[For Transparent “Bulnerable” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Bulnerable Ali seeks graduate application advice from Leslie; Josh unravels with more terrible news; Sarah explores sexual fantasies; and Maura helps Davina prepare for Sal’s return from prison.
After the requisite weepiness of the previous episode, “Mee Maw”, “Bulnerable” starts off with an emotional bang as Josh angrily confronts Shelly for knowing about Colton all these past seventeen years. But Shelly stays in poor-me-mode and neglects responsibility with, “I forgot,” and “I was all alone!” along with a number of other creative diversions from involvement in her own child and grandchild’s life. Sarah sits by watching and horrorstruck until she can stand it no longer and leaves to shower off the familiar residue of Pfefferman parental neglect.
Meanwhile Ali frets over her grad school admissions essay and decides to ask Leslie for advice. When she visits, Leslie’s home is like a trip into vaginaland. There are nude women covering every inch of her home in photos, paintings, sculptures, and even on the computer screen Leslie’s watching. Ali’s arrival interrupts her watching vintage lesbian porn as Leslie selects a background visual for her next poetry reading at the Idlewild Festival. When Leslie finally leaves the porn behind and focuses on Ali they drink wine, smoke pot, and flirt in a hot tub. You know, like you do at all your grad school interviews… But then there’s a startling shift when Ali says she’s thirty three and just came out as gay a few months ago. Leslie then slams the clam shut and asks if Ali has met her cats. She’s suddenly exhausted and ready to go to bed, alone. Ali’s only consolation is that she’s got cats all over her on the couch to keep her warm through the night. But before you get all sad for Ali keep in mind that Syd’s waiting at home for her; all wrapped up like cutest Carrie Browstein burrito you can imagine and as clueless as a girlfriend can be about what Ali’s doing right now.
Josh and Raquel contend with real challenges when they visit the doctor because Raquel has hives and finds out she’s lost the baby. Afterward she wants to try again right away and Josh is hesitant, saying he wants to just take a breath and wait a bit. Given that this is literally the day after Colton just left, his reaction isn’t exactly a stunner. But it does, understandably, crush Raquel who wants a baby with her fiancé, not such an unusual request from someone who seemed pregnant only hours before anyway. But Josh is certain he wants to wait. In fact, that night he goes out to a party and gets trashed celebrating the new Fussy Puss album and a plan with his production partner to create their very own label. High and happy Josh stumbles home late that night to find that Raquel has left and seems unlikely to return. She left his family heirloom ring in the middle of their bed and took all her shit. Sigh. Oh, Joshy, baby. It’s back to the drawing board of love for you.
Sarah does her best to lift herself out of lonely loveless doldrums with a visit to Doctor Pot at his apartment. She yelps them some delivery and they promptly get down to sexytime mood solutions. Oh yeah. Sarah tells him about her Mr. Irons fantasy and he agrees to play the role of disciplinarian. Dr. Pot starts off awkward, though, with an unfortunate use of Julia Child’s voice. And if that scene doesn’t send you off the couch in fits of laughter… perhaps nothing ever will. You’re dead inside, dude. Dr. Pot’s hilarious inflection then shifts Sarah’s attention to notice her phone ringing and she makes the classic mistake of answering her mother’s call. Turns out Shelly, who’s babysitting Sarah’s kids, is losing her shit on the job. Sarah has to get home and mother her mother, who never was much of one anyway. Once there Sarah asks Shelly why she offers to babysit when she hates it so much (not to mention how terrible she is at it) to which Shelly snarks, “Because all my friends do it for their grandkids,” then she blubbers and breaks down. Shelly tells Sarah that Maura left her and this she’s now alone again. It’s pity party time as Shelly rests her head first on Sarah’s cold shoulder and then her lap. All Sarah can do is sip her white wine and wish she were somewhere else, preferably with a guy that has a huge bong, or dong, or both.
Maura experiences her own brand of loneliness in “Bulnerable” as she helps Davina prepare for Sal’s release from prison. They all live in Sal’s house, after all so the trio want him to feel welcomed home and make him a lasagne with Shea’s help. They layer noodles, cheese, sauce, and basil while they talk about T blockers (“T” for testosterone) and the residual effects Maura may experience. Through this conversation we find out that Davina prefers not to use T blockers because she still likes to get regular erections – especially now that Sal’s going to be back in the saddle. So, the three of them represent three different stages of transgender. Shea transitioned completely and has a fully functional vagina, Davina has breasts and many feminine features but retains a functioning penis, and Maura is working toward something between these two states.
When Davina returns with Sal they’ve already eaten chicken in a bucket and just want to go upstairs for some quality nookie time so the thank yous and your welcomes with Shea and Maura are brief. “That was abrupt,” says Shea. Then in the last scene of “Bulnerable” Maura joins Sal and Davina for a bit of TV in the living room and they talk about love and sexual preferences. Sal declares himself “trans amorous,” a term Shea introduced a few episodes ago and Maura says she “loves women and always has,” which we sort of already knew but it’s nice to have it completely clear and out on the table like this. An interesting aspect of all this dialogue between them is that we start to see signs that although Maura wants to be a woman and dearly loves them, she doesn’t particularly like being treated like one. She’s not accustomed to it, for one. It seems like maybe Maura thought the recent treatment she’s endured was entirely because she’s trans. But she’s now realizing that women are indeed treated differently from men, trans or not. In the last shot of the episode Maura turns off the light all alone as the soft tones of Davina and Sal’s sweet lovey dovey whispers in the next room echo through her.
“Bulnerable” feels like the longing of unrequited love the whole way through. It’s an episode about wanting what we can’t have and some of the ways that plays out. Sarah’s got it up the wazoo with mother issues and a lustful desire for discipline. While Ali just seems to want she can’t have (Leslie) mainly because it’s unattainable. Having Leslie would also put her in the “youthful” category and we know from season one that Ali doesn’t want to grow up. Josh and Raquel were both longing for a unified family only one episode ago. But Raquel just turned away Colton and so now it’s Josh who turns away from a new baby and they are thus back to back in the present – walking away from each other and pointed in opposite directions of longing. And then there’s Maura, longing to be a woman while floating between worlds. This is why it’s her process is called transitioning. She’s in transition and learns about all the different ways she could go through the choices and preferences of her new friends. It’s a whirlwind and right there at the center of the beautiful storm is the love her friend Davina has with Sal. It’s not exactly the kind of love Maura wants but love is love and Maura longs for it. We’re all the same, after all, no matter what state we’re in. All of us are just looking for love. In other words, “Bulnerable”.