’s allowed to mock the hairdo first. Then Josh picks up his son Colton from Rita and finds out his long lost son’s considering staying in LA for his upcoming senior year in high school. As a refresher on Colton – He visited for the summer after finding out Rita was his birth mother and Josh his birth father, a fact exposed at the end of season one when Josh found out for the first time too. Rita, who’d been his babysitter, never told Josh she’d had his baby and then gave it up for adoption. So, Colton is all new to the Pfefferman clan. He’s a sweet kid, Middle America to the bone, and clearly raised in a good home where Jesus is king and dinner was meatloaf and mashed potatoes most nights.
Then we see Maura and Shelly in the bathroom and it turns out “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” is code for a specific sexual encounter between them which Shelly asks for and Maura obliges. Shelly’s in bathtub bliss and Maura, though seemingly happy to bring Shelly to her glittercloud of passionate yelps, has zero desire for Shelly to return the favor. The next scene brings us to Josh’s pool party where the trio of siblings discuss their sense of Maura and Shelly maybe becoming a couple again. It’s just a feeling but one about which they can only think, “ew.” Sarah still looks like depressed wreckage – now clad in an enormous beach coverup. They decide to put out cake leftover from Sammy and Tammy’s wedding even though Josh protests because he’s a fancy producer and catered this bitch. Maura and Shelly then arrive at the party to immediately face their kids asking if they are now “a lesbian couple.” This irritates Maura, who presumes that Shelly told them about their Flicky Flicky encounter. Shelly didn’t but the line is already drawn in Maura’s mind.
The party is a smash thus far. Sexy peeps in bikinis abound. Booze flows free. Sarah and Shelly get their solo-single-now-and-proud drunk on. Ali’s a bit glum but still channeling 1933 Berlin – delivering us powerful historical Pfefferman family past imagery while she swims deep underwater in the pool. Then Josh’s newest discovery, the band Fussy Puss plays and they’re mind-blowing “money money baby baby” good. Their song stays with you long after the episode ends even though we don’t hear the whole thing. That’s because Tammy crashes the party and interrupts the wonder of Fussy Puss. She’s raging in classic heartbroken ex style – drunk in a tank top and crazed with rantings of being a warrior and that Sarah will be sorry, etc. She throws the cake from their wedding into the pool and puts a mad damper on what had been a rockin’ good time. Afterward Raquel and Josh talk about how much they wanted to protect Colton during the party; how he’s part of their lives now and they already love him. This draws them closer to each other.
In the wake of the Tammy tidal wave sad sack Sarah drives home her intoxicated mother. Parked outside the condo she watches Shelly traverse the pond’s stone steps with drunken trepidation, poised on the precipice of a belly flop at any minute. We see in Sarah’s face that this is her greatest fear for her own future – to be balanced on a precarious edge with nobody to catch her. Meanwhile Maura goes off to party with her trans friends at a club of gorgeous dancers and music that makes her heart swell and whole body sway. She’s home. Ali also heads out for fun with friends, showing up at Syd’s apartment to booze it up and hang with the homegirls. The two of them are each happy, at last. Ali has moved a little closer to her particular pairing (with Syd) like a magnet while Maura moving farther away from hers – to leave Shelly in wet mop territory.
The pairings and parallels in this episode on the surface appear to be about broken romances. But, as usual, Transparent breaks through that surface so we see deeper. This is all about parent-child parallels deep down. Josh and Colton are the most obvious example but also Sarah/Shelly and Ali/Maura tell this story of pairing and unpairing. The episode asks where we go when we break off from romantic love. Then it answers that we look to our parents and either flee in revulsion from what we find – Sarah, or embrace the parts that feel like a good fit and move forward as Ali does. Truth is the path back to love probably lies somewhere in the middle. It does seem like Josh’s warm welcome to Colton with an open heart along with his and Raquel’s shared willingness to include Colton in their family increases the connection between them. We could all learn a bit about love from this generous act and attitude. It’s a little reminder that love isn’t always just about Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump.